Books to read before your Africa Overland Trip

For those of you who love to read, check out this great book list from Oasis Overland driver Dave:

And for those who asked about the Africa books…

Nothing can totally prepare you for a seventy-five day Grand Adventurer trip with Oasis Overland. The land is simply too vast, the flora and fauna diverse beyond imagination, and the cultures you encounter are as different as those of Europe. The history of the region is finely woven with that of Europe, India, the Middle East, China, colonialism, and the Cold War, not to mention the rise of man.

However, the following list of 16 books is a great place to get started and I think you’ll find your trip even more enjoyable as the written page becomes reality on the Grand Adventurer.

1. West with the Night – Beryl Markham. Beryl was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, was a pioneer in the aviation field and a legend amongst African bush pilots. Ernest Hemingway said of her prose that it made him feel “as though I was a carpenter who could barely cobble together a pig pen”. Beryl grew up on a farm very close to Kembu Camp, Nakuru, one of our first stops on the Grand Adventurer.

2. Out of Africa – Karen Blixen. This book recounts Karen’s life growing up on a coffee plantation in Kenya. The book was made into a hugely successful movie starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Our base camp in Nairobi is called Karen Camp, and is located in the suburb of Nairobi called Karen, which is named for Karen Blixen. Her home is now a museum and can be visited while we are in Nairobi on the Grand Adventurer.

3. Born Free – Joy Adamson. The story of Joy raising the lion cub Else and eventually reintroducing her into the wild. This book was also made into an award winning movie. We visit Elsemere, the Adamson’s lakeside home on Lake Navashia and enjoy high tea and a museum dedicated to Joy’s work.

4. Green Hills of Africa – Ernest Hemingway. While not his best work, his stories of safaris in East Africa are well crafted and give an excellent flavor to the days of the “great white hunter” and colonial Africa. We travel to many of the places mentioned by Hemingway while on the Grand Adventurer.

5. A Bend in the River – V.S. Naipaul. A fictional account of an Indian merchant trying to survive in in the troubled DRC. One of Naipaul’s many great books.

6. Gorillas in the Mist – Dian Fossey. American zoologist Dian Fossey spent thirteen years studying the mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcans National Park. Her book, and a subsequent movie starring Sigourney Weaver, brought attention to the plight of these magnificent animals. Fossey was killed by poachers and is buried on the mountain she loved. One of the highlights of every Grand Adventurer trip is the opportunity to hike the mountain and spend time observing these peaceful giants.

7. Shake Hands With the Devil – Romeo Delliare. Commander of UN forces in Rwanda, General Dellaire was present in Rwanda as part of a peacekeeping mission. He watched first hand as the genocide unfolded, powerless to stop the killings without the support of the UN and western powers. The book is extremely well written and is an important viewpoint to understand the madness that gripped Rwanda for 100 days. The Grand Adventurer trip stops at the Genocide memorial in Kigali, a powerful and painful reminder of the darker side of mankind.

8. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families – Philip Gourevitch. Firsthand accounts of Rwandans who lived through the genocide.

9. When a Crocodile Eats the Sun – Peter Godwin. The memoir of a journalist who grew up in Zimbabwe. Godwin relates his experiences and those of his parents in an incredibly well written work. His other book, The Fear, discusses the disputed elections and the violence that ensued in Zimbabwe in 2008. The Grand Adventurer trip spends nearly two weeks exploring this stunningly beautiful country.

10. Don’t Lets Go To the Dogs Tonight – Alexandra Fuller. Another Zimbabwean (Rhodesian) memoir. Alexandra’s family lived in Rhodesia during the Bush War, and she later lives in Zambia and Malawi. She writes extremely well and adds yet another perspective on whites living in predominantly black countries. The Grand Adventurer trip travels through both Zimbabwe and Malawi.

11. Whatever You Do, Don’t Run! – Peter Allison. A collection of “true tales” from a Botswana safari guide, this is one of the most upbeat and funny books on the list. A boat ride on the Chobe River and an optional excursion for three days of poling through the Okavango Delta are often listed as highlights by our guests on the Grand Adventurer.

12. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith. Smith has twelve titles in this series featuring a Batswana woman named Precious Ramotswe. His books contain humor, action, and delve into the conflicts between modern society and those left behind.

13. Cry, The Beloved Country – Alan Patton. Perhaps South Africa’s greatest novel, Patton tells the story of a Zulu pastor named Stephen and his son Absalom. Written before the advent of Apartheid, this book explores the racial, religious, and ideological differences that were already tearing at the fabric of South African society.

14. Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela. The autobiography of lawyer, freedom fighter, Nobel Prize winner, and eventual president of South Africa. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of South Africa. A trip to Robbins Island, the notorious prison where Mandela was held for 27 years can be arranged at the end of the Grand Adventurer trip.

15. The State of Africa – Martin Meredith. An excellent look at Africa since independence swept the continent in the 1960’s. In depth, Meredith explores the rise of one-party states, dictators, coups, and the varying ideologies that developed throughout the continent. Meredith only covers the post-independence timeline. If you are interested in the colonial era then check out….

16. The Scramble for Africa – Thomas Pakenham. One of the best overviews of Europe’s carving of Africa into spheres of influence.

Each of the countries we visit on the Grand Adventurer are rich in history, culture, art, and wildlife. The list above is merely a list of books that I have thoroughly enjoyed. There are many guides, historical, and fictional works available, and the list above only contains books about the countries visited on the Grand Adventurer.