The best books about Cape Town 📚

Browse the best books on Cape Town as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari

The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari

By Paul Theroux

Why this book?

How could I leave out the doyen of modern-day autobiographical travel writing? Paul Theroux’s list of books describing his overland adventures and the history and culture of places he rides through, is impressive. He is funny, cantankerous, offensive, likable, and informative. I chose his last book Zona because he travels the same path I myself once took. It also differs from his earlier tomes in one distinct way; Paul undertook the hard overland journey from Cape Town to Angola at age 71, when most of us expect to be tucked up in bed with a warm toddy and a cat…

From the list:

The best inspirational life-changing memoirs

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Book cover of Devil's Peak

Devil's Peak

By Deon Meyer

Why this book?

Character-driven, brilliantly absorbing, genuinely exciting, and richly atmospheric – for me, all the attributes of a rewarding crime novel. Meyer’s almost broken protagonist, Benny Griessel, is a policeman whose personal and professional lives interleave with witnesses, associates, and perpetrators, making him both intensely vulnerable but, also, highly effective. Against the backdrop of both a dark and a blindingly bright Cape Town, Meyer describes brilliantly the motivations and circumstances that bring each of his characters into conflict, making for a nail-biting read.
From the list:

The best crime thrillers set in Africa

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Book cover of Franschhoek & Rickety Bridge

Franschhoek & Rickety Bridge

By Gerald Hoberman, Marc Hoberman

Why this book?

This book looks at a fascinating and scenic area of South Africa as well as exploring the noted vineyard and winemaking of Rickety bridge. Gerald and Marc are two of South Africa’s noted photographers who have worked tirelessly in exploring this diverse landscape and the people within. It is stunningly illustrated.

I love the fact that it is a fresh new look, with a diversity of images from landscape to township, seascape to vineyard.

The book's value is in showing a working environment in a snapshot of time.

From the list:

The best coffee table books on landscape, architecture, and the natural world

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Book cover of Spill: Saving Africa's Oiled Penguins

Spill: Saving Africa's Oiled Penguins

By International Fund for Animal Welfare

Why this book?

This is the only other book for adults (besides mine) about the world’s largest animal rescue, when 40,000 penguins were rescued from the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. Spill is written by six individuals from various organizations who headed up this groundbreaking rescue effort. At just 96 pages, and featuring numerous dramatic photos, this 8x12” softcover is more of a coffee table book. The riveting stories are all told by rescuers who were on the front lines of this historic event. The compelling photographs by award-winning photographer, Jon Hrusa, bring the reader face to face with the…

From the list:

The best nonfiction books about penguins for adults

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Book cover of The Pickup

The Pickup

By Nadine Gordimer

Why this book?

South African writer Nadine Gordimer, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991, commands enormous power with her words. While they have a deceptively poetic lilting beauty, they also deal incisively with epic issues. The Pickup is one of my favourites, an ultimately lifting tale about a white woman and an illegal Arab immigrant, which portrays the power of love and understanding to cross great divides in class and wealth and outlook.
From the list:

The best books to inspire you and make you feel good about the world (and yourself)

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Book cover of To War with Whitaker

To War with Whitaker

By Hermione Ranfurly

Why this book?

It’s rare to find a war diary that makes you laugh out loud, but this had me snorting tea through my nose. Lady Ranfurly broke the law by following her new husband, a British officer, to the North African front in 1940 and staying there for the duration. No pampered aristocrat, she’s a hard-charging career woman who ends up working for, and spying on, a secret war organization running covert missions, and then becomes personal assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander (nicknamed “Jumbo”). Her diary is hilarious and touching as she weathers fear, tragedy, and colossal male egos with maximum…

From the list:

The best books about women in wartime

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