Your summer holiday reading list

2019-12-24 08:35

The holiday season is the perfect time for catching up, planning, and getting to that one thing you’ve been trying to do all year. For many of us, that includes reading.

We all love a good book, but unfortunately, don’t read as much as we would like to. So over the Christmas and New Year’s period, why not try to tackle at least a book or two you haven’t read or wanted to dive into. To get you started, here are a few books released this year that should be on your to-buy or to-read list:


Catching Tadpoles: The Shaping of a Young Rebel by Ronnie Kasrils

Published by Jacana Media


In Catching Tadpoles Ronnie Kasrils answers the question that he has been asked innumerable times: “What made a young white boy give up privilege and join the liberation struggle?”“I had a vivid recall for the key turning points of my life and no sooner was the suggestion made by my publisher that I respond to the challenge than I began to plunge into the task before me. Plunge being the operative term for in fact I took to it like a duck to water, as I enjoy passing time in a swimming pool, where meditation comes very easily to me.

It was there that the metaphor of catching tadpoles came to mind, not only because of my childhood fascination with the impish creatures, but because in the environment of the pool I found that striving to get hold of fleeting memories and slippery images of the past was akin to catching those eccentric amphibians-to-be with one’s bare hands.

I rely heavily on memory, backed up by research where possible, to enable me to be sure of certain times, places and events. I haven’t been challenged in the other three books as to the fallibility or otherwise of my memory, which is surprising since memory is notoriously unreliable.”Ronnie Kasrils takes the reader on a rambunctious ride through his childhood set against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa. His family is warm and supportive and teach him to be sensitive to injustice.

Boardroom Dancing: Transformation Stories from a Corporate Activist by Nolitha Fakude 

Published by Pan Macmillan


Nolitha Fakude grew up as a shopkeeper’s daughter in the Eastern Cape, studied at the University of FortHare and then entered the workplace in 1990 as a graduate trainee at Woolworths.

Subsequently, she has worked in very senior positions at some major blue-chip companies, including Woolworths, Nedbank and Sasol. She was also managing director and then president of the Black Management Forum (BMF). Over a career spanning 29 years, Nolitha spearheaded programmes that ensure the development of women and marginalised communities in the workplace and society.

A passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, she has earned a well-deserved reputation as a corporate activist. Nolitha is held in high regard within business circles and serves on numerous boards including the JSE Limited, Anglo American plc and Afrox Limited.

Although Boardroom Dancing is her personal journey, it is also a lesson for South Africans committed to the transformation of boardrooms and the economy, and for women looking for role models as they climb corporate ladders and become thought-leaders  

I Choose to Live: Life After Losing Gugu by Letshego Zulu

Published by MFBooks 


“Even within the seemingly most unacceptable and painful situation is concealed a deeper good and within every disaster is contained the seed of grace.” – Eckhart Tolle

In July 2016, racing champion Gugulethu and his wife Letshego Zulu set off to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro along with the 42-strong team of the Trek4Mandela initiative.

Tragedy strikes and Letshego returns to South Africa days later with her husband’s body in a coffin.

Told in mesmerising detail, this is the remarkable story of a wife’s courage and stamina to make sense of her loss and to find an authentic life after Gugu’s untimely death.

Through her get-up-and-go attitude and insightful life lessons, Letshego’s journey shows that, despite adversities, it is possible to Choose to Live.

I Am Ndileka: More than my surname by Ndileka Mandela

Published by Jacana Media 


I Am Ndileka tells the story of a woman who has made great strides in society, but still faces many challenges. A social activist, former ICU nurse and the head of a rural upliftment organisation known as the Thembekile Mandela Foundation, she has lived a challenging life – a labyrinth of highs and lows. 

Even though South Africa has been emancipated from the apartheid regime and so-called gender inequality structures have been removed, women still face oppression and abuse.

In October 2017, as part of the #MeToo campaign to denounce sexual violence, Ndileka disclosed for the first time that she had been raped by her then partner in her own bed five years before.Follow Ndileka on her journey as she deals with death in her family, patriarchy, motherhood, depression, being homeless and surviving rape and abuse.

The Educated Waiter: Memoir of an African Immigrant by Tafadzwa Z. Taruvinga

Published by MFBooks 


Tafadzwa Taruvinga’s groundbreaking memoir The Educated Waiter: Memoir of an African Immigrant gives voice to the unheard plight of the faceless immigrant Uber driver, waiter, graduate and gardener in South Africa.

