37 books like The Color of the Elephant

By Christine Herbert,

Here are 37 books that The Color of the Elephant fans have personally recommended if you like The Color of the Elephant. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Marilyn Kriete Author Of Paradise Road: A Memoir

From my list on memoirs to take you on wild adventures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a serial memoirist (two published, two more to come), and a true fan of well-written memoir. I read all kinds, but my favorites often combine coming-of-age with unusual travel or life choices. I love getting inside the authors’ heads, discovering not just what they did, but why, and how they felt about it later, and what came next. Great memoirs take us out of our own lives and into settings, situations, and perspectives we may never experience. What better way to understand how other people live and move and think and feel? Fiction is fine, but a unique true story hooks me from start to finish. 

Marilyn's book list on memoirs to take you on wild adventures

Marilyn Kriete Why did Marilyn love this book?

I discovered this book years ago on a discount table, and it quickly became one of my all-time favorites, a memoir I’ve reread several times and loaned to friends.

Gilman and her college friend—someone she knows, but not reallybackpack through China in 1986, right after it’s been opened to travelers after the Cultural Revolution.

Two naive Americans, in way over their heads as things grow stranger and stranger. Described as “a modern heart of darkness filled with Communist operatives, backpackers, and pancakes,” her story is guaranteed to shock and surprise even the most seasoned traveler.

Great title, great writing, and an absolute page-turner.

By Susan Jane Gilman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1986, Susie and her friend Chloe, fresh-faced graduates from Brown University, were inspired by a placemat entitled "Pancakes of Many Nations" to depart on an epic trip around the world, starting with Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China, then only recently opened to the rest of the world. As the two ventured into what turned out to be a strange and alien land, they encountered places far different from anything they had ever experienced, from the horrors of an open-ditch toilet in the back of a weird hybrid tenement hotel, to a magical boat ride through a…


Book cover of South Away: The Pacific Coast on Two Wheels

Marilyn Kriete Author Of Paradise Road: A Memoir

From my list on memoirs to take you on wild adventures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a serial memoirist (two published, two more to come), and a true fan of well-written memoir. I read all kinds, but my favorites often combine coming-of-age with unusual travel or life choices. I love getting inside the authors’ heads, discovering not just what they did, but why, and how they felt about it later, and what came next. Great memoirs take us out of our own lives and into settings, situations, and perspectives we may never experience. What better way to understand how other people live and move and think and feel? Fiction is fine, but a unique true story hooks me from start to finish. 

Marilyn's book list on memoirs to take you on wild adventures

Marilyn Kriete Why did Marilyn love this book?

Following a newbie on her first big adventure always thrills me, and Meaghan’s account of riding her bike from northern BC to Baja, Mexico, accompanied by her equally inexperienced sister, brought me back to my own bicycle travels, 30 years earlier.

What changed, and what remained the same? We shared many of the same struggles: fear of bears and bicycle breakdowns, for starters, and trusting the road to whip our bodies into shape.

Traveling with a cell phone and online access to couch surfing were luxuries I couldn’t have imagined in 1978, but clocking the miles still mightily tests body, spirit, and a tight budget.

Meaghan is funny and vulnerable, engaging the senses in every aspect of her learn-as-you-go odyssey along the Pacific Coast. 

By Meaghan Marie Hackinen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked South Away as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

South Away follows Meaghan Marie Hackinen and her sister in the adventure of a lifetime: bicycling from Terrace, BC down the West Coast to (almost) the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Along the way Hackinen battles with the elements in Vancouver Island’s dense northern forests and frigid Mexican deserts; encounters strange men, suicidal highways and monster trucks; and makes some emergency repairs as tires and spokes succumb to the ravages of the journey. Luckily, the pair meet some good people along the way and glean some insight about the kindness of strangers.

A rare road-trip story with two female leads,…


Book cover of Looking For Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

Marilyn Kriete Author Of Paradise Road: A Memoir

From my list on memoirs to take you on wild adventures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a serial memoirist (two published, two more to come), and a true fan of well-written memoir. I read all kinds, but my favorites often combine coming-of-age with unusual travel or life choices. I love getting inside the authors’ heads, discovering not just what they did, but why, and how they felt about it later, and what came next. Great memoirs take us out of our own lives and into settings, situations, and perspectives we may never experience. What better way to understand how other people live and move and think and feel? Fiction is fine, but a unique true story hooks me from start to finish. 

