I confess, that I invariably think that the old ones are always the best! They capture that spirit of yesteryear but more importantly, when life was more spontaneous, gregarious, people took more risks and large tracts of the African continent lay unexplored. Reducing my favourite reads to five is virtually mission impossible!
Where do I start?
Beryl Markham with West with the Night and her fabulous flying, (you didn’t have to like the woman, but you had to admire her!), A Durable Fire by Barbara and Stephanie Keating, African Saga by Mirella Ricciardi, Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa, My Traitor’s Heart by the fabulous Rian Malan or A Dry White Season by Alan Brink, about South Africa, the Lost World of the Kalahari by Laurens van der Post, capturing the life of the San people, the oldest tribe in the world in the Kalahari Desert - the list is endless!
But, I finally settled on these – eclectic, some photographic, all beautiful and a wonderful read! Time to get those woolly socks on, curl up on the sofa in front of the fire… and dream of Africa!
Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
The most beautifully written book on Africa – ever. Isak Dinesen or Karen Blixen uses the most beautiful adjectives, it’s almost like reading poetry, but better! In fact, she writes phrases that touch the soul, transporting you to another place – her farm, in the Ngong Hills in Kenya.
Vanishing Africa by Mirella Ricciardi
For anyone looking for a beautifully artistic photographic book on the tribes and cultures of Africa – anyone who is remotely interested in anthropology – this book will lay on the coffee table forever! It is thing of beauty – to be looked over and admired when one has time on one’s hands! From the dusty semi-desert in the north to the lush tropical environment of the coast, from the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to the Indian Ocean, Mirella documents her life and the tribes she met. Fascinating!
African Rainbow by Lorenzo Ricciardi
The explorer and his photographer wife, Mirella – the most beautifully written but also pictorially depicted book capturing the essence of travelling across Africa by boat.
This was the first Equatorial expedition that documented their perilous journey on the waterways, witnessing many issues from conservation through to communities and meeting eminent African figures including Louis Leakey, Jane Goodall and George Adamson.
The journey started in November 1985, navigating 6000 kms from the Rufiji Delta in Tanzania to the mouth of Zaire, 20 months later and their experiences along the way which make this book such a treasure to own.
Serengeti Shall Not Die by Dr Berhard Grzimek
My father and Dr Grzimek were friends in East Africa and my father was supplying the Frankfurt Zoological Society with veterinary medicine. Bernhard was president of the Frankfurt Zoological society and he and his son Michael, started their research on the wildebeest migration with the view of making a documentary on it, in 1957.
The film was awarded an Oscar, although it came at a huge price as Michael was killed in a flying accident over the Ngorongoro Crater where a plaque has been erected in his honour. They put the Serengeti on the map, together with showcasing to the world what an amazing wildlife region this continues to be! One of the best reads of all time!
Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo
Everybody should read this as a matter of course! It’s about how simply throwing money at Africa doesn’t work and in fact, merely breeds a lacklustre attitude, whilst positive aid, teaching people how to cope, perhaps people farming methods such as permaculture, whereby one can be self-sufficient on a small scale, is all vital and illuminating reading. Dambisa is Zambian and used to work for Goldman Sachs. This is definitely an excellent read for anyone interested in the subject matter and who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the African economy as a whole.