Released in October, it is hugely relevant at a time where our country is experiencing devastating levels of xenophobic intolerance and violence.When Tafadzwa Zimunhu Taruvinga, a young Zimbabwean, enrolls to study economics at Rhodes University in South Africa, he has no idea that his life is about to be a tumultuous trial of survival.

As a foreign student, the fees are exorbitant, exacerbated by the fact that currency has become increasingly problematic in the ailing economy back home.

This doesn’t deter him; with a sharp sense of self-preservation, Tafadzwa pursues his studies while unpacking groceries, cleaning shit-splattered toilets and waitering for a pittance.Constantly cash-strapped, most nights he goes to sleep hungry. 


Parcel of Death: The Biography of Onkgopotse Abram Tiro by Gaongalelwe Tiro

Published by Pan Macmillan


Parcel of Death recounts the little-told life story of Onkgopotse Abram Tiro, the first South African freedom fighter the apartheid regime pursued beyond the country’s borders to assassinate with a parcel bomb.  

On 29 April 1972, Tiro made one of the most consequential revolutionary addresses in South African history. Dubbed the Turfloop Testimony, Tiro’s antiapartheid speech saw him and many of his fellow student activists expelled, igniting a series of strikes in tertiary institutions across the country.

By the time he went into exile in Botswana, Tiro was president of the Southern African Student Movement (SASM), permanent organiser of the South African Student Organisation (SASO) and a leading Black Consciousness proponent, hailed by many as the ‘godfather’ of the June 1976 uprisings.  

Parcel of Death uses extensive and exclusive interviews to highlight significant influences and periods in Tiro’s life, including the lessons learned from his rural upbringing in Dinokana, Zeerust, the time he spent working on a manganese mine, his role as a teacher and the impact of his faith in shaping his outlook. It is a compelling portrait of Tiro’s story and its lasting significance in South Africa’s history. 

From Marabastad to Mogadishu: The Journey of an ANC Soldier by Hassen Ebrahim

Published by Jacana Media


After working closely with the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation in shaping and writing his memoir, author Hassen Ebrahim and Jacana Media are proud to publish this important record of a life that was spent in service to South Africa.

From Marabastad to Mogadishu: The Journey of an ANC Soldier chronicles an all-too familiar story of those unsung cadres from the struggle we’ve forgotten to honour for their sacrifices.

Those foot soldiers do not feature in our collective memory, they do not find themselves or their stories recorded in the pages of history books, and they are not remembered for their sel?ess acts of bravery. 

The bravery and sacrifice of the ordinary teenager who dropped out of school, the cadre who risked life and limb, and the freedom fighter who exiled himself or herself to countries far and wide must be given a chance to live on book pages, find expression on fi lm reels and all other mediums of historic memory collection.

Balance of Power: Ramaphosa and the Future of South Africa by Qaanitah Hunter 

Published by Kwela Books

Balance of Power

Qaanitah Hunter takes us into the heart of Cyril Ramaphosa’s rise to the ANC presidency, and the political balancing act he has had to maintain as president.

Hunter shares fresh insights into Jacob Zuma’s removal as president and Ramaphosa’s ascendency.

She takes us behind the scenes, and details Ramaphosa’s plans for South Africa, and his battles.

This book seeks to contextualise what the current political climate could mean for both the ANC and the future of South Africa.

Qaanitah Hunter is an award­winning political journalist with Sunday Times. She won Vodacom Journalist of the year in 2016 and 2017 and recently won the Nat Nakasa Journalism Award (2019). She has  done political analysis on SABC, eNCA, Talk Radio 702 and written for Daily Maverick and Mail and Guardian. 

After Dawn: Hope After State Capture by Mcebisi Jonas

Published by Pan Macmillan


In October 2015, the Gupta brothers offered Mcebisi Jonas the position of minister of finance in exchange for R600 million. Then deputy minister of finance, Jonas turned down the bribe and a period of deep introspection followed for him.

How did we reach this point, and what did the future hold for South Africa’s democracy and the economy?

In After Dawn, Mcebisi Jonas analyses the crisis at the heart of our current system, which places politics at the centre of policymaking and implementation at the expense of growth.

In this important and authoritative book, Jonas first unpacks and analyses the current badlands of the South African economic and political landscape. Time is of the essence and the window of opportunity is narrowing for all South Africans to work together towards the South Africa we all imagined was possible in 1994.  


