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Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

South African non-fiction dominates the Sunday Times Bestseller List for January 2016

The Sunday Times monthly bestseller list for January has been released, revealing South Africa’s top selling fiction and non-fiction books.



The information on the list comes from SAPnet/Nielsen bookseller data and publisher data.

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Precious Gifts1. Precious Gifts by Danielle Steele
EAN: 9780593069035
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Cross Justice2. Cross Justice by James Patterson
EAN: 9781780892672
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An Empty Coast3. An Empty Coast by Tony Park
EAN: 9781770104693
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After You4. After You by Jojo Moyes
EAN: 9780718177010
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Rogue Lawyer5. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
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EAN: 9781473622876
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How Long Will South Africa Survive?1. How Long Will South Africa Survive?: The Looming Crisis by RW Johnson
EAN: 9781868426348
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What If There Were No Whites In South Africa?2. What If There Were No Whites In South Africa? by Ferial Haffajee
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EAN: 9781770104402
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We Have Now Begun Our Descent3. We Have Now Begun Our Descent: How To Stop South Africa Losing Its Way by Justice Malala
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EAN: 9781868426799
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Jan Smuts4. Jan Smuts: Unafraid of Greatness by Richard Steyn
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EAN: 9781868426942
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Recce5. Recce by Koos Stadler
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EAN: 9780624069447
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The Books That Built Me, by Zakes Mda

First published in the Sunday Times

Little SunsLittle Suns
Zakes Mda (Umuzi)

I don’t remember what age I was when I read Ingqumbo Yeminyanya by AC Jordan. I do know for sure that I was not yet 10. This was the first full-length novel I read and it was in isiXhosa. Years later it was translated by the author himself as The Wrath of the Ancestors.

Two things fascinated me about this novel. First, it was about my people, the amaMpondomise, particularly the Majola clan whose totem is the brown mole snake. Second, I was named after the main character of this novel, Zanemvula. Thus, my fate was sealed. I was doomed to be a teller of stories for the rest of my life. I do so in words and in paint and brushes.

My latest novel, Little Suns, tells the story of the same amaMpondomise people, taking the narrative from their origins right to their exile after a violent brush with colonialism. Ingqumbo Yeminyanya, on the other hand, narrates them when they were subdued and “pacified”, and were battling with the contradictions of tradition versus modernism.

Ingqumbo Yeminyanya laid the foundation. More bricks and mortar were added by Sesotho novels I read in my teens and early 20s. I established friendships with some of the great writers of that language, particularly JJ Machobane, the author of the novel Mahaheng a Mats’o, who used to visit me at my place of work and would tell me stories about his agricultural invention called mants’a tlala — some form of irrigation scheme.

From him I learnt of the deep connection between the creation of art and growing plants. I also learnt about the effectiveness of the landscape in prose — using setting as another character in the story. Sesotho novels revel in the descriptions of the landscape. I learnt this not only from reading but from long conversations with writers such as Sebolai Matlosa, whose famous novel Mopheme was adapted as a popular radio drama series, and historian and poet Mosebi Damane. Both of these older writers, now long departed, were my neighbours.

My building was completed by Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, who taught me that I could tell my stories in the same manner my grandmother used to tell them. My favourite novel of his is Of Love and Other Demons, the magical story of passion between a middle-aged Catholic priest and a young girl accused of being possessed by demons.

I had started writing some of my plays in a manner where the supernatural, the strange and the unusual, existed quite comfortably with reality, just as in the stories my grandmother told. But it was only after reading Márquez that I realised my grandmother’s storytelling was a legitimate mode of creating literature.

When in later years I met him at a writer’s conference in Spain, he told me that his magic, too, came from his grandmother who had learnt it from African slave women. It was gratifying to hear that our sources of magic were the same.

