I did not buy any books prior to my trip to Tristan da Cunha. What would have been the point? I would have had to lug everything to the island and then back again. So I took notes on the books I was interested in, then had a good long five weeks to consider whether or not I wanted to buy them. All but one of the books below were purchased at Exclus1ve (at the V&A Waterfront, or the Cape Town or Johannesburg airport stores); the other was purchased at Van Schaik. I will deal with that one first:
Cape Point South Africa was in the Van Schaik discount bin. It consists of photos of the Point, with minimal text. After we arrived back in Cape Town, a group of Tristan travellers and I took a day trip to the Point.
Since I am not starting off with language books, I will show the next three books, which were all purchased at the airports when I departed South Africa:
The State of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence by Martin Meredith, a colossal paperback of 770 pages from 2011. I know I will enjoy reading this. It will take me several weeks for sure, but the next book will likely take longer:
Afica: A Modern History by Guy Arnold from 2006 was 1028 pages long and consequently a lot heavier than the one above. The books were massive to carry around the airports after I had checked my luggage. I debated whether or not I should buy just one but chose both because the contents and countries covered were not the same.
Lighthouses of South Africa (pocket edition) by Gerald Hoberman. I love lighthouses and on all my travels I enjoy visiting them. I have brought back books on the lighthouses of Finland, Brittany, Nova Scotia and now South Africa. This book also came in two other editions. One was a huge coffee-table book, and the other was a miniature version of it with the same cover. My edition only had 160 pages versus 384 in the coffee-table edition. However, the lighthouse photos were what mattered most, so I chose the least expensive pocket edition.
I bought all of the following language books at the V&A Waterfront store:
Learn Xhosa with Anne Munnik, book and accompanying CD. For the click language of Xhosa, an audio component is a necessity.
English-Xhosa / Xhosa-English Dictionary. Short paperback of 81 pages but each page was divided into three columns and was in a very easy-to-read format.
Xhosa Phrasebook, Collins gem edition. It also included a 3000-word dictionary.
Sesotho Made Easy: A step-by-step guide to learning and mastering Sesotho by Aubrey D. Mokoena was the most comprehensive book I could find on this language, which has four million native speakers.
English-Afrikaans / Afrikaans-Engels Basic Dictionary / Basiswoordeboek is my first Afrikaans dictionary and I file it with the books on African languages versus with my books on Germanic languages. The entries in this dictionary give numerous examples of each word in particular contexts.