Literary Mood Board: Africa in My Blood

Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters, by Jane Goodall

Can you imagine picking up from your ordinary life at the age of 23 and plunging into a new routine of safari camp life, archaeological digs, and nonchalant big game tracking? Jane Goodall is an amazing woman who thought there was nothing better than taking a leap into the wild in her early 20s. I love reading about her exploits as a fully fledged primatologist (among other -ists that are now added to her name!), but Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters provides a glimpse of Goodall before she's fully immersed in the life we now know her for. Through her exhuberant letters to friends and family, Africa in My Blood shows us just what a live wire Goodall really was. Her love of animals shines through from an early age and carries through, even as she attempts to slot herself into a more quotidian lifestyle by training up as a secretary, attending musical performances in the city, and taking up a waitressing job (to fund her trip to Africa :) ).

There's something fascinating about getting to know more about someone you admire, especially when you can have a peek into what they were like prior to their fully formed state. Watching Goodall's transformation from precocious child to blossoming anthropologist and primatologist is like the most enthralling explanation of how to get from A to B, with all the strange wobbles life throws in. Her letters home hold nothing back—learning that Louis Leakey was a bit more salacious than is ideal in a mentor is riviting enough, but watching Goodall rebuff him until he understands mentor/mentee relationship boundaries is a lesson in human nature, itself. Her optimistic honesty is refreshing. When she thinks something is a drag, she says it. When she thinks it's amazing, she gushes. She expresses opinions without bars, all with a goodnatured politeness that makes her all the more likeable.


If you're a primatology nerd, an adventure junkie, or a Goodall groupie, you'll enjoy Africa in My Blood. I'm still only about a third of the way through and can't wait to finish. If you read this, let me know how you like it!

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