Reading Suggestions for Southern Africa

Reading good books about the areas you’re visiting tends to make your trip much fuller and more rewarding. As weight on light aircraft is limited, you might consider reading the thickest books before you leave for your trip!

The major country-specific guidebooks (i.e., Lonely Planet, Rough Guide) tend to offer a good overview of the country’s history. One of the best resources for travel books is Longitude Books ( They organize books by country/region, which makes it easy to see what is available.

Many books will give you insight into Southern Africa. Here are just a few suggestions:


  • The Delta by Tony Park.  Exciting novel set in the Okavango Delta.
  • Lauren Van Der Post has written some very good books about the Bushman and the Kalahari. One of his most famous is The Lost World of the Kalahari.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens.
  • #1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. A series of very popular novels about a Tswani woman who becomes a detective in Botswana.


  • Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin; a geologistÂ’s account of his years living and hiding out in the Namib-Nauklift region during WWII. ItÂ’s difficult to find this book in the U.S. but it is possible. It is more easily available in South Africa.
  • The Bushman Myth: The Making of a Namibia Underclass by Robert Gordon.

South Africa:

South Africa has a wealth of books covering all kinds of topics as well as  rich movie heritage spanning many decades.  Too many recommendations to list here!  We encourage you to explore Longitude’s site to find books under specific topics of interest to you and if you’re flying through Johannesburg, the airport has a couple of bookstores with a great selection of books and that are sometimes hard to find here in the US.

  • Some film suggestions: Invictus, Cry the Beloved Country, Sarafina, A Place of Weeping, Yesterday, Disgrace, Tsotsi, and District 9
  • For those interested in the life of Nelson Mandela and politics, take a look at his book titled The Long Walk to Freedom.


  • The Elephants and I: Pursing a Dream in Troubled Zimbabwe by Sharon Pincott
  • Mukiwa by Peter Godwin is an excellent book covering the period from 1960 into the 1980s. It is an enjoyable autobiography that mixes wonderful humor with plenty of historical and cultural information.
  • Don’t Let’’s Go to The Dogs Tonight by Alexander Fuller
  • Where We Have Hope- A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Andrew Meldrum
  • Doris Lessing has written several books about Zimbabwe, including African Laughter— Four Visits to Zimbabwe.


  • The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham. One of the best books to read on Colonial Africa.

Southern African history:

  •  The Covenant by James Michener is a classic. Historical novel. Great overview of the area.
  • The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879 by Donald R. Morris. A great book on the Zulu wars.

Fiction set in Southern African:

  • Wilbur Smith is the most popular writer in this category. He has published many fast-paced adventure novels, some of which include substantial historical information. Some of his books include A Falcon Flies, Men of Men, The Leopard Hunts in Darkness and A Time to Die.
  • Tony Park’s thriller novels are set throughout Southern Africa and include Zambezi, African Dawn, Far Horizons, African Sky, Safari, Ivory, Silent Predator, African Dawn and The Delta.
  • The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. This was the authorÂ’s first novel and its a great read. His second book is Tandia and also a good read.



Southern Africa has many unique and beautiful birds and there are some classic books published on birds in this region.

  • One is Robert’s Birds of Southern Africa. A condensed field guide version is also available and perfect for taking with you on safari.
  • Another classic is Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa.


  • The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, and Primates by Richard Estes. Written by a highly qualified expert. It is the first guide to watching and understanding the behaviour of African animals. It is designed for those who are interested in knowing more about the lives and interactions of the magnificent animals you will see on safari.
  • Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa by Chris & Tilde Stuart
  • Elephant Memories- Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family by Cynthia Moss


Africa Geographic Safari Interactive (Africa Geographic’s interactive travel magazine; read through current and past issues)

Africa Geographic Blogs (Great for reading in between issues! Search by topics of interest / includes Safari Interactive Magazine Blog & Africa Geographic Magazine Blog.)

The Wonder of Elephants (Getaway Magazine)

Where The Wild Things Aren’t (Conde Nast Traveler)

The Pulse of the People

The African Elephant – Gardeners of the Savannah

African Lion- Unmatched Charisma in the Wild

African Wildlife – Mammals

Cheetah Fun Facts

The African Elephant – the Real King of the Jungle

Elephants at Large

Elephants Revisited (Part 1)

Elephants Revisited (Part 2)

On Native Ground

Record Breaking African Birds

Where Have All The Lions Gone?

The San People: Africa’s Ultimate Survivors

Between Two Oceans

A New Day for Zimbabwe? (Conde Nast Traveler)

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