62 books that transport you to South Africa

Updated version, February 2021.

South Africa is simply magnificent. So far, I drove 60,000 kilometres through Southern Africa. At times, I drove all the way to Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe (only to Victoria Falls). I start all my road trips in Cape Town. I have seen where Rooibos tea grows. I learned about the importance of biodiversity. I visited many of South Africa’s National Parks, and the last true wilderness of the country, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I fell in love with penguins. I got sandblasted by the infamous South Easter and got to know the tablecloth. I jumped into the icy cold Atlantic, if only briefly. 60,000 kilometres of adventure and joy. Do you wonder how I know how many kilometres I did so far? My secret is that I write it all down. There is still so much I would love to see. It feels as if I will never have the time to experience and see everything I dream about. If I can’t go there, I read. I go on a Verbatim Journey

 

A beaded springbok next to a stash of six books from South African authors. Verbatim Journey. 62 books that transport you to South Africa

 

Books – Reading - Education

Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I can only agree. The more we know the better. The more we read the better.

Nothing in this world is ever black and white. The more we educate ourselves the better life gets. You can have an opinion on something only when you gather enough information first. How else can you understand what is going on around you? When I visit a place, I like to read about it. Not only the papers and facts but also fiction, prose, and even cookbooks. I read and browse about everything and everyone to get the bigger picture. If I mix this information with the ones getting from talking to people in South Africa, I feel well prepared. I can build an opinion and can participate in a discussion. I can’t stand empty words thrown into thin air just to say something.

What are you about to discover on location in South Africa?

One day, I was at Daunton in London. You know this Edwardian bookstore on Marylebone High Street? It is one of the prettiest bookshops. I realized I have an awful lot of books about South Africa. There wasn’t a single book about South Africa in their travel section that I hadn’t on my bookshelf. I love reading. I love South Africa. After I got over my happy nerdy moment, I put together my reading list for South Africa. These books saved me from being ignorant on my travels to South Africa. Right. Not everyone who plans a two-week trip to South Africa will read all recommended books before heading out there. The list of books gives you a choice and you might get inspired. The books and stories definitely give you a good first taste of what you are about to discover on location in South Africa. In times when we cannot travel, we can always go on a Verbatim Journey to South Africa.

All books are tried and tested by me. Word of warning: If you read all of these and travel to South Africa you will lose your heart to this place forever.

Go on a verbatim journey to South Africa

 

Title

Author

1

491 Days

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

2

A City Imagined

Stephen Watson

3

A Dry White Season

André Brink

4

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg A City Novel

Harry Kalmer

5

Africa the legends live on

Jan Roderigues

6

Beethoven was one-sixteenth black

Nadine Gordimer

7

Before Mandela was Mandela

Eric Miyeni

8

Begging to be black

Antjie Kroog

9

Blood Safari

Deon Meyer

10

Born a Crime

Trevor Noah

11

Cape Town Stories

Madeleine Barnard

12

Childhood

Adrian Hadland

13

Cobra

Deon Meyer

14

Come Sunday

Isla Morley

15

Cry the beloved country

Alan Paton

16

Dark Star Safari

Paul Theroux

17

Dead before Dying

Deon Meyer

18

Disgrace

J.M. Coetzee

19

Down 2nd Avenue

Es'kia Mphahlele

20

Dreamforest

Dalene Matthee

21

Fiela's Child

Dalene Matthee

22

From Aardvark to Zebra. Secrets of African Wildlife

Peter Joyce

23

From Joburg to Jozi. Stories about Africa’s infamous city

Edited by Heidi Holland and Adam Roberts

24

Gang Town

Don Pinnock

25

Gem Squash Tokoloshe

Rachel Zadok

26

In the Heart of the Country

J.M. Coetzee

27

In the words of Nelson Mandela

A little pocketbook

28

Into Africa

Martin Dugard

29

July's People

Nadine Gordimer

30

Karoo Boy

Troy Blacklaws

31

Karoo Keepsakes

Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais

32

Karoo Kitchen

Sydda Essop

33

Khayelitsha

Steven Otter

34

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela

35

Long Way Down

Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman

36

Martha

Winnie Rust

37

Modern South African Stories

Stephen Gray (edited by)

38

My Son's Story

Nadine Gordimer

39

On the Other Side of Shame

Joanne Jowell

40

Panorama

Pieter Dyrk Uys

41

Philida

André Brink

42

Postcards from Soveto

Mokone Molete

43

Praying Mantis

André Brink

44

Recipes for Love and Murder – A Tannie Maria Mystery

Sally Andrew

45

Red Dust

Gillian Slovo

46

Return to Paradise

Breyten Breytenbach

47

Sala Kahle, District Six

Nomvuyo Ngcelwane

48

Sea Mountain, Fire City

Mike Nicol

49

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Gavin Bell

50

Sorry, not Sorry

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

51

South Africa. A traveler’s literary companion

Edited by Isabel Balseiro

52

South African Fact Book

Denise Slabbert, Pat Hopkins, Jabulile Bongiwe Ngwenya

53

The Covenant

James A Michener

54

The Day I Died

Thembelani Ngenelwa

55

The Healing Land

Rupert Isaacson

56

The Lost World of the Kalahari

Van der Post

57

The Madonna of Excelsior

Zakes Mda

58

The Only Black at a Dinner Party

Eric Miyeni

59

The Satanic Mechanic – A Tannie Maria Mystery

Sally Andrew

60

The State of Africa

Martin Meredith

61

The Wilderness Family

Kobie Kruger

62

Troublemakers

Margaret Renn, Anton Harber

 
A collection of South African books on a wooden floor

Make sure you are not responsible for the death of your local bookshop

Please buy all books from your local bookshop. No one wants to live in a town centre without independent shops. It is in our hands. Each one of us can vote with our purse. There is no need to support online giants when every one of us can support their own community. You won't find any links in this article to online shops. These book recommendations are purely made out of love for reading and travelling and understanding different cultures. Make sure you are not responsible for the death of your local bookshop. It sounds drastic, but let's face it, it is true. Support local.

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From Berlin with love