Whether you’re looking for deeper insight into South Africa’s history or just want to read a beautifully written non-fiction story with a South African twist, these books should be on every South African’s bookshelf this summer. Sure, we all love to buy the latest internationally acclaimed novel but it’s time we start supporting our local authors as well. No one can tell the South African story quite like these authors and you’re bound to find at least one book on this list that will peak your interest! Here are 5 books every South African should read!
1. Waiting for the Barbarians – JM Coetzee
If you’ve already read JM Coetzee’s critically acclaimed work, Disgrace, then you’ll want to move onto the Booker Prize winner’s 1980 masterpiece, Waiting for the Barbarians. This gripping novel tells the story of an unnamed magistrate at the edge of a remote frontier town as he grapples with the imperial forces of which he is a part of. And, while many might think that Disgrace is Coetzee’s best work it is Waiting for the Barbarians that truly sets Coetzee apart one of the world’s most politically astute writers.
Click here to buy it online now for R162 in paperback.
2. Country Of My Skull – Antjie Krog
This 1998 nonfiction book explores the intricacies of the various functions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed up by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Created by Nelson Mandela, as a way to the right the wrongs done to South Africans during Apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission no doubt brought forward some of the most horrific stories in our country’s history. In Country of my Skull, Krog writes in English, from the perspective of a radical Afrikaner confessing apartheid’s sins and while it is indeed a harrowing read, Krog does an incredible job of taking the reader beneath the big movements of the Truth Commission and beyond, into the heart of what it means to be a South African today.
Click here to buy it online now for R211 in paperback.
3. Blood on their Hands – Jessica Pitchford
In this compelling biography, Johan Booysen, former director of South African elite crime investigation unit, the Hawks, teams up with journalist Jessica Pitchford to tell his truth. Blood on their Hands: General Johan Booysen Reveals his Truth, traces Johan Booysen’s life and career – from patrolling the streets of Amanzimtoti in the 1970s to his rise in 2010 to major general and head of the Hawks. When Booysen hears that the new KZN Provincial Police Chief takes backhanders from a Durban businessman, he decides to give her the benefit of the doubt. But, the evidence becomes impossible to ignore and he soon gets stuck in a web of intrigue, deceit, and betrayal, that at times is almost impossible to make sense of. It is only when he is arrested, handcuffed and tossed into a cell that Booysen realises just how ruthless those opposed to him are. Booysen decides to take on those determined to be rid of him and with each legal battle he wins is met by hostility and further efforts to shut him out of the of the criminal justice system. This biography is no doubt one of the best and most intriguing war novels you will ever read.
Click here to buy it online now for R203 in paperback.
4. Not Without a Fight – Helen Zille
Not Without a Fight is the long-awaited autobiography of Helen Zille, one of South Africa’s most important political figures. In this must-read recounting of her life so far, Zille takes the reader back to her humble family origins, her early career as a journalist at the Rand Daily Mail (where she wrote the story exposing Steve Biko’s murder), and her involvement with the End Conscription Campaign and the Black Sash. She documents her journey through the ranks of the Democratic Party and the Democratic Alliance, and recalls her experiences as leader of the DA, mayor of Cape Town and premier of the Western Cape. Along the way she speaks frankly about colleagues and opponents, and reveals fascinating insights about what happened behind the political scenes. Readers will also meet a Helen Zille they did not know: a warm person, a devoted mother, and someone with an earthy sense of humour. This book is as frank, honest and uncompromising as Helen Zille herself, and will appeal to anyone interested in the story of South Africa politics over the part fifty years.
Click here to buy it online now for R301 in hardcover.
5. The Heart of Redness – Zakes Mda
In this novel by one of the premier writers of the “new” South Africa, Zakes Mda sets a story of South African village life against a notorious episode from the country’s past. The story follows Camugu, as he returns to post-apartheid South Africa after years of exile in America. Disillusioned by the problems of the new democracy, he decides to head to the remote Eastern Cape village of Qolorha. Here he learns of the village’s history and of a teenage prophetess, Nonqawuse, who commanded the Xhosa people to kill their cattle and burn their crops, in the promise that doing so would see the spirits of their ancestors rise up and drive the occupying English into the ocean. The failed prophecy split the Xhosa into two camps with devastating consequences. Now, one hundred fifty years later, the two groups’ descendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort in the village, and Camugu is soon drawn into their heritage, their future and a bizarre love triangle as well.
Click here to buy it online now for R228 in paperback.
For more great South African reads visit Raru.co.za. The online store stocks a wide range of fiction, non-fiction, and autobiographical books from both local and international authors. Plus, they offer Free Delivery to all main centres for orders above R299!