The best books about Tanzania

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Tanzania and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania

By Priya Lal,

Book cover of African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World

This book is exciting in many ways. It tells a story of Tanzania’s socialist experiment in 1967-75, which was known as “ujamaa” (“familyhood” in Swahili). It shows how Cold War politics intertwined with local situations, and how Tanzanian leaders and common people used Cold War rhetoric to envision and enforce their own national agricultural development program. At a glance, thus, the book can be seen just as another example of the recently growing literature that explores the crossroads between Cold War politics, decolonization, and developmental politics, such as Artemy Kalinovsky’s Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan (2018) and Begüm Adalet's Hotels and Highways: The Construction of Modernization Theory in Cold War Turkey (2018), to name a few.  

However, what differentiates Lal's book from these others, and what I like most, is that the author conducted more than 100 interviews with ordinary Tanzanians, and documented…

Who am I?

Masuda Hajimu (family name Masuda) is a historian at the National University of Singapore. He specializes in the modern history of East Asia, the history of American foreign relations, and the social and global history of the Cold War, with particular attention toward ordinary people and their violence, as well as the recurrent rise of grassroots conservatism in the modern world. His most recent publications include: The Early Cold War: Studies of Cold War America in the 21st Century in A Companion to U.S. Foreign Relations; “The Social Experience of War and Occupation” in The Cambridge History of Japan (coming in 2022), among others. He has served as a residential fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2017-18); Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge (2020); and Visiting Scholar at Waseda University (2020).

I wrote...

Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World

By Hajimu Masuda,

Book cover of Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World

What is my book about?

Masuda Hajimu’s Cold War Crucible is an inquiry into the peculiar nature of the Cold War. It examines not only centers of policymaking but seeming aftereffects of Cold War politics during the Korean War: Suppression of counterrevolutionaries in China, the White Terror in Taiwan, the Red Purge in Japan, and McCarthyism in the United States. Such purges were not merely end results of the Cold War, Masuda argues, but forces that brought the Cold War into being, as ordinary people throughout the world strove to silence disagreements and restore social order in the chaotic post-WWII era under the mantle of an imagined global confrontation. Revealing social functions and popular participation, Cold War Crucible highlights ordinary people’s roles in making and maintaining the “reality” of the Cold War, raising the question of what the Cold War really was.

Imposing Wilderness

By Roderick P. Neumann,

Book cover of Imposing Wilderness: Struggles over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa

National parks have long been the bedrock of nature conservation efforts. For most Westerners, their vision of Africa is built on images from iconic parks like Tanzania’s Serengeti or Kenya’s Masai Mara. Those parks, however, were imposed on the African landscape with lasting and often devastating consequences, among them the pernicious notion that Africans themselves are little more than part of the fauna and are an impediment to conservation efforts that can be swept aside. Roderick Neuman reveals that far from a simple means to protect nature, parks are a complicated intersection of ecological, economic, political, and cultural issues. His analysis of Arusha National Park in Tanzania, not far from Mount Kilimanjaro, melds careful scholarship with passionate and vivid writing and is an essential text for understanding the promise and limitations of long-established conservation practices. 

Who am I?

I have been writing about nature and nature conservation for nearly 35 years. I have seen it from all angles—government, non-government, private, local—in the US, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. I have written five books about how we can do better at both saving wild places and wild creatures, while also understanding how those efforts must also account for the human communities that depend on those places for their lives and livelihoods. Over the decades I have seen enormous and promising shifts in conservation practices, and although we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis that is entirely of our own making, we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past. 

I wrote...

Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature

By Mark R. Tercek, Jonathan S. Adams,

Book cover of Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature

What is my book about?

Nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make. The forests, floodplains, and oyster reefs often seen simply as raw materials or as obstacles to be cleared in the name of progress are, in fact as important to our future prosperity as technology or law, or business innovation.

