The best books about Botswana

3 authors have picked their favorite books about Botswana and why they recommend each book.

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A Question of Power

By Bessie Head,

Book cover of A Question of Power

Do you like a good scare? Well, Stephen King is one kind of scary, but A Question of Power is something else altogether: a descent into a sunless valley writhing with monsters. We know that these monsters dwell in the mind of the main character, Elizabeth. But there’s no safety in knowing that, for we’re locked in with them. If we sometimes climb a tree and feel a fresh breeze on our faces, it’s with the knowledge that those tentacles can slither up and snatch us back into hell at a moment’s notice. And they do. 

I didn’t start with what many consider the most important facts of this novel: that Elizabeth is a mixed-race woman born in South Africa and exiled to Botswana. And those are vital facts. But Elizabeth is also one luminous, suffering soul. Watching her fight her way out of that dark valley is a terrifying…

A Question of Power

By Bessie Head,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"It wasn't any kind of physical stamina that kept her going, but a vague, instinctive pattern of normal human decencies combined with the work she did, the people she met each day and the unfolding of a project with exciting inventive possibilities. But a person eventually becomes a replica of the inner demons he battles with. Any kind of demon is more powerful than normal human decencies, because such things do not exist for him." Bessie Head

In this fast-paced, semi-autobiographical novel, Head exposes the complicated life of Elizabeth, whose reality is intermingled with nightmarish dreams and hallucinations. Like the…


Who am I?

I love the fantastic—madly, insatiably. Far too much, indeed, to limit myself to what the publishers label “fantasy”. Such labels don’t enlighten us, however much they condition us to predictable purchasing behavior. We’re better off ignoring them. We’re better off defining fantasy for ourselves. These five knockout novels are saturated with fantasy. It’s high time we fantasy lovers recognized our kin.


I wrote...

Master Assassins, 1: The Fire Sacraments, Book One

By Robert V.S. Redick,

Book cover of Master Assassins, 1: The Fire Sacraments, Book One

What is my book about?

“This book has everything I love: clean, crisp worldbuilding. Characters who live and breathe. A story that teases and surprises me. I like this book so much I wish I'd written it, but deep down, I know I couldn't have written it this well.”Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind.

A road trip. A desert adventure. A family gothic. An anti-war war story. A meditation on love, fanaticism, and the nature of genius. Master Assassins is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen before.

Maru

By Bessie Head,

Book cover of Maru

When I moved to Botswana, I wanted to learn more about the country, where I should live for more than 2 years. Somebody gave me books by Bessie Head and I learned so much by just reading these books. Maru was not the only book I’d read by Bessie Head, but it was one of the best books on Botswana.

Maru

By Bessie Head,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Read worldwide for her wisdom, authenticity, and skillful prose, South African–born Bessie Head (1937–1986) offers a moving and magical tale of an orphaned girl, Margaret Cadmore, who goes to teach in a remote village in Botswana where her own people are kept as slaves. Her presence polarizes a community that does not see her people as human, and condemns her to the lonely life of an outcast. In the love story and intrigue that follows, Head brilliantly combines a portrait of loneliness with a rich affirmation of the mystery and spirituality of life. The core of this otherworldly, rhapsodic work…

Who am I?

I moved from Germany to Botswana when I was a fledgling translator and then on to South Africa 2 years later. I fell in love with this part of Africa that had a hand in making me the person I am today. Since I used to travel a lot, not all of my books are set in Southern Africa, but I have a passion for sharing my African stories with the world. My latest project is the Charlie Proudfoot murder mystery series, which is set in South Africa. Being a translator, I also translate books into German/English and four of them so far, are my own.


I wrote...

Singing Lizards

By Evadeen Brickwood,

Book cover of Singing Lizards

What is my book about?

Bridget Reinhold’s sister disappears in the southern African country of Botswana. Although she is the more reclusive of the sisters, she courageously heads out to live in Africa to order to find Claire. At first, she suspects that a crime was committed, but the more she is drawn into the spell of Africa, other possibilities begin to emerge. Bridget’s life takes unexpected turns and she begins to wonder what is real and what is not and what she is doing in Botswana in the first place.

