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Books to read while waiting for your long-planned safari...

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OK - I do the internet-based planning for our trips. My husband tends to hit the local library and then stock up on tons of books with any connection to our destination. This year, he hit the jackpot with two books we absolutely devoured (and our trip is still months away!). I thought I'd share them with you folks:

Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, by Tim Butcher

The author is a British journalist, who determined to follow the path of British explorer Stanley ( of "Dr Livingstone, I presume" fame) through the Congo. It covers much history of the early explorers, hunters, missionaries and even touches upon his mother's 1958 trek with a girlfriend! But his journey took place (while nearly every step of the way he is warned "No one goes there...it is too dangerous") in 2004. Places that were once thriving cities with trade and industry - have truly returned to the jungle. (Yes, there are references to Conrad as well.) He makes it -- but the difficulties and frustrations were many. I kept thinking how different this trip was from our wonderfully enjoyable and comfortable safari trip in Botswana at just about the very same time. It is easy to overlook the immensity of Africa...but reading this book drives that point home. As it does the impact of colonialism, the slave trade, and centuries old tribal conflicts in different parts of Africa. Even the presence of valuable natural resources doesn't guarantee a "future" apace with the modern world.

The second book:
Mukiwa! A White Boy in Africa, by Peter Godwin

This is an historically based memoir by a man who was raised by his expatriot British family in Rhodesia (obviously,now Zimbabwe). What is different about this book, is that he tells it almost like a "coming of age" novel and stays true to his voice as a young child of about six through his school years and young adulthood - which happened to occur during the tumultuous (and continuing struggles) history of Zimbabwe. It is a fascinating story of what his family's life was - and I guess, continues to be although he himself now lives in England.

Anyway - I found both books impossible to put down and I feel like I understand a good bit more of Africa than I did before reading them. While these books are very different, they both can make you think harder about your own relationship to travel, adventure, exploration, hunting, history, and culture.

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