TTT: Requests to Santa

It’s Christmas! And unlike Halloween and Thanksgiving, we do celebrate this one in South Africa (what a relief)! Last year I made a wish list with The Broke and the Bookish, and I got two of those books. Here are my “Top Ten Books I wouldn’t mind Santa bringing me”. Pretty please, Santa! I should note that I don’t generally buy normal reading books, as I feel I’ll only read them once, in which case I could get them from the library. So a book’s gotta be pretty special for me to want to own a copy thereof.

1. A Bantu in my Bathroom by Eusebius McKaiser – this book has made headlines in South Africa this year. Written by one of the best debaters and public speakers in the country, it addresses the sticky issues of sexuality, racism, politics and patriotism in South Africa. From the blurb: Why are South Africans so uncomfortable with deep disagreement? Why do we lash out at people with opposing views without taking the time to engage logically with their arguments? […] He provokes us from our comfort zones and lures us into the debates that shape our opinions and our society. With surprising candour and intensely personal examples, McKaiser examines our deepest-felt prejudices and ingrained assumptions. Don’t expect to read this book and escape with your defences intact. I NEED THIS BOOK. 

2. The Secret Lives of Men and Women: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren – or any PostSecret book! I already have Extraordinary Confessions of Ordinary Lives, and it is definitely one of my most-loved books.

3. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor – Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. I work regularly with African Albino children, and I see the trouble they experience. So I am intrigued by this book of magical realism. I am worried that it might be perpetuating the African belief that Albino’s are cursed, but I’ve heard very good things about this book.

4. Teach Us To Live: Stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Diana Wickes Roose – a prescribed reading for my Illness Narratives Course which I’ll be doing for Semester at Sea. The hibakusha – survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – are asking us to hear their stories. These stories do not end “happily ever after.” Rather, they are threaded through with sorrow, with chaos and ugliness. But the time has come for us to try to listen. And in learning about their experiences, we can learn about ourselves and help shape our world with new hope for peace and understanding.

5. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman – also SAS prescribed reading. The story of a three-month-old Hmong child (a family of refugees from Laos) who is diagnosed with epilepsy, but “her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.”

6. On Being Ill by Virginia Wolf – again SAS prescribed reading. We cannot quote Shakespeare to describe a headache. We must, Woolf says, invent language to describe pain. And though illness enhances our perceptions, she observes that it reduces self-consciousness; it is “the great confessional.” Woolf discusses the cultural taboos associated with illness and explores how illness changes the way we read.

7. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan – The story of a relationship beautifully constructed in the form of a dictionary. This seems like a book to own.

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – I really want to read this book about the woman whose cells were used in a myriad of medical research programs, but died a poor Southern tobacco farmer. And it sounds like the kind of book I’d like to own.

9. But Will It Stand Up In Court by Zapiro – one of South Africa’s best and most controversial cartoonists, I would love to own one of his books.

10. Conversations with my Sons and Daughters by Mamphela Ramphele – A South African academic, businesswoman, medical doctor and anti-apartheid activist who is still extremely verbal today. An inter-generational set of conversations about the country of our dreams and the reality on the ground. It concludes with a section that focuses on the need for healing of our woundedness as individuals, families, communities and the nation. It includes findings from a study that show how unleashing the energy of poor people can make a significant difference in the choices they make as they become agents of change.


  1. TrishaDM says:

    So many of these sound good, although to be honest, I haven’t heard of most of them. Teach us to Live and the Virginia Wolf books sound especially enticing!
    Henrietta Lacks is definitely a “to own” book. I am so ad to have my own copy of it!
    Hope you acquire some of these books!

    1. Thanks Trish! If you end up reading any of these let me know 🙂

  2. annabelsmith says:

    Golly this is quite a heavy list! The book about Hiroshima and Nagasaki sounds harrowing but also amazing. It reminds me of one of the strong ideas of Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper, about holocaust survivors needing so badly to have their stories heard.

    Here’s my list; I’m afraid it looks terribly shallow compared to yours!

    1. No, you don’t look shallow at all! The Street Sweeper sounds something amazing, I’ll certainly check it out. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. you’re the second one to say Lover’s Dictionary. I think I have to check it out I really adored the one book by him that I’ve read

    My TTT

  4. MFA Mama says:

    The only one of these I’ve read is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and it is AMAZING! I follow Rebecca Skloot on Twitter and she’s rather amazing herself. You NEED that book! I’ll be reading a few of the others my own self…I really enjoy your book posts 🙂

    1. Thank you! I’m hoping I can read Henrietta sooooon. I’ll go check out Skloot on twitter now.

  5. Kayleigh says:

    I love the post secret books and own a couple myself, but I think they make the most wonderful gifts for others.

  6. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is an amazing book! So is Henrietta Lacks. I’m curious about A Bantu in My Bathroom…have not heard of that one before.

    1. Aaaaah now I really want to get those books 😀 A Bantu in my Bathroom is apparently available on Amazon, if you’re interested 🙂

  7. Yay – I love seeing books from other countries – and can’t wait to see what you think of them. Do you have a page with reviews of books set in South Africa (or written by South African authors)? Also – I think you’ll like Akata Witch (if you like magical realism). It’s a cute book and though it does talk about how she was sort of an outcast being an Albino, it focuses more on her strengths and her friendships. And … where is Zoo City on this list 🙂 Saw you left a comment on my blo saying you haven’t read it yet. I’m reading it now, and although some of the terminology is throwing me a bit, I’m enjoying it so far.

    1. I really hope that I manage to find Akata Witch somewhere, as I haven’t been able to source it yet.
      As for Zoo City, I just found a copy at the library today! So I’ll read it and if I love it a lot I’ll hopefully get a copy for myself. I’m sure some of the terminology might be a little confusing! I’m finishing the book I’m reading tonight and then hopefully I’ll start Zoo City 😀
      I don’t actually have a page with reviews of South African books, the best I have at the moment is this link which shows all posts that contain the words “books” and “South Africa”. A lot of them are TTTs, the reviews only start popping up round about pages 3 and 4. I’ll try to get something easier to navigate going though!

  8. Great list! All of these titles sound fantastic, such a great mix of topics 🙂

    Here’s my TTT for this week 🙂

  9. tight shoes says:

    No’s. 1; 7 & 10 sound very interesting! I saw No.10 in the airport yesterday for the first time. If it weren’t for the fact that my hand luggage was about to explode with all of my stuff, I’d have definitely picked it up.

    Will definitely be getting it on my way home. Hope Santa get takes heed of your list. 😉

  10. Colin says:

    A very interesting list. You’ve certainly selected books one would want to own and go back to time and again. I can’t say I’d heard of any of these before–but I have now! Thanks, Mariechen. 🙂

  11. elena says:

    This is such an interesting list! The Lover’s Dictionary is a slim but pretty lovely book. Love the cover.

  12. Oooh I want to read The Lover’s Dictionary. And The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is supposed to be amazing.

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