Africanfuturism

By Wole Talabi,

Book cover of Africanfuturism: An Anthology

It contains work by some of the most brilliant speculative fiction writers on the continent and also expands on the title, Africanfuturism, in its Introduction by Nnedi Okorafor. She also happens to have a story in the book. Another of the stories in it, by Motswana writer Tlotlo Tsamaase won the 2021 Nommo award for short story and a number of works in it, like Egoli by Tendai Huchu also made recommended reading lists and Year's Best anthologies. The anthology itself was a finalist in the Locus award for best anthology.

Africanfuturism

By Wole Talabi,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

As an African speculative fiction writer who had long hoped to see the development of African speculative fiction being embraced by the larger SFF community, it was a joy to see all these anthologies showcasing the works of Africans and platforming them for a larger audience to see. And it's been a joy as well to contribute to this growth both as an award-winning writer and editor of African speculative short fiction. 


I edited...

Bridging Worlds: Global Conversations on Creating Pan-African Speculative Literature In A Pandemic

By Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (editor),

Book cover of Bridging Worlds: Global Conversations on Creating Pan-African Speculative Literature In A Pandemic

What is my book about?

Pan-African non-fiction book made up of travelogues, interviews and creative non-fiction pieces chronicling the work of Black and African writers round the world both creating and coping with the pandemic and lockdown in the 2020 year. 

Book cover of Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide

I know Peter – we josh each other and trade funny insults on social media. I hate to say it, but he is a very funny guy. Safari guide memoirs are a dime a dozen in Africa, but this one stands out from the pack because it is both humorous and moving. Peter has a wonderful self-deprecating style and tells, hilariously, of some of his epic failures as a young Australian finding his way in the African bush. Peter loves Botswana, and his passion shines through in this book.

Whatever You Do, Don't Run

By Peter Allison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Whatever You Do, Don't Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hilarious, highly original collection of essays based on the Botswana truism: "only food runs!" With a new introduction and new material from the authorIn the tradition of Bill Bryson, a new writer brings us the lively adventures and biting wit of an African safari guide. Peter Allison gives us the guide's-eye view of living in the bush, confronting the world's fiercest terrain of wild animals and, most challenging of all, managing herds of gaping tourists. Passionate for the animals of the Kalahari, Allison works as a top safari guide in the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta. As he serves the whims…

Who am I?

I'm an Australian who fell in love with Africa in my 30s. I've now written 20 thrillers set in Africa and several non-fiction biographies. My wife and I have travelled extensively on the continent and now spend at least half our lives in Africa, and the remainder in Australia. I'm passionate about Africa's people, wildlife, and fragile natural environment. While my books focus on some of the continent's problems – especially the illegal trade in wildlife – I'm a sucker for a happy ending and find no shortage of positive, inspirational people on my travels who serve as the inspiration for the good guys and girls in my stories. 


I wrote...

Blood Trail

By Tony Park,

Book cover of Blood Trail

What is my book about?

Evil is at play in a South African game reserve. A rhino poacher vanishes into thin air, defying logic, and baffling ace tracker Mia Greenaway. Meanwhile, Captain Sannie van Rensburg is investigating the disappearance of two young girls who locals fear have been abducted for use in sinister traditional medicine practices.

But poachers are also employing witchcraft, paying healers for potions they believe will make them invisible. When a tourist goes missing, Mia and Sannie must work together to confront their own demons - which challenges everything they believe in - while following a bloody trail that seems to vanish at every turn.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

By Alexander McCall Smith,

Book cover of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

If you love a good cosy mystery and characters that unfold gently over time, this book is a must-read. Here, we meet Mma Precious Ramotswe, the only lady private detective in Botswana, as she solves the everyday mysteries of the people of Gabarone. 

The series centres around her and her particular approach to solving mysteries—through relaxed conversation over cups of tea. The surrounding cast of characters play a critical role in making the series shine. Seeing Botswana through Mma Ramotswe’s eyes is both honest and heart-warming. She recognises its beauty and strengths while acknowledging where her country still has the opportunity to grow. 

Read this on a rainy day with a cup of tea (red bush tea, naturally). You won’t regret it.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

By Alexander McCall Smith,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Precious Ramotswe, a cheerful woman of traditional build, is the founder of Botswana's first and only ladies' detective agency. Here is a gentle interpretation of the detective role: solving her cases through her innate wisdom and understanding of human nature, she 'helps people with problems in their lives'. With a tone that is as elegant as that which is unfailingly used by his protagonist, Alexander McCall Smith tenderly unfolds a picture of life in Gaborone with a mastery of comic understatement and an evident sympathy for his subjects and their milieu. In the background of all this is Botswana, a…

Who am I?

