Botswanan Books

books, south africa

Best Botswanan books – about or set in Botswana, with what they are about and my personal rating and review.

  • Cry of the Kalahari

    Cry of the Kalahari

    Authors: Mark & Delia Owens
    What: Really interesting about the Central Kalahari Reserve (before it was a reserve) when two American PhD students study the brown hyenas and lions of the Kalahari, living in the middle of a desert and making friends with the animals
    Where best to read: Deception Valley in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
    Published: 1984
    Review Score: A must-read for those who visit the Kalahari
    Description: A non-fiction book that reads quite like a novel as the authors have many amazing adventures that are hard to imaging happening in the current age of connectivity where totally wild, unexplored places are fast disappearing. There’s lots going on and I learnt a lot about the behaviour of brown hyenas and lions and how to cope living in the desert. It also made me slightly less scared of being randomly attacked by a lion during the night so that was an additional bonus.


  • The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

    The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

    Author: Alexander McCall Smith
    What: Gentle detective novel set in Gaborone, a nice read but not the most captivating book ever.
    Where best to read: In Gaborone or Botswana in general
    Published: 1998
    Review Score: Very readable and gives an insight into genteel urban Botswanan life but slightly slow-paced.
    Description: A detective, who is a lady, and owner of the very first ladies detective agency in Botswana, goes about her business in her daily life and solves little crimes. This is the first book in the Ladies Detective Agency series – the two following books are Tears of the Giraffe and Morality for Beautiful Girls which I’ve reviewed below.


  • The Harmless People

    The Harmless People

    Author: Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
    What: An fascinating account of the author’s life among the San People of the Kalahari.
    Where best to read: The Kalahari Desert
    Published: 1959
    Review Score: Super interesting about a lifestyle that I knew nothing about beforehand and a way of life that is rapidly disappearing.
    Description: This non-fiction book was the first detailed account of how the hunter-gatherer San of the Kalahari lived and it increased interest in these people and their way of life. The prose is beautifully and simply written which is mirrored in the life the author experiences in the desert.


  • When Rain Clouds Gather

    When Rain Clouds Gather

    Author: Bessie Head
    What: A South African man escapes to Botswana during apartheid and integrates into a village while falling in love.
    Where best to read: Botswana in general
    Published: 1968
    Review Score: Paints an interesting picture of village life and the community. You want to keep reading to find out what happens.
    Description: Bessie Head is one of the most famous Botswanan authors. This work is slightly autobiographical as she herself fled from South Africa to Botswana during apartheid. Integrating into a new life in a new country wasn’t always easy and newcomers could be treated with suspicion by local villages and authorities alike. This book describes the relationships and tensions within a small village as the newcomer takes on a prominent role in revolutionizing the farming practices of the village.


  • A Carrion Death

    A Carrion Death

    Author: Michael Stanley
    What: Fast-paced murder mystery set partly in the Kalahari
    Where best to read: Khutse Game Reserve or surroundings
    Published: 2008
    Review Score: A well-written page-turner that keeps you guessing until the end
    Description: Detective Kubu tries to ascertain the circumstances of a suspicious death in the desert. The many twists and turns dive into the economics and politics of Botswana and highlights the power of the mining companies.


  • No Footprints in the Night

    No Footprints in the Night

    Author: Victoria Stevens
    What: Follow us as we overland in our trusty Land Rover Defender, safari-ing around the National Parks and wide-open spaces of Botswana.
    Where best to read: Planning or on a Botswana adventure!
    Published: 2021
    Review Score: I didn’t rate my own book, I don’t think I can be very impartial!
    Description: South Africa was kicking us out so we had to make a plan.
    ‘What about Botswana?’
    My boyfriend couldn’t think of any objections so a few days before we overstayed our visas we hit the road in our trusty Defender and sped north from Cape Town.
    The Kalahari welcomed us with vast empty spaces and gorgeous wildlife. We spent weeks camping in a true wilderness barely touched by man. The character of the landscape changed in the waterlogged north but our encounters with wild animals didn’t stop.
    We eventually returned to civilization after many weeks on the sandy road, having narrowly managed to escape being eaten by lions, killed by a puff adder and marooned on the Chobe River.
    No Footprints in the Night chronicles this journey of exploration through Botswana in times of coronavirus.


  • Tears of the Giraffe

    Tears of the Giraffe

    Author: Alexander McCall Smith
    What: The second novel in the Ladies Detective Agency series.
    Where best to read: Gaborone or Botswana in general
    Published: 2000
    Review Score: If you enjoyed the first book you will probably enjoy this as it’s quite similar
    Description: The Detective Agency continues to gain some new customers but still struggles to be profitable. The lives of all the characters from the first book continue as they progress forward in their various endeavours.


  • Maru

    Maru

    Author: Bessie Head
    What: A woman (a Bushwoman) moves to a new village and two of the most well-respected men want her for their own
    Where best to read: Botswana
    Published: 1971
    Review Score: Quite interesting and readable, it will keep you turning the page though sometimes slightly complicated
    Description: This is quite an unusual book, with a storyline and structure like no other I’ve read. It takes you into the heads of the main protagonists and explains some of their thinking without ever quite fully explaining everything. I enjoyed it a lot but was left with some outstanding questions.


  • Morality for Beautiful Girls

    Morality for Beautiful Girls

    Author: Alexander McCall Smith
    What: The third novel in the Ladies Detective Agency series.
    Where best to read: Gaborone or Botswana in general
    Published: 2001
    Review Score: If you enjoyed the first and second books you will enjoy this, though they start to get a bit samey.
    Description: More minor mysteries and a more major one, while the Detective also has to look after some new children that the Mechanic has acquired.


Read my reviews of South African books here!

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