Marilyn's book list on memoirs to take you on wild adventures

Marilyn Kriete Why did Marilyn love this book?

I lived in Lagos for four years in the early ‘90s and have struggled ever since to describe the strange energy and appeal of this troubled, oft-maligned country.

Noo, a British-raised Nigerian, takes us to 12 Nigerian locations in a quest to understand her roots. Her childhood memories of visits to the homeland weren’t great, and she’s highly attuned to the widespread corruption that afflicts almost every aspect of Nigerian life.

Still, she travels with an open mind, asking questions, seeking mini-adventures, and falling in love-and-exasperation with the loud, outspoken, resilient residents of Africa’s most-populated country.

Her lively account, packed with nuggets of history, culture, and one-of-a-kind encounters and conversations, brought me back to a country that stole my heart when I least expected it.  Such a treat!

By Noo Saro-Wiwa,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Looking For Transwonderland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Temperance Creek: A Memoir

Marilyn Kriete Author Of Paradise Road: A Memoir

From my list on memoirs to take you on wild adventures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a serial memoirist (two published, two more to come), and a true fan of well-written memoir. I read all kinds, but my favorites often combine coming-of-age with unusual travel or life choices. I love getting inside the authors’ heads, discovering not just what they did, but why, and how they felt about it later, and what came next. Great memoirs take us out of our own lives and into settings, situations, and perspectives we may never experience. What better way to understand how other people live and move and think and feel? Fiction is fine, but a unique true story hooks me from start to finish. 

Marilyn's book list on memoirs to take you on wild adventures

Marilyn Kriete Why did Marilyn love this book?

Would you follow a person you just met into a whole new wilderness life?

That’s exactly what young Pamela does, discarding urban living to ride horseback into the wilds of Hell’s Canyon and partner with her new man as wandering shepherds.

Her risk pays offunexpectedly, delightfully—and Pamela takes us on a journey of discovery, lyrically describing the beauty and richness of her unusual life. The author and I are the same age, and as she was learning survival skills, I was cycling solo on backroads not far from heras the crow flies. But our lives since then couldn’t be more different.

If you’ve ever imagined leaving it all for the simple life (with hardships), here’s a sumptuous memoir that takes you there. Like Pamela, you may never want to leave.

By Pamela Royes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the early seventies, some of us were shot like stars from our parents’ homes. This was an act of nature, bigger than ourselves. In the austere beauty and natural reality of Hell’s Canyon of Eastern Oregon, one hundred miles from pavement, Pam, unable to identify with her parent’s world and looking for deeper pathways has a chance encounter with returning Vietnam warrior Skip Royes. Skip, looking for a bridge from survival back to connection, introduces Pam to the vanishing culture of the wandering shepherd and together they embark on a four-year sojourn into the wilderness. From the back of…


Book cover of Hermetech

Carmilla Voiez Author Of Starblood

From my list on grittiest dark-fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an anarcho-feminist who has a special interest in magic; I consider it my guilty pleasure. I write dark and gritty stories that delve into gender, trauma, and mental illness, yet discover hope and freedom in the pit of darkness. I'm best known as a horror writer, but it’s more accurate to say that I create dark-fantasy and speculative fiction. My themes reflect the darkness which feels ubiquitous in the world, especially now in this age of extremes and pandemics, but I always search for the glimmer of light, the flame of hope that we can make a better future. I've always been fascinated by the Goth aesthetic and enchanted by post-punk threnodies.

Carmilla's book list on grittiest dark-fantasy

Carmilla Voiez Why did Carmilla love this book?

The setting for Hermetech is a post-apocalyptic landscape. As with Imajica, the central quest is to heal a ruptured world. Futuristic science and magic coexist in the story as a group of disparate and dysfunctional travellers retrieve Ari and escort her (and the reader) through strange, broken lands and along unfriendly and dangerous roads.

It is a highly imaginative, speculative fantasy with another character who blends and transcends gender and steals a reader’s heart. Zambia Crevecoeur is deeply flawed and tragic, and it is hir journey (emotional rather than geographical) which drew me into this extraordinary novel.

