Top Ten Books I would recommend to someone who doesn’t read South African literature

This week’s meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish states: Top Ten Books I’d Recommend To Someone Who Doesn’t Read X. In my case, South African Authors. I consider myself to be a global citizen, but at the same time I remain a patriot and ever-proud of my country. We have excellent authors, have a look!

1. Shades by Marguerite Poland is an excellent historical novel (with a dose of rebellion and romance) set in my home province. It is excellently crafted.

2. Breathing Space by Marita van der Vyver – an intense novel set in 1985 where a versatile group of young adults meet for a weekend away. The novel (originally written in Afrikaans) explores the social constraints on young adults in the violent era shortly before the fall of Apartheid.

3. Life and Soul by Karina Turok is a photographic coffee-table book interviewing women who have shaped South Africa with candour and brilliance – from the controversial rocker Karen Zoid to the late Mama Sisulu.

4. Three Letter Plague by Jonny Steinberg was reviewed by me a while ago. It is a difficult read, but a must for anyone wishing to grasp the intricacies of politics, poverty, public healthcare and HIV in South Africa (and other similar countries).

5. Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer – Meyer is probably South Africa’s best writer of thrillers. He writes well and with insight, but don’t let the content scare you from visiting South Africa. All that is required to survive here is a little common sense.

6. Yes, I am! Writing by South African Gay Men edited by Robin Malan and Ashraf Johaardien – touching and often hilarious tales about being gay in South Africa, both before and after 1994. One of my personal favourites.

7. Fools, Bells and the Habit of Eating: Three Satires by Zakes Mda – another legendary writer that should not be missed.

8. A Change of Tongue by Antjie Krog discusses the themes of identity, belonging and personal discovery as an Afrikaans white female more then ten years after democracy. Beautiful imagery and of value to all groups of people.

9. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – set during World War II, a young boy seeks answers from two very different role models. A true discovery of self.

10. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela – because this is Mandela, and no matter who or where you are, he has inevitably had some impact on your life whether you know it or not. As books go it is a bit long and dry, but as a memoir it is worthwhile.


  1. Thank you so much for this list. I often feel sad because we do not read more books that are written outside the boundaries of our own little countries. It is wonderful to hear about the good books published in other places.

    Here is my Top Ten. I hope you will stop by!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but it wouldn’t go through. I think it may be my school’s internet acting up as it usually does.

      I’m with you on reading books from other countries. I recently read a blog where the author committed to reading an author by every country participating in the olympic games. I thought it an excellent idea! Only South Africa doesn’t always get too many novels from smallish countries.

  2. Great list! I’m currently reading Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People for the Around the World in 12 Books challenge – January is South Africa (it was one I’d had on my shelf for a few years), but other than JM Coetzee I haven’t read many South African writers.

    I’m glad you left a link in the comments, or I wouldn’t have found your list – I can’t see the links this week for some reason. Here’s my list.

    1. Gordimer is an excellent contribution to literature, I’m glad you read her. And J.M. Coetzee too, it actually slipped my mind to put him on this list.
      Thanks for visiting, hope to see you soon 🙂

  3. I’ve read very little in this particular area, so thanks SO MUCH for such a wonderful list! It’s my first time to your blog, and I’m really enjoying myself. 😀

    1. You’re most welcome 🙂 It’s great to provide some enjoyment.

  4. Shanyn says:

    Wow, this is an EXCELLENT list! Maybe the best I have come across in my clicking of the TTT posts – such a great topic. I haven’t read any as I pretty much exclusively read YA, but I will be bookmarking to use this list in the future for recommendations!

    1. Thank you, I definitely consider that a huge compliment. I hope you will find a spot to read some, I know how addictive YA can be (I love it too). I can’t think of any good South African YA right now, but if I remember I’ll let you know.

  5. What a wonderful list.

    I had the pleasure of visiting South Africa several years ago, and I absolutely loved it. It’s weird to be “homesick” for a place that’s not your home, but that’s kind of how I feel about SA.

    That being said, I’ve never picked up any South African literature, and feel like your list would be a great jumping off point. Thanks!

    Laura @ The Traveling Owl

    1. So good to meet someone who has visited my country 🙂 I get that from exchange students who visit us too; feeling homesick for a foreign place. It has that effect sometimes, I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

      When you start reading SA-literature, I hope you will enjoy it!

  6. rubybastille says:

    Great list! It’s always interesting to read outside your borders – I’ve read a handful of African books but I think the only South African author I’ve read is JM Coetzee.

    You mentioned a blogger reading a book from every country in the Olympics – the ladies at Nisaba Be Praised are attempting something similar:

    1. J.M. Coetzee is an excellent starting point (or finishing point, or midpoint).
      Thanks a lot for the link!

  7. I’ve become a huge Deon Meyer fan in the last couple of months.Thirteen Hours is actually next on my list of books by him to read.

    I’m definitely going to have to check out some other authors on your list. South Africa and some of its neighbouring countries are becoming some of my favourite settings.

    1. Yay, I’m super glad you enjoy his books (and settings)
      🙂 Enjoy!

  8. Oh, great topic!! I THINK Thirteen Hours is the only one I’ve remotely heard of… great list! 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    Michele | Just a Lil Lost

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