From informative safari guides and travel resources to stories of exploration, this essential Zambia and Botswana reading list dives deep into the history, natural environment and lure of southern Africa. If you’re planning a trip to this adventurous and wild part of the world, you’ll want to put a few of these books on your must-read list.
Essential Africa Reading
Africa: A Biography of the Continent | By John Reader
Both authoritative and informal, this is a splendid introduction to Africa. It’s a masterful and lively tale of an entire continent.
The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed and Endeavor | By Martin Meredith
Covering the epic story of colonialism in Africa, this magisterial history depicts empire-hungry kings, missionaries, tribal warlords, mining barons – even modern multi-national corporations. It’s an expansive and entertaining read.
A Popular Account of Dr. Livingstone’s Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries | By David Livingstone
First published in 1863, this is explorer David Livingstone’s personal account of his second expedition to Africa – a sympathetic portrait of African peoples, rich in nature, culture and politics.
Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone | By Martin Dugard
The fascinating tale of journalist Henry Morton Stanley’s headline-grabbing efforts to locate Dr. David Livingstone who was presumed missing in Africa. The author has done his homework well, drawing on a wide variety of sources to paint a lively and nuanced portrait of the two men.
Travel Resources & Safari Guides
Zambia | By Chris McIntyre
In this Bradt Travel Guide, safari guide Chris McIntyre provides a practical and detailed overview of Zambia, its history, culture, attractions and natural history with color photographs, local maps and excellent travel information.
Wildlife of Southern Africa | Edited by Vincent Carruthers
With 1,200 color illustrations by a range of experts, this compact field guide includes all the birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fish and plants that a traveler is likely to encounter in southern Africa.
Botswana Safari Guide: Okavango Delta, Chobe, Northern Kalahari | By Chris McIntyre
With comprehensive coverage of history, flora, fauna and practicalities, this full-blown Bradt guide focuses on the renowned safari destinations of Okavango, Chobe National Park, and the Kalahari, as well as other popular Botswana destinations.
Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa | By Kenneth Newman
This commemorative 10th edition field guide celebrates the late author with a fully revised, updated and modernized version of his original work. Edits were done by his daughter, Vanessa Newman, to reflect the latest research, taxonomy and common names.
The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals | By Ricahrd Estes
An invaluable encyclopedic guide to Africa’s mammals by a noted scientist, this perennial bestseller includes black-and-white drawings, an overview of each animal group and in-depth information. It’s written with the typical safari-goer in mind.
Other Good Reads
Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa’s Last Great Wilderness | By Mark Owens & Delia Owens
Cry of the Kalahari is a family’s story about being thrown out of Botswana for their stance on conservation. While their approach to conservation is controversial, there’s no doubt that the Owens are dedicated to the wildlife of Southern Africa – and are very good writers.
Twenty Chickens for a Saddle | By Robyn Scott
Haphazardly schooled by her free-spirited mother and left to roam the bush, author Robyn Scott writes with warmth and candor of her unconventional upbringing in Botswana, commenting on her Grandpa Ivor (personal pilot to the first president of Botswana), her physician father’s work, unfortunate pets, siblings and adventures.
Mating | By Norman Rush
This comic novel evokes daily life in Botswana and skewers the notion of well-intentioned academics at large in the developing world. The author’s description of a trek from Gaborone to the Kalahari is terrific.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency | By Alexander McCall Smith
The first book in the beloved series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, offers a delightful introduction to Botswana’s formidable female detective character, evoking the cultures, customs and texture of Africa.
The Myth of Wild Africa | By Jonathan Adams & Thomas McShane
The authors, who are associated with the World Wildlife Fund, demolish the romantic fallacy of an untouched continent where animals roam freely in sanctuaries. It’s a no-holds-barred critique of old-style conservation in Africa.