Explore! Awesome South African Artists by Cobi Labuscagne; Illustrated by Lauren Mulligan

Published by Jacana Media


South Africa is filled with many vibrant, skilled contemporary artists – artists who create beautiful and exciting works about the world around them and about who they are.

Explore! Awesome South African Artists lets children dive right into the South African contemporary art scene, showcasing the diverse paths of the artists and the fascinating artworks they create.

Some of SA’s finest living artists, such as William Kentridge, Nandipha Mntambo and Penny Siopis, Banele Khoza, Zander Blom, Billie Zangewa and many many more, grace the pages of this funky children’s book. With this book, aspiring young artists will find their own South African artist to look up to and will be a great edition to their bookshelf.

Wanda Written by Sihle Nontshokweni and Mathabo Tlali; Illustrated by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne

Published by Jacana Media 


Meet Wanda with her beautiful head of hair. She is brave and strong, but she’s unhappy because of the endless teasing by the boys at school.

After a particularly hard day at school, feeling confused, forlorn and hopeless, Wanda’s grandmother lets her in on a few secrets.

Through these hair secrets and stories, she finds the courage to face her fears and realise that her hair is a crown and something to be proud of. 

This book stands at the intersection of identity and beauty, celebrating how cultural pride is learned and passed on over the generations. This book encourages young children to love themselves for what they are born with, despite what society may say or think. 


The Eternal Audience of One by Remy Ngamije

Published by Blackbird Books 


One might as well start with Séraphin: twenty-four years old, playlistmaker, nerd-jock hybrid, self-appointed merchant of cool, Rwandan, stifled and living in Windhoek. In a few weeks he will leave the confines of his family life for cosmopolitan Cape Town where his friends, parties, conquests and controversies await.

More than that, his long-awaited final year in law school will deliver a crucial puzzle piece of the Great Plan immigrant parents have for their children when they are forced to leave home and settle in new countries: a degree from one of South Africa’s most prestigious universities.

For Séraphin, the coming year promises to be felicitous.But a year is more than the sum of its parts and en route to the future the present must be lived through and even the past must be survived.

The Eternal Audience of One follows the intersecting lives of Séraphin and a host of eclectic characters from pre- and post-1994 Rwanda, colonial and post-independence Windhoek, Paris and Brussels in the ’70s, the crowded public schools of Nairobi, as well as the hormone-saturated clubs and streets of Cape Town.

From one of Africa’s emerging literary voices comes a piquant modern epic of family, friendship and migration.

Born Freeloaders by Phumlani Pikoli 

Published by Pan Macmillan

Born on the cusp of democracy, the crew of young friends in Born Freeloaders navigates a life of drinking, wild parties and other recklessness. The siblings at the centre of the novel,


Nthabiseng and Xolani, have been raised in an upper middle-class family with connections to the political elite.

Nthabiseng is lauded by her peers as she whimsically goes through life, unable to form her own identity in a world that expects her to pick a side in the fractured classifications of race. Xolani, not having known his late father, longs for acceptance from an uncle who sees him and his generation as the bitter fruit borne of a freedom he and countless others fought for. 

As the story  moves across multiple spaces in the nation’s capital over a weekend, Born Freeloaders captures a political and cultural moment in the city’s and South Africa’s history.

Interwoven is an analogous tale of the country’s colonisation and the consequences that follow. And alongside the friends’ uneasy awareness of their privilege is a heightened sense of discomfort at their inability to change the world they were born into. 

If You Keep Digging by Keletso Mopai

Published by Blackbird Books 


If You Keep Digging, is a moving collection of short stories that is an essential addition to current and on-going discussions, including those around migration, gender, sexuality and identity that affect the youth.

The selection of stories highlights marginalised identities and looks at the daily lives of people who may otherwise be forgotten or dismissed.

Keletso Mopai is a South African storyteller who was born and raised in Lenyenye township, Limpopo.

Her stories appear in highly regarded publications including The Johannesburg Review of Books, DRUM, Omenana Magazine, Brittle Paper, The Kalahari Review and The Ebedi Review.

She was shortlisted for the 2017 Writivism Prize and was a finalist for the 2018 Africa Book Club Competition.

All fiction titles are revamped with artist Sindiso Khumalo’s stunning prints. 

Illumination by Nthikeng Mohlele

Published by Pan Macmillan


Bantubonke is an accomplished and revered jazz trumpeter, composer and band leader in decline – an absent present and inadequate spouse.