By Storm Constantine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A near future Earth is dying due to human interference; Tech-Green is doing its best to repair the damage and is insisting that humankind leaves the planet to give it time to heal. Ari Famber, is the result of a genetic experiment she knows nothing about. Leila Saatchi, a friend of Ari's dead father, has promised to find her and protect her from others who may seek to use Ari for their own ends. Leila's naturotech pagan group arrives at Taler's Bump, Ari's home, with the intent on awakening her latent, potentially world-changing potential. In Arcady city, a massive sprawl…


Book cover of The Mourning Bird

Ellen Banda-Aaku Author Of Patchwork

From my list on about childhood that make you cry.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Ellen Banda-Aaku a writer from Zambia and the UK. I have been writing – mainly for young adults - for many years. My latest YA book The Elephant Girl which I have co-authored with James Patterson is due in July 2022. A memorable book for me is one that haunts me long after I turn the last page even though it’s fiction. Whilst the books mentioned here are very different, I have linked them in that they have child protagonists who go through a lot of suffering through no fault of their own. That is what makes them tearjerkers.

Ellen's book list on about childhood that make you cry

Ellen Banda-Aaku Why did Ellen love this book?

The experience in this book of orphaned siblings living in the streets of Lusaka is harrowing. The children’s narration of their experience is told in a matter-of-fact way which makes it more poignant because they have accepted their fate. A recommended read for anyone who likes stories about the dark side of growing up and feels like a good cry. This is because although Chimuka the protagonist is fictional; they are thousands of real Chimuka’s growing up on the streets. 

By Mubanga Kalimamukwento,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Muzungu: A Rhodesian Testament

Auriel Roe Author Of A Young Lady's Miscellany

From my list on memoirs that read like novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in the genre of memoir during the lockdown when I found myself reflecting on my past during the extended solitary periods. Looking through a shoebox of old letters put me in touch with the person I had once been. I then discovered that the act of writing down memories opened up areas that I had forgotten about or that had faded almost to nothing, and suddenly they became quite vivid. I decided to create memoirist.org for writing at a more literary level and only publish highly polished pieces. Memoirist now has many followers and some posts have nearly a thousand views. 

Auriel's book list on memoirs that read like novels

Auriel Roe Why did Auriel love this book?

I found this new memoir riveting partly because it was so different from my own life experiences. My favourite sections were about the author's childhood in Northern Rhodesia [which became Zambia on independence]. Rod Madocks's childhood years seemed to structure his life for better and worse: leaving Zambia at the age of thirteen to be sent to boarding school in England has an increasingly negative effect for years to come but there are some humorous aspects. I was also deeply drawn to the portraits of the author’s parents as elderly people which was poignant after I as the reader had got to know them so well in the descriptions of his childhood. Rod Madocks is a wordsmith supreme—I hope this book becomes a classic.

By Rod Madocks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Muzungu is a vivid memoir of growing up in a time and place it has become taboo to speak of - Rhodesia in the twilight of empire. An elegy upon a vanished life and people, it is a reflection upon a childhood mainly spent deep in the backcountry of what is now Zambia as the son of an adventurous British official and his enigmatic wife. It is a story of being raised by and among black Africans, the best of whom are the people you admire most in the world, only to be shipped off to boarding school in England.…


Book cover of The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual

Gillian Gillison Author Of Between Culture and Fantasy: A New Guinea Highlands Mythology

From my list on the anthropology of myth and ritual.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a family of beautiful, accomplished women at a time when most women stayed home. But the spectacular women in my mother's family also suffered spectacularly, and I was determined to understand family life at its very roots. I studied anthropology and, over a 15-year period, lived in a remote part of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea among a group of Gimi women who spent most of their time apart from men. I shared women's difficult daily lives, participated in their separate rites, learned their myths, and, through my writing, have devoted myself to giving them voices of their own.

Gillian's book list on the anthropology of myth and ritual

Gillian Gillison Why did Gillian love this book?

A classic of ethnographic description and symbolic analysis based upon fieldwork among the Ndembu of Zambia—a must read for anyone interested in sociological and psychological implications of ritual belief and practice in a small-scale, non-literate, kinship-based society. 