I’ve always loved a good character-driven mystery, with people in all their wonder and weirdness at its heart. The perfect book to me is one that has enough of a puzzle to allow me to escape into it, while offering a sense of comfort that it will all come together in the end. My family moved around a lot when I was a child, before finally settling down in Chennai, India and books – particularly mystery novels – were a real constant in my life. I moved to Sydney, Australia as an adult and live here, where I write stories that celebrate my heritage and my love of a good mystery. 


I wrote...

The Disappearing Uncle: and other stories

By D.K. Rajagopalan,

Book cover of The Disappearing Uncle: and other stories

What is my book about?

“Come in. Sit down, do. Let me first make coffee, and then we can talk.”

Welcome to Shanthi Colony, where things move just a little bit slower. Neighbours pop over for a chat and coffee, friends are more like family and you can count on people coming together during good times and bad. But even in these lovely surroundings, there are mysteries galore. From missing cricket balls to missing husbands and everything in between. And at the heart of them all, solving even the most challenging of puzzles, is Kummi Paati, everyone’s favourite grandmother. One never knows what to expect in Shanthi Colony – but as long as Kummi Paati is around, there is always a way through.

Cry of the Kalahari

By Mark Owens, Delia Owens,

Book cover of Cry of the Kalahari

If you are longing for an African safari, this book is for you. The Owens’ are a young couple conducting their graduate research in the deserts of Botswana. In reading, you are in the field with them, waking to the roars of lions, drifting to sleep as hyenas yowl, and experiencing the daily grind, danger, and thrill of field research. I love this book because it is so real. It allows me to see the animals the Owens study—mostly lions and hyenasthrough their eyes and in so doing not only appreciate their wonderful biology but also learn what it takes for a young scientist to understand them.  

Cry of the Kalahari

By Mark Owens, Delia Owens,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cry of the Kalahari as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The incredible memoir by international bestselling author of Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens and her then partner Mark Owens', charting their time researching wildlife in the Kalahari Desert. Reissued and in full colour, for the first time since its original publication.

In the early 1970s, carrying little more than a change of clothes and a pair of binoculars, Mark and Delia Owens caught a plane to Africa, bought a third-hand Land Rover, and drove deep into the Kalahari Desert. There they lived for seven years, in an unexplored area with no roads, no people, and no source of water…


Who am I?

I am an ornithologist who studies the myriad ways in which we affect birds and they, in turn, affect us. I’ve conducted field research for over four decades, focusing mainly on the behavior, ecology, and evolution of corvids—crows, ravens, jays, and their relatives. Through these birds I’ve discovered how our settlements, agriculture, and recreation play into their hands, often to the detriment of less adaptable species. As a professor of wildlife science for 25 years, I’ve mentored many graduate and undergraduate students and written hundreds of technical articles. In my writing for popular audiences I aim to celebrate the successful birds that share our world and raise awareness of those we are driving toward extinction.


I wrote...

Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans

By John M. Marzluff, Tony Angell,

Book cover of Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans

What is my book about?

Crows are mischievous, playful, social, and passionate. They mate for life and associate with relatives and neighbors for years. And because they often live near people—in our gardens, parks, and cities—they are also keenly aware of our peculiarities, staying away from and even scolding anyone who threatens or harms them and quickly learning to recognize and approach those who care for and feed them, even giving them numerous, oddly touching gifts in return. The ongoing connection between humans and crows—a cultural co-evolution—has shaped both species for millions of years.

With his extraordinary research on the intelligence and behavior of corvids—crows, ravens, and jays—scientist John Marzluff tells amazing stories of these brilliant birds in Gifts of the Crow. Teamed with artist and fellow naturalist Tony Angell, they offer an in-depth look at these complex creatures and our shared behaviors, illustrated with gorgeous line drawings.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

By Alexander McCall Smith,

Book cover of In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

Fiction is an excellent source of inspiration for leaders. This book is a prime example. The book is part of a series of books on the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” in Botswana. The proprietor, Precious Ramotswe, uses a combination of wisdom, intelligence, and humor to solve crimes. Like leaders and entrepreneurs everywhere, she must handle a variety of challenges using limited resources. A special treat in reading these books is learning about daily life in Botswana. 