When is protecting nature a good investment? With stories from the South Pacific to the California coast, from the Andes to the Gulf of Mexico, Nature's Fortune shows how viewing nature as green infrastructure allows for breakthroughs not only in conservation -- protecting freshwater; enhancing fisheries; making cities more livable; and dealing with unavoidable climate change -- but in economic progress, as well.

Mists of the Serengeti

By Leylah Attar,

Book cover of Mists of the Serengeti

Once in Africa, I got my @ss handed to me by a king…” That’s a direct quote from my review, and it will make a lot more sense once you’ve read the book. Jack is the epitome of the tortured hero—angry, terse, godawful at times—but you accept it because, Oh my God! Think of what he’s suffered! And then you get to that part where said hero begins to soften toward the heroine and shut up! This book absolutely gutted me, and the pain was physical. No, seriously. My chest and stomach literally ached. I felt tingly, overheated, exhausted, and drained. And that was just from the prologue! 

Who am I?

The tortured hero was my first love, and I’ve never been able to shake him. He never fails to crush me, and there’s nothing more rewarding to a masochistic reader than being completely annihilated, then put back together again. These heartbroken heartbreakers are easy to love (usually), easy to forgive (hopefully), and always keep you coming back for more (definitely). My character, Darian, was born of my search for the perfect tortured hero, and although I’ve moved on to a different kind of hero for my follow-up novel, Magnolia May, he’ll forever own my heart.  

I wrote...

Waiting for the Sun: Waiting for the Sun

By Robin Hill,

Book cover of Waiting for the Sun: Waiting for the Sun

What is my book about?

Francesca’s a grieving daughter who promised her late father she’d come out of her shell. Darian’s a grieving widower, content to remain in his. When the lonely pair meet by chance at an Austin, Texas music festival, they find solace in each other’s company. What follows is an unexpected friendship…and the toll it takes when the lines begin to blur.

Waiting for the Sun is an angsty, emotional friends-to-lovers romance about what happens when love finds you after loss—whether you’re open to it or not.


By Kara Richardson Whitely,

Book cover of Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds

Hikers come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Kara proves that the summit does not belong to people who look like Patagonia models, but to anyone who is willing to carry their weight and offload their burdens. An inspiring read for anyone who wants to climb Kilimanjaro and individuals who have dealt with eating disorders.

Who am I?

Jennifer Pharr Davis has covered over 14,000 miles - and explored trails on six different continents - and in all fifty states. In 2011 she set a record on the Appalachian Trail by covering 2,190 mile miles in 46 days (an average of 47 miles per day). Jennifer is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

I wrote...

Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

By Jennifer Pharr Davis,

Book cover of Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

What is my book about?

After graduating from college, Jennifer isn't sure what she wants to do with her life. Through inexperienced and unprepared, she feels drawn to the Appalachian Trail and sets out along on the long-distance footpath that stretches 2, 175 miles from Georgia to Maine. The next five months are the most physically and emotionally challenging of her life--coping with blisters and aching shoulders, hiking through endless torrents of rain and a blizzard, facing unwanted company and encountering tragedy. The trail becomes a modern day Odyssey that tests Jennifer's faith in God, humanity and herself. But even at her lowest points, it provides enduring friendships, unexpected laughter, and the gift of self-discovery. With every step she takes, Jennifer transitions from an over-confident college graduate to a student of the trail. As she travels along the ridges of the ancient mountain chain, she realizes that she isn't walking through nature--she realizes she is part of nature. And she learns that the Appalachian Trails is more than a 2,175 mile hike: it is a journey that will change a person forever.

