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Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

The 2018 Man Booker Prize shortlist has been announced!

The six authors shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize have been announced!

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is recognised as the leading prize for high quality literary fiction written in English.

This year’s list features four female writers, among which the 27-year-old British debut novelist Daisy Johnson – the youngest writer ever to be in reckoning for this £50,000 literary award.

The six authors, of which three are from the UK, two American and one Canadian, vying for this esteemed award are as follows:

Anna Burns (UK) for Milkman

Esi Edugyan (Canada) for Washington Black

Daisy Johnson (UK) for Everything Under

Rachel Kushner (US) for The Mars Room

Richard Powers (US) for The Overstory

Robin Robertson (UK) for The Long Take

The winner will be announced on Tuesday 16th October in London’s Guildhall.

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Book Bites: 16 September

Published in the Sunday Times

PontiPonti ***
Sharlene Teo, Picador, R285

In 2003, Szu Min lives shyly in the shadow of her beautiful mother Amisa Tan, a former B-movie actress and her Aunt Yunxi, who works as a medium. In 2020 Szu’s childhood friend Circe is put in charge of the media blitz for the remake of the 1970s horror film Ponti, in which Amisa plays the leading role. This drives Circe to reconsider her friendship with Szu Min and its bitter end. Split between several decades as well as Circe, Szu and Amisa’s perspectives, Ponti is a quietly tragic and slow-moving read exploring grief, abandonment and broken loyalties in Singapore. Though Teo’s debut is atmospheric in language and setting, it fails to satisfy in its resolution. Efemia Chela @efemiachela

A Double LifeA Double Life *****
Flynn Berry, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, R285

Lord Lucan’s disappearance in 1974 still fascinates true-crime aficionados. Berry’s story is told from the point of view of Claire, a London GP who has lived under a new name since her father vanished. Names and dates have been changed in this fictionalised tale but the crime in the novel mirrors the real case: in his absence a court found Lord Lucan guilty of murdering a servant. In this version eight-year-old Claire finds the body of her au pair and still bears the emotional scars. Berry flips between past and present as Claire pursues the only course of action that will free her from her father’s shadow. Sue de Groot @deGrootS1

The Chalk ManThe Chalk Man ****
CJ Tudor, Penguin, R175

If Stephen King and the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things) had a British love child, her name would be CJ Tudor. The Chalk Man is spine-tingling and deliciously macabre; Tudor spins a tight yarn with remarkable constraint. A gang of pre-teens ride their bikes around town causing mischief when one day they stumble upon a body in the woods. There’s a strange new teacher who coaxes them into playing with chalk, and every time someone dies, creepy chalk men appear near the murder scene. Nothing is as it seems, and everyone seems to be nursing a secret. Right up to the very last page, The Chalk Man thrills and simultaneously terrifies. Anna Stroud @annawriter_

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The shortlists for the 2017 UJ Prize have been announced!

Via the University of Johannesburg

The shortlists for the 2017 University of Johannesburg Prizes for South African writing have been announced.

The prizes are not linked to a specific literary genre. This may make the evaluation more challenging in the sense that a volume of poetry, a novel and a biographical work must be measured against one another, but the idea is to open the prize to as many forms of creative writing as possible.

Approximately 60 works were submitted this year, from which the following books were selected for the shortlist:

Main Prize:

Dancing the Death Drill by Fred Khumalo

Bird-Monk Seding by Lesego Rampolokeng

New Times by Rehana Rossouw

The Inside-Out Man by Fred Strydom

Debut Prize:

Grace by Barbara Boswell

Killing Karoline by Sara-Jayne King

The main prize is R75 000.

The debut prize is R35 000.

A formal prize-giving ceremony will be held at a function later in the year.

The adjudication panel comprised the following judges:

Sikhumbuzo Mngadi (UJ)

Ronit Frenkel (UJ)

Danyela Demir (UJ)

Rebecca Fasselt (UP)

Bridget Grogan (UJ)

Nyasha Mboti (UJ)

Thabo Tsehloane (UJ)

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Jozi creatives, are you ready? Book Dash applications are open!

Calling all creatives in the City of Gold!

Book Dash is looking for volunteers to donate 12 hours of their writing wisdom, illustration ingenuity, design dexterity, or editing excellence to get together and create children’s books in any and all eleven official languages!

