The best books about African adventures

Who am I?

My only expertise is my enthusiasm for African travel. I’ve visited twenty countries, Morocco to Madagascar, the Great Lakes to the Skeleton Coast, for (I hope) my next book. You can read about a few of my African adventures, like crossing Lake Malawi, hurrying through Namibia, sailing to St. Helena Island, and witnessing the mass wildebeest migration, in my other books. Experiencing African culture, nature and wildlife is the most fun I’ve ever had, anytime, anywhere. By all means, if you can, go!


I wrote...

Out There: Thirty Essays on Travel

By Bill Murray,

Book cover of Out There: Thirty Essays on Travel

What is my book about?

Out There is a collection of essays from my monthly travel column at 3QuarksDaily, a survey of the world in easily digestible bits. With reporting from Anguilla, Ascension Island, Borneo, Côte d’Ivoire, East Africa, Estonia, Greenland, Iowa, Karelia, Lapland, Latvia, Masaai Mara, Medieval Europe, the Mekong Delta, Namibia, Nazi Europe, Nepal, Pandemic America, Papua New Guinea, Pass Control, Rapa Nui, Russia, St. Helena Island, Svalbard, Tanzania, Tibet, Ukraine, and Zambia.

It is “as remarkable for its gentle wit as for the quiet sharpness of its commentary. Romps, revelations, and ride-it-out gut-checks, come hell or high water. Vivid, enlightening, worthwhile. Un-put-downable armchair travel.”

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of East Along the Equator: A Journey Up the Congo and Into Zaire

Bill Murray Why did I love this book?

Ms. Winternitz and Timothy Phelps traveled by local barge 2,000 miles up the Congo River in then-Zaire in 1983, living all the exotica, intrigue, and utter terror you’ve always imagined about the steamy African interior, with a requisite dose of political peril at the hands of Mobutu Sese Seko’s secret police. The Congo (river, country, jungle) is so fabled as opaque and impassable that it has spawned a mini-proliferation of titles.

By Helen Winternitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked East Along the Equator as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this brilliant mix of political journalism and travel writing, Helen Winternitz and fellow journalist Timothy Phelps witness what few Westerners have: life in the ecologically rich but financially impoverished American-backed dictatorship of Zaire, the former Belgian Congo.


Book cover of Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone

Bill Murray Why did I love this book?

There are different kinds of adventure. Safe to say the life of a CIA operative in raw, post-colonial Africa, who is charged with countering his Cold War rival the Soviet Union, must have been unique. Devlin portrays himself as a free-wheeling rogue playing fast and loose with the law (such as it was in 1960s Congo), and even with the life of murdered independence Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. It makes for exciting reading, even if not all of it is completely true.

By Larry Devlin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chief of Station, Congo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Larry Devlin arrived as the new chief of station for the CIA in the Congo five days after the country had declared its independence, the army had mutinied, and governmental authority had collapsed. As he crossed the Congo River in an almost empty ferry boat, all he could see were lines of people trying to travel the other way,out of the Congo. Within his first two weeks he found himself on the wrong end of a revolver as militiamen played Russian-roulette, Congo style, with him. During his first year, the charismatic and reckless political leader, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered and…


Book cover of Land of Tears: The Exploration and Exploitation of Equatorial Africa

Bill Murray Why did I love this book?

Harms catches you up in the grand sweep of African history with two convergent tours d’horizon, both the better known European exploration of the African west coast (and early European incursions into the continent from there), and the eastern, Arabian incursions, with a good discussion of where the twain did meet.

By Robert Harms,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Land of Tears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In January 1885, the powers of Europe gathered in Berlin to set ground rules for dividing Africa and its lucrative natural resources among themselves. In the years that followed, they rapidly laid claim to nearly all of the continent. Africa's division and conquest might appear today to have been inevitable. But the outcome was far from certain. Drawing upon decades of research, esteemed historian Robert Harms shows how outsiders from Europe, America, and the Arab world competed for resources, money, fame, and power in the Congo rainforest. Reconstructing this chaotic process, Land of Tears provides a comprehensive depiction of how…


Book cover of Venture To The Interior

Bill Murray Why did I love this book?

