Amazon Associates program if you click through my link).
For now though, I've picked another series of books that a friend introduced me to several years ago. We were in preparation for going overseas as roving missionary mechanics and since we were headed to Africa first, my friend suggested I look up the author Alexander McCall Smith and his series of books called The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - which takes place in Botswana (our second working location).
I started reading the series while we were still Stateside and found them to be funny and enjoyable reading material. Once we arrived in Botswana and I continued to read them, they made even more sense as I learned about the culture and people of the country. It helped to drive past the real Zebra Drive and know that it was a place that existed. Our third house-sitting position was nextdoor to the real Dr. Moffat and his wife - who host McCall Smith in their guesthouse when he comes to write in Botswana. Our whole experience in-country made the books all the more interesting and funny to me, but the beauty of the series (and the genius of Smith's writing ability) is that you don't have to fly thousands of miles to Botswana to feel like you are there. The books are well written with perfect word pictures of the country, the people, and the situations that Mma Ramotswe must sift through to find the truth.
Mma Ramotswe loves her rooibos (red bush) tea, her Daddy, her faithful helper at the detective agency - Mma Makutsi, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and her little white van. She's a loyal friend, a good housekeeper, a trationally built woman, and a patient wife and mother who is surprised with an instant family (son and daughter). The "mystery" stories are less of a mystery and more of an enjoyable, easy-to-read novel with an undercurrent of plot and mystery to solve. McCall Smith does a wonderful job of keeping the characters interesting and the story moving along fast enough to keep your attention but slow enough for the pace of African life (there is always time for tea and conversation!).
I have most of the books in my library at home, but am waiting for some of the newer books to go to paperback and lower in price. :-) If you're interesting in reading the series, start with book #1 (of the original title, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency). Check it out from your local library, buy it at a used bookstore, or go to Amazon by clicking on my links below. The link on the left is for book #1, the link on the right is for the first five books in the set.
I've found that Twining's of London makes a good plain rooibos tea (click here to see it) and it's available at my local grocery (just make sure you don't get a rooibos tea mixed with any other flavor - they like to do that in the States, but you don't get the original flavor that way). Grab a blanket, make a pot of rooibos and and spend an afternoon reading the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and imagining you're in sunny Botswana, having a chat with Mma Ramotswe.
Birthday Gift or Mother's Day Gift Idea: Buy the first book (or two or five!) and a box of tea with a mug, tie the whole thing together with some natural rafia. Super cute!