The best books about obsession with African wildlife and adventure

Bonnie J. Fladung Author Of When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer
By Bonnie J. Fladung

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By Monte Reel

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

Why this book?

I love nonfiction adventure books that immerse you in the details of an adventure while providing enough background information to understand the historical, cultural, and scientific perspectives of an era. In the mid-19th century, Paul du Chaillu spent years in Western Africa tracking down the njena, the mythical beast. This book makes for interesting reading as the author weaves the true-life adventure story of the discovery of the gorilla with Darwin’s evolutionary debate, and the challenges a Victorian-era scientist faced to prove his credibility. 


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Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals

By Jay Kirk

Book cover of Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals

Why this book?

I remember my first encounter with African wildlife. I was standing in front of a museum diorama, facing a lion standing full height, its glass eyes gleaming. These displays were crafted so carefully, the animals posed so perfectly, the backgrounds painted so realistically. But who turned these dead animals into works of art? This book describes the life of the man who traveled the world to find and preserve the best specimens. Carl Akeley’s journey is both gruesome and fascinating. 


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The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird

By Joshua Hammer

Book cover of The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird

Why this book?

I’ve always wondered how an obsession can turn criminal. The lure of the illegal wildlife trade can be very lucrative for those with a penchant for adventure and who are willing to take significant risks. This is the story of how a birder from southern Africa became an international wildlife criminal and rare-bird smuggler. The author wraps the story with the challenges that law enforcement officials face to apprehend and convict. This is a great introduction into the wildlife trade and the efforts people will take to acquire endangered species.


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Explorers' Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure

By Huw Lewis-Jones, Kari Herbert

Book cover of Explorers' Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure

Why this book?

An art teacher recommended this book to me when I wanted to learn more about sketchbook journaling. What better way to learn than to page through the field notes and illustrations from the diaries and journals of 70 famous world travelers and adventurers! For each of these daring men and women, there is a brief introduction followed by a visual treasure trove of sketches, original diary pages, and watercolor paintings. This book will remind you of what exploration and encountering wildlife and other cultures were like before cameras and cell phones.


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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?

I think the best books are stories about a personal journey. Beryl Markham’s beautifully written memoir about living in eastern Africa is just that. The famous aviatrix grew up on a farm raising racehorses and later associated with the author Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) and her husband, the professional big game hunter Bror Blixen. In Beryl’s chapters on rounding up elephants by air for Bror’s early safaris, she provides insight into the dangers and fascination men have had through the ages hunting and killing wild animals. 


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