Malawi is gorgeous, inexpensive, and way under-visited. Laurens van der Post, a Bloomsbury socialite as a young man, World War Two POW, and then apartheid critic, travels ‘by aeroplane‘ across Nyasaland (present-day Malawi) in the early 1950s. Perhaps a few who have heard of Malawi know of its sprawling lake, but how many know of its majestic peaks? Van der Post’s evocation of those highlands compares with Hemingway’s Spain in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Likewise, Venture to the Interior doesn’t have a happy ending.

By Laurens van der Post,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Venture To The Interior as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Summoned to Whitehall in 1949, Laurens van der Post was told that in old British Central Africa there were two large tracts of country that London didn't really know anything about, and could he go in there on foot and take a look, please? Venture to the Interior is the account of that journey, a journey filled with adventure and discovery, flying from London across Europe and Africa, and after days in small aircraft, on foot across the mountains to the two lost worlds of central Africa.


Book cover of Another Day of Life

Bill Murray Why did I love this book?

Like Larry Devlin, Kapuscinski can spin up a whirlwind of a tale, even if it’s hard to believe one man can be at the center of so much turmoil. The Africa correspondent for the Polish Press Agency in the Cold War 1970s, Kapuscinski recalls Portugal’s catastrophic, chaotic withdrawal from Luanda after centuries of misrule and abuse. He stamps an indelible imprint of the abandonment of Luanda that you can’t unread.

By Ryszard Kapuściński, William R. Brand (translator), Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand (translator)

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Another Day of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1975, Angola was tumbling into pandemonium; everyone who could was packing crates, desperate to abandon the beleaguered colony. With his trademark bravura, Ryszard Kapuscinski went the other way, begging his was from Lisbon and comfort to Luanda—once famed as Africa's Rio de Janeiro—and chaos.Angola, a slave colony later given over to mining and plantations, was a promised land for generations of poor Portuguese. It had belonged to Portugal since before there were English-speakers in North America. After the collapse of the fascist dictatorship in Portugal in 1974, Angola was brusquely cut loose, spurring the catastrophe of a still-ongoing civil…


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Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

By Martha Marks,

Book cover of Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

Martha Marks Author Of Rubies of the Viper

New book alert!

Who am I?

I made my first visit to Pompeii at age seven. That day, I told my parents that I had been there before. It was all very familiar. And that sense of déjà vu has never left me. I feel it whenever I go back to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Roman Forum. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but... As an adult, I’ve returned many times to those places and visited others featured in my books: the Etruscan necropolis at Caere, which was already 1,000 years old at the time of my novels; Athens; and the ancient ports of Piraeus in Greece and Itanos in Crete. I earned a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, taught for many years, and enjoyed a million marvelous experiences, but my lifelong love of ancient Rome is the direct result of that long-ago visit to Pompeii with my parents.

Martha's book list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD

What is my book about?

Bernard Marks and Martha Alford met by chance. The odds were long that they would hit it off. That wasn’t in the cards they’d been dealt at birth. But, as gamblers in love, they rolled the dice. And then they worked hard, took risks, caught lucky breaks, built satisfying careers, enjoyed terrific travels, and won their own version of the lottery of life. Over four decades, Lady Luck smiled on them, until one day, she didn’t. Out of the blue, Fortune spun her wheel and taught them that no one is immune to tragedy and heartbreak.

Betting on Bernie is Martha Marks’s memoir of their improbable courtship, happy and prosperous marriage, and not-so-golden “golden years.” It will make you think, wonder, laugh, and cry.

Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

By Martha Marks,

What is this book about?

Bernard Marks and Martha Alford met by chance. No real reason for it, just a series of fluky coincidences. The odds were long that they would hit it off. That wasn’t in the cards they’d been dealt at birth. “It’ll never last,” people whispered after they got engaged. “Poor probability of success” was the general consensus when they married. But Bernie and Martha ignored the naysayers. Gamblers in love, they rolled the dice.

And then they worked hard, took even more risks, caught a few lucky breaks, built satisfying careers, enjoyed terrific travels, and won their own version of the…


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