This week I thought I'd point you all in the direction of some interesting books to read on the subject of Africa and African wildlife. Obviously if you looking for an adventure novel almost anything by Wilbur Smith will do, although some of his later works are a little tedious, but they're still good for squashing cockroaches with. If your looking for a good animal book to take with you on your Safari try to get hold of a copy of "Signs of the Wild" by Clive Walker (Published by Struik.) It's a conveniently sized book containing some excellent information on animals of southern Africa. It has good photos and brief descriptions of behaviour. However, the best thing about it is the clear depictions of animal tracks and even photos of their droppings. It really does enhance your safari experience. If you can't get a copy before you go, you may be able to buy one at Johannesburg airport when you arrive. That's where I got mine. By the way the book also provides the names of animals in local tribal languages - handy if you want to know what your guide is talking about on his radio.
For more detailed information on animal behaviour grab a copy of "The Safari Companion" by Richard D Estes. (Published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company.) It's a real text book and contains very comprehensive information on animal behaviour. If you are a serious animal watcher I can thoroughly recommend it. However, if you're just going to Africa for a standard holiday or honeymoon you can probably live without it. It's fairly big and heavy too.
For bird watching grab yourself a copy of "Birds of Africa South of the Sahara" by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan. (Published by Struik). It contains good, clear illustrations and distribution maps and the bird your looking at is easy to find in the index of common names. Again, the only disadvantage is that is is quite large and heavy. A good small bird book is "Pocket-Guide to Southern African Birds" by Burger Cillie and Ulrich Oberprieler. (Published by Sunbird Publishing.) It has clear photos and again the birds are easy to find in a hurry.
Now here are a few good books to read before you go to Africa. "The Leopard's Tale' by naturalist and presenter of TV's Big Cat Dairy - Jonathon Scott (Published by Elm Tree Books.) "Cry of the Kalahari" by Mark & Delia Owens (Published by Collins) It's a beautifully written and very readable account of a pair of researchers' experiences while studying the wildlife of the Kalahari Desert. "Sand Rivers" by Peter Matthiessen. (Published by Bantam Books.) This concerns a fascinating expedition into the Selous National Reserve in Southern Tanzania before it really opened up to international visitors.
One of my all time favourites is "The Wilderness Family" by Kobie Kruger. (Published by Bantam Books.) It's a memoir of a family's life in the bush. Be warned though, it's a real tear jerker. For history buffs there's "The White Nile" by Alan Moorhead. (Published by Penguin.) If you like historical novels theres "The Covenant" by James Michener. This is a sweeping epic covering the history of South Africa. It's a good read and can be used to hold open heavy doors when you've finished with it. Sorry can't remember who the publisher is.
Some of my other favourites are......
The Trouble with Africa - Vic Guhrs
Facing the Congo - Jeffrey Taylor
Bonobo Handshake - Vanessa Woods
Journey Without Maps - Graham Greene
Jock of the Bushveld - Sir Percy Fitzpatrick
I Dreamed of Africa - Kuki Gallmann. (Have the tissues at hand for this one too.)
Finally I'd like to recommend "The No1 Ladies Detective Agency" series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. I think there are twelve books so far. They are gentle, humouous novels about Botswana's only lady private detective. They are a delight. You might not learn much about African wildlife from them but they're a lovely, light, undemanding read. Happy reading everyone.