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Travel books that will inspire you to explore the world

Alex

Alex

Operations & Marketing Development
Published on

03 Apr 2020

Read time

8 minutes

Christin Hume K2 Kcwkandwg Unsplash

“In books I have travelled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” - Anna Quindlen,

The human mind is a powerful thing and reading books can inspire and transport your imagination to far and wild places. Sometimes just simply reading a book can take us on a journey not just to seek adventure but also to discover something within ourselves.

As people who have experienced a myriad of countries and cultures, we’ve compiled a reading list and selection of our favourite books which have inspired us. If you’re ready to let your mind take you to far off places and get a serious case of the wanderlust – read on…

African Wildlife & conservation

Elephant Whisperer

1) The elephant whisperer, Lawrence Anthony

A South African conservationist is asked to take in a herd of rouge elephants to save them from being shot. He agrees and this is the story of how he regained their trust in humans after being severely traumatised. This is a story which teaches you a lot about loyalty, freedom and life.

Killing For Profit

2) Killing for profit, Julian Rademeyer

A raw, powerful read which will open your eyes to the battle to save a species which has so far survived for over 50 million years. A compelling account which delves into the world and follows the follows the bloody trail of the ‘rhino war’ in Southern Africa and one of the world’s most secretive trades. From the front lines with poachers, mercenaries and gunrunners, diplomats and government officials all the way to wildlife trafficking kingpins, and the medicine markets of the far east.

Born Free

3) Born Free, Joy Adamson

The true tale of a remarkable lioness, Elsa, and her transition from being raised in captivity to eventually being released in to the wild. It’s a heart-warming story between mankind and animals.

Gorillas In The Miist

4) Gorillas in the mist, Dian Fossy

An account of the famous primatologist’s extraordinary life in a remote African rainforest and her efforts to ensure the survival of the mountain gorillas. This is a story of personal adventure and creates an unforgettable portrait of one of our closets living relatives.

An African Love Story

5) An African love story. Love, life and elephants. Dame Daphne Sheldrick

Memoirs from an incredible life story from one of Africa’s greatest conservationists. Dame Sheldrick spent her entire life in Kenya, working with her husband David tirelessly rehabilitation orphaned endangered species such as elephants, rhino and zebra before releasing them back in to the wild where they belong.

Vanishing Kings

6) Vanishing Kings: The lions of the Namib Desert – Philip Stander

A beautifull series of photos of the lions of the Namibm and their journey through this harsh but alluring land brilliantly put together. The ancient Namib is the only desert on Earth where a small population of desert-adapted lions occurs. Remarkably, these unique lions continued to survived along Namibia's Skeleton Coast, but until 20 years ago were elusive and seldom seen - then believed to have become extinct until their rediscovery in 1997 scientist Dr. Philip Stander. He then began to study the lions: work that has become a lifelong commitment. He has been able to unfold the secrets of these highly adaptive big cats, who seemed to thrive in this harsh environment.

African History & Culture

Scramble For Africa

7) The scramble for Africa, Muriel Evelyn Chamberlain

A short, concise explanation of the incredible and complicated history of Africa between the Victorian era and the late 20th Century.

In her classic overview, M.E. Chamberlain, contrasts the Victorian image of Africa with what we now know of African civilisation and history. Examining in detail case histories from Egypt to Zimbabwe, arguing that the history and background of Africa are as important as European politics and diplomacy in understanding the 'scramble'.


Zulu

8) Zulu – Saul David

A comprehensive yet eminently readable account of the events leading up to, and of, the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. David avoids falling in to the trap of over complicating the background to the war, making this a great option for more casual readers, but still covers there events in sufficient detail to satisfy the cognoscente. The battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift are graphically, but sensitively described and make this one of the leading publications on this turbulent period of South African history.

African non-fiction

Blood River

9) Blood River, Tim Butcher

The author expertly and vividly regales his dangerous journey through the Congo with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots, tracing the footsteps of great Victorian adventurers before him. Making his way in an assortment of vessels including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, and helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a campaigning pygmy. Butcher's journey was a remarkable feat, but the story of the Congo, is more remarkable still.

