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Anthea Graham shares her top 5 Africa travel books

Anthea Graham By Anthea Graham
29 Nov 2017
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The thought of having time over the winter months to tuck up by a fire and read is so compelling - and if one is planning a trip to Africa, then what better than to get deep under the skin of a place. Here are a few of my must reads!




Don’t Lets Go Down to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

This is my absolute favourite – and aptly topical as we watch with delight and fingers firmly crossed to see the euphoria of Mugabe’s downfall!  Alexandra Fuller’s writing takes me straight back to my childhood on a remote Zimbabwe farm and her words describe the heat, dust and the fearful silence of the long nights during the war of independence. Like Arundhati Roy whose words enthral on a childhood in India in “The God of Small Things”, Fuller’s memoir is just spell binding despite of chain of calamities and woes that beset the family. It is heart-breaking and unforgettable.



The Soul of the White Ant by Eugene N. Marais

A book that totally fascinated me in my teens, and is something of a cult read that you pass on for life! This is a work that shines a light into the astounding workings of the termite world, but also draws an astonishing parallel with the human organism. The author even went so far as to draw a comparison between the psyche or consciousness of the Termite colony and the psyche of the individual human being.

There can be very few books quite like this. The great naturalist Eugene Marais, was cheated by a plagiarist (Maurice Maeterlinck) who was awarded the Nobel Prize - that by rights should have gone to him, killed himself with a shotgun on a farm near Pretoria in 1936. You can either download this here or buy a prized copy online, or a joint copy with his study on baboons - The Soul of the Ape & the Soul of the White Ant.



The Lunatic Express by Charles Miller

There is a scene in the classic film ‘Out of Africa’ that captures the romance and pull of rail travel, where the train rounds a bend and melts into the night - and this is the story of how this very line was built. An engineering miracle and started in 1895, the 600-mile route was largely unmapped and barely explored.

The builders of the railway were beset with problems, including tropical diseases, clashes with combative communities, and man-eating lions, who struck fear into the thousands of workers laying tracks from Mombasa to Nairobi through what was then the Kenyan wilderness. A very interesting and historical account of the early colonization of East Africa, now Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. A new track along a similar route, has just been opened.



Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

Theroux's honest account of “vanishing" into the African continent, revealing the stories of the people he meets along the way. His love of the vast landscape – often scarred with dilapidated human settlements remains, as he travels overland from Cairo to Cape Town by public transport.  It is the people that shine through "Wonderful people. Terrible government. The African story."  With Zimbabwe fresh in our minds, the updated version has a new postscript, where Theroux returns to visit this magical country.



Broad Horizons, Sundowners & Snakes by Bob Leach

This is a very special book by a very special person.  A great friend of our family sharing love across the ages – and hot off the printing press! This is Bob’s story from being posted to do his National Service in Somaliland at just 18, and then subsequently working as an agricultural officer in Uganda in his twenties.   Bob writes about a time of sweeping change across East Africa; of the dusty plains, deserts, mountains and game; of pet cheetahs, snakes and savage beasts; and of the generous and warm spirit of the people who made his years in Africa such a fascinating and memorable experience.


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