South Africa: travel books to read before you go

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

From Jo’burg to Jozi, edited by Heidi Holland and Adam Roberts, is an eminently readable collection of short takes on this famous city by some 80 writers. The follow-up volume, Soweto Inside Out, edited by Roberts and Joe Thloloe, offers more of the same, this time with the focus on South Africa’s most famous township.

Cape Town has inspired a range of contemporary reads. Khayelitsha is the account of the years journalist Steven Otter (see p160 ) spent in the township, drinking in shebeens (unlicensed bars) and challenging his preconceptions about race.

A good anthology is Cape Town Calling: from Mandela to Theroux on the Mother City, edited by Justin Fox, and if you want a really fresh perspective, Lauren Beukes’ sci-fi novel Moxyland imagines the city as a high-tech dystopia.

Power Lines: Two Years on South Africa’s Borders, by Jason Carter, chronicles a Peace Corps volunteer’s perspectives on the still-deep divisions between white and black South Africa.

While not travel literature, Nelson Mandela’s superb and inspirational autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, is one of the best ways to prepare for a South Africa trip.

To pick up where Mandela leaves off, try the less profound but insightful Rainbow Diary: A Journey in the New South Africa, by John Malathronas.

David Robbins’ After the Dance: Travels in a Democratic South Africa is another intriguing chronicle of travels through post-apartheid South Africa.

For a dated but still relevant perspective, look for South from the Limpopo: Travels Through South Africa, in which inveterate Irish writer Dervla Murphy details her bicycle journey through the rainbow nation before, during and after the 1994 elections.

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