During the planning phase of a trip I spend a great deal of time looking at guide books in our library or online reading user reviews of a destination.
Once I have actually determined where I will be going and the logistics of how I will get there and where I am staying, my focus turns to the experience: reading everything I can about the destination. This can be combination of learning about the history of the place, understanding the culture, and knowing what wildlife to look for.
Certain destinations have required reading. For instance you must read the history of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton prior to embarking on an expedition to Antarctica. I would not recommend anyone go to Australia without reading Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country.
The book I have enjoyed the most in preparing for my upcoming safari to Zambia and Botswana is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife. This is a handy guide that will help you to better identify more than 850 species of amazing mammals, birds, reptiles and insects native to Africa. Despite the great depth of information, it is fairly compact and has a cover that will protect it from being tossed around in your daypack.
If you're thinking about planning a safari, make this required reading to get you amped up!