Mukiwa

10) Mukiwa, White boy in Africa - Peter Godwin

An autobiographic account of growing up in 60’s Rhodesia, the bloody war which ensued, his time in the Rhodesian Army’s Anti-Terrorist Unit and then his eventual return, to now Zimbabwe, as a journalist bringing to light the atrocities that the government at the time was responsible for.

Out Of Africa

11) Out of Africa, Karen Blixen

Memoirs of the Danish author and her 17 year journey building a life and home in Kenya and her love affair with British aristocrat, Denys Finch Hatton.

A typical day for Daphne involves rescuing baby elephants from poachers; finding homes for orphan elephants, all the while campaigning the ever-present threat of poaching for the ivory trade. Welcome to Africa.

Long Walk To Freedom

12) Long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela

Madiba’s personal accounts during his 27 year imprisonment and the delicate negotiations which led to his freedom and the beginning of the end of apartheid. The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, Long Walk to Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela's destiny. Emotive, compelling, and uplifting, Long Walk to Freedom is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience, and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.

A Long Way Gone

13) A long way gone, Ishmael Beah

The memoirs of a boy soldier from Sierra Leone. Follow the devastating story of war through the eyes of a child. Ishmael answers a lot of questions which has left many journalists and authors struggling to imagine themselves… how does a child become a killer… how does one stop? A powerful and moving book with heart-breaking honesty

Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

14) The boy who harnessed the wind, William Kamkwamba

The true story of and by William Kamkwamba during famine-stricken Malawi. How his curiosity, and inventiveness overcame adversity to bring electricity and water to his village. William's dream is that other Africans will learn to help themselves - one windmill and one light bulb at a time - and that maybe one day they will be able to power their own computers, and use the internet, and see for themselves how his life has changed after picking up that book in the library.

West With The Night

15) West with the night, Beryl Markham

Aviator, racehorse trainer. The life of this remarkable lady during a remarkable time in Kenya through the 1920’s and 30’s. Markham was taken to Kenya at the age of four. As an adult she was befriended by Denys Finch-Hatton, the big-game hunter of OUT OF AFRICA fame, who took her flying in his airplane. Thrilled by the experience, Markham went on to become the first woman in Kenya to receive a commercial pilot's license.

Dont Run

16) Don’t run whatever you do - Peter Allison

Set in the wild bush of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, this absorbing read is a collection of tales by the author during his adventures working as a guide. His infectiously engaging narratives seamlessly draw you in to the life of a safari guide. With outrageous but true stories, you’ll find out when an elephant is really going to charge, what to do when faced by lions. Some of the stories delve in to how much wilder the tourists can be in comparison to the wildlife – from half-naked missing members of the Royal Family to Japanese tourists ignoring all the rules to get a better photo. This book will leave you with a longing to go on safari.

Diamonds

17) Diamonds, Gold and War – Martin Meredith

A wonderful account of South Africa’s history, charting its emergence as the dominant power within Africa thanks to the gold fields of the Witwatersrand and diamond mines of Kimberly. Meredith’s account deals head-on with the challenges that South Africa has faced in getting to where it is today and offers a fascinating insight in to the days of old when the spirit of adventure and hope were found as prospectors travelled here to seek their fortunes.

Long Way Down

18) Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.

A light hearted book about the challenges and adventures of travelling overland through 18 countries (14 of which are in Africa). Ewan and Charley write about many of the highlights of the places they visited along the way, the people they met and wildlife they encountered, so it gives an entertaining insight into what makes this such a special and varied continent.

African fiction

African Safari Papers

19) African safari papers - Robert Sedlack

A story with a difference… imagine being on a safari with a rambunctious, tearaway teenager and you’re half way there. Mum goes insane, dad becomes an heavy drinker all whilst their son is getting high and smuggling drugs… anything could happen…

Dark Sky Safari

20) Dark star safari, Robert Holt

A collection of short stories about science fiction, the paranormal and fantasy. Try reading between the lines of this exceptionally clever collection and you’ll discover some fascinating insights.

Guide To Birds

21) A guide to the birds of east Africa - Nicholas Drayson

A heart-warming story of two men in love with the same women and their endeavours to win her heart by learning about her passion for birds, whoever wins gets to take their love to the ball.