Follow Zakes Mda on Twitter @ZakesMda

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Image credit: Jim Shirey

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Print vs ebooks: Readers have decided



By Jennifer Platt for the Sunday Times

Many book-lovers thought the birth of Kindle signalled the final chapter for books made of paper. They were wrong. Buying old-fashioned books is back in vogue internationally — and South Africa seems to be following the trend.

Waterstones in the UK has stopped selling Kindles in most of its 280 book stores. MD James Daunt said this was because “sales of Kindles continue to be pitiful”.

Kindle’s parent company Amazon has opened a real bricks-and-mortar book shop in a hip neighbourhood in Seattle in the US.

The Guardian reported that the demise of e-books was “one of the rare examples where a groundbreaking technology ends up being supplanted by its predecessor”.

The New York Times said that much of the hype around e-books had disappeared – sales apparently fell 10 percent in the first half of 2015 – and printed books were doing better than anyone had expected.

Fortune magazine, however, reported that e-book sales were on the increase, thanks mostly to the rise of self-published works. It pointed out that the New York Times report was based on sales figures from the Association of American Publishers.

In South Africa it seems that book stores were busier than usual this December – although Steve Connolly, MD of Penguin Random House South Africa, said this could be because previously book stores had been hit by power cuts, which meant fewer customers.

“Our e-book sales of international titles remain pretty strong and haven’t declined, though sales of local e-books have dipped from 2014, possibly due to the closure of,” he said.

Some reports attribute the drop in e-book sales to publishers’ strategy of selling the e-book for the same price as the paper edition.

Eugene Ashton, CEO of Jonathan Ball Publishers, said the declining popularity of e-books was owing to “an overall increase in the price of e-books and the heavy discounting has effectively come to an end. This means that the average reader pays about the same for print or digital and so opts for the print edition.

“There is also evidence to support the argument that digital has found a level and that readers who were reading only in digital are, anecdotally at least, returning to print.”

Kate Rogan of Love Books in Melville, one of the few independent book stores in Johannesburg, said: “It does look as though my December sales were up. I think the standardising of prices on Kindle has driven people back to books.

“Mostly, though, our customers love to handle the book. The physical object seems to heighten the reading experience.”

Also noticeable is an increase in children’s book sales, something remarked on recently by Exclusive Books. Connolly confirmed this. He said sales of books overall were down about 3 percent last year “but in contrast to that, children’s books sales in South Africa have had double-digit growth for the last two years. Local children’s publishing seems to be growing and selling well to both locals and tourists. Our own children’s sales grew by 20 percent last year.

“Many people talk about our young children today, digital natives, not being interested in the physical book. My experience as a parent of a five-year-old, and as these figures indicate pretty clearly, is that these kids embrace the book just as much as their parents and grandparents did.”

Most of the drop in e-book sales internationally was in the young adult and children’s sections. One of the explanations is that there have not been any blockbusters in a while – the likes of a Hunger Games or Harry Potter.

A 10-year-old “voracious reader” visiting South Africa from her home in the US said she read and collected series – her favourites were Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series about Greek myths. She said she preferred the physical book as she enjoyed collecting them. Also, with a physical book she is not afraid of “breaking anything”.

“I had to search for the latest Percy Jackson,” said her mother. “We could have easily downloaded the e-book, but she prefers the actual physical book. The hunt for the book was also exciting for her and made her appreciate the book even more when we found it.”

Some consumers are refraining from reading e-books altogether. In a recent Twitter poll on Books LIVE, only 8 percent of respondents said they read only e-books ; 55 percent said they read only the paper edition; and 37 percent said they read both.


Courtenay Luckay, a medical student at the University of Cape Town, embraces both formats. “I read e-books because they’re easily accessible, and they’re always available. I can also access over 200 books from one device. But I find it more difficult to concentrate with e-books, so I still read physical books.

“Also, when your phone or iPad is low on battery you can’t read anymore, and a physical book would never do that to you.”

