“Until the lion has his own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.” – African Proverb
The hot sun on the pavement reminds us that long summer days of lounging on the beach are fast approaching. When it comes time to pack our Micato duffel bags for a weekend of surf, sun, and seafood, we always remember to include sunscreen, a hat, a towel, and of course, our favorite beach books.
A good beach read is evocative of exotic lands, all the better to get you into the vacation spirit. Our favorites, naturally, are Africa-centric – not only is it our beloved home, but Africa is also a land of nearly endless summer weather and boundless adventure, which recalls the excitement of the summer vacations of childhood.
Whether you are bound by luxury train for the ethereal beauty of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, flying in an elegantly appointed private jet to the golden and turquoise glory of Zanzibar, or simply taking the jitney up to the Hamptons, the following books will get you in the proper summer spirit – a time of year when anything can happen!
Out of Africa
This best-selling classic is even better than the movie, although admittedly lacking the draw of Robert Redford. The tale of a naïve young woman who leaves Denmark to start a coffee plantation in East Africa, Out of Africa is a moving love story inspired by affection for Kenya and its people.
West with the Night
Markham describes her childhood in Kenya and her experiences as a bush pilot in the 1930s with rich and vivid detail. West with the Night is a stylish and engrossing story of a unique life well lived.
The Flame Trees of Thika
Her parents were pioneers in Thika, Kenya, and Huxley was along for the ride. This tale of creating a home in the wild is lavishly and lovingly drawn.
The Tree Where Man Was Born
Reading Matthieseen’s travels is almost as good as travelling yourself. As he journeys through the Africa of 1972, we join him in Maasailand, Ngorongoro Carter, and the Kenyan Highlands. Crouch in the bush with him and bear witness to the majestic animals living out age-old dramas mere feet away – just remember to look up from the book and check on the kids from time to time.
The Collector of Treasure
Head is widely hailed as one of Africa’s great writers, and this collection of stories is further proof of her power with the pen. Her eloquent vignettes of village life in Botswana revolve around themes of family, prejudice, and power.
Africa, A Biography of the Continent
This one is a must-read for the history buffs in the family, but Reader is so talented that anyone could enjoy this book. He masterfully weaves a lively tale of the continent, from the most ancient cultures right up to modern times.
North of South, An African Journey
Nobel Prize winner Naipaul paints a sharp portrait of Africa as it was in 1979. As a brilliant and provocative observer, he meditates on the various peoples he encounters in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. This is hands-down the best, most insightful book we’ve read about race relations in Africa.
The Green Hills of Africa
A wonderfully readable tale of hunting in the Lake Manyara area of Tanzania. An account of the classic safari experience from one of the original safari aficionados, The Green Hills of Africa also contains some of the best writing about the land itself.
Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories
Chinua Achebe & Lynn Innes
Short stories, with their requirement of a limited attention span, are perfect for a family vacation. This single-volume introduction to the vast literature of Africa is our favorite collection, containing stories spanning the last 37 years.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith
This one meets all the quintessential beach book requirements: funny, well-written, and evocative of both relaxation and adventure. This is the first of twelve books in Smith’s female detective series of the same name, so if his delightful descriptions of the culture of Botswana appeal to you, snap up the next book, Tears of the Giraffe.