5 Books to Read Before Traveling to Zambia and South Africa

Interested in learning more about Africa before your travels? Check out our 5 Books to Read Before Traveling to South Africa. 


A Long Walk for Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Apartheid and Nelson Mandela are unequivocally the most well-known South African references around the world. While you may know what Apartheid was or Nelson Mandela’s involvement in legally ending apartheid, there are many intricate details you might not know. Written in 1995, Mandela has since passed, but his legacy still remains. Mandela spent 36 years in prison, 28 of them on Robben Island and wrote extensively about apartheid during this time. Released in 1990, he was finally free, but not nearly done with his work.

Into Africa: Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martin Dugard

Dig your teeth into this thriller detailing adventure and struggle in Africa. The story begins with David Livingstone, London’s premier missionary intent on discovering the source of the Nile River. Through meticulous research, Dugard details his brushes with danger and eventual disappearance. Enter Stanley, a journeyman reporter sent to uncover Livingstone’s whereabouts after years of missing. Buckle your seat-belts!

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Published in 2016, this collected of stories peaked at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. It was also named one of the best books of the year by various media outlets. Trevor Noah grew up in South Africa to a white father and black mother, an illegal relationship at the time. He details his issues of identity, struggle to survive with his dangerous surroundings and the chances he took to support his family.

The #1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Published in 1998, this novel by Smith is just the first of 19 in the entire series. The book is centered around Mma Precious Ramotswe who starts a detective agency at the age of 34 in Botswana. This book has been noted for its complex characters and unique situations- covering different African social issues. You can listen to these stories narrated by Smith on BBC running from 2004 to 2017.

Short Story of South Africa by Gail Nattress

Follow historian, storyteller, and South African citizen Gail Nattress on her impassioned recount of South African history. This easy-to-read book cannot be mistaken for a history book- it’s more casual in nature. It begins with evidence of the earliest humans residing in modern-day South Africa and tells stories leading up to today. It outlines a country maligned by divisions and disputes, but persistent in its quest for peace.


Read all five, read one, or read none! Whatever you choose, spend some time researching the things about Africa that interest you before the trip passes you by!