Donnay Torr, editor of Afrikaans culture magazine Taalgenoot, said: “To me, reading is ultimately an intensely physical experience. You choose a comfortable spot to cuddle up in (or in my case a decadent bubble bath). You might make a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine to go with the book. The look and heft of the book, the feel and smell of the pages, the sense of accomplishment as you see your progress … where else can you get that but with a real book?

“And then when you’re done with it, you slide it into a beautiful wood bookcase, to see and sometimes take back out again for a re-read.”

Follow Jennifer Platt on Twitter @Jenniferdplatt

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Zakes Mda’s Rachel’s Blue to hit shelves in US and UK (Plus: See all Mda’s US covers)

Zakes Mda’s Rachel’s Blue to hit shelves in US and UK (Plus: See all Mda’s US covers)

Zakes Mda’s Rachel’s Blue will soon hit shelves in the United States and United Kingdom, from Seagull Books.

Rachel’s Blue won the University of Johannesburg Prize in 2014, and is published locally by Kwela.

Mda’s latest novel, released in December, is Little Suns, published by Umuzi. Mda is Professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University, but he’ll be in South Africa in February for a Literary Crossroads event with Nakhane Touré.

Seagull Books published two of Mda’s novels previously, The Sculptors of Mapungubwe and Black Diamond:

Rachel's BlueThe Sculptors of MapungubweBlack Diamond


Mda has also been published in the United States by Picador, and his memoir Sometimes There Is a Void was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Ways of DyingThe Heart of RednessShe Plays With The DarknessThe Madonna Of Excelsior
The Whale CallerCionSometimes There Is a Void


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Sunday Read: The new novel from Yann Martel, the bestselling Booker Prize-winner in history

Sunday Read: The new novel from Yann Martel, the bestselling Booker Prize-winner in history
The Facts Behind the Helsinki RoccamatiosSelfLife of PiBeatrice and VirgilThe High Mountains of Portugal

This Sunday Read features an excerpt from the new book by Yann Martel, The High Mountains of Portugal, which is to be published in February.

Martel won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 for Life of Pi, which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide, making him the bestselling Booker winner of all time. The film adaptation of the book earned 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won four (the most that year) including Best Director for Ang Lee.

Martel’s first novel, Self, was published in 1996, following a 1993 collection of short stories, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios. In the author’s note to Life of Pi, Martel writes that Self “vanished quickly and quietly”, and he is on record as saying it is a “terrible novel, and that he wishes it would disappear”. It was, however, shortlisted for the 21st Chapters/Books In Canada First Novel Award.

Life of Pi was Martel’s second novel, released in 2001, although it was rejected by at least five publishers before it was accepted.

In 2007, Martel was part of a delegation to the Canadian House of Commons to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Canada Council for the Arts. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was present in the House but “didn’t look up at the celebratory delegation nor offer words of congratulation on the council’s milestone”. In response, Martel began sending a book to Harper every fortnight, accompanied by a detailed letter explaining the choice. He never received a reply from the Prime Minister, and ended the experiment in 2011 after sending a total of 100 books, saying he was “tired of using books as political bullets and grenades”. A book-length account of the project, What Is Stephen Harper Reading?, was published in 2009.

The Canadian author’s third novel, Beatrice and Virgil, was published nine years after Life of Pi, in April 2010, and was not well received. The Guardian called it “by turns pretentious, humourless, tedious, and obvious”.

Canongate announced in September 2015 that it acquired the UK rights for Mantel’s new novel, and early responses have been more promising. Canongate publishing director Francis Bickmore said: “There are no tigers in this fabulous new book but it does explore our relationship to the natural world, and asks from where comes our humanity.”

About the book:

In Lisbon in 1904, a young man discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artefact that—if he can find it—would redefine history.

Some thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist finds himself at the centre of a murder mystery.

Fifty years on, a Canadian senator takes refuge in northern Portugal, grieving the loss of his beloved wife.

Three linked stories. Three broken hearts. One exploration: what is a life without stories? The High Mountains of Portugal takes the reader on a road trip through Portugal in the last century—and through the human soul.

