Philip Blackwell, owner of the Ultimate Library, curated the Africana collection for Angama Mara’s two libraries and here tells us about the titles that might make one want to skip a safari or two
The rhythm of a safari holiday leaves plenty of time in the heat of the day to relax. And like a lion on the Mara plains, to find a perfect spot in the shade, kick back, contemplate life and enjoy the view.
What better way to spend your down time than to visit the libraries at Angama Mara which contain a hand-picked collection of books to guide you on a literary safari and gain a greater sense of place. And whether you wish to explore your immediate surroundings in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, East Africa or the wider continent we have lovingly chosen books to cover every aspect.
Read about the quest for the origins of human life in the Rift Valley in Born in Africa; delve into The Scramble for Africa that explains better than any other, why and how the European powers came to carve up the continent – essential reading for an understanding of how Africa got to be the way it is today. Bring yourself completely up to date in The Looting Machine, a shocking investigative journey into the way the resource trade wreaks havoc on Africa or China’s influence through the eyes of Dambisa Moyo’s in Winner Takes All.
Dive back a century and revisit Kenya’s rich colonial heritage through the eyes of Karen Blixen in Out of Africa or the scandal of White Mischief, both immortalised in film, but the books are richly rewarding. Or experience the madness of The Lunatic Express – a 19th century African precursor to the Channel Tunnel rail.
Go big game hunting with Denys Finch Hatton, pioneering white hunter and lover of Karen Blixen, in Too Close to the Sun, an elegant and extraordinary biography about an extraordinary and elegantly lived life. The Green Hills of Africa is allegedly the true story of Hemmingway’s East African safaris, and arguably the best book ever written about hunting. A small masterpiece. Peter Beard’s extraordinary contemporary photographs are a must for contemporary photography lovers, but he also writes with a passion.
Escape into the pages of contemporary fiction. The sharp wit and gentle charm of Drayson’s Guide to Birds of East Africa will appeal to followers of the No1 Ladies Detective Agency. While local author Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust is a spellbinding state of the nation novel. In Treachery in Paradise, Henning Mankel abandons Wallender in Sweden for a tale in Africa. Or opt to take a hair-razing Kenyan adventure with that old African staple Wilbur Smith in Assegai.
And for the children there is plenty to charm and entertain. My favourite is the Book of Animal Ignorance, full of amusing ‘wow’ facts about the animals of the Mara and many more. For example, did you know that the lion is the shaggy couch potato of the Mara, waited on hand and paw? Which neatly brings us full circle.
We hope you will enjoy exploring Africa through writers’ eyes from the peace of your Angama Mara tent and leave here better informed, inspired and entertained.