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

By Alexander McCall Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Company of Cheerful Ladies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE SIXTH BOOK IN THE BELOVED NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY SERIES

The one where Mma Makutsi finds a dancing partner . . .

Although Mma Ramotswe and Mr J. L. B. Matekoni have finally settled down, at the shared premises of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and Speedy Motors the staff are not mixing in a perfectly peaceful manner.

But in the course of investigating her latest case, Mma Ramotswe's tiny white van comes into contact with a man on a bicycle who might be able to restore harmony.

And Mma Makutsi at last seems to have found…


Who am I?

When I headed the Executive Education Center at the University of Michigan I had the opportunity to meet with many great leaders and observe them in action. I also enjoy interacting with faculty colleagues who conduct state-of-the-art research on leadership. Because of this experience, I believe that leaders are made, not born, and that reading biographies, psychological studies, philosophical commentary, histories, and fiction like the books on my list is one of the best ways to gain insight into what you need to become a great leader. 


I wrote...

Seven Essentials for Business Success

By George J. Siedel,

Book cover of Seven Essentials for Business Success

What is my book about?

This book shows how legendary business school professors teach seven areas that successful leaders and entrepreneurs should understand. Through their teaching at leading business schools, these professors are models of leadership. By adopting the best practices the professors have developed, leaders can share their knowledge and develop their associates to achieve organizational success. The book includes many examples of the authenticity that plays an important role in the success of these award-winning teachers. 

Trouble in Nuala

By Harriet Dorothy Steel,

Book cover of Trouble in Nuala

I love the combination of a historical mystery with a little-known location, but this book also charmed me with a spare but fluid writing style. Ceylon in the 1930s under British rule (today Ceylon is the independent nation of Sri Lanka) sets the first book in the addictive Inspector Shanti de Silva mystery series in a riveting yet mostly overlooked moment in history. Add a superbly written cast of characters and set them at odds against each other, and I’m hooked on the whole series.

De Silva is the head of a 3-person police force in the smallish city of Nuala where he must straddle the divide between the local population and his British bosses. Reports of a cruel tea plantation owner lead to a missing worker and the owner’s suspicious debt. A dubious business associate, a frazzled wife, and a chatty mynah bird all combine to add layers of…

Trouble in Nuala

By Harriet Dorothy Steel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Meet Inspector Shanti de Silva, the new chief of police in Nuala, a sleepy town in the beautiful tea country of colonial Ceylon. He moved from the big city in search of a quiet life, but now that he’s faced with the suspicious death of an arrogant plantation owner, it looks like Nuala won’t be as peaceful as he’d hoped. He’s going to need all his experience to unravel the mystery and prove his worth to his new British boss.
A vintage-style mystery set in the 1930s, spiced with colourful characters and a dash of humour.

“I can imagine sitting…

Who am I?

I’ve turned lessons from a 30-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency into crime fiction loaded with intrigue and deception. My Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series pits the first female police detective in Acapulco against Mexico's drug cartels, government corruption, and social inequality. Readers will love Detective Cruz’s complex plots, fast action, and exotic location. I’m originally from upstate New York, the setting for the upcoming Galliano Club thriller series. My family tree includes a mayor, a Mensa genius, and the first homicide in the state of Connecticut with an automatic weapon. After killing two people, including his wife, my great-grandfather eluded a state-wide manhunt. He was never brought to justice.


I wrote...

Cliff Diver: An Emilia Cruz Novel

By Carmen Amato,

Book cover of Cliff Diver: An Emilia Cruz Novel

What is my book about?

In the explosive start to the series that puts the highs and lows in Mexico on full display, Emilia Cruz is the first female police detective in the iconic Pacific coast resort city of Acapulco, Mexico. Every day for her is a cocktail of drug cartel danger, official corruption, and Mexican machismo

When Emilia’s lieutenant is murdered, she is forced to lead the investigation. Soon the man’s sordid sex life, money laundering, and involvement in a kidnapping double-cross combine to create an ugly mess no one wants exposed, including Acapulco’s ambitious mayor and the powerful head of the police union. Clearly, the high-profile murder case could wreck Emilia’s career and that’s why she got stuck with it. Yet as a rival detective emerges as the prime suspect, keeping her job could be the least of her worries.

