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A new year, a new pile of books to read…

Published in the Sunday Times

A new year, a new pile of books to read. Here are some highlights to look forward to in 2018, as compiled by Michele Magwood.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Headline)

Four siblings are told the exact date of their death by a psychic. The novel traces their lives over four decades in a story described as “a moving meditation on fate, faith, and the family ties that alternately hurt and heal”.

Under Glass by Claire Robertson (Umuzi)

The much-anticipated third novel from the award-winning author, set on a sugar estate in 19th-century Natal and chronicling the lives of the Chetwyn family. A deeply researched historical novel and an intriguing mystery, it is described as “a high-stakes narrative of deception and disguise”.

What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson (Little Brown)

A new essay collection from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist that examines the political climate and the mysteries of faith. She offers hope and a call to action.

Michael K by Nthikeng Mohlele (Picador Africa)

A brilliant take on JM Coetzee’s classic that explores the weight of history and of conscience, by one of South Africa’s most compelling young authors.

Knucklebone by NR Brodie (Pan Macmillan)

Nechama Brodie is a welcome new voice on the krimi scene. This is a disturbing story set in Johannesburg that wrangles sangomas, disillusioned cops and animal poaching.

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth Shakespeare)

Setting aside his popular detective Harry Hole, Nesbo takes on Shakespeare’s immortal story. “It’s a thriller about the struggle for power, set both in a gloomy, stormy crime noir-like setting and in a dark, paranoid human mind,” he says.

Heads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Simon & Schuster)

Timely and darkly funny stories examining black identity in a supposedly post-racial era.

A Spy in Time by Imraan Coovadia (Umuzi)

A new novel from the award-winning Coovadia always creates a buzz. Here he imagines a futuristic South Africa, where Johannesburg has survived the end of the world because of the mining tunnels that run beneath it.

The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin (HarperCollins)

Has a book ever been as eagerly awaited as this? The sixth novel in the fantasy series on which the TV show Game of Thrones is based is due for release this year. But then, it was due last year too.

Tsk-Tsk: The story of a child at large by Suzan Hackney (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

In a style reminiscent of Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Hackney writes of a childhood on the run, fighting to survive in a world of abandoned and abused children.

The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in His Head by John Hunt (Umuzi)

Surely one of the best titles of the year, it’s the story of a boy growing up in Hillbrow in the ’60s and his friendship with an eccentric homeless person.

The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton (Pan Macmillan)

The acclaimed Australian author leaves his familiar coastland settings and heads for the interior to the saltland next to the desert. A young runaway is on a desperate quest to find the only person who understands him. Described as “a rifle-shot of a novel – crisp, fast, shocking – an urgent masterpiece”.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson (Transworld)

The popular author’s new novel is based on the life of a female former Secret Service worker. Sure to be another runaway bestseller.

A Short History of Mozambique by Malyn Newitt (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

A comprehensive overview of 500 years of turbulent history, from its modern origins in the Indian Ocean trading system to the 15-year civil war that followed independence and its lingering after-effects.

Toy Boy by Leon van Nierop (Penguin)

Billed as an erotic coming-of-age tale and based on the life of a real person, this is the story of Tristan, a mysterious Johannesburg gigolo.

Homeland by Karin Brynard (Penguin)

The much-awaited English translation of Karin Brynard’s bestseller Tuisland. Captain Albertus Beeslaar is about to hand in his resignation when he is sent on one final assignment to Witdraai.

Brutal Legacy by Tracy Going (MF Books Joburg)

The shocking story of TV star Tracy Going’s abusive relationship that emerged when her battered face was splashed across the media in the late ’90s. She writes of her decline into depression and the healing she has finally found.

The Broken River Tent by Mphuthumi Ntabeni (Blackbird)

An entrancing novel that marries imagination with history, set in the time of Maqoma, the Xhosa chief at the forefront of fighting British colonialism in the Eastern Cape in the 19th century.

The Fatuous State Of Severity by Phumlani Pikoli (Pan Macmillan)

A fresh collection of short stories and illustrations that explore the experiences of a generation of young, urban South Africans coping with the tensions of social media, language and relationships of various kinds.

Born in Chains: the diary of an angry ‘born-free’ by Clinton Chauke (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

Debut author Chauke shows how his generation is still affected by apartheid policies but writes with wit and a unique sense of humour about his life. It’s a story of hope and perseverance, and of succeeding against all the odds.

The Golddiggers: A Novel by Sue Nyathi (Pan Macmillan)

The Zimbabwean author recounts the experiences of her fellow compatriots trying to make a life in Jozi. The stories of these desperate immigrants is both heart-breaking and heartwarming.

Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl (Penguin UK)

Subtitled “How to Make the Most of Uncomfortable Situations” New York Magazine’s Dahl offers a thoughtful, original take on what it really means to feel awkward, relating all sorts of mortifying moments and how to turn them to your advantage.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove Press)

One of the most talked-about books coming in 2018. Described as unsettling and powerful, it is an extraordinary debut novel about a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.”

The Madiba Appreciation Club: A Chef’s Story by Brett Ladds (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

A delightful memoir by Mandela’s former chef, spilling stories about meeting kings and queens, presidents, rock stars and even the Pope, as well as sharing Mandela’s favourite foods. – Michele Magwood, @michelemagwood

The Immortalists

Book details


Under Glass


What Are We Doing Here?



Heads of the Colored People

The Winds of Winter

The Shepherd's Hut



A Short History of Mozambique

The Broken River Tent




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