He lives for art at the expense of all else, an imbalance that derails his life and propels him to the brink of madness and despair.

A story of direct and implied betrayals, Illumination is an unrelenting study of possession and loss, of the beauty and uncertainty of love, of the dangers and intrusions of fame.  

Mohlele is the author of five critically acclaimed novels: The Scent of Bliss (2008), Small Things (2013), Rusty Bell (2014), Pleasure (2016) and Michael K (2018). Pleasure won the 2016 University of Johannesburg Main Prize for South African Writing in English as well as the 2017 K. Sello Duiker Memorial Prize at the South African Literary Awards. Illumination is Mohlele’s sixth novel. 

Perfect Imperfections by Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka

Published by Blackbird Books


Continuing its distinctive legacy of developing young black voices, BlackBird Books’s August release, Perfect Imperfections by Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka, tells the story of Maxine, a young woman who escapes an abusive polygamous marriage to a man much older than her to make a new life in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Once in Harare, Maxine begins working as a helper for five women who become a large part of her life as she becomes a witness to their most intimate of moments and struggles. Through this emotional ecosystem, the women learn about and seek the love they feel they deserve.

Whether self-love or romantic love, each woman must find the courage to believe in and hold onto that love. Through Maxine’s narration, the intricacies of the relationship women share with their helpers are revealed – be it crutch or punching bag.

These relationships reveal the truth that women can discover themselves through their friendships with other women. This book is another addition to the new-look BlackBird Books fiction titles. Other titles with new covers include If You Keeping Digging by Keletso Mopai and Rémy Ngamije’s The Eternal Audience of One.


Dr T: A Guide To Sexual Health And Pleasure by Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng

Published by Pan Macmillan


The indomitable Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng – affectionately known as Dr T – is passionate about making sexual health and well-being services available to all, regardless of their sexual and gender identities and their economic status.

This book is filled with the specifics of sexual anatomy and health as well as advice and facts about pleasure and sexual rights.

Dr T, with her typically honest and warm approach, makes the reader feel comfortable reading about topics that are not always discussed freely, providing ALL the information that demystifies sex and sexuality in a way that is entertaining and enlightening. 

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng obtained her medical degree (MBChB) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban and now runs a women’s health clinic, DISA, in Johannesburg. Dr T says that the field of sexual and reproductive health chose her during her community service year when she worked in the West Rand clinics in Johannesburg.

Most of her patients were young women and, in true Dr T style, affirming of sexual pleasure, she made them feel comfortable to share their sexual health and relationship concerns.


Robert McBride: The Struggle Continues by Bryan Rostron 

Published by Tafelberg Publishers


It was 1987: the time of ‘total onslaught’. The trial of the MK unit that planted the Magoo's bomb on the Durban beachfront dominated the news but few knew the real facts of the brave young people who brought the armed struggle to KwaZulu­Natal.

This is the remarkable story of McBride and his comrades: the substation sabotage spree, rescuing a compatriot from hospital and smuggling him to Botswana, the devastating Why Not and Magoo's car bomb that killed three women, the dramatic trial and McBride’s 1 463 days on Death Row.

Now updated to include McBride’s controversial life after the end of apartheid, this is a thrilling tale of a young South African’s incredible courage, loyalty between friends and falling in love across the race barrier.

Today, the struggle continues as McBride fights against corruption and state capture.

Zephany by Joanne Jowell 

Published by Tafelberg Publishers


‘I saw my mommy walking to the court with a hoodie on and a scarf covering her face. She looked almost like someone that was poor. People were cursing at her . . . and that broke me. This is the woman who was there for me every day, making lunch for me and my friends when we came from school, and now here she is on television being called a criminal.’   

The kidnapping of baby Zephany Nurse from the cot beside her mother’s hospital bed made headline news. Desperate pleas from her parents to return her safely went unanswered. There was no trace of the baby. For seventeen years, on her birthday, the Nurses lit candles and hoped and prayed.  

Living not far away from the Nurses, 17-year-old Miché Solomon had just started Matric. She had a boyfriend. She had devoted parents.

She was thinking about the upcoming school dance and the dress her mother was going to make for her. She had no idea that a new girl at her school, who bore an uncanny resemblance to her, and a DNA test would shake her world to its foundations.  Miché is now 22.

This is her story – for the first time in her own words. Told with astonishing maturity, honesty and compassion, it is also a story of what it means to love and be loved, and of claiming your identity. 

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April 5 2020