Before leaving for Africa, we read as much as we could. Listed below are books we found interesting and/or entertaining, especially those that are starred.


*Africa: A Biography of a Continent, John Reader (general survey of Africa from its geological beginnings and pre-history to contemporary political and economic problems)

*Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings, Virginia Morrell (well-written biography of the famous family of archaeologists who found skulls and footprints of early humans in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania)

Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, Carl Sagan (looks at four million years of life on the African continent to determine origins of man's race toward nuclear annihilation; last third of book examines relationship between ape and human behavior)

*A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons, Robert Sapolsky (hilarious account by Stanford professor and MacArthur "genius award" winner of his research with savannah baboons in Kenya)


*Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond (evolutionary biologist argues in this outstanding Pulitzer Prize-winning book that geography is the principal reason some societies have power & technology and others don't)

*Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond (less fascinating than best-selling GGS (above), but makes a strong case that the four main reasons societies collapse are: soil exhaustion, lack of water, overpopulation and warfare - the last often due to limited resources stemming from first three)

*Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor, David Landes (economic historian argues that cultural values are the principal reason for the wealth or poverty of nations; the Landes and Diamond arguments counter-balance each other)

The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs (Harvard-trained economist and head of Columbia University's Earth Institute) http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu/endofpoverty/

,*A Passage to Africa, George Alagiah (BBC commentator who grew up in Ghana vividly explains underlying causes of many of Africa's problems)

*Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, Blaine Harden (absorbing explanation of cultural reasons behind Africa's political and economic woes; stories of real people illustrate each point)

 *Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, (fascinating photos and text show what people around the world eat - from the $500 weekly pile of groceries of a German family of four to the $25 week's food of a Chad refugee family of six supplied by the United Nations and World Food Programme)

The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade, Robert Harms (award-winning book by professor of African History at Yale University describes day-to-day routine on French slave vessel in 1700s)

The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and so Little Good, William Easterly.


*Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux (adventure-filled, provocative book in which the well-known travel writer and former Peace Corps teacher goes overland from Cairo to Cape Town, finds that Africa is in worse shape than before it received billions of dollars of Western aid, and radically suggests maybe all aid organizations should pull out and let Africa solve its own problems)

The Shadow of Kilimanjaro: On Foot across East Africa, Rick Ridgeway (famed adventure traveler makes 300-mile trek on foot across Tsavo National Park accompanied by armed park rangers)


Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela (rather dry autobiography of a profoundly significant life by the Nobel Peace Prize winner and first black president of South Africa)

*Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, Alexandra Fuller (enthralling memoirs of white woman raised on a farm in Zimbabwe)

Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen (also a film by same name based on this book by Karen Blixen, aka Dinesen, who lived on Kenya ranch)

Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter, J. Nozipo Maraire (beautifully-written short memoir by the daughter - a black woman from Zimbabwe who is a Harvard & Yale-trained neurologist now living in the U.S. )


*Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (absorbing novella on which the film "Apocalypse Now" was based)

*Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway (collection of short stories – some about white hunters in Africa)

Cry the Beloved Country, Alan Patton (novel of racial tension in South Africa based on story of black pastor)

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe  (story of Nigerian "strong man" by Nobel Prize winner)


Master Harold and the Boys, Athol Fugard (excellent close-up look at humiliations of apartheid by South African playwright) 


Africa's Top Wildlife Countries, Mark W. Nolting (guide to wildlife safaris and safari camps by well-known safari-leader)

East Africa, Southern Africa, Ethiopia, West Africa  (Lonely Planet)

Ghana (Bradt) 


Faces of Africa, Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher (published by National Geographic Society, this stunning book has outstanding photographs of African faces; the photographers' work has won numerous awards - including a United Nations award of excellence for "vision and understanding of the role of cultural traditions in the pursuit of world peace.")





Joan and Lou Rose      joanandlou@ramblingroses.net