Read an excerpt, from Text Publishing:

His uncle beams, filled to the brim with pride and joy in his Gallic gewgaw. Tomás remains tight-lipped. He does not share his uncle’s infatuation with automobiles. A few of these newfangled devices have lately found their way onto the streets of Lisbon. Amidst the bustling animal traffic of the city, all in all not so noisy, these automobiles now roar by like huge, buzzing insects, a nuisance offensive to the ears, painful to the eyes, and malodorous to the nose. He sees no beauty in them. His uncle’s burgundy-coloured copy is no exception. It lacks in any elegance or symmetry. Its cabin appears to him absurdly oversized compared to the puny stable at the aft into which are stuffed the thirty horses. The metal of the thing, and there is much of it, glares shiny and hard—inhumanly, he would say.

He would happily be carted by a conventional beast of burden to the High Mountains of Portugal, but he is making the trip over the Christmas season, cumulating holiday time that is his due with the few days he begged, practically on his knees, from the chief curator at the museum. That gives him only ten days to accomplish his mission. The distance is too great, his time too limited. An animal won’t do. And so he has to avail himself of his uncle’s kindly offered but unsightly invention.

With a clattering of doors, Damiãno enters the courtyard bearing a tray with coffee and fig pastries. A stand for the tray is produced, as are two chairs. Tomás and his uncle sit down. Hot milk is poured, sugar is measured out. The moment is set for small talk, but instead he asks directly, “So how does it work, Uncle?”

He asks because he does not want to contemplate what is just beyond the automobile, fringing the wall of his uncle’s estate, next to the path that leads to the servants’ quarters: the row of orange trees. For it is there that his son used to wait for him, hiding behind a not-so-thick tree trunk. Gaspar would flee, shrieking, as soon as his father’s eyes caught him. Tomás would run after the little clown, pretending that his aunt and uncle, or their many spies, did not see him go down the path, just as the servants pretended not to see him entering their quarters. Yes, better to talk about automobiles than to look at those orange trees.

“Ah, well you should ask! Let me show you the marvel within,” replies his uncle, leaping up out of his seat. Tomás follows him to the front of the automobile as he unhooks the small, rounded metal hood and tips it forward on its hinges. Revealed are tangles of pipes and bulbous protuberances of shiny metal.

“Admire!” his uncle commands. “An in-line four-cylinder engine with a 3,054 cc capacity. A beauty and a feat. Notice the order of progress: engine, radiator, friction clutch, sliding-pinion gearbox, drive to the rear axle. Under this alignment, the future will take place. But first let me explain to you the wonder of the internal combustion engine.”

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The most exciting new books of 2016, from Autumn to Zero K

The Most Exciting New Books of 2016, from Autumn to Zero K

By Michele Magwood for the Sunday Times

There’s a parade of heavy hitters warming up in the wings for 2016: weighty award winners, buzzed-about first-timers and perennial favourites. There’s even a Hollywood actor throwing his hat into the ring: Gary Oldman teams up with producer Douglas Urbanski to write the first in a Dracula series, Blood Riders (Sphere).

Man Booker winner Yann Martel is back with The High Mountains of Portugal (Canongate), three tales winding through the 20th century, and fellow Booker laureate Julian Barnes focuses on the composer Dmitri Shostakovich in The Noise of Time (Jonathan Cape).

Jonathan Safran Foer comes out of an 11-year hibernation with Here I Am (Hamish Hamilton), set in Israel, while Annie Proulx has completed Barkskins (4th Estate) after 10 years, her story of the taming — and ruining — of the wilderness. Zero K is billed as “the wisest, richest, funniest, and most moving novel in years” from Don DeLillo, and fans of Karl Ove Knausgaard can expect Some Rain Must Fall (Harvill Secker), the penultimate volume of his six-book autobiographical series.

Watch out for Chinelo Okparanta’s debut novel Under The Udala Trees (Granta), and Emma Cline’s debut The Girls (Chatto & Windus). Ali Smith continues her great run with Autumn (Hamish Hamilton.)