By applying for this Book Dash (due to take place on Saturday the 27th of October at Streetlight Schools in Jeppestown), you’ll help realise Book Dash’s mission to ensure that every child in the country owns 100 books by the age of five.

If you’re passionate about children’s literacy and would prefer to take a behind-the-scenes stance, why not apply to help out as a photographer, videographer, art director, or social media storyteller?

Click here for all the deets, apply before the 20th of September, and get the nation reading!

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Book Bites: 9 September

Published in the Sunday Times

The Killing HabitThe Killing Habit
Mark Billingham, Little Brown, R300

If you are hurrying through an airport bookshop looking for something to read on a flight, you can pick up the latest Mark Billingham and know he will deliver. Especially if it is one of the DI Tom Thorne series. In this, Thorne is assigned to solving a series of cat killings. At first he is incredulous – he is a homicide detective after all – but agrees with the received wisdom that often the careers of serial killers begin with torturing animals. If this person can be stopped at this stage it will prevent murders. He and colleague DI Nicola Tanner find themselves stumbling into a labyrinth that spreads far beyond the dead animals. Expertly plotted and satisfyingly twisting, it’s interesting to note that the book is inspired by the real-life case of the Croydon Cat Killer, who is still at large. Michele Magwood @michelemagwood

Watching You
Watching You
Lisa Jewell, Century, R290

Joey returns to the UK from Ibiza with new husband, Alfie, after a rave-fuelled work stint that ended in a whirlwind wedding. Now they’re back in a small town in Bristol, living with Joey’s brother and pregnant sister-in-law. Joey’s life takes on meaning when she develops a crush on her neighbour, Tom, principal of the local school. But she’s not the only one; his pupils are also gaga over him. There are voyeurs aplenty in this book. Tom’s teenage son watches girls through binoculars from his bedroom window. Then there’s the delusional mother of one of Tom’s pupils who spends nights in the bushes watching his house. Amid all this there’s a murder, a stabbing, and dark family secrets. Not the most convincing read, although the final twist is a shocking surprise. Gabriella Bekes @Gabrikwa

A Station on the Path to Somewhere BetterA Station on the Path to Somewhere Better
Benjamin Wood, Simon & Schuster, R275

Benjamin Wood is one of the hottest young British novelists. His gripping third book is about a father-and-son road trip – a week of aching unease that climaxes in horror. Daniel Hardesty, 12, lives with his mother; his parents have split up. His father, Francis, takes him on a jaunt to visit a TV studio. Francis is a masterly creation; mercurial, charming – and a monster poised on a knife edge. We see him through the boy’s eyes, and know something bad is going to happen. When it does, it’s worse than anything we expected. The tale unfolds over the next 20 years, as the sins of the father are visited on his damaged son. Tom Learmont

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Deadline for 2018 Short Story Day Africa Prize extended

Via Short Story Day Africa

The deadline for the 2018 Short Story Day Africa Prize anthology, themed ‘Hotel Africa’, has been extended.

Entrants have until October 31st to submit their stories.

Visit their website for more information on the theme and entry details!

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Book Bites: 26 August

Published in the Sunday Times

Perfect Death *****
Helen Fields, HarperCollins, R215

A naked girl freezes to death on a wintry hillside, but her killer doesn’t enjoy the actual murder. He is sustained by the grief of those who loved the victim. Readers are soon inside the head of the serial killer, and stay a step ahead of Edinburgh cop Luc Callanach. He has complex feelings for Detective Chief Inspector Ava Turner. She’s equally disturbed by the sexual tension, but both keep their guard up as deaths multiply, and police corruption emerges. The tale accelerates to a violent climax and a twist ending. It weaves a bright new thread into the school of “tartan noir” police procedurals and follows two bestsellers: Perfect Remains and Perfect Prey. Tom Learmont

The Tall Man **
Phoebe Locke, Headline, R265

According to a Daily Express quote on the jacket, Locke’s novel is the “must-read summer chiller”. But the only chills I felt while reading this “thriller” was that of Joburg’s winter. The premise is simple: in the early ’90s three girls pledge their devotion to a mysterious figure known as (yes, you guessed it) the Tall Man. This man (who is lank tall. Like, we get it) promises to make these girls “special”. Fast-forward a few decades where the disappearance of a young mother (in 2000) and a brutal murder possibly committed by a teenage girl (in 2018) might just be linked to that one fateful night in an English forest in 1990. The plot drags and Locke’s incessant references to the Tall Man’s height and pseudo-supernatural allusions make this a tiring and confusing read. Mila de Villiers @mila_se_kind

