The best books for wild women desperately seeking adventure

Kathryn Williams Author Of Rhino Dreams
By Kathryn Williams

Who am I?

I grew up in the high plains mining towns of Montana and Wyoming but I couldn’t wait to get out and see the world. Peace Corps was my ticket. A teaching post in Chad, Africa, was open, but civil war and famine loomed, so I chose Afghanistan. After my two-year contract in Kabul, I continued traveling but my fascination with Africa never waned. A job teaching college English allowed me summers to continue traveling. However, I never did get to Africa, so when Carolyn suggested we write about Namibia, I agreed. Someday, I hope to visit before the magnificent black rhino has been wiped off the face of the planet.

I wrote...

Rhino Dreams

By Carolyn Waggoner, Kathryn Williams,

Book cover of Rhino Dreams

What is my book about?

Clare Rainbow-Dashell has taken a hiatus from her career as an acclaimed wildlife photographer and returned to pursue her academic dreams when a disastrous affair with a professor catapults her to another continent: Africa.

Set against the formidable backdrop of the Namib Desert, Rhino Dreams dramatizes the crisis of endangered species preservation and the horrors of poaching, interweaving this very real ecological darkness with the internal and external battles of three characters driven by fierce passions and divided notions of duty and desire. It is a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant ride—and, in the end, a testimony to how tenuous and precious both life and love can be.

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The books I picked & why

Out of Africa

By Isak Dinesen,

Book cover of Out of Africa

Why did I love this book?

Karen Blixen was Danish aristocracy, rich and comfortable. But she sought the adventure only Africa could offer. Like our heroine, Blixen finds Africa and love much more complicated and much harsher than she expected. And like our heroine, she perseveres and overcomes daunting obstacles, both geographic and romantic. I love Dinesen’s description of Africa, its inhabitants, its climate, and especially its animals. Her will to make a life without much help from anyone is a testimony to the kind of woman who can survive.

By Isak Dinesen,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Out of Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1914 Karen Blixen arrived in Kenya with her husband to run a coffee-farm. Drawn to the exquisite beauty of Africa, she spent her happiest years there until the plantation failed. A poignant farewell to her beloved farm, "Out of Africa" describes her friendships with the local people, her dedication for the landscape and wildlife, and great love for the adventurer Denys Finch-Hatton.

Book cover of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

Why did I love this book?

In this wonderful memoir, it’s Fuller’s crazy mother who dominates the story. With her husband and two daughters, Fuller’s often maniacal mother forges a life farming in Rhodesia, beating the bush for stray cattle, fighting the brutal climate, cobbling together enough food, money, and beer to survive. Through Fuller’s child-eyes, we look at her white, colonist family, at the Rhodesians who don’t welcome them, and at the struggle to endure and overcome. It’s a story that finds humor and humanity in spite of the family being forced from their farm to end up tenant farmers.

By Alexandra Fuller,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by author Anne Enright.

Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award, a story of civil war and a family's unbreakable bond.

How you see a country depends on whether you are driving through it, or live in it. How you see a country depends on whether or not you can leave it, if you have to.

As the daughter of white settlers in war-torn 1970s Rhodesia, Alexandra Fuller remembers a time when a schoolgirl was as likely to carry a shotgun as a satchel. This is her story - of a civil war, of a quixotic battle…

Book cover of West with the Night: A Memoir

Why did I love this book?

Beryl Markham wrote this memoir in 1942. National Geographic listed it in “The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time.” Markham was a remarkable woman—not just for her time, but for any time. Growing up in Kenya on her father’s horse racing farm, she did not have to struggle as did Fuller’s family. She rejected the traditional role of women and became a horse trainer, then an aviator, eventually becoming the first person—not just the first woman—to fly from Europe to New York. This east-to-west flight was a feat no pilot had yet achieved. What I appreciated about this story, as with the rest, was the grit and determination Markham displayed. Refusing to settle for the easy life, she flung herself at every challenge. An interesting side note is that Blixen and Markham were friends. When Blixen left Africa, Markham befriended Denys (played by Robert Redford in the film) and he died flying over her farm.

By Beryl Markham,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked West with the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WEST WITH THE NIGHT appeared on 13 bestseller lists on first publication in 1942. It tells the spellbinding story of Beryl Markham -- aviator, racehorse trainer, fascinating beauty -and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and 30s.

Markham was taken to Kenya at the age of four. As an adult she was befriended by Denys Finch-Hatton, the big-game hunter of OUT OF AFRICA fame, who took her flying in his airplane. Thrilled by the experience, Markham went on to become the first woman in Kenya to receive a commercial pilot's license.

In 1936 she determined to fly solo…

Book cover of The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood

Why did I love this book?

Huxley’s parents go to Kenya to start a coffee plantation. And like Blixen and her husband, they know nothing about Africa or growing coffee and must depend on Africans to teach them. Huxley writes a delightful account of her life and the struggles they endure. Her portrayal of the people who work on the family’s plantation is brilliant as is the description of the environment and animals. Huxley also writes from the unsentimental eyes of a child.

By Elspeth Huxley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Flame Trees of Thika as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Elspeth Huxley's pioneer father buys a remote plot of land in Kenya, the family sets off to discover their new home: five hundred acres of Kenyan scrubland, infested with ticks and white ants, and quavering with heat. What they lack in know-how they make up for in determination: building a grass house, employing local Kikuyu tribe members and painstakingly transforming their patch of wilderness into a working farm. Huxley's unforgettable childhood memoir is a sensitive account of settler life at the turn of the twentieth century and a love song to the harshness and beauty of East Africa.

I Dreamed of Africa

By Kuki Gallmann,

Book cover of I Dreamed of Africa

Why did I love this book?

Kuki Gallman, an Italian socialite, is another wealthy woman who sought adventure in Kenya. And another woman, with her husband, who set out to start a ranch in an inhospitable land. When her husband and son are killed in separate accidents, Gallman turns the ranch into a conservation park, using her money to bring attention to the plight of the local wildlife. And, as is true in Namibia, she enlisted the help of local tribal leaders to save both the endangered wildlife and native culture. In 2010, she founded Prayers for the Earth and in 2011, she and her daughter donated 300 acres for a project called “Land of Hope.” Gallman could so easily have returned to an easy life in Italy but instead challenged herself and those around her.

By Kuki Gallmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This autobiography tells the story of an Italian woman whose life is driven by love of Africa. The prologue covers a string of deaths which shaped Kuki Gallmann's life including that of a woman friend who died in a car crash. The widower, Paulo (who then married Kuki), his two daughters and Kuki's son by a previous marriage all went to Kenya and bought a large estate. Paulo died in an accident and Kuki's son died aged 17, bitten by one of his own puff-adders. Kuki had a couple of affairs - one with a married white planter, another with…

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Interested in Kenya, Africa, and childhood?

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