Closer to home, there’s Yewande Omotoso’s The Woman Next Door, an endearing story of two Cape Town matrons which was snapped up by British publisher Chatto & Windus. Also look out for the film of Cynthia Jele’s Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word — there’ll be a new edition from NB Publishers on its release. Also from NB Publishers comes Niq Mhlongo’s acute collection of short stories, Affluenza. Ekow Duker hits his stride in his third novel The God Who Made Mistakes (Pan Macmillan), set in Joburg.

Pan Macmillan will publish Cold Case Confession, Alex Eliseev’s untangling of the Betty Ketani murder case. And Ray Hartley will burst open a briefcase of worms in The Bribe — How SA Stole the World Cup (Jonathan Ball Publishers).

Murder at Small Koppie (PRHS) by photojournalist Greg Marinovich is a definitive account of one of the darkest days in South Africa’s history, the Marikana massacre. A book that’s sure to be talked about is Jessica Pitchford’s Switched At Birth (Jonathan Ball), the true story of the boys who were swapped at an East Rand hospital.

Follow Michele Magwood on Twitter @michelemagwood

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RIP David Bowie, Legendary Musician and Voracious Reader


Don’t you love the Oxford Dictionary? When I first read it, I thought it was a really really long poem about everything.

- David Bowie

Legendary English musician David Bowie died yesterday, after an 18-month battle with cancer, just two days after the release of his latest album, Blackstar. Bowie was a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter and actor – but he was also said to read up to a book a day.

The above image was taken in 1987, when Bowie was 40. The book in his hands is Dostoevsky’s intimidating tome The Idiot, and the poster formed part of an American Library Association marketing campaign.

David Bowie Is, a touring retrospective exhibition first held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK in 2013, featured 300 items from Bowie’s personal archive of over 70 000 objects, and many of those were books. At the exhibition opening at the Art Gallery of Ontario, curator Geoffrey Marsh described Bowie as “a voracious reader”, adding that he read as much as “a book a day”.

In 1998, Bowie answered the famous “Proust Questionnaire” for Vanity Fair. The first question is “What is your idea of perfect happiness?”

Bowie replied: “Reading.”

For David Bowie Is, Marsh and his fellow curator Victoria Broackes released a list of Bowie’s favourite reads, illustrating a remarkable breadth of interest.

Take a look at the list:

David Bowie’s Top 100 Must Read Books

The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz, 2007

The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard, 2007

Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage, 2007

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters, 2002

The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, 2001

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler, 1997

A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes, 1997

The Insult, Rupert Thomson, 1996

Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon, 1995

The Bird Artist, Howard Norman, 1994

Kafka Was The Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard, 1993

Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective, Arthur C Danto, 1992

Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Camille Paglia, 1990

David Bomberg, Richard Cork, 1988

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Peter Guralnick, 1986

The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, 1986

Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd, 1985

Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey, 1984

Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter, 1984

Money, Martin Amis, 1984

White Noise, Don DeLillo, 1984

Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes, 1984

The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White, 1984

A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, 1980

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980

Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, 1980

Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler, 1980

Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess, 1980

Raw (a ‘graphix magazine’) 1980-91

Viz (magazine) 1979 –

The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, 1979

Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz, 1978

In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan, 1978

Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley, 1977

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes, 1976

Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders, 1975

Mystery Train, Greil Marcus, 1975

Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara, 1974

Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich, 1972

In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner, 1971

Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky, 1971

The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillete, 1970

The Quest For Christa T, Christa Wolf, 1968

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn, 1968

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967

Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg, 1967

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr , 1966

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1965

City of Night, John Rechy, 1965

Herzog, Saul Bellow, 1964

Puckoon, Spike Milligan, 1963

The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford, 1963

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Yukio Mishima, 1963

The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin, 1963

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962

Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell, 1962

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961

Private Eye (magazine) 1961 –

On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding, 1961

Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage, 1961

Strange People, Frank Edwards, 1961

The Divided Self, RD Laing, 1960

All The Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd, 1960

Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse, 1959

The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958

On The Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957

The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard, 1957

Room at the Top, John Braine, 1957

A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno, 1956

The Outsider, Colin Wilson, 1956

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1948

The Street, Ann Petry, 1946

Black Boy, Richard Wright, 1945

The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker, 1944

The Outsider, Albert Camus, 1942

The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West, 1939

The Beano, (comic) 1938 –

The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell, 1937

Mr. Norris Changes Trains, Christopher Isherwood, 1935

English Journey, JB Priestley, 1934

Infants of the Spring, Wallace Thurman, 1932

The Bridge, Hart Crane, 1930

Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh, 1930

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner, 1930

The 42nd Parallel, John Dos Passos, 1930

Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin, 1929

Passing, Nella Larsen, 1929

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence, 1928

The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

The Waste Land, TS Eliot, 1922

BLAST, ed. Wyndham Lewis, 1914-15

McTeague, Frank Norris, 1899

Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual, Eliphas Lévi, 1896

Les Chants de Maldoror, Lautréamont, 1869

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, 1856

Zanoni, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1842

Inferno, from The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, about 1308-1321

The Iliad, Homer, about 800 BC

RIP David Bowie, you will be missed

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“A Writer Can Have Only One Language” – 5 Quotes on Multilingualism in Literature

5 Quotes on Multilingualism – a Blessing or a Curse for Writers?

A QuotionaryThe following five quotes – excerpted from A Quotionary: The Ultimate Collection of Quotations About Writing and Writers, by Jenny Hobbs – grapple with the issue of multilingualism and whether or not knowing more than one language hampers or helps the writer.

Do you think knowing multiple languages is beneficial to authors? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below.

Read the quotes:

Philip Larkin

A writer can have only one language, if language is going to mean anything to him.
- Philip Larkin


The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension.
- Ezra Pound

The Combat

We may speak English at the free market bazaar, but our moral choices and the trials of our daily existence – birth, death, worship, celebration and so on – are locked up in our mother tongues.
- Kole Omotoso


In Africa, language is not something we just use to communicate. You have to decorate it; the language has to be rich.
- Kgebetli Moele

The House of Fiction

If the writer has the mixed blessing of a foreign language spoken in the household of childhood, there is the broken language of more than one culture to fall back on.
- Elizabeth Jolley

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  • Pound/Joyce: The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce, with Pound’s Critical Essays and Articles about Joyce by Ezra Pound, edited by Forrest Read
    EAN: 9780811201599
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“I Just Want to Tell True Stories” – 17 Inspiring Quotations by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"I Just Want to Tell True Stories" - 17 Inspiring Quotations by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
AmericanahWe Should All Be FeministsThe Thing Around Your NeckHalf of a Yellow SunPurple Hibiscus

We can’t get enough of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and when she speaks, we listen.

From the author of Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, We Should All Be Feminists, The Thing Around Your Neck and Purple Hibiscus, we bring you 17 of the best quotes on storytelling, feminism and politics.

Prepare to bask in her awesomeness:


* * * * * * * *


1. On being a feminist:

For me, feminism is about justice. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world that is more just. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world where a woman is never told that she can or cannot or should or should not do anything because she is a woman. I want to live in a world where men and women are happier. Where they are not constrained by gender roles. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal. And that’s why I’m a feminist.

2. On the oppression of women:

I can’t not be angry. I don’t know how you can just be calm. My family says to me, “Oh, you’re such a man!” – you know, very lovingly … But of course I’m not, I just don’t see why I shouldn’t speak my mind.

3. On winning “Best of the Best” of The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction:

When you are writing you don’t know what is going to happen. You are alone in your study for months, for years. You write a book, you send it out to the world. It’s like sending out your child that you love, and not knowing if this child will be embraced by the world. So when it happens … For me this is a wondrous embrace, to be selected best of the best, and also because I think that the books that have won have been really remarkable books! I have a lot of respect for the books that not only have won the prize, but that have been shortlisted.

