Cathy Kays' Favourite Reads from the Jao Library

Your Guide to Africa


Wilderness Blogger


We all love a good book. Especially one that’s inspired by nature and our beautiful Africa. We recently caught up with the Jao Reserve’s Cathy Kays, to learn about her favourite natural history books.


Cathy’s favourite reads from the Jao Library:


Wild Flowers of the Transvaal by Cythna Letty. This is a large, thick book that has the most beautiful illustrations by Cythna Letty. Cythna was the sister of my step-grandfather, and I grew up seeing her beautiful illustrations in the copies we all had in our homes. It is this book that is featured with the pages open on a waterlily in the video below.


Botanical Exploration of Southern Africa by H.F. Glen and G Germishuizen. This two-volume book tells of the leading plant collectors in southern Africa, from the days of the East India Company to present day. My great grandfather Dr EE Galpin is included.


Baines on the Zambezi by Edward Tabler. This beautifully illustrated book includes the 1858 diary and correspondence of Thomas Baines as he accompanied explorer Dr David Livingstone on his expedition to investigate the navigability of the Zambezi River.


The End of the Game by Peter Beard. I love the beautiful photographs by the sadly recently deceased Peter Beard in this book, which is part history and part travelogue.


West with the Night by Beryl Markham. This is an autobiography covering her life in Kenya. Her experiences as a bush pilot captured my imagination and it also chronicles her non-stop solo flight from Britain to America in a small aircraft. She was the first person to make this solo trip.


Okavango by June Kay. A fascinating insight into life in Northern Bechuanaland and the Okavango during the late 1950s and early 1960s.


What’s on your reading list right now? Below are a few more of our favourite wilderness and wildlife books:


  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • Jock of the Bushveld – Percy FitzPatrick
  • Watership Down – Richard Adams
  • White Fang – Jack London
  • Gorillas in the Mist – Dian Fossey
  • The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling
  • The Elephant Whisperer – Lawrence Anthony
  • The Last Rhinos – My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures – Lawrence Anthony
  • Twenty Chickens for a Saddle – Robyn Scott
  • I Dreamed of Africa – Kuki Gallmann
  • Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cario to Cape Town – Paul Theroux
  • The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen
  • All Creatures Great and Small – James Herriot
  • Born Free – Joy Adamson
  • Cry of the Kalahari – Mark and Delia Owens
  • Saving Chimpanzees – Eugene Cussons
  • Johnathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
  • A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
  • No 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith
  • Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story – Daphne Sheldrick
  • My Lion’s Heart: A Life for the Lions of Africa – Gareth Patterson
  • The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession –  Mark Obmascik 
  • Into Africa –  Martin Dugard 
  • Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen / Karen Blixen

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