Whether you’re a bookworm or not, doing research is an important part of volunteering abroad. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the
must-read books before you head out your front door, onto a plane, and step foot onto African soil.
Whether you’re volunteering on a healthcare or HIV-related project or not, you should take time to read Stephanie Nolen’s compilation of stories about individuals battling the AIDS epidemic in Africa. The stories are split into chapters, which makes it an easy but poignant read. Helpful chapters include those on the history of HIV in certain countries and the reaction of leaders like Nelson Mandela – to whom an entire chapter is devoted.
A fiction tale of a missionary family in the Belgian Congo at the time of its turbulent independence in the 1960s, this novel is not only wonderfully written but holds an incredible story. Chapters rotate between being told by different characters, including the family’s daughters, who weave a tale of the influence of Africa on their growth towards adulthood.
OK, so not necessarily a book about Africa – but this quick read will have you pumped up and excited for any adventure, whether you’re just booking your volunteer placement or have one foot out the door. Dr. Seuss will give you that extra push and confidence to chase your dreams!
You may have read this one in school, but it’s a classic worth another go. Written by one of Africa’s most prized authors, Achebe brings readers into the world of Okonkwo – one of African literature’s most renowned protagonists, and tells a tale of the conflict between the individual and society, set against the backdrop of the European colonization of Africa.
A lot of the books and novels written about Africa can be a little depressing, so here’s a lighthearted tale of a wildlife guide to lighten the load. Dive into the life and journey of Peter Allison, a safari guide, as he gains experience in the African bush – and learn a little about the wildlife you’ll encounter, too.
The classic story of Goodall’s work with wild chimpanzees in Africa, as told by her own voice is a must-read for animal lovers, conservation volunteers and anyone who’s interested in hearing an inspiring story that garnered global attention and led to a lifetime of incredible work by Goodall herself.
If you’re ready to tackle a long but fulfilling reading, look no further than Mandela’s autobiography. Written mostly from Robben Island Prison, the book details Mandela’s life from birth to his election as South Africa’s first black President. A must-read for those going to Cape Town especially, but Mandela’s global influence makes it a great read for anyone.
This African classic is a must-read for those travelling to South Africa – an incredible work of poetry and storytelling written right before the advent of apartheid. From rural KwaZulu Natal to the bustling street of Johannesburg, Paton’s novel about a man of the church in search of his son is not only a joy to read, but an education in the plight of black South Africans.
The Ladies Detective Agency Series - Alexander Mccall Smith
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide – Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
I dreamed of Africa – Kuki Gallmann