8th Jan reading list

Our top book recommendations for an African adventure

Reading Time


written by
Sav Meet the Team
Savanna Allport

Whether you are heading out to experience the buzz of a city, explore the Winelands, venture out into the African bush or lounging on the pristine sands overlooking the Indian Ocean there will always be a moment where you will crave a good book. We at Niarra have put together a recommendation list of our top books about Africa that will not only provide an entertaining read but also connect you to your local surroundings and the incredible events that have transpired.

South Africa


Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela – Autobiographical work focusing on Mandela’s early life, education, and the 27 years he spent in prison.

Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah – Stories from Trevor Noah’s life journey, from experiencing apartheid south Africa to the desk of the daily show.


Coconut by Kopano Matlwa – This haunting debut novel tells the story of two extraordinary young women, in modern day South Africa, who have grown up black in white suburbs and must now struggle to find their identities.

Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda – Follow the wanderings and creative endeavours of Toloki, a self-employed professional mourner, as he traverses an unnamed South African city during the nation's transitional period.



Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison – A hilarious collection of essays based on the author's experiences of working as a guide in Botswana.

Cry of the Kalahari by Delia Owens – The true story of two American scientists who spent seven years in the 1970s living in the Kalahari, studying carnivores.

Nisa: The Life And Words Of A !Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak, Nisa - This book is the remarkable story of Nisa's life in the Kalahari, told in her own words to Marjorie Shostak.


The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #1) by Alexander McCall Smith – Fictional Adventures Of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s Only Female Private Detective, That Are Full Of The Funny And Endearing Ways Of Botswana Culture.

When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head – A South African political refugee and an Englishman join forces to revolutionise the villagers' traditional farming methods, but their task is fraught with hazards as the pressures of tradition, opposition from the local chief, and the unrelenting climate threaten to divide and devastate the fragile community.



Unbowed by Wangari Maathai – When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people's environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa.

It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower by Michella Wrong – A nonfiction political thriller of modern Kenya; an eye-opening account of tribal rivalries, pervasive graft, and the rising anger of a prospect-less youth that exemplifies an African dilemma.

Born Free by Joy Adamson – True story of the author’s life alongside Elsa the lioness, whom she rescued and raised at her home in Kenya.


The Langani Trilogy by Barbara and Stephanie Keating (Blood Sisters, A Durable Fire, In Borrowed Light) – During their childhood years in the Kenya Highlands of the 1950s, three girls from vastly different backgrounds become blood sisters, promising that nothing will ever destroy the bond between them. But as they grow up love rivalries, broken promises and the tensions and violence of a newly independent Kenya threaten to tear their childhood dreams apart.

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre – The novel is set in Kenya and follows the fall out of the murder of Tessa Quayle, the activist wife of British Diplomat, Justin Quayle.



The Voices of Marrakech by Elias Canetti – Canetti captures the essence of Marrakesh: the crowds, the smells - of spices, camels, and the souks - and, most importantly to Canetti, the sounds of the city, from the cries of the blind beggars and the children's call for alms to the unearthly silence on the still roofs above the hordes.

Adventures in Morocco by Alice Morrison – TV presenter, writer and adventurer Alice Morrison gives her own unique and personal insight into Morocco, her home for 1001 nights.

For Bread Alone by Mohamed Choukri – An astonishing tale of human resilience and an unflinching and searing portrait of the early life of one of the Arab world’s most important and widely read authors.


Lords of the Atlas by Gavin Maxwell – A classic story of Morocco and the rise and spectacular fall of the House of Glaoua.

The Salt Road by Jane Johnson – A magical historical adventure which brings the most unlikely of people together in an epic quest that spans the decades and the hot, shifting sands of Morocco.



The Last Flight of the Flamingo by Mia Couto – This is a darkly comical satire on the consequences of the ending of a protracted civil war and the attempts of a ravaged country to become reacquainted with the wider world.

At The Mercy of the River: An Exploration of the Last African Wilderness by Peter Stark – Suppressing inner doubts and driven by that most human of urges–to see what lies beyond the next bend–Stark signed on for the adventure of a lifetime.


A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer – The book explores the qualities needed to survive in a hostile environment (particularly by a woman), coming-of-age and the availability of spiritual guidance.

Chronicler of the Winds by Henning Mankell, Tiina Nunnally (Translator) – A haunting and powerful story about war-torn Africa, a mystical orphan boy, and the power of narrative to give a chaotic world order.

Niketche: A Story of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane – A farce that celebrates the triumph of six women over one philandering man, this novel uses an age-old African story to address the subjection of women in modern Mozambique.



Counting Teeth: A Namibian Story by Peter Midgley – With his nineteen-year-old daughter, a collection of maps and the help of an opinionated GPS, Peter Midgley sets out across Namibia.