Half A Yellow Sun

22) Half a yellow sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Recreates a seminal moment in African history and the struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria. Chilling violence, intertwined with astonishing empathy of a natural story teller who tells the story of three peoples’ struggle to survive and moral responsibility.

Lady Detective

23) The number 1 ladies detective agency - Alexander McCall Smith

The story of the only Precious Ramotswe and her cases as she sets up as Botswana’s number 1 (and only) lady detective. Follow her adventures which tug at the heart strings and lead her to some dangerous situations.

Power Of One

24) The power of one, Bryce Courtenay

The second World War is looming large and Hitler’s influence is reaching South Africa. This is the tale of a boy who embarks on an epic journey through a land filled with tribal superstition and modern prejudice.

Asia/India/Sri Lanka

Shantaram

25) Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts

An epic journey set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. This tale takes you through burning slums, five star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films… it’s difficult to imagine that this is based on the life story of the author.

River Dog

26) River Dog - Mark Shand

Mark travels on a totally unique journey (with a dog) following the Brahmaputra river from it’s source in Tibet, through the remote north east of India and to its mouth in Bangladesh – lots of adventures, lively characters and very funny.

Age Of Kali

27) The Age of Kali - William Dalrymple

A collection of articles written all over south Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan) – really interesting travel companion to give a more in depth look at the region – lots of history & politics but simultaneously very entertaining.

Memoirs Of A Geisha

28) Memories of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

Nearly everyone has heard of this in either it’s cinematic form or as a piece of literacy brilliance. Enter a world where appearances are of significance, girls’ virginity are auctioned to the highest bidder and where love is a derided as an illusion.

Beach

29) The Beach - Alex Garland

What traveller doesn’t dream about an idyllic tropical island surrounded by tranquil blue waters? As this story unfolds it reminds us that fantasies hardly ever live up to expectations. Could this also be a subtext for what we are looking for in everyday life, whether it’s a house, job or a relationship?

General Travel

Art Of Travel

30) The art of travel - Alain de Botton

A real ‘don’t leave home without it’ book. The author brilliantly considers all the elements of travelling and the value of noticing and absorbing everything about a journey. Right from the excitement and anticipation of planning, the journey of travelling itself to get to a destination and valuing all the finite details of absorbing everything about where you land in the world.

Vagabonding

31) Vagabonding - Rolf Potts

A guide by this veteran shoe-string traveller shows you how to realise your travel ambitions armed with an independent spirit and a sense of adventure. Rolf Potts goes in to detail on so many subjects all the way from how to plan your journey, to life on the road, all the way to assimilating back in to the normality of everyday life.

Have And Have Nots

32) The haves and the have nots - Branko Milanovic

Milanovic, one of the leading experts in social-economic division uses history, literature and articles straight from newspapers to discuss the major divisions in today’s society. The haves and the have nots. A truly compelling read.

Atlas Of Happiness

33) The Atlas of Happiness – The global secrets of how to be happy. Helen Russell

Whoever you are and wherever you're from, there's much to be learned from this round-the-world happiness trip. Whether you are dreading an upcoming interview, lost your way in life, have too much on your plate or feeling disconnected and overwhelmed by business – this book can give wonderful insights in to how cultures from around the world deal with the ups and downs of life.

Prisoners Of Geography

34) Prisoners of Geography - Tim Marshall

This award winning journalist goes in to detail about ten maps of crucial regions and explains political strategies of world powers. He explains why Europe will never be truly united, why the USA will never be invaded and how China’s future is restricted by it’s geography. A fascinating insight in to factors which shaped and will continue to shape world history.

Mad Bad Dangerous

35) Mad, bad and dangerous to know - Ranulph Fiennes.

A wonderful autobiography by a living legend of exploration. His own personal accounts from growing up to exploring some of the most inaccessible and hospitable places in the world. Reading this book arouses a sense of adventurism and inspiration to know what with drive, the human spirit can endeavour. It also gives an insight in to Ranulph’s personal life, the love and partnership he shared with his wife Ginny and how he nearly replaced Sean Connery as James Bond.

Eat Pray Love

36) Eat-pray-love – Elizabeth Gilbert

The story of a highly successful American lady who had everything she seemingly wanted but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be. An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals.

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