Africa: travel books to read before you go

This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Africa guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

The following selection of books should give you a starting point for travel literature that covers the broader geographical spectrum.

The Tree Where Man Was BornThe Tree Where Man Was Born, by Peter Matthiessen, dates from the early ’60s, but it’s beautifully written and remains for many the definitive African travelogue. His African Silences and Sand Rivers are also outstanding.

Shadow of the SunShadow of the Sun, by Ryszard Kapuściński, gets under the skin of Africa like few other books with illuminating anecdotes garnered during decades as a foreign correspondent in Africa.

The Zanzibar ChestThe Zanzibar Chest, by Aidan Hartley, is a searing, no-holds-barred memoir of the author’s time as a foreign correspondent in the war zones of Africa.

Journey without MapsJourney Without Maps, by Graham Greene, is a wonderful narrative by one of the 20th century’s best writers as he travelled through the forests of Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1935.

Dark Star SafariDark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux, chronicles one of the author’s returns to Africa (he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi in the 1960s) as he travels from Cairo to Cape Town.

Blood RiverBlood River – A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart, by Tim Butcher, follows HM Stanley’s route into the African interior and reads like a thriller, combining gripping suspense with an engaging writing style.

The Lost Kingdoms of AfricaThe Lost Kingdoms of Africa, by Jeffrey Taylor, is a highly readable account of a modern journey through the Sahel, especially northern Nigeria, Niger and Mali; it was published in the US as Angry Wind.

Travels in the White Mans GraveTravels in the White Man’s Grave, by Donald MacIntosh, is a little-known classic by a writer who spent much of his working life in the forests of Liberia, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.