Ecology Control and Economic Development in East African History

By Helge Kjekshus,

Book cover of Ecology Control and Economic Development in East African History: The Case of Tanganyika, 1850–1950 (Eastern African Studies)

This pioneering book was one of the first to place the history of East Africa within the context of the environment. It has been used continuously for student teaching. The book puts people at the centre of events. It thus serves as a modification to nationalist history with its emphasis on leaders. Helge Kjekshus provides evidence to suggest that the nineteenth century was a period of relative prosperity with well-developed trade. He questions the view that warfare was pervasive and that the slave trade led to depopulation. He points to a balance between man and the environment. Helge Kjeskshus’s book has, for a long time, been the sole reference on environmental history in East Africa, with a focus on Tanganyika. 

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.

In the Shadow of Man

By Jane Goodall,

Book cover of In the Shadow of Man

I must admit, I am in awe of Dr. Jane Goodall, who travelled deep into the jungle of Tanzania at the unfazed age of 26 (accompanied by her mum) to see what she could learn from chimpanzees. Her research undermined scientific thought as she watched chimps using tools and lived through a four-year primate war. I loved the way I learnt to differentiate and empathise with individual animals in this book. I introduced individual sun bears in my own book with the aim to bridge the species divide in the same way. After all, as Jane herself says, "Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help."

Who am I?

My parents took my brother and me out of school on April Fool’s Day 1979 (when I was 13). We spent the next eight years sailing from the UK to the Americas. Our ‘boat-schooling’ was informed by the world around us: trying to plot our position with sextant taught me mathematics; squinting at a scooped bucket of seaweed taught me about biodiversity; hunkering down in horrendous storms made me realise my insignificance; and finding a way to communicate in local markets took away my fear of difference. April 1st is my most significant anniversary. I'm indebted to my courageous parents for helping me understand I'm a small part of of an incredible planet.

I wrote...

Saving Sun Bears: One man's quest to save a species

By Sarah R. Pye,

Book cover of Saving Sun Bears: One man's quest to save a species

What is my book about?

When I met Malaysian ecologist Dr. Wong, I asked what she could do to help him save the Bornean rainforest. He replied, “do what you do best.” Those five powerful words sparked a Doctor of Creative Arts degree, an enduring friendship, and his award-winning biography, Saving Sun Bears

In this inspirational story, ‘papa bear’ (as he is known), tries to save the ‘forgotten bear’ from extinction. It’s a journey of leaky gum boots, remote helicopter expeditions, incense-smoked Buddhist temples, heart-pumping rejection letters, and momentous goodbyes. Wong’s quest takes him around the world, and in 2017 he is named a CNN Wildlife Hero - proving one person can make a difference.

The Joy of Movement

By Kelly McGonigal,

Book cover of The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage

One of my favorite stress-relievers is physical activity, and I’ve always relied on movement—going for a walk, dancing, practicing yoga—as an effective, enjoyable way to ease tension and boost my mood. Like me, Kelly McGonigal writes, “Exercise has, at various times in my life rescued me from isolation and despair, fostered courage and hope, reminded me how to experience joy and given me a place to belong.” Yet even though exercise is health-enhancing and life-extending, she notes that many people find it a chore. Using cutting-edge science and engaging storytelling, McGonigal explains why movement is essential for health and happiness. And she offers inspiration and information to help people get moving. She is also a yoga-therapy colleague who wrote the wonderful foreword for my book, Yoga Sparks.

Who am I?

I'm a yoga therapist, health journalist, and author, and my passion is helping people harness the powerful medicine of movement. In my work with hundreds of yoga students and yoga therapy clients, and in my own life—facing some serious health challenges—I’ve found that taking yoga off the mat and into daily life with these simple practices is a powerful way to relieve stress and find ease in body and mind. In our busy, hectic lives, Yoga Sparks offers a welcome chance to pause, breathe, and connect to our inner wisdom. They will help you pay attention and move mindfully through your own precious life. 

I wrote...

Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less

By Carol Krucoff,

Book cover of Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less

What is my book about?

You only need a minute—or even less—to get the stress-relieving and health-enhancing benefits of yoga. This book is a collection of simple yoga “micro-practices” you can weave into your day to create transformative moments that turn ordinary activities—like answering the phone or waiting in line—into opportunities to stretch and strengthen your body, quiet your mind, and lift your spirits. 