The Anomaly ****
Michael Rutger, Bonnier, R265

Nolan Moore, host of a struggling online reality show investigating archaeological anomalies, leads his crew to a mythical cavern deep in the Grand Canyon, using a century-old newspaper clipping as his guide. In a scenario horror fans know all too well, once Nolan and co are deep inside the cave, rejoicing at their scoop, it all begins to go pear-shaped. Within hours, they are trapped deep under the earth with almost no food, light or water. Then they realise they are not alone … And the plot deteriorates into absurdity – with murders, monsters, and betrayals. But the writing is superb; sharp, witty and intelligent, with refreshingly good grammar. Think one of the more ludicrous episodes of the X-Files, but scripted by Oscar Wilde. Aubrey Paton

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Story Bosso 2018: whether your hero is Mama Winnie, or your own mama, join Nal’ibali in using the transformative power of storytelling to build a prosperous SA for us all

Via Nal’ibali

Open the image in a new tab to print and play!

This literacy and heritage month, Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign – in collaboration with the South African office of the United Nations, will be using its annual multilingual storytelling contest, Story Bosso, to nurture a new generation of courageous and literate children.

Launching on Friday, 31 August, and running for the month of September, this year’s contest has ‘South African Heroes’ as its theme.

“By remembering and telling the stories of our heroes, we hope to inspire greatness in our children. Heroes educate us about what is right and wrong; they give us hope and motivate us to overcome life’s challenges. When children hear stories about heroes they can identify with, they can internalise these values and are more likely to act on them, making heroic and moral behaviour part of their everyday lives,” says Jade Jacobsohn, Managing Director at Nal’ibali.

An effective method of passing on values, storytelling is also an important part of children’s literacy development and encourages the development of imagination, curiosity and empathy.

While it is part of daily life, it also requires practice, and the campaign has created a hero-inspired storytelling board game to support entrants in building and practising their storytelling skills. The board game will be freely available for download on Nal’ibali’s website.

The campaign will also directly connect with at least 10 000 adults and children through a series of community and regional events held by its literacy mentors, schools’ network – Story Powered Schools, and volunteers or FUNda Leaders across the country.

Guests will have the opportunity to play the board game in their home language before auditioning and entering a story in any one of this year’s four categories:

1. Hero of the Past
2. Living Legend
3. Personal Hero, and
4. Fictional Hero

Many of the values for which South African heroes stand, align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity and dignity for all.

Says Masimba Tafirenyika, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Pretoria: “We hope that all who participate in this year’s contest will see that the Sustainable Development Goals are really human rights, and that those who stand up for them are heroes.”

Sharing more about the SDGs and encouraging children and adults to play their part in ensuring they are met, UN ambassador Yvonne Chaka Chaka will open the competition at a special event in Soweto. Joining the singer-songwriter and humanitarian will be local celebrity and hero Busisiwe Mmotla. Miss Soweto will share her own heroic story before demonstrating how to play the storytelling board game to an audience of primary school children.

This year’s Story Bosso, or first-place winner, will be awarded R5 000 as well as a book hamper. A further eight provincial prizes will be awarded and each of these winners will receive R1 000 as well as airtime. Stories must be entered by 30 September. All winners will be announced in October.

To see full event details, download the board game, or submit a story digitally, visit the Nal’ibali website at Stories can also be submitted via Nal’ibali’s WhatsApp number, 076 598 1039, or email at Entries should not be longer than three minutes, and must include the entrant’s name, age, contact details, language, province, and entry category.

So, whether your hero is Mama Winnie, or your own mama, join Nal’ibali in using the transformative power of storytelling to build a prosperous South Africa for us all.

