South African Books To Read This Heritage Day

Because it’s Heritage Weekend, and I’m working tomorrow (the actual Heritage Day), and I haven’t posted anything bookish in a long time.

I continue to have a love affair with South African (and African continental) books. Below are some of my previous lists on the same topic. (This is not a ranked list. This is a list of more books I’ve discovered since my last list.) (Mh. I thought I had more than two of these…)

The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange

This book mixes South Africa, Brazil, seed banks, emotional baggage, and fynbos; it’s a lovely read.


Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma

This is my favorite book of the year so far. It’s an anthology on blackness womxnhood, queerness, and South Africa. It is incredible!!!!


The Lazarus Effect by H.J. Golakai

This thriller set in Cape Town was fantastic. I love the journalism angle and the bit of mysticism. And it felt pretty realistic. I’ve bought the sequel, but haven’t read it yet.

Period Pain by Kopano Matlwa

So I thought Coconut was intense… Period Pain is on a whole other level. It is uniquely South African, but also focusses a lot on junior doctors (Matlwa is a doctor, and actually wrote Coconut when she was a medical student). It’s intense, but I read it in a single sitting.


Not A Fairytale by Shaida Kazie Ali

A tale of two sisters growing up in the dying days of Apartheid, and shortly thereafter. The story of their diverging paths. This book is visceral, and is one of few South African books I have read with Muslim protagonists and culture.

The Girl Without A Sound by Buhle Ngaba

A picture book for South African girls… I adore it. And it’s available for free, legal digital download.

Other Lives by Andre Brink

A bit of a controversial book, if you look at the Goodreads reviews – these are three separate stories that open plenty cans of worms. They are well-written stories, and they make the reader consider many questions about race, sexuality, and identity. For that, I think it is a worthwhile read. You’ll want to discuss it with someone after you read it, though.

uMama: Recollections of South African Mothers and Grandmothers by Marion Keim

Exactly as the description says. As with most collections by various authors, some stories read better than others; but there is something for everyone in this collection.

Beauty’s Gift by Sindiwe Magona

One woman dies of AIDS-related disease – this tells the story of the aftermath for her group of friends. It is powerful! (Magona is better-known for her book Mother to Mother, about the Amy Biehl murder, but I haven’t read that.)

The Angina Monologues by Rosamund Kendal

Three young female doctors find themselves in rural KZN for community service. While it is “medical fiction”, there is enough cultural nuance to make it appealing to the general reader.

If I Stay Right Here by Chwayita Ngamlana

I went to the book launch of this recently! A novel about domestic abuse in a lesbian relationship. The writing is dark and gritty, and the book is one of a kind.

The A to Z of Amazing South African Women by Amber Nicolson and Jaxon Hsu

A picture book with short biographies of South African women, launched during Women’s Month (August). Lovely!



  1. I wish I could get access to more South African books over here in Canada!

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