1. Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
This is such a necessary book because it gives you a brilliant overview of why the ANC was such a powerhouse of a party, and why Mandela was a great man (minus the ridiculous “ray ban” sculptures “in his honour. Cape Town, I’m looking at you). This is still the best book I have read about Mandela or the ANC. It is gripping, illuminating stuff.
2. Redi Tlabi: Endings and Beginnings
This book tells you something of the effect of apartheid on ordinary people. It is heartbreaking, triumphant and beautifully written. This book will change the way you see, which is what reading is all about.
3. K. Sello Duiker: Thirteen cents
Reading about a street kid trying to survive on Cape Town’s streets makes for uncomfortable reading, but the prose is electric and the author’s months on the streets as research makes this novel seem hyperreal. This is a read-in-one-sitting kind of book.
4. A Hidden Wholeness: Parker Palmer
Palmer is an educationalist and theologian who writes about what it means to live with integrity. In a world where learners and adults alike are forced to construct increasingly strange masks in order to be (what is considered to be) “successful”, Palmer’s book is a clarion call to be true to our souls and to save our communities in the process.
5. Margaret Atwood: The Maddaddam Trilogy
Because climate change is real; and no one describes (and satirises) the patriarchy, environmental movements, unscrupulous big business, the problematic ethics of massive gated communities and the beautiful complications of human relationships like Margaret Atwood can.
Obviously, there are numerous other books I would love to put on this list, but these are the ones I am thinking of today.
To my (numerous) readers: what would be your picks?
PS: Thanks to Prof Jonathan Jansen and Bruce Collins for this idea!