The best books on Namibia

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Namibia and why they recommend each book.

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

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 purring at our feet. His perspective from an older man commentates on and compares the Africa he once knew to now. At times, it’s a depressing tale, exposing stories of hunger and starvation, genocide, nature clogging with plastic, and vast examples of greed, climate change, wilderness destruction, and species extinction.…

The Last Train to Zona Verde

By Paul Theroux,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Train to Zona Verde as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Following the success of the acclaimed Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and The Great Railway Bazaar, The Last Train to Zona Verde is an ode to the last African journey of the world's most celebrated travel writer, Paul Theroux.

'Happy again, back in the kingdom of light,' writes Paul Theroux as he sets out on a new journey though the continent he knows and loves best.

Having travelled down the right-hand side of Africa in Dark Star Safari, he sets out this time from Cape Town, heading northwards in a new direction, up the left-hand side, through South Africa…

Who am I?

John was born in Brisbane, Australia, and grew up roaming the beaches and playing backyard sports with his mates. His career spanned from mowing lawns and packing groceries, to being the Global Head of Acquisitions for a public listed travel company. In between bouts of work, he has travelled through over 80 countries, and been shot at, tear-gassed, robbed at gunpoint, and locked up in an African jail. He has stowed away in a Columbian cargo plane and been a passenger in two train derailments. John now lives with his family in the comparative safety of the Currumbin Valley on Australia’s Gold Coast. He considers it their base camp.


I wrote...

On the Road . . . with Kids: One Family's Life-Changing Gap Year

By John Ahern,

Book cover of On the Road . . . with Kids: One Family's Life-Changing Gap Year

What is my book about?

John Ahern has a high-flying job, a big house, a loving wife, and two great kids. But if this success why does he sense is failing as a husband and father? Craving a great adventure to bring his family closer together, John blows his career apart and buys a busted-up old RV online to chase an improbable dream; a year on the road... with kids.

From the North Pole to Africa’s highest peaks, John and his family roll through thirty countries, getting mugged by monkeys, charmed by snake-handlers, and challenged by their quest to live a life less ordinary. It’s a life-changing trip. Take it!

Blood Rose

By Margie Orford,

Book cover of Blood Rose

This book is all about the dark, foreboding atmosphere of its setting, a township in an isolated part of Walvis Bay, in Namibia. Dr. Clare Hart is a police profiler sent in to try to pin down the perpetrator of a gruesome crime against a teenage boy. For all Hart’s professional competence, her emotional and relationship skills are in doubt as her wavering romantic interest, Captain Reidwaan Faizal, arrives to lead the investigation. Fantastically well-observed, very dark, and beautifully written, you lose yourself in its fog-filled pages, but the journey is far from comfortable.

Blood Rose

By Margie Orford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Walvis Bay: a down-at-heel port town, isolated in the vast sweep of the Namib desert. Hard-eyed teenagers run the streets. Prostitutes gather around the transient dockworkers. Nobody chooses to live here. The perfect place to hide a killer...

When a homeless teenage boy is gruesomely murdered, police profiler Dr Clare Hart is brought into this claustrophobic township to work the case. To track down a monster with a taste for young male victims, Clare must enter the world of the desperate street kids who run the rackets of the dock. And Clare is glad for the distraction, a chance for…


Who am I?

Africa can easily become an obsession: an extraordinary continent, blessed with breath-taking beauty and wonderful people, yet cursed by climate, corruption, war, and… crime. This continent is the most incredible setting for stories about people driven to crime, victims of crime, the detection of crime. Based in the UK, but a frequent visitor to Southern Africa, having written many non-fiction books, South Africa (and Cape Town in particular) was always going to be my choice of setting for my crime novels. For me, a good novel – within any genre – transports the reader into an unfamiliar world, absorbs them in the lives of the characters, and reveals insights which touch on their own lives.


I wrote...

The First Rule Of Survival

By Paul Mendelson,

Book cover of The First Rule Of Survival

What is my book about?

Seven years ago, three schoolboys disappear from the streets of Cape Town in broad daylight. They were never seen again.

