Books about Madagascar

I’ve had to put a few extra parameters around the literary portion of this blog. I realized that if I buy a book for every country (and various side trips), by the end of the journey I’ll have ended up spending thousands of dollars. For real. I can’t do that. For real, once again.

The library to the rescue! I’m very fortunate to live in an area with a great public library system, and it’s only logical to take full advantage of it. It’s a big win to stick with it for this blog; the only possible drawback is that the selection for some countries might be limited. I’ll address that if and when it happens…

I actually did have to approach my reading for Madagascar in a bit of a different manner, just to even scratch the surface of such a unique place. The first book I read was Lords and Lemurs: Mad Scientists, Kings With Spears, and the Survival of Diversity in Madagascar by Alison Jolly. Jolly, an American primatologist, took a break from her scientific writings to pen this well-told account of lemurs, the tough land in which they live, and some of the people who interact with and try to protect them. Focusing on a nature preserve in the far south called Berenty, she nonetheless weaves in some interesting history on a broader scale, particularly regarding the effects of French colonialism and events surrounding Madagascar’s independence. I enjoyed the book, and it sparked my interest in knowing more about the country as a whole.

Brown Lemur in Berenty.
(image by David Dennis , via Wikimedia Commons)

So thanks to the miracle that is a library, I just checked out everything I could find…

Madagascar separated from the African mainland 160 million years ago, and there is no evidence of human habitation until about 1500-2000 years ago. Left to its own devices all of that time, the island became one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Much of the animal and plant life can be found nowhere else.

Baobab Trees
(image by Larre (own work) via Wikimedia Commons)

And I found a book that talks about every bit of it: The Natural History of Madagascar by Steven M. Goodman and Jonathan P. Benstead. Weighing it at 9 pounds and 1700 pages, it contains pretty much all you’ll ever need to know about the wild side of the island.

An Indri, the largest lemur species
(image by By Olivier Lejade via Wikimedia Commons)

BUT. Even after two books, I still hadn’t read much about people. I had to search through the kids section to find something that wasn’t a Ph.D thesis…
Madagascar: Enchantment of the World by Ettagale Blauer; written for an school-age audience, it’s nonetheless an excellent primer on the social history of the island. Human society there is just as interesting, diverse and unique; the country is one of the poorest in the world in a monetary sense, but not in a cultural one.

Beach scene in Nosy Komba, Madagascar
(image by simone, via Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s an excellent website that discuss both the wildlife and human side of life in Madagascar…

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