We’ve put together a list of books that offer insight into South Africa’s cultural and political landscape through the imaginations of some of its most creative scholars.
If you really want to know more about the spirit of South Africa- you need to do more background reading. So, here are 10 of the best books about South Africa that you should read.
1. Long Walk To Freedom
Long Walk to Freedom is an autobiographical work written by South African President Nelson Mandela, and published in 1995 by Little Brown & Co. The book profiles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison
2. Cry, The Beloved Country
Cry, the Beloved Country is a novel by Alan Paton. It was first published in 1948. The American publisher Bennett Cerf remarked at that year’s meeting of the American Booksellers Association that there had been “only three novels published since the first of the year that were worth reading…. Cry, The Beloved Country, The Ides of March, and The Naked and the Dead.
3. The World That Made Mandela
Using a thousand images of past and present, The world that made Mandela moves from rural villages to the hectic metropolis, from District Six to Robben Island. Tracing his footsteps through sites of public struggle and private development, it illuminates many hidden spaces in our history, while casting new light on the familiar. South Africans will find this book a rich reflection of their cultural and political heritage, and visitors to the country will discover in it the faces of our past and our people.
4. A History Of South Africa
A leading scholar of South Africa provides a fresh and penetrating exploration of that country’s history, from the earliest known human inhabitation of the region to the present, focusing primarily on the experiences of its black inhabitants. For this third edition, Leonard Thompson adds two new chapters that describe the transfer of power and the new South Africa under the presidencies of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki
The New Century of South African Poetry presents the challenges of a new millennium. From a ‘post-apartheid’ perspective, South Africa rejoins the world as it seeks a home. Simultaneously, it searches the past for a shared though diverse inheritance. This is not an updated version of the earlier A Century of South African Poetry, but a major new anthology. Of the 450 poems only 16 are common to both books
6. Tomorrow is Another Country
The companion to Allister Sparks’s award-winning The Mind of South Africa, this book is an extraordinary account from South Africa’s premier journalist of the negotiating process that led to majority rule. Tomorrow is Another Country retells the story of the behind-the-scenes collaborations that started with a meeting between Kobie Coetsee, then minister of justice, and Nelson Mandela in 1985. By 1986, negotiations involved senior government officials, intelligence agents, and the African National Congress.
7. The Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902
Amongst the many books written about this war by both amateur and professional historians, the best known is Thomas Pakenham’s The Boer War, which has been a best-seller ever since it first appeared in 1979. Well-researched and engagingly written, Pakenham’s account has deserved its success, despite sniffy reviews from some academic historians.
8. Country Of My Skull
Country of My Skull is a 1998 nonfiction book by Antjie Krog primarily about the findings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
9. My Traitor’s Heart
My Traitor’s Heart is an autobiographical book by Rian Malan first published in 1990 on his return from exile. It is subtitled “South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe and His Conscience” or “Blood and Bad Dreams: A South African Exile Explores the Madness in His Country, His Tribe and Himself”. The book describes Malan’s experience of growing up in Apartheid-era South Africa in which he explores race relations through prominent murder cases.
10. A beautiful Place To Die
A Beautiful Place to Die is the debut novel of award-winning filmmaker Malla Nunn. Det. Emmanuel Cooper is the main character in the book. Chris Nashawaty describes the character as “an English WWII veteran who emigrated to Johannesburg in the early ’50s, a toxic time when the country’s racial divisions couldn’t have been more black-and-white. He’s a stranger in a strange land, not only because he doesn’t use skin color to determine guilt or innocence but also because he barely understands just how deep these fault lines go.