Best Africa Books

The only thing better than being in Africa is reading a really good book about Africa.  I just read one that I just have to share with you.  I picked it up in Johannesburg airport so I’m not sure it’s in Australia yet.  It’s called “The Elephant Whisperer” and it made me want to go and buy a game farm!  This man’s amazing relationship with a small herd of abused elephants that have seen more harm than good at the hands of humans is really something else.  But what I really loved about it is that it makes you feel like you are there running the game reserve with him, trying to teach this amazing herd of elephants that we humans aren’t all bad.  There are some real highs, some really sad bits and even a little humour.  All in all, it made me want to go and visit his game reserve, Thula Thula, in Zululand, South Africa!

Now that I’m on about books, I was asked recently to give some tips on good reads on Africa.  So here’s my current Top Ten (obviously excluding Dry Water and Elephant Dance!) and not in any particular order.

The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay (this book changed my life as a teenager)

Silent Footsteps – Sally Henderson (and then there’s her latest book Ivory Moon, also a brilliant escape)

Anything by Tony Park – Safari is a good one!

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle – Robyn Scott (really enjoyable, set in Botswana)

Anything by Wilbur Smith – probably my favourite was ‘A Time To Die’ set in Zimbabwe and Mozambique

The Elephant Whisperer – Lawrence Anthony (loved it)

The Fate of the Elephant – Douglas Chadwick

In the Shadow of Man – Jane Goodall (she’s written some other great books on her primate work too)

Among the Elephants – Iain Douglas-Hamilton (set in the 60s, one of the all time ‘greats’)

Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela

You can now leave comments on my blogs so if you know of any others please add a comment and let other Africaphiles know about them too!

  1. Tony Park

    Hi Tammie,

    Great selection (and not just because you included me!). One of my favourites was the first novel I read about Africa, Hold My Hand I’m Dying, by John Gordon Davis, set in the then Rhodesia.



  2. Tammie

    Thanks for the comments everyone! There’s a few new ones for me to check out there so much appreciated… I’m hooked on another one now, not Africa focused but about an elephant brought out from India to England and trained in the 1700s. It’s kind of sad reading about this elephant’s history at a time when no one knew anything about elephants in the UK and this poor thing really doesn’t belong in the cold of England obviously after barely surviving the boat journey to get there, but despite the sad bits it’s really got me in! “The Elephant Keeper” by Christopher Nicholson. It’s just a beautiful story about an amazing friendship between a stable boy and an elephant called Jenny.

  3. Kristy Newett

    Tammie, thank-you so much for your “top” Africa books…there are a few i have not read so i have just ordered The Elephant Whisperer & Twenty Chickens for a Saddle on-line at Amazon. I nearly went crazy with buying too many books at once as you should see how many are under the title Africa: Non-Fiction….that look fantastic.
    Cheers Kristy
    P.S. I just finished the above book ‘The Sheltering Desert’ that i bought in Swakopmund just now on my trip….excellent reading.

  4. Kellie

    Hi Tammie,

    I have read most of the books on your list but definitely appreciate a few new ones to add to my list!

    Like Meegan, I also have a spreadsheet of my books. I have to, because I’m her Africa freak friend and it’s the only way we can keep track of what we already own.

    We will be sure to give your love to Africa when we get back in November.


  5. Kylie

    I’ve read most of those and agree they are all fantastic. Some other really good reads are Wildlife Wars by Richard Leakey and Virginia Morell; The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley and An Ordinary Man: The True Story Behind Hotel Rwanda by Paul Rusesabagina. The last two are off the topic of wildlife but still very interesting African reads.
    Peter Allison’s books about his experiences as a safari guide are good fun too.

  6. janette

    Hey Tammie..
    ….. it is fantastic..Lawrence Anthony has a brilliant website..conservation organisation..have a look..and read Babylon’s Ark also brilliant..glad he is out there doing what he does..
    I bought mine through Amazon books..very reasonable even with our dollar is quite strong against the US $

  7. Meegan

    Hi Tammie,

    Have to say we have the same taste in Africa books – I picked up The Elephant Whisperer when I was in Zanzibar a few weeks ago – about 4hours later, the book was finished! Needless to say, I’ve passed it onto a good friend (and fellow Africa freak), who has also thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Is it bad to have had to start a spreadsheet to keep track of which books I’ve read, which ones I’ve bought but not read yet, and of course, for the ever expanding wish list??!!! I’m constantly amazed with the range of books available to us around the most amazing continent in the world. Which reminds me – must get into Borders this weekend and see if they’ve got anything new in, while they’ve got 25% off!!

    And for now – its back to planning the next Africa holiday… thanks for your updates – they always manage to strike a chord, and often bring a tear to the eye.. we’re tragic, aren’t we!!



  8. Gary7 Conlan

    Hi Tammy
    No visit to Namibia would be complete without reading ‘The Sheltering Desert’ by Henno Martin. A story of survival by 2 Germans and their dog in the Namibian Desert during the 2nd World War. A timeless story.
    Gary C

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