I am currently traveling in Zambia for work. Before I left, I did what I always do: searched for seminal works of literature about the country or by authors representing the country. I was quite surprised that Zambia remains a relatively unexplored country in literature. (Perhaps the world is waiting for my bestselling thriller about journalists in Zambia!)
But I did find a few titles that are worth sharing, if you’re itching to read about Zambia—either as an armchair traveler, or in preparation for your own journey.
1. Zambia (Bradt Travel Guide: Fifth Edition) by Chris McIntyre
According to the reviews I read, this is the best guide to Zambia. I’ve only skimmed it, but so far I have learned that Zambia is one of the best destinations in Africa for walking and river safaris, as well as hot springs and waterfalls. According to the publisher, the book “includes advice for the independent traveller: how to bush camp in comfort, survival techniques for canoe encounters with hippos or crocodiles as well as guidance on all-terrain driving.” The country hosts a whopping total of 19 national parks, and recently Travel + Leisure called Zambia “Africa’s next great safari destination.” We won’t be going on any safaris, but praise like this makes me wish I’d extended my trip!
2. Anything by Alexandra Fuller
I’m about halfway through Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Fuller’s first memoir, and I love it. I’m looking forward to reading her other books: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Scribbling the Cat, and Falling: The Story of a Marriage. Fuller grew up in the countries now known as Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi, and her nonfiction explores her identity as a white African, as well as larger themes of family, love, and loss.
3. Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman
I haven’t read this book, which is apparently the fifth in the Mrs. Pollifax series. According to the publisher: “Mrs. Pollifax has been sent on safari by the C.I.A. and told only to take pictures of all of her companions, in order to find the international assassin whose next target is the president of Zambia. It sounded so simple, but shortly after Mrs. Pollifax started taking pictures, someone stole her film. And right after that she was kidnapped by Rhodesian terrorists. And right after that–well, read for yourself…” As you can probably tell by the reference to Rhodesia, this book is a bit dated; it was first published in 1987. But it’s the only work of fiction about Zambia that I could find—which was surprising enough to make me want to read it.
4. The Scramble for Africa: The White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912 by Thomas Pakenham
If you’re looking for a history of colonialism in Africa, this seems like your book. Publishers Weekly calls is a “dramatic, gripping chronicle.” More on the book itself from PW:
“In scarcely half a generation during the late 1800s, six European powers sliced up Africa like a cake. The pieces went to Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Belgium; among them, they acquired 30 new colonies and 110 million subjects. Although African rulers resisted, many battles were one-sided massacres. . . At center stage are a motley band of explorers, politicians, evangelists, mercenaries, journalists and tycoons blinded by romantic nationalism or caught up in the scramble for loot, markets and slaves. In an epilogue Pakenham tells how the former colonial powers still dominate the economies of the African nations, most of which are under one-party or dictatorial rule.”
5. Secrets of the Savanna and The Eye of the Elephant by Mark and Cordelia Owens
Zoologists and conservationists Mark and Delia Owens were expelled from Botswana after writing Cry of the Kalahari. So they moved to Zambia, where they encountered elephant poachers—the subject of The Eye of the Elephant. In Secrets of the Savanna, they reflect on their experiences with the animals and people of Zambia specifically and Africa more generally. I haven’t read either of these books, so I can’t properly recommend them, but I’m very curious to read them.
6. North of South: An African Journey by Shiva Naipaul
Shiva Naipaul (brother to V.S. Naipaul) traveled to Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia for several months in the 1970s. According to the publisher, “he aimed to discover what ‘liberation’, ‘revolution’ and ‘socialism’ meant to the ordinary people. His journey of discovery is brilliantly documented in this intimate, comic and controversial portrayal of a continent on the brink of change.” Again, this is one I haven’t read, but it seems important in the very small canon of Zambia books.
In several of these books—the last one especially—I’d like to contrast their experiences with my own (admittedly limited) experience of Zambia. So many changes have swept the continent in the last few decades; I’d love to learn what’s changed and what’s stayed the same.
Have you read any of these or other books on Zambia? What am I missing?
Categories: Book Lists