Yoga Sparks arose through my 45 years of yoga practice and two decades of teaching, and they focus on four main aspects of yoga: postures, breathing, meditation, and principles (such as gratitude). No need for a yoga mat or special clothing, they’re designed for anyone, regardless of age or fitness level.  If you can breathe, you can do Yoga Sparks

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

By Dusti Bowling,

Book cover of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

This fun, heartfelt story is about a middle school girl, Aven, that was born without arms. When her family moves to Arizona, she has to start over and make new friends. Moving is challenging for any kid, but especially difficult if you are in middle school and look very different from your peers.

Aven is funny, authentic, and self-aware. Watching her navigate the challenges in her life is inspiring and encourages readers to question their assumptions and judgments about themselves and others. This story includes a mystery, some adventure, as well as a beautiful reflection on acceptance and friendship.

Who am I?

In my work and my writing, I love to explore what helps friendships thrive and what trips us up. My book BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships grew out of a friendship program I ran for preteens. My second book, Middle School - Safety Goggles Advised grew out of the stories I heard after spending time in 7th-grade classrooms. As a child, I loved interactive books so I include activities like quizzes, choose-your-own-ending stories, and other ways to engage readers in my books. I have a master’s degree in social sciences and my latest books explore social-emotional topics in ways that connect with kids.

I wrote...

BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends): A Girl's Guide to Happy Friendships

By Jessica Speer, Elowyn Dickerson (illustrator),

Book cover of BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends): A Girl's Guide to Happy Friendships

What is my book about?

Let’s face it, friendships can be challenging. BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends) tackles friendship struggles head-on, leaving readers informed and empowered as they navigate the tricky world of friendship.

Through fun activities, quizzes, and real stories, this book helps girls decipher healthy vs. unhealthy relationship skills and how to navigate struggles. But more importantly, this book gives girls a new perspective on friendship and the role they play in creating positive change.

Reason for Hope

By Jane Goodall, Phillip Berman,

Book cover of Reason for Hope

Goodall is part scholar and part saint, a scientist seer. When her husband Derek Bryceson died after a protracted battle with cancer, Jane was spiritually bereft. Following a bleak year of grief, she encountered a mystical moment of healing.  “It seemed to me, as I struggled afterward to recall the experience, that self was utterly absent: I and the chimpanzees, the earth and trees and air, seemed to merge, to become one with the spirit power of life itself.” In that window of altered understanding, time slowed. Perception sharpened. Space seemed more spacious. The forest and its wild creatures, she found, had given her the peace that passes understanding.

Who am I?

I called my dog Chinook my spiritual guide. He makes friends easily and doesn’t hold a grudge. He enjoys simple pleasures, taking each day as it comes. On his own canine level, he shows me that it might be possible to live without inner conflicts or neuroses: uncomplicated, genuine and glad to be alive.”  Chinook inspired my first book, The Souls of Animals, which explored the capacities for love, creativity, and compassion we humans share with other species. As an ordained minister (Harvard Divinity School), I believe we desperately need to rediscover our spiritual affinity with other living creatures if we are to save our small planet.

I wrote...

Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet

By Gary Kowalski,

Book cover of Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet

What is my book about?

The love we share with our pets is pure and unconditional. The grief we experience when they die is correspondingly profound. As a parish minister who helps families cope with bereavement (and an animal lover who has accompanied two fine dogs to the end of the trail), I know the terrain of mourning firsthand and offer guidance for the journey. When to opt for euthanasia. Talking to children about death. Creating rituals to celebrate your pet’s life. Coping with guilt and negative emotions. Exploring what world religions teach about animals and the afterlife. What dreams and myths reveal for healing the heart. Writing this book helped me say farewell to my beloved dog Chinook. I hope that reading it can help you, too.

Bookshelves related to Tanzania