The best books on African wildlife and safaris

Who am I?

Peter Allison became a safari guide by accident. Healthy fear is outweighed by overwhelming curiosity, which has led to misadventures on all continents, detailed in the books Whatever You Do, Don’t Run (A New York Times Notable Book of the Year); Don’t Look Behind You; and How To Walk A Puma.

I wrote...

Book cover of Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide

What is my book about?

In the tradition of Bill Bryson, a new writer brings us the lively adventures and biting wit of an African safari guide. Peter Allison gives us the guide’s-eye view of living in the bush, confronting the world’s fiercest terrain of wild animals and, most challenging of all, managing herds of gaping tourists. Passionate for the animals of the Kalahari, Allison works as a top safari guide in the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta. As he serves the whims of his wealthy clients, he often has to stop the impulse to run as far away from them as he can, as these tourists are sometimes more dangerous than a pride of lions.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Africa Bites: Scrapes and escapes in the African Bush

Why did I love this book?

Yes, Lloyd is a friend of mine but despite the number of campfires we have sat around swapping tales there were many in this book I had never heard. Like all good guides, Lloyd is a natural storyteller, but he is also a great reader and that has a positive effect on this, his first book. His writing shines, the stories move along briskly like a startled warthog, and in no time it is over and you want more.

By Lloyd Camp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Africa can be scary. And thrilling. Often, that's the same thing!Lloyd Camp takes you on an evocative journey through some of the wildest places in Africa as he re-lives colourful vignettes from his adventurous childhood and long career as a safari guide. This is a charming, funny, thoughtful and often hair-raising series of short stories that illustrate Lloyd's enthusiastic delight in leading his clients into the wilderness areas of Africa. Forthright yet light-hearted, Lloyd's suspenseful narrative emphasises both his love of the African bush and the courage and resilience of the Africans that he encounters in his odysseys. In the…

Book cover of Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer and the African Adventure the Victorian World by Storm

Why did I love this book?

This book has been given by me to many of my wildlife loving friends, with a hissing insistence they must read it. It tells the story of how the gorilla entered the western conscience just as evolutionary debate was raging. The characters include many that loom through history, yet the central figure has been banished from it. The why of that is the greatest, most tragic part of this excellent work of narrative non-fiction.

By Monte Reel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Between Man and Beast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1856, Paul Du Chaillu ventured into the African jungle in search of a mythic beast, the gorilla. After wild encounters with vicious cannibals, deadly snakes, and tribal kings, Du Chaillu emerged with 20 preserved gorilla skins—two of which were stuffed and brought on tour—and walked smack dab into the biggest scientific debate of the time: Darwin's theory of evolution. Quickly, Du Chaillu's trophies went from objects of wonder to key pieces in an all-out intellectual war. With a wide range of characters, including Abraham Lincoln, Arthur Conan Doyle, P.T Barnum, Thackeray, and of course, Charles Darwin, this is a…

Book cover of King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

Why did I love this book?

Most books on this list are informative and fun. This one has no scope for humour. This book taught me more than any other of why so much of Africa is the mess it is today. A grim read but this telling of a Belgian king’s obsession with obtaining a colony and his brutal reign over it is breathtaking and horrifying.

By Adam Hochschild,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked King Leopold's Ghost as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize, King Leopold's Ghost is the true and haunting account of Leopold's brutal regime and its lasting effect on a ruined nation. With an introduction by award-winning novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

In the late nineteenth century, when the great powers in Europe were tearing Africa apart and seizing ownership of land for themselves, King Leopold of Belgium took hold of the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. In his devastatingly barbarous colonization of this area, Leopold stole its rubber and ivory, pummelled its people and set up a ruthless regime that would reduce…

Book cover of Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa

Why did I love this book?

Godwin’s brilliant memoir of growing up in what was then Southern Rhodesia, fighting in a war, then defending as a lawyer some of those who he’d fought against is told with enormous wit and great literary flair. It’s a travesty that no film has ever been made of this book, but perhaps no one would believe the stories.

By Peter Godwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mukiwa opens with Peter Godwin, six years old, describing the murder of his neighbor by African guerillas, in 1964, pre-war Rhodesia. Godwin's parents are liberal whites, his mother a governement-employed doctor, his father an engineer. Through his innocent, young eyes, the story of the beginning of the end of white rule in Africa unfolds. The memoir follows Godwin's personal journey from the eve of war in Rhodesia to his experience fighting in the civil war that he detests to his adventures as a journalist in the new state of Zimbabwe, covering the bloody return to Black rule. With each transition…

Book cover of A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons

Why did I love this book?

Not new but far from dated this is one of the funniest books I have read about an outsider in Africa. Sapolsky bucks the trend of scientists being poor communicators, and details with warmth and hilarity his time researching baboons in East Africa. Once you’ve finished chortling you might just realise how much you have learnt along the way.

By Robert M. Sapolsky,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Primate's Memoir as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the tradition of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, Robert Sapolsky, a foremost science writer and recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, tells the mesmerizing story of his twenty-one years in remote Kenya with a troop of Savannah baboons.

“I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla,” writes Robert Sapolsky in this witty and riveting chronicle of a scientist’s coming-of-age in remote Africa.

An exhilarating account of Sapolsky’s twenty-one-year study of a troop of rambunctious baboons in Kenya, A Primate’s Memoir interweaves serious scientific…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in safaris, explorers, and East Africa?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about safaris, explorers, and East Africa.

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