4. On Pope Francis:

Pope Francis inspires me. Not because of his much-touted humility — other popes who went along with papal pomp might merely have been tradition-compliant rather than lacking in humility — but because of his humanity.

5. In an interview with Zadie Smith, on writing strong female characters:

I hear from people, “Your female characters are so strong, how do you do that?”

For me, I’m writing about women who are familiar. Not to say that all the women I know are strong and have their shit together, they’re not. But to say that the idea of a woman being strong and simply being strong not to prove anything, or not to be unusual, is normal to me.

6. On makeup, gender injustice and privilege:

I wasn’t very interested in makeup until I was in my 20s, which is when I began to wear makeup. Because of a man. A loud, unpleasant man.

7. 13 quotes from Adichie’s Arthur Miller Freedom to Write lecture:

I’ve actually found that the older I get, the less interested I am in how the West sees Africa, and the more interested I am in how Africa sees itself.

8. On African writers:

I think the voices of the African diaspora are important too, but I think there’s often a silence in our voices from the continent.

The following quotes are excerpted from A Quotionary: The Ultimate Collection of Quotations About Writing and Writers, by Jenny Hobbs:


Language and style are very important to me. I am a keen admirer of good prose stylists and I can tell, right away, which writers pay attention to style. I care about the rhythm of a sentence. I care about word choice. I much respect poetic prose done well.


I just want to tell true stories.


When I start off I want to tell a story that I’m pleased with and that I hope somebody else will be connected to. I think by doing that one is challenging stereotypes, because the thing about stereotypes is that they’re not human, they’re not complex. So when you start to tell human and complex stories the hope is that people come away from those stories realising that the world is not just a single story. Our stories matter. Everybody’s story matters.


I’m such a believer in stories and how powerful stories are. Because stories are human and they draw you in; they’re not abstract arguments. In some ways it’s a safer space, so people who don’t necessarily agree with me politically can still get into that story.


The novels I love have an empathetic quality or emotional truth.


In the end I’m interested in what it means to be human. I think that’s what my writing is about: what it means to be a human being.


I always feel one step removed from everything. I’m always watching, looking for what I can mine for my fiction. I’m very curious about the world.


I am an unrepentant eavesdropper and a collector of stories. I record bits of overhead dialogue.

And one more from Goodreads:


Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.

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“Literature Should be Taken to the Street” – 6 Quotations on African Writing by African Authors

"Literature Should be Taken to the Street" - 6 Quotations on African Writing by African Authors



Literature should be taken to the street. That is where, in Africa, it must be. The path of literature is the assured way to human salvation and to civilisation. I hail the power of the pen.
- Ken Saro-Wiwa

The Grass is Singing

Literature is for everybody. It does not need professors and teachers. Yet there are teachers who inspire generations of children to read.
- Doris Lessing

July's People

Bread, justice, and the bread of the heart – which is the beauty of literature: these are all our business in Africa’s 21st century.
- Nadine Gordimer

Fools and Other Stories

Our literature ought to seek to move away from an easy preoccupation with demonstrating the obvious existence of oppression. It exists. The task is to explore how and why people can survive under such harsh conditions.
- Njabulo Ndebele

To Every Birth It's Blood

Literature will always be informed by people and it will always inform people.
- Mongane Wally Serote

One Day I Will Write About This Place

Literature in English is still dominated by writers who come from a monolingual background. So I’m excited about the possibility of using English as it’s spoken by people who move easily from one tongue to another – from one way of being to another. Put it this way: I’m more and more disinterested in writing in the kind of English that cannot cope outside its clime.
- Binyavanga Wainaina

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These writing tips are excerpted from A Quotionary: The Ultimate Collection of Quotations About Writing and Writers, by Jenny Hobbs.

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