A stellar example of what is lost by cancelling "colonialist" literature and discarding the very concepts of "culture" and "religion" as relics of Western intellectual imperialism. 

In 10 essays on color symbolism, circumcision rites, rites of passage, social dynamics, and more, Turner lays the groundwork for his proposition that ritual is the key to religion and religion is the key to culture. 

By Victor Turner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Forest of Symbols as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A pioneering work of high quality, this collection of anthropological studies provides one of the most detailed records available for an African society-or indeed for any group-of the semantics of ritual symbolism. It combines unusually detailed ethnographic description, based upon field work among the Ndembu of Zambia, with remarkable theoretical sophistication. Professor Turner describes the ritual phenomena in terms both of practice and of their sociological and psychological implications within a preliterate society.

Case histories illustrate the function of ritual in creating community harmony. Data on circumcision rites and medical practices and an essay on color classification have wide implications…


Book cover of Learning Monkey and Crocodile

Wole Talabi Author Of Convergence Problems

From my list on single-author collections of African speculative fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an engineer, writer, and editor. And I love short stories. I love writing them and reading them too. I’ve written for major science fiction and fantasy magazines, and my stories have even been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. But when short stories are put together in a single author collection, they can truly come alive, revealing running themes and ideas explored through the imagination of the author. My own collections Incomplete Solutions and Convergence Problems do just this – exploring potential futures for Africa. I previously shared five of the best single-author collections of African speculative fiction and now, here are five more.

Wole's book list on single-author collections of African speculative fiction

Wole Talabi Why did Wole love this book?

The late Nick Wood, a science fiction writer, clinical psychologist, former journalist, humanitarian, and anti-apartheid activist born in Zambia and raised in South Africa, was always learning.

This is reflected in all his writing, including most of the stories in his collection. Largely science fiction stories in a variety of settings: from post-apocalyptic worlds, settled moons, and climate-changed earths, these stories are highly focused on the social and environmental aspects of humanity even in the most science fictional scenarios.

These stories, intersectional, emotionally resonant, exciting, thoughtful, and varied. Learning Monkey and Crocodile is a wonderful way to sample some of South Africa’s interesting science fiction corpus from a voice that has now left us, but which will not be forgotten.

By Nick Wood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Nick Wood’s short stories are powerful, impassioned visions of worlds and worldviews remade by way of redemptive engagement with the spirits of the earth and the earth of the spirit. Joining ancestral wisdom and transformative technologies, combining searing self-scrutiny with joyous awareness of the Other, Learning Monkey and Crocodile is a book for Africa and for all of us.”

Nick Gevers

Nick’s stories have delighted readers across the world and have appeared in publications such as Interzone, Albedo One, Omenana, among others. His debut novel Azanian Bridges was shortlisted for the BSFA award.
Embark on a journey where science meets…


Book cover of The Old Drift

Iris Mwanza Author Of The Lions' Den

From my list on immersed in another culture, country and time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Zambia, a small, landlocked country where travel was prohibitively expensive, but through books, I could travel to any place and across time without ever leaving my bedroom. Now, I’m fortunate that I get to travel for work and leisure and have been to over thirty countries and counting. Before I go to a new country, I try to read historical fiction as a fun way to educate myself and better understand that country’s history, culture, food, and family life. I hope you also enjoy traveling worldwide and across time through this selection.

Iris' book list on immersed in another culture, country and time

Iris Mwanza Why did Iris love this book?

This type of book taught me much about my own country, Zambia. It starts with the story of David Livingstone’s “discovery” of Victoria Falls, and many characters, including a choir of mosquitos, took me for a wild ride through colonial history, the struggle for independence, modern-day Zambia, and then into the future.

I had learned about some of the historical events in school, but many were revelations unearthed by Serpell’s meticulous research. I found the characters riveting, and the storytelling complex, creative, and exciting. Reading this incredible book has also made me richer in my knowledge of my home country. 

By Namwali Serpell,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Old Drift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage.”—Salman Rushdie, The New York Times Book Review
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Dwight Garner, The New York Times • The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Atlantic • BuzzFeed • Tordotcom • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage

WINNER OF: The Arthur C. Clarke Award • The Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award • The Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction • The Windham-Campbell Prizes for Fiction

1904. On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the…


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