5 Inspiring African books


(Issue 68, Autumn 2014) Dave Southwood – Guide, Africana collector and Travel Africa team member, selects his favourite reads.

1 Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa
William J Burchell, 1824
Naturalist Burchell invested his inheritance in travel, collecting over 50,000 specimens on his expeditions in southern Africa between 1810 and 1815. His records are a valuable natural history reference from before the great Victorian explorers ever arrived in Africa. This set is particularly special to me as I spent the best part of 20 years seeking a first edition.

2 Travel and Adventure in South East Africa
Frederick Courtney Selous, 1893
I love Mr Selous! As a child I would read about his adventures under the blanket at night while on the farm in Botswana, his clear narrative building a hunger in me that inspired me to venture into the wilds from an early age, and then to become a guide. His detailed studies of wildlife, the Boers and Lobengula are something special.

3 Out of Africa
Karen Blixen, 1947
In part this is a romantic tale, in part truth, but no matter how you view it, it is one of the most loved books of Africa. I admire Blixen’s zest for life, living life to the full as an adventurer, passionate partner to Denis Finch Hatton and handy huntress. I have a well thumbed paperback with notes in it, and a wonderful first edition copy. I would recommend anyone going to Africa to carry a paperback copy with them, as it is a truly inspirational piece of writing of its time.

4 Jock of the Bushveld
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, 1907
This is an enduring story of a man and his best friend, of their adventures and misadventures as he works as a transport rider in a freshly-colonised Barberton. I adore this book. It brings back childhood memories of living on a farm in Botswana with pet dogs. It’s beautiful, yet poignantly sad, but reminds me of the benefits of making the most of life.

5 Missionary Travels In South Africa
David Livingstone, 1857
I love this book because of Livingstone’s sheer guts to take on his explorations of southern Africa, his fundamental involvement in the abolishment of slavery and his quest for truth. I like to dip into pieces of this work to escape from the daily noise of modern life. It’s a must-read, albeit a long one!