For more information about Story Bosso, or the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, visit, Or, find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Book Bites: 12 August

Published in the Sunday Times

Mr Peacock’s Possessions
Lydia Syson, Zaffre, R265

The idea of living on a small, fertile island has engaged the public imagination for centuries, but in this literary novel Syson tweaks the tropical island trope to present us with a somewhat bleaker take of the real dangers a community might face when isolated from society. In 1879 the Peacocks were entrepreneurial gypsies, moving from one Antipodean location to another with an ever-growing family, driven by the ambition and the discontent of the family patriarch, Joseph. The Peacocks and their young children settle on one island but discover they cannot work the island alone, and send for workers who are shocked to discover the Peacock offspring lack even the basics of literacy. Narrated from the points of view of Lizzie, Joseph’s favourite child, and Kalala, the worker who teaches the Peacock children to read and write, it examines how the threat to a family and community often comes not from foreign elements, but the worm within the bud. Aubrey Paton

The Tattoo Thief
Alison Belsham, Orion Books, R285

Francis Sullivan has been promoted to Detective Inspector in Brighton and his first case turns out to be the work of a serial killer who is targeting people who have tattoos by well-known artists, cutting the inked flesh out while the victim is still alive. Sullivan has a lot to prove and with everyone working against him, even tattoo artist Marni Mullins, who seems to have all the answers, is not sure he’ll be able to catch the tattoo thief. This is the first in a planned series by the author and if this fast-paced thriller is anything to go by, we’re happy to accept seconds. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story
Christie Watson, Chatto & Windus, R320

Christie Watson spent 20 years as a nurse in the UK’s national health service. Her memoir walks readers through the halls of hospitals, where she deals with critically ill children, mental health patients and the elderly that society forgets. It opens with a clinical tone, gradually warming, until, by the final quarter, it is nearly impossible to read without the sting of tears. A tale that will make readers champions of nurses, while wondering why access to quality healthcare is too often reserved for the privileged. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

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“Who’s going to get lucky tonight?” Kate Sidley on her three current literary love interests (and not to worry, Steven – they’re only books!)

Published in the Sunday Times

I arrive home from the book launch with a new love interest. Maybe it was the wine. I shouldn’t have had that second glass, we all know how it lowers the defences. Not that that’s any excuse. I know it was entirely my doing. Be that as it may, here I am with not one, but two … shall we say … prospects.

The one was a given, I knew I was going to purchase the launch book, The Season of Glass, the new novel by Rahla Xenopolous. But then the bookstore owner, who knows me and my weakness so well, said, “That book you were asking about just came in.”

It is Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, and it’s fresh and new, all decked out with the gold stamp of the Pulitzer Prize 2018. The very many cover shouts are glowing and there’s the word “hilarious” – nothing does it for me like hilarious – and then “bedazzling” and “endearing”.

I take both books.

I get home and clamber over the mountain of unread and partially read books that I believe was, some time in the early 2000s, a small bedside table. On top is my avowed current partner – Ken Barris’s award-winning The Life of Worm & Other Misconceptions.
Ooh, I love it. Properly, deeply love it. Wouldn’t leave it for anything. But this wouldn’t be leaving. It is a short story collection, and short story collections are by definition polyamorous. They don’t mind if you go off and frolic in other pastures for a bit. In fact, they expect it. After a dalliance, I find that I return to the relationship with renewed interest and delight.

Having made peace with a small break from Worm (it’s not you, it’s me, I tell him) I read the first few pages of The Season of Glass. You have to read the first pages on the night of the book launch. It’s the done thing. Well, it’s my done thing. The book’s a beauty, really a knock-out, but I’m not shallow, I don’t want to objectify my new love interest. It’s marvellous on the inside, too and though it’s early days, it feels like we’ve got something going.

This morning, when honest to God I should be working and not mucking around in bed with strange new books, I spot Less. In the spirit of research and professionalism (I am after all a book reviewer, and we have responsibilities), I open it up. Just a page or two. To see what all the fuss is about. I won’t lie. I’m intrigued.

Help me, then, with the eternal question of the reader – who’s going to get lucky tonight? @KateSidley

Kate Sidley is the author of 100 Mandela Moments (Jonathan Ball, R190)

The Season of Glass

Book details
The Season of Glass by Rahla Xenopoulos
EAN: 9781415209578
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Less by Andrew Sean Greer
EAN: 9780349143590
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The Life of Worm

The Life of Worm & Other Misconceptiosn by Ken Barris
EAN: 9780795707957
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