The best books for wild women desperately seeking adventure

Kathryn Williams Author Of Rhino Dreams
By Kathryn Williams

The Books I Picked & Why

Out of Africa

By Isak Dinesen

Book cover of Out of Africa

Why 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.


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

By Alexandra Fuller

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

Why 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.


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West with the Night: A Memoir

By Beryl Markham

Book cover of West with the Night: A Memoir

Why 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.


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The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood

By Elspeth Huxley

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

Why 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.


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I Dreamed of Africa

By Kuki Gallmann

Book cover of I Dreamed of Africa

Why 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.


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