Now, a new case for Colonel Vaughn de Vries threatens to re-open the case, laying bare, not only his own failures, but an institutional conspiracy of silence and cover-up. Struggling in a mire of departmental and racial rivalry, De Vries seeks the whole truth and an absolute end to the case that has haunted him for all the intervening years. Battling media personalities and vested interests, he turns to a friend - former British intelligence agent, John Marantz – but what motives does he have, and what price must be paid for the keys can he turn?

Book cover of Environmental Infrastructure in African History: Examining the Myth of Natural Resource Management in Namibia

Environmental Infrastructure in African History offers a new approach for analyzing and narrating environmental change. Environmental change conventionally is understood as, moving from a state of more nature to a state of less nature and more culture. In this model, non-Western and pre-modern societies live off natural resources, whereas more modern societies rely on artifacts, or nature that is transformed and domesticated through science and technology into culture. Emmanuel Kreike argues that both non-Western and pre-modern societies inhabit a dynamic middle ground between nature and culture. He asserts that humans - in collaboration with plants, animals, and other animate and inanimate forces - create environmental infrastructure that constantly is remade and re-imagined in the face of ongoing processes of change.

Environmental Infrastructure in African History

By Emmanuel Kreike,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Environmental Infrastructure in African History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Environmental Infrastructure in African History offers a new approach for analyzing and narrating environmental change. Environmental change conventionally is understood as occurring in a linear fashion, moving from a state of more nature to a state of less nature and more culture. In this model, non-Western and pre-modern societies live off natural resources, whereas more modern societies rely on artifact, or nature that is transformed and domesticated through science and technology into culture. In contrast, Emmanuel Kreike argues that both non-Western and pre-modern societies inhabit a dynamic middle ground between nature and culture. He asserts that humans - in collaboration…

Who am I?

Gufu Oba (Professor) has taught Ecology, Pastoralism, and Environmental History at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences for 21 years. He previously worked for UNESCO-MAB on issues of environmental conservation. He has published four books on social and environmental history. His books include Nomads in the shadows of Empires (BRILL, 2013), Climate change adaptations in Africa (Routledge, 2014), Herder Warfare in East Africa: A social and Spatial History (White Horse Press, 2017), and African Environmental Crisis: A History of Science for development (Routledge, 2020).


I wrote...

African Environmental Crisis: A History of Science for Development

By Gufu Oba,

Book cover of African Environmental Crisis: A History of Science for Development

What is my book about?

Using one-and-a-half century’s research literature on peasant agriculture and pastoral rangeland development in East Africa, the book describes myths of environmental changes in terms of soil erosion control, animal husbandry, grazing schemes, large-scale agricultural schemes, social and administrative science research, and vector-disease and pest controls. Drawing on comparative socio-ecological perspectives of African peoples across then colonies and post-independent states, this book refutes the hypothesis that African peoples were responsible for environmental degradation.

The book explores how and why the idea of the African environmental crisis developed and persisted through colonial and post-colonial periods. And why it has been so influential in development discourse. This crisis discourse was dominated by the imposition of imperial scientific knowledge, neglecting indigenous knowledge and experiences.

Soul of a Lion

By Barbara Bennett,

Book cover of Soul of a Lion: One Woman's Quest to Rescue Africa's Wildlife Refugees

A beautifully told story about a Namibian family who created a real-life Noah’s Ark in the desert. Marieta van der Merwe and her late husband Nick turned their cattle ranch into a refuge for thousands of wounded or orphaned animals who can’t make it on their own in the wild. This book, full of wonder and gentle souls, has special meaning for me. I met Barbara Bennett, a North Carolina University literature professor, when I was sent to Namibia to write a story about Harnas Wildlife Sanctuary for the Guardian and we were both volunteering. Afterward, I introduced her to my New York literary agent who sold the book. It’s so vividly written that it allowed me to relive my experiences of daily mischief of the baboons, walking full-grown lions in the desert, sleeping with cheetahs under the stars, and watching the giant thunderstorms on the porch with a menagerie…

Soul of a Lion

By Barbara Bennett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It chronicles the unique Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, where Marieta van der Merwe and her family, former wealthy cattle farmers, have sold land to buy and care for embattled wildlife.

