Book recommendations from the Pan Macmillan team

We asked the Pan Macmillan team to share books they'd recommend. The recommendations cater for book lovers who enjoy different genres across all ages.

23/12/2021
16 minutes to read
Book recommends by Pan's team

Scroll down to find your next read.


Lara Cohen

Children's Books Strategist
You Are a Champion by  Marcus Rashford

My standout non-fiction children's book for 2021 is Marcus Rashford's You Are a Champion. My ten-year-old son is a huge fan and I wanted to know more about the person behind the campaigns to feed children and increase access to books. You Are a Champion is a wonderful book. It's an inspiring and practical guide on how to become your best self. It's full of tips, ideas and real life stories that teach children how to set goals, deal with adversity, value supportive relationships and gain confidence. I really enjoyed the accessible and chatty style of writing. I am now a huge Marcus Rashford fan too!

You Are a Champion

by Marcus Rashford

Book cover for You Are a Champion

Written with journalist Carl Anka, You are Champion is packed full of stories from Rashford’s own life, brilliant advice and top-tips from performance psychologist Katie Warriner. It will show you how to be the very BEST that you can be.


Marianne van Loggerenberg

Sales Representative & Product Manager: Macmillan Children's Books and Walker Books
Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City by Rob Biddulph
My absolute favourite title of 2021 for 9 - 90 year-olds, is Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City, written and illustrated by the award winning author/illustrator Rob Biddulph.

Some legends are born, some are drawn...
Drawing feels like magic to Peanut Jones. But art can't fix her problems. Her dad has gone missing, and she's stuck in a boring new school. Until the day she finds a unique pencil turbo-charged with special powers. Suddenly she's pulled into a world packed with more colour, creativity, excitement and danger than she could ever have imagined. And maybe, just maybe, she might find out what happened to her dad. I love this book, because it made me smile from the beginning when I came to know of its written and illustrated existence. The illustrations compliment the text and I really felt as if I was inside the story experiencing what each character experienced. Reading it was a delightful and meaningful experience. The story brings alive a celebration of mystery, art, friendship and the incredible power of creativity.

Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City

by Rob Biddulph

Book cover for Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City

Superstar, author and illustrator Rob Biddulph dazzles in Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City, the first title in an adventure series for boys and girls of 8+. Fizzing with magic, danger, friendship and art, this exciting, funny, middle-grade debut is from the bestselling creative genius behind #DrawWithRob.


Magdaleen Snyman
Associate Editor and Communications: Children’s Books
The Bookshop in the Clouds by Jaco Jacobs
My recommendation for summer reading is a kids book (obviously).
This book is for anyone who believes that bookstores are magical places. Head in the Clouds looks like any other secondhand bookshop but the main character, Ella, soon discovers that a bookshop is a magical place where wonderful (and weird) things can happen to you. This book is perfect for summer reading because it takes the reader on a fun and thrilling adventure. The illustrations by Nadia du Plessis add another dimension to the story and are so cute and funny. Young chapter book readers will be inspired to dive into more amazing books after they close this one. 

The Bookshop in the Clouds

by Jaco Jacobs

Book cover for The Bookshop in the Clouds

Welcome to Head In The Clouds. It’s Ella’s favourite shop on earth. A place full of magic, where wonderful things can happen to you. A place where you can buy second-hand books smelling of mystery and adventure and daydreams (and a teeny, tiny bit of sweaty socks, to be completely honest). Between the shelves awaits an adventure that will change Ella’s life forever ... if she’s brave enough.


Rhulani Netshivhera
Children’s Product Assistant 
Complications by Danielle Steel

Complications is my 33rd book by Danielle Steel and once again, she did not disappoint. Set in Paris, I really enjoyed the story, the romance and the complications throughout the book.

Kissing Emma  by Shappi Khorsandi
Kissing Emma is one of the most powerful YA novels I’ve ever read. It explores some very difficult subjects such as sexual assault and domestic abuse. A story that all teenage girls (and even women) can learn something from. Shappi Khorsandi takes each difficult subject and handles it perfectly.

Complications

by Danielle Steel

Book cover for Complications

A visit to remember...
Life is full of complications, and for some of the guests and staff of the Louis XVI, one of Paris’s most famous luxury hotels, it was a year they’d never forget. Among the guests are a distinguished art consultant recovering from a difficult divorce; a middle-aged doctor who receives the news that he has a terminal illness; a senior politician who is being blackmailed; and a couple who think they’ve finally found happiness only to find it taken away from them in one terrifying incident.

Kissing Emma

by Shappi Khorsandi

Book cover for Kissing Emma

From widely acclaimed comedian and author, Shappi Khorsandi, comes a modern fable about the rise and fall of a beautiful, but vulnerable, young woman in a world obsessed with money, status and looks.
Kissing Emma is inspired by the real life and untold story of Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson's mistress. But Shappi Khorsandi's modern Emma is going to get the happy ending her namesake never did - and stick two fingers up at the men who dare to take advantage of young women while she's doing it.


Frances Thorndike
Cape Town Sales Representative
To Paradise
by Hanya Yanagihara
The People in the Trees was the author's first book, released in South Africa after the huge success of her second book, A Little Life. Please do not be put off by the sales of her first book, a great many had already read it when it hit shelves here. Only one author makes me bawl my eyes out, and she succeeds again with her third, and I think her best book. This novel follows three parallel narratives: a utopian New York of 1833 where there are no norms and no judgment; a 1993 New York of secret identities and disease; and a futuristic New York (2093) of pandemics and isolation. The story lines never fail, and the characters will make your heart ache.
** The book releases in 2022

The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont
This is a fictionalised and romanticised historical novel that offers a take on what happens when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926. Gone Girl was also loosely based on the same premise.

From various sources:
Christie was 36 at the time and had already published several detective novels, including The Secret Adversary and The Murder on the Links. Her disappearance merited banner headlines the world over, making the front page of The Times on Dec.6.1926

Agatha Christie never spoke about the missing eleven days of her life and over the years there has been much speculation about what really happened between 3 and 14 December 1926. Her husband said that she'd suffered a total memory loss as a result of the car crash.

I think Mrs. Christie would find the writing too stirring, but the plot is certainly intriguing and the pacing is excellent. I read the whole thing in two nights.
** The book releases in 2022

To Paradise

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for To Paradise

From the author of the modern classic A Little Life, a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia. To Paradise is a fin-de-siecle novel of marvellous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara’s understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love – partners, lovers, children, friends, family and even our fellow citizens – and the pain that ensues when we cannot.

The Christie Affair

by Nina de Gramont

Book cover for The Christie Affair

The Christie Affair is a stunning novel which reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 that captivated the world.


Tazmin Morgan 
Sales and Marketing Coordinator 
Luster by Raven Leilani
Whenever I see shout quotes that describe a novel as ‘razor sharp’ I tend to read over that line and never remember it as I dive my way into a novel, but with Luster, Raven Leilani’s writing is so bitingly honest and so outrageous and vulgar in some parts that you cannot help and pause after a few paragraphs and utter and audible, “what??” That for me is when a book jumps off it’s pages and into your room, when it forces you to reckon with what you’ve read, cutting through the into the real world you inhabit like a sharp blade.

Ravens craft Eddie, her main protagonist who seems to be crashing from one disaster to the next in her life as a 20-something black woman working in publishing, a world that seems to pay more attention to her cultural capital than her unrealised potential. This theme of ‘invisibility’ throughout all sectors of Eddie’s life is what renders her a wrecking ball to herself, choosing the absurd options which are sometimes the only option available because of the situations she has managed to climb into. She meets Eric, a middle-aged archivist, with a family of his own and in an ‘open’ marriage it seems. It is when she dabbles in relations with Eric that she flies too close to the sun of destruction and chaos ensues with her somehow living with Eric and his family as she has nowhere else to go. You want to scream at her to choose another option, ANYTHING else other than what she sets out to do and it will drive you mad as a reader at various points. You are constantly tossed between rooting for her and also not wanting her to get through it because ‘she chose what she chose.’

But on a deeper level, at the crux of this novel, lies the interrogation into the theory of ‘choice’ in the context of circumstance. Yes, I may have wanted Eddie to make better choices for her life and her well-being but Luster asks you how much choice do you think someone has in desperate situations? We may have a whole host of options if we see ourselves in similar situations, whereas someone may just be a victim of their circumstance that makes them look like an intentional wrecking ball. And even then, they deserve our kindness, especially then. And Eddie finds that is the most unconventional character.

Luster is a novel that will have you meditating on society at large, the structure of the family and where modern society has led us. It is hilarious and deeply thought-provoking in the best ways. Luster is a read that will land up on your top read books for 2021, if you let Eddie in.   

Luster

by Raven Leilani

Book cover for Luster

Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2021
Longlisted for the Women's Prize For Fiction 2021
One of Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2020
Razor-sharp, provocatively page-turning and surprisingly tender, Luster is a painfully funny coming-of-age story about what it means to be young now, told by a fresh new voice.

 
Veronica Napier
Senior Publicist 
Empire of Pain
by Patrick Radden Keefe 
This is my best non-fiction read of the year. I picked it up on a Friday evening, intending to skim it… I finished all of it (over 450 odd pages) by Sunday having read every word. That old cliché about a book you cannot put down. It’s a riveting story, filled with  ruthless and scheming characters who could inhabit a Stephen King novel. But sadly they are rich and influential and very real. Brilliantly researched, it tells the devastating story of the destruction and heartbreak caused by the prescription painkiller Oxycontin and how a massive pharmaceutical company became a drug pusher. This caused over half a million deaths in the USA- this extraordinary story is angry, not flinching from telling the stories of those who lost children, family and friends to the meticulously planned campaign to make anyone in pain addicted to Oxycontin.

When The Village Sleeps by Sindiwe Magona
Grounded in the very harsh realities of South Africa’s breaking social structures, the beauty of the prose and poetry is in harsh contrast to the brutality of the story. A story of several generations of women, of cities and villages, of loss of tradition and dignity and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit, courage and living gently in one’s environment. A beautifully crafted, sad and joyful book. Not to be missed!

Empire of Pain

by Patrick Radden Keefe

Book cover for Empire of Pain

Winner of the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction
A Barack Obama 2021 Summer reading list choice
Shortlisted for the 2021 Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
The gripping and shocking story of three generations of the Sackler family and their roles in the stories of Valium, Oxycontin and the opioid crisis. In this masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, award-winning journalist and host of the Wind of Change podcast Patrick Radden Keefe exhaustively documents the jaw-dropping and ferociously compelling reality... 

When the Village Sleeps

by Dr Sindiwe Magona

Book cover for When the Village Sleeps

When the Village Sleeps is a visionary novel about what the loss of identity and dignity do to a people afflicted by decades of brokenness. Told through the lives and spirits of four generations of amaTolo women, including The Old, who speak wisdom with ever-increasing urgency, it moves between the bustling township setting of Kwanele and the different rhythms of rural village life. It recalls the sweeping sagas of the great A.C. Jordan and the Dhlomo brothers and invokes the poetry of S.E.K. Mqhayi, while boldly exploring urgent and contemporary issues. An ode to the complex strengths of South African women, When the Village Sleeps is also a powerful call to respect the earth that nurtures human life, and to live in self-sufficiency and harmony with the environment and each other.


Deborah Miloa
Digital Communications Coordinator

The Girl with 21 Questions (Intombazanyana enemibuzo engu-21) by Boitumelo Mothupi
I loved the illustrations by Subi Bosa. The girl with 21 questions, Mathelane is a bright and brilliant girl. She reminds me so much of my nieces and the many questions they ask me every day. I’m always in awe of children, their imagination and wonder-filled nature. The Girl with 21-Questions is a beautiful and funny story of a girl who loved asking questions and when everyone around her grew tired of all her questions, she turned to books for the answers. It’s an empowering story and a reminder of the importance of books. And the beauty of children and their sense of adventure.

Soul Sisters by Lesley Lokko
A perfect book club read! I say this because Soul Sisters is not one of those books you put away after you finish reading it. The story stayed with me for a while. There’s one particular revelation in the story that I couldn’t stop thinking about until I discussed it with my colleagues who read the book. It is a multi-generational tale of love, race, power and secrets which centers on the lifelong friendship between two women – themes that make for a complex but compelling read. Set against a political backdrop, the story spans over decades between two continents, offering a historical glimpse into the past and a mirror to present-day. Lokko writes time and geography perfectly with vivid-detail, and her characters are well crafted. I loved the rare and beautiful bond between the two main protagonists, Jen McFadden and Kwemisa Mashabane – their friendship was enduring, making it a true soul sisterhood. 

The Girl with 21 Questions

by Boitumelo Mothupi

Book cover for The Girl with 21 Questions

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved asking questions. Why? Where? When? How? What? Who? When everyone grew sick and tired of all her questions, the girl decided to search for the answers to all her questions elsewhere – in books! And before long she started telling her own stories…
An empowering story about the power of books and stories. Also available in Setswana and Afrikaans.

Soul Sisters

by Lesley Lokko

Book cover for Soul Sisters

Jen McFadden and Kwemisa Mashabane have lived like sisters, bound by ties of friendship and by their shared family history. In London, the friends meet South African politician Solam Matsunyane and both are swept off their feet. Solam is looking for a wife to help further his political career. The lifelong bond between Kemi and Jen is threatened by Solam's impending choice, and by the explosive secrets of their own shared past. Soul Sisters by Lesley Lokko is a rich, intergenerational tale of love, race, power and secrets which centres on the lifelong friendship between two women: Scottish Jen McFadden and South African-born uKwemisa Mashabane, known to her friends as Kemi.


Andrea Nattrass
Publisher 
Scatterling of Africa
 by Johnny Clegg
In Scatterling of Africa, a much-loved music icon shares his origin story and his thoughts on identity and belonging. Johnny Clegg's voice echoes from the pages of this memoir, with stories and anecdotes that make his life and the history of the country come alive.

Never Tell a Lie by Gail Schimmel
A page-turner Never Tell a Lie, which will keep you completely entertained as you follow the twists and turns of friendships and the undercurrents that swirl beneath the surface.

Scatterling of Africa

by Johnny Clegg

Book cover for Scatterling of Africa

Scatterling of Africa is that origin story, as Johnny Clegg wrote it and wanted it told. It is the story of how the son of an unconventional mother, grandson of Jewish immigrants, came to realise that identity can be a choice, and home is a place you leave and return to as surely as the seasons change.

Never Tell a Lie

by Gail Schimmel

Book cover for Never Tell a Lie

After a tumultuous marriage, Mary Wilson is happy in her uncomplicated life, focusing on her 12-year-old son. She has always been content with her little family but then she finds an old postcard that throws her past into question...
From the author of The Accident and Two Months comes the story of a whirlwind friendship – and the dark secrets lurking beneath it.


Additional books recommended by our team and on their holiday's reading list

Never

by Ken Follett

Book cover for Never

Visionary in scale and expertly researched, Never is a thriller that imagines an unthinkable global disaster. A stolen US army drone. A shrinking oasis in the Sahara Desert. A secret stash of deadly chemicals. Each is a threat to the delicate stability of global diplomatic relations, but when mishandled can create a catastrophic and international chain reaction that edges our world closer and closer to all-out war. An undercover spy in the Middle East, a Chinese spymaster and a weary US president must all work tirelessly and to their utmost limits to stop the worst from happening.
The only question is, in a game of brinksmanship can the inevitable ever be stopped?

In Black and White

by Anant Singh

Book cover for In Black and White

Having produced more than 100 films in over four decades from the mid-1980s to the present, Anant Singh is recognised as South Africa’s pre-eminent film producer. Meet the man behind the camera In Black and White. His extraordinary memoir is a story of professional relationships and of friendships. It is a testament to determination, courage and perseverance to speak up and speak out through the powerful medium of film.

State of Terror

by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Book cover for State of Terror

From the #1 bestselling authors Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny comes a novel of unsurpassed thrills and incomparable insider expertise - State of Terror.
State of Terror follows a novice Secretary of State who has joined the administration of her rival, a president inaugurated after four years of American leadership that shrank from the world stage. A series of terrorist attacks throws the global order into disarray, and the secretary is tasked with assembling a team to unravel the deadly conspiracy, a scheme carefully designed to take advantage of an American government dangerously out of touch and out of power in the places where it counts the most. This high-stakes thriller of international intrigue features behind-the-scenes global drama informed by details only an insider could know.


Listen to Pan Macmillan South Africa's MD, Terry Morris in conversation with
Radio 702's Weekend Breakfast, Refiloe Mpakanyane. They chat about some of Pan’s recent releases and notable, award-winning African books and authors of 2021:



Our team recorded a fun author Q&A with Gail Schimmel. Get to know Schimmel, watch our Q&A (the home edit) as she answers questions about her writing, family and more questions! Plus, get to meet her ancient cat and naughty (but cute dogs):



Tsholofelo Matlhadji, Pan Macmillan SA Intern

Blog compiled by Tsholofelo Matlhadji
Intern and University of Pretoria’s Publishing (Honours)