Holiday reads and gift guide: local is lit

The holiday season is here and what better way to spend it catching up on some reading? Whether you are looking for a book to unwind with or a gift for the book lover in your life, we've curated a list of some of 2021's bestsellers, award-winners and must-read books. 

Our edit includes the origin story of an icon who won the hearts of millions across the world, an ode to the complex strengths of South African women, deeply humane and thought-provoking narrations and a nuanced exploration our fragile country.

The Lost Language of the Soul

by Mandla Langa

Book cover for The Lost Language of the Soul

Joseph Mabaso is used to his father Sobhuza’s long absences from the family home in Lusaka...
Joseph has learned not to ask questions. But when Chanda, his mother, disappears without a trace, leaving him and his siblings alone, he knows that something is terribly wrong. Mandla Langa's The Lost Language of the Soul is a coming-of-age story of 14-year-old boy in search of identity and belonging. Joseph longs for a safe house that is truly safe, a language that understands all languages, and a place in his soul that feels like home. Written with Langa's trademark lyricism and powerful storytelling that engages the reader from the very first page.

When the Village Sleeps

by Dr Sindiwe Magona

Book cover for When the Village Sleeps

Named The Brittle Paper 50 Notable African Books of 2021 
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 is an ode to the complex strengths of South African women, and 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.

They Got to You Too

by Futhi Ntshingila

Book cover for They Got to You Too

They Got to You Too is the deeply humane and thought-provoking story of Hans van Rooyen, a former police general who finds himself being cared for in an old age home by the daughter of liberation struggle activists. At 80, he carries with him the memories of crimes he committed as an officer under the apartheid government. Having eluded the public confessions at the TRC for his time in the Border Wars, he retained his position in the democratic South Africa, serving as an institutional memory for a new generation of police recruits.
Zoe Zondi is tasked to care for the old man. Her gentle and compassionate nature prompts Hans to change his mind about going to the grave with all his secrets.

Scatterling of Africa

by Johnny Clegg

Book cover for Scatterling of Africa

An icon whose love and celebration for music, language, story, dance and culture won the hearts of millions across the world. 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.

These are not gentle people

by Andrew Harding

Book cover for These are not gentle people

Winner of the 2021 Sunday Times Literary Award (for Non-Fiction)
Set in the small farming community of Parys in the Free State, These are not gentle people traces the impact of one moment of collective fury on a fragile community – exposing lies, cover-ups, political meddling and betrayals and the culture of violence. A courtroom drama, a profound exploration of collective guilt and individual justice, and a fast-paced literary thriller. Award-winning foreign correspondent and author Andrew Harding traces the impact of one moment of collective barbarism on a fragile community – exposing lies, cover-ups, political meddling and betrayals, and revealing the inner lives of those involved with extraordinary clarity.

A Family Affair

by Sue Nyathi

Book cover for A Family Affair

Shortlisted for The University of Johannesburg Prize for South Africa Writing 2021
Meet the Mafus, a close-knit, traditional family with three daughters. As leaders of their church, The Kingdom of God, Pastor Abraham and his wife Phumla are guiding the community of Bulawayo in faith, while trying to keep the different branches of their family intact. The Mafus always present a united front, but as their personal lives unravel, devastating secrets are revealed that threaten to tear the family apart… For how long will they be able to hide behind the facade of a picture-perfect family?

A remarkable selection of homegrown stories.