The best books about wild Africa

Who am I?

For more than two decades, I have been travelling to the wild places of this planet looking for stories. Africa in all its diversity has always been my first love. Whether I’m off the grid in the Kalahari, or scanning the far horizon of the Serengeti looking for lions, Africa feels like home to me, and I’m passionate about finding, and then telling the stories of the people I meet, and the wildlife I encounter, along the way. And driving me every step of the way is my great belief in the power of the written word and that of a good story to transform the way we think about, and interact with, the natural world. 

I wrote...

The Last Lions of Africa: Stories from the Frontline in the Battle to Save a Species

By Anthony Ham,

Book cover of The Last Lions of Africa: Stories from the Frontline in the Battle to Save a Species

What is my book about?

This book tells five true stories about three enduring African characters—lions, the traditional peoples they live among, and the wild lands that together they inhabit. It’s the story of what happens when a Maasai warrior in Kenya kills a lion, only to become a saviour of lions. It’s what really happened to Cecil in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

One story chronicles the life of Lady Liuwa, the last lioness of western Zambia who became a goddess to the local people. Another traces my solo crossing of the Kalahari in Botswana, through a land emptied of people and of lions. In Tanzania, I follow Africa’s most prolific man-eating lions. And I tell of my own near-death experience with a lion in the African dawn.

The books I picked & why

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The Tree Where Man Was Born

By Peter Matthiessen,

Book cover of The Tree Where Man Was Born

Why this book?

I could have chosen any of Matthiessen’s books set in Africa – Sand Rivers and African Silences are both magnificent – but The Tree Where Man Was Born is a book of wise observations, superb writing, and great humanity. Whether writing about the Maasai, the poignant death of a zebra, or the landscapes of the Serengeti, the words are perfectly chosen and the tone elegiac. The final chapter, ‘At Gidabembe’ is a masterpiece.

Cry of the Kalahari

By Mark Owens, Delia Owens,

Book cover of Cry of the Kalahari

Why this book?

This warm and gentle memoir takes us back to a time before tourists discovered Africa’s wild spaces, and the Owens’ evocation of the Kalahari’s wildlife and golden grasslands remains a classic. So much happened to the Owens after they were here – Delia Owens has, for example, found fame and fortune with her novel When the Crawdads Sing – but this love letter to one of my favourite African landscapes is a beautiful thing in its own right.

Out of Africa

By Isak Dinesen,

Book cover of Out of Africa

Why this book?

Set aside the Hollywood film for a moment and read this remarkable book. Characters – both human and animal – fill this drama-filled account of colonial East Africa, and Blixen’s descriptions of landscapes and wildlife include many passages of rare beauty; her description of buffaloes emerging from the mist is near-perfect in its execution.  

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

By Robert M. Sapolsky,

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

Why this book?

Funny and wise in equal measure, A Primate’s Memoir is a window on baboon social dynamics with plenty of forays into the world of safari tourism that he observes from askance. Sapolsky has since gone on to become one of the science world’s keenest observers of human behaviour, and his portrayals of baboon and human interactions are priceless.

The Marsh Lions: The Story of an African Pride

By Brian Jackman, Jonathan Scott, Angie Scott

Book cover of The Marsh Lions: The Story of an African Pride

Why this book?

Written and photographed by three of Britain’s leading wildlife personalities, The Marsh Lions remains a seminal text when it comes to lions. Scott’s and Jackman’s unrivalled knowledge of what is perhaps Africa’s most famous lion pride (which was immortalised in Big Cat Diary, hosted by Jonathan Scott) shines through in the writing, which is patient wildlife storytelling at its best. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in East Africa, Kenya, and Africa?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about East Africa, Kenya, and Africa.

East Africa Explore 12 books about East Africa
Kenya Explore 41 books about Kenya
Africa Explore 163 books about Africa

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Between Man and Beast, Mukiwa, and The Gap if you like this list.