Jenny Crwys-Williams has announced the shortlists for her Book of the Year, in the categories Cookbooks, Fiction, Non-fiction and Coffee Table Books.
The overall winners will be announced on Saturday, 5 December, at the Jenny & Co Big Book Brunch.
One lucky winner, who accurately predicts the winning book at the brunch, will walk away with a hamper of all the books on the shortlist.
Crwys-Williams calls the list “a great guide to seriously enticing reads you might want to buy as Christmas gifts or, of course, to treat yourself”.
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From Jenny & Co:
COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR
The Simple Secrets to Cooking Everything Better by Matt Preston
Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t keep either Matt Preston or Aussie publishing down. Both are the real thing. I wish I could find a fault with this generously-sized book, but I can’t. Filled with quirky humour, excellent artwork and Matt’s own recipes, I would give this book to anyone filled with confidence that they’d thank me forever. And I love his double page cooking secrets which divide the book with witty common sense.
More Life’s a Beach Cottage by Neil Roake
By the time I finished paging through this book I was slavering for banana plantations, South Coast heat, dolphins, sand so hot you scream and the world’s most lethal Bloody Marys you will probably never recover from, as you run across it. This book is so deliciously chilled you will probably emigrate south.
My Kind of Food by John Torode
John Torode is another down to earth Aussie who’s made it seriously big on Masterchef UK. Here’s his rip on contemporary family classics culled from his Oz childhood and his London foodie experiences. This is so simple you will want to faint – but you won’t because someone else will step in and fill that void. Clean, straightforward, touched with the NOW, a perfect wedding to build a dream on or just keeping up with the direction modern food is taking.
Mariana’s Country Kitchen: Food Through the Seasons by Mariana Esterhuