Botswana & Namibia: travel books to read before you go

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

Africa: A Biography of the Continent (John Reader) Any understanding of modern Botswana and Namibia will be greatly enhanced by reading Reader’s well-regarded continental tome. A sweeping and highly readable overview of the continent covering history, environment and anthropology, it is absolutely crammed with well-researched detail, which helps to dispel many a stereotype.

Cry of the Kalahari (Mark and Delia Owens) An absorbing adventure story of two young American zoologists who set off for the Kalahari with little more than a change of clothes. What results is a seven-year sojourn, and a unique insight into the amazing animals of the Kalahari.

Histories of Namibia: Living Through the Liberation Struggle (told to Colin Leys and Susan Brown) A fascinating insight into the horrific and sometimes hilarious experiences of Namibian activists who engaged wholeheartedly in the bitter war for independence.

The Healing Land: A Kalahari Journey (Rupert Isaacson) A moving account of Isaacson’s personal journey of discovery and the unfolding tragedy of the displaced San. Most of all, it highlights the confusion and corruption of a people who have lost what is most meaningful to them, their n!oresi (literally ‘lands where one’s heart is’).

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The Lost World of the Kalahari (Laurens van der Post) An anthropological classic depicting in almost mystical terms the traditional lifestyles of the San. The author’s quest for an understanding of the San’s religion and folklore is continued in his subsequent works, Heart of the Hunter and The Voice of Thunder.

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Collection (Alexander McCall Smith) Set in Mma Ramotswe’s beloved Botswana, these gentle detective stories are a refreshing change to how life in Africa is usually portrayed. McCall Smith captures his characters and their traditional codes of behaviour effortlessly.

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