I Am Not Your Slave: A Memoir by Tupa Tjipombo – The shocking true story of a young African girl, Tupa, who was abducted from southwestern Africa and funnelled through an extensive yet almost completely unknown human trafficking network spanning the entire African continent.


Mama Namibia by Mari Serebrov – Surviving on her own in the desert, 12-year-old Jahohora searches for her family while hiding from the German soldiers.



Inside Hotel Rwanda by Edouard Kayihura And Kerry Zukus – Survivor Edouard Kayihura tells his own personal story of what life was really like during those harrowing 100 days within the walls of the infamous Hotel Rwanda and offers the testimonies of others who survived there, from Hutu and Tutsi to UN peacekeepers.

I’m Not Leaving by Carl Wilkins – Rwanda through the eyes of the only American to remain in the country through the 1994 genocide.

Land Of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise Of Rwanda’s Cycling Team by Tim Lewis – Tim Lewis charts the incredible true story of the Rwandan cycling team as they overcome impossible odds to inspire a nation.


A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali by Gil Courtemanche – Set in Kigali, Rwanda, the novel deals with a love affair between an elder Canadian expatriate and a young Rwandan, AIDS, and the 1994 Rwandan genocide.



A Gecko Blew Up My Toaster by Martin Varley – This novel shines a light into corners of living on a tropical island that you don't see in the holiday brochures.

Stranded In The Seychelles by Bev Spicer – A humorous memoir, following two young women looking for adventure before they have to make a life decision about settling down.


Kolony by Glynn Burridge – A hard-hitting historical thriller that takes place on a remote atoll of the Seychelles archipelago, combining action, intrigue, and paradise scenery.

Brothers Of The Sea by D.R. Sherman – This is a story of a fascinating but precarious friendship between a fourteen-year-old boy and a dolphin that saved him from a shark.

Tanzania and Zanzibar


The Worlds Of A Maasai Warrior by Tepilit Ole Saitoti – An autobiographical memoir revealing the traditional childhood, adolescence, and coming of age in Maasailond also documents the author's life on the plains of the Serengeti and his education and experiences as he journeyed to Europe and America


The Last Gift: A Novel by Abdulrazak Gurnah – The plot centres on Abbas, an immigrant from east Africa living in England, who reflects on his past after he has a stroke.

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah – A fictional coming-of-age story of a young East African boy, as well as a tale of the corruption of traditional African patterns by colonisation.



Aboke Girls by Els De Temmerman – In this book journalist Els De Temmerman reconstructs the journey of two Aboke girls who managed to escape and one of the abductors, a fourteen-year-old boy who was part of Kony's elite troops.

Child Soldier by China Keitetsi – Child Soldier is the author China Keitetsi's initial attempts to come to terms with her horrific experiences as a child soldier in Uganda.

The Impenetrable Forest by Thor Hanson – At once humorous, revealing, and poignant, The Impenetrable Forest offers a rare and unforgettable glimpse into the world of mountain gorillas and the human cultures that surround them.


Abyssinian Chronicles by Moses Isegawa – Set in a tribal village during the years of the Idi Amin terror in Uganda, Abyssinian Chronicles takes us into the heart of Africa, vividly immersing us in the mesmerizing extremes of beauty and brutality, wisdom and ignorance, wealth, and poverty, hope and despair that define the continent today.

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – A modern classic, a multi-layered narrative that reimagines the history of Uganda through the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan.



Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller – A master of time and memory, Fuller moves seamlessly between the days and months following her father’s death, as she and her mother return to his farm with his ashes and contend with his overwhelming absence, and her childhood spent running after him in southern and central Africa.


A Cowrie Of Hope by Binwell Sinyangwe – Sinyangwe captures the rhythms of a people whose poverty has not diminished their dignity, where hope can only be accompanied by small acts of courage, and where friendship has not lost its value.

The Mourning Bird by Mubanga Kalimamukwento – The Mourning Bird is not just Chimuka’s story, it’s a national portrait of Zambia in an era of strife.

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell – A Zambian debut novel that follows three generations of three families, telling the story of a nation, and of the grand sweep of time.



When A Crocodile Eats The Sun: A Memoir Of Africa by Peter Godwin – A stirring memoir of the disintegration of a family set against the collapse of a country, and a vivid portrait of the profound strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott – A frank and compelling account of one woman's battle to save the elephants she fell in love with in spite of the huge obstacles in her way.


The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing – The Grass Is Singing blends Lessing's imaginative vision with her own vividly remembered early childhood to recreate the quiet horror of a woman's struggle against a ruthless fate.

Bones by Chenjerai Hove – The story is the sensitive evocation of Marita, a farm- worker, whose only son joined the freedom fighters in Zimbabwe's war of liberation.

We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo – The book portrays through the eyes of a child/adolescent the effects of Imperialism and colonialism and highlights the difficulties of the migrant experience.

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