Who am I?

I am an international bestselling author of Strays and a London-based journalist for The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, and other publications. I've written about animals, conservation, and volunteered at sanctuaries around the world, from tending big cats and baboons in Namibia to wild mustangs in Nevada—a labour of love that has inspired features for The Guardian, The Independent, and Condé Nast Traveller. I've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for many charities through my investigative animal-cruelty stories; as an activist, I helped shut down controversial breeders of laboratory animals in the UK. I also created Catfestlondon, a sell-out boutique festival that rescues and rehomes Moroccan street kittens in the UK.


I wrote...

Strays: The True Story of a Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America

By Britt Collins,

Book cover of Strays: The True Story of a Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America

What is my book about?

Strays: A Lost Cat, a Homeless Man and their Journey Across America is a true story about a troubled drifter who finds a lost cat and takes her on a ten-month adventure across the spirit-lifting settings of the American West.

Michael King, a former chef, was depressed, drunk, and living on the streets of Portland. When stumbles on a hurt and starving stray, he takes her into his home in a UPS loading bay and into his heart. He names her Tabor and nurses her back to health. When winter comes, they hitchhike to the beaches of California, the deserts of Idaho, and the high-plains of Montana, surviving on the kindnesses of strangers. The pair become inseparable, healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts. Meanwhile, back in Portland, the cat’s owner never stops looking her.

I Dreamed of Africa

By Kuki Gallmann,

Book cover of I Dreamed of Africa

Kuki Gallman, an Italian socialite, is another wealthy woman who sought adventure in Kenya. And another woman, with her husband, who set out to start a ranch in an inhospitable land. When her husband and son are killed in separate accidents, Gallman turns the ranch into a conservation park, using her money to bring attention to the plight of the local wildlife. And, as is true in Namibia, she enlisted the help of local tribal leaders to save both the endangered wildlife and native culture. In 2010, she founded Prayers for the Earth and in 2011, she and her daughter donated 300 acres for a project called “Land of Hope.” Gallman could so easily have returned to an easy life in Italy but instead challenged herself and those around her.

I Dreamed of Africa

By Kuki Gallmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This autobiography tells the story of an Italian woman whose life is driven by love of Africa. The prologue covers a string of deaths which shaped Kuki Gallmann's life including that of a woman friend who died in a car crash. The widower, Paulo (who then married Kuki), his two daughters and Kuki's son by a previous marriage all went to Kenya and bought a large estate. Paulo died in an accident and Kuki's son died aged 17, bitten by one of his own puff-adders. Kuki had a couple of affairs - one with a married white planter, another with…

Who am I?

I grew up in the high plains mining towns of Montana and Wyoming but I couldn’t wait to get out and see the world. Peace Corps was my ticket. A teaching post in Chad, Africa, was open, but civil war and famine loomed, so I chose Afghanistan. After my two-year contract in Kabul, I continued traveling but my fascination with Africa never waned. A job teaching college English allowed me summers to continue traveling. However, I never did get to Africa, so when Carolyn suggested we write about Namibia, I agreed. Someday, I hope to visit before the magnificent black rhino has been wiped off the face of the planet.


I wrote...

Rhino Dreams

By Carolyn Waggoner, Kathryn Williams,

Book cover of Rhino Dreams

What is my book about?

Clare Rainbow-Dashell has taken a hiatus from her career as an acclaimed wildlife photographer and returned to pursue her academic dreams when a disastrous affair with a professor catapults her to another continent: Africa.

Set against the formidable backdrop of the Namib Desert, Rhino Dreams dramatizes the crisis of endangered species preservation and the horrors of poaching, interweaving this very real ecological darkness with the internal and external battles of three characters driven by fierce passions and divided notions of duty and desire. It is a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant ride—and, in the end, a testimony to how tenuous and precious both life and love can be.

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