Whites

By Norman Rush,

Book cover of Whites

This collection of six short stories, set in Botswana in the mid-1980s, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1987. It made my list because Rush puts a variety of privileged, well off and well-educated expats—Boers, Europeans, and Americans—under a microscope and provides a real and exquisitely detailed view of the expat life in Botswana in that era—it doesn’t always look good. Clearly, the expat lives are in stark contrast to those of the Batswana's, and Rush is generally careful to stick with what he knows; in only one story is the POV character Batswanan. It’s easy to see Rush’s experience as a poet in this literary fiction and the story lines are unique.

Whites

By Norman Rush,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Whether they are Americans, Brits, or a stubborn and suicidally moral Dutchman, Norman Rush's whites are not sure why they are in Botswana. Their uncertainty makes them do odd things. Driven half-mad by the barking of his neighbor's dogs, Carl dips timidly into native witchcraft—only to jump back out at the worst possible moment. Ione briskly pursues a career as a "seducer" ("A seductress was merely someone who was seductive and who might or might not be awarded a victory. But a seducer was a professional"), while her dentist husband fends off the generous advances of an African cook. Funny,…

Who am I?

I’ve lived and worked intensely in the medical field for over two decades in many countries in Africa. I’ve seen global health programs from the academic, research, developmental, and humanitarian viewpoints of both Africans and Europeans. It’s a complicated mix of politics, good intentions, and, sometimes, egos. There’s much to be learned from both fiction and nonfiction about the complexity of it all. 


I wrote...

Distorted Vision

By Susan Lewallen,

Book cover of Distorted Vision

What is my book about?

When Ana’s do-gooder brother Jared goes missing in Tanzania she has to reconsider what she thinks she knows about “helping” in her childhood home there—and about her beloved brother, the motivations of foreigners who come to Africa to help, and the ways good intentions can come to naught. Distorted Vision is a sophisticated view of the world of global health development—with some unexpected twists.

Book cover of White Dog Fell from the Sky

This slow, haunting novel shows newly independent Botswana in the 1960s, when Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president, welcomed Europeans to help build the country. Alice is an American anthropologist working for the government; her marriage to another American, in the Ministry of Finance, dissolves, as he embraces the ex-pat lifestyle and she falls in love with the country. An equally important POV character is Isaac, a South African medical student who has to flee for safety to Botswana after witnessing a killing by the South African police. He finds work as Alice’s gardener and a relationship based on mutual respect ensues. When he falls afoul of the law, he disappears, his life once again in danger. Meanwhile, Alice suffers in a tragic love affair. Both he and Alice lose what they love most, but Alice has the grace to understand that his suffering is worse. Their stories play out…

White Dog Fell from the Sky

By Eleanor Morse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Dog Fell from the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An extraordinary novel of love, friendship, and betrayal for admirers of Abraham Verghese and Edwidge Danticat

Eleanor Morse's rich and intimate portrait of Botswana, and of three people whose intertwined lives are at once tragic and remarkable, is an absorbing and deeply moving story.

In apartheid South Africa in 1977, medical student Isaac Muthethe is forced to flee his country after witnessing a friend murdered by white members of the South African Defense Force. He is smuggled into Botswana, where he is hired as a gardener by a young American woman, Alice Mendelssohn, who has abandoned her Ph.D. studies to…

Who am I?

I’ve lived and worked intensely in the medical field for over two decades in many countries in Africa. I’ve seen global health programs from the academic, research, developmental, and humanitarian viewpoints of both Africans and Europeans. It’s a complicated mix of politics, good intentions, and, sometimes, egos. There’s much to be learned from both fiction and nonfiction about the complexity of it all. 


I wrote...

Distorted Vision

By Susan Lewallen,

Book cover of Distorted Vision

What is my book about?

When Ana’s do-gooder brother Jared goes missing in Tanzania she has to reconsider what she thinks she knows about “helping” in her childhood home there—and about her beloved brother, the motivations of foreigners who come to Africa to help, and the ways good intentions can come to naught. Distorted Vision is a sophisticated view of the world of global health development—with some unexpected twists.

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