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Books

Books 2017-12-18T12:14:54+00:00

Just in time for the holidays, a lavish and scholarly book about Ethiopia’s ancient churches, written by Mary Anne Fitzgerald, with photographs by Nigel Pavitt.  A feast for the eyes, and inspiration for your next journey to Africa to visit these churches. Pavitt used a copter to photograph the one below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Order this beautiful book from Amazon.com

Debre Damo Church, named after the mountain in  in northern Ethiopia where it perches, remains one of the country’s most important centers of Christianity.

 

Do not think about going to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve without reading “The Big Cat Man,” autobiography of BBC host Jonathan Scott.

With Scott’s insights on the behavior of cheetahs and leopards, plus the famous Marsh Lions, you will be camera-ready for your photo safari.

Order The Big Cat Man

 

A retrospective of portraits by Peter Beard

From Hog Ranch to Montauk, photographer Peter Beard was “surrounded by drugs, debts, and beautiful women,” wrote Leslie Bennetts for Vanity Fair. “As a renowned wildlife photographer, Peter Beard has been obsessed with images of death and loss since he made his reputation more than 30 years ago with The End of the Game, his chilling chronicle of disaster at Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, where tens of thousands of elephants starved…. And as a lifelong adventurer, Beard has always been notorious for flaunting every caution. He thinks nothing of swimming in crocodile-infested waters, has personally witnessed less fortunate acquaintances being gobbled up, and once sprinted away as a colleague on safari was gored and thrown by a charging rhino.”  His images of Africa are unique, dappled with cow’s blood, informed by his diaries, the first one given to him by Jackie Onassis.

Order Peter Beard Fifty Years of Portraits

 

 

The man known as Mountain Madness from his high flying days on Mt. Kenya was given an impossible mission in Sudan, to establish a national park in a remote region home to the great migration of white-eared cob. Phil Snyder describes this nearly impenetrable frontier, overcoming misadventures in tall grass as well as in his little single engine plane.  Order this great read on Kindle only.

 

 

African Ceremonies

A concise edition of the big two volume set by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher.

The Hominid Gang

Geologist Frank Brown revised dates on fossil discoveries around Kenya’s Lake Turkana by identifying individual volcanic tuffs. The Utah professor allowed me to follow his research in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which continues today with Meave & Louise Leakey.   See updates at www.turkanabasin.org

  • “Science journalism at its best. Willis traces the complex issues…with style, insight, and a sense of wonder.” Library Journal
  • “The Hominid Gang lies firmly in the rarest genre of books by good writers who truly understand by dint of penetrating intelligence….” Stephen Jay Gould
  • “Always engaging…a delightful piece of work.” Roger Lewin, The Washington Post
  • “Without a doubt the best you-are-there look at human origins. Darwin himself would have enjoyed this one.” Kirkus Reviews 
  • “Delta Willis has provided a most vivid account which brings out the excitement and tensions of a fascinating pursuit.”  Richard Leakey

Richard Leakey examines fossil fragments that belong to a human ancestor’s skull, the one featured on the cover of The Hominid Gang.     He found the fragments hidden beneath a cairn, left there for him by a member of the hominid gang, whose leader, Kimoya Kimau, was trained by Louis and Mary Leakey. How fossils are found, and interpreted, inspired six years of research by me, starting with this discovery near Koobi Fora in 1981.   That’s how a magazine article grows into a book, featuring an introduction by evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

 

From THE HOMINID GANG excerpt in The New York Times Book Review

“Ralph von Koenigswald, who found hominids in Java, said you must love fossils – ”If you love them, then they will come to you.” Martin Pickford and Alan Walker found Proconsul fossils in museum drawers. . . . Mary Leakey, stopping on the road to Olduvai, reached down to pick up a stone to wedge the wheel of her car and picked up a hominid jaw. . . . The fossilized footprints of Laetoli were found during a lighthearted exchange of elephant dung tossed between men in the field. Richard and Meave Leakey found the Zinj skull when his camel became thirsty, sending them on a different route back to camp. George Gaylord Simpson wrote his first monograph on fossils recovered from slate roof tiles in England. Scottish paleontologist Robert Broom often began his search for fossils in formal dress, complete with a top hat, but when the trail became hot, discarded his clothes and continued in the nude….”

Order The Hominid Gang: Behind the Scenes in the Search for Human Origins

The Sand Dollar and the Slide Rule

  • “A good introduction to a new science in the making.” Kirkus Reviews
  • “Charming and adroit. Dusty facts sparkle in their new juxtaposition.” The Washington Times
  • “Willis navigates through dozens of connections with ease, as she cut her teeth as a science journalist and isn’t bashful about imparting an endearing sense of wonder.” Booklist
  • “A fascinating and uncategorizable book that will delight readers.” Library Journal

Order The Sand Dollar and the Slide Rule

Read a Review by Jack Goodfellow

Read an excerpt from my introduction to the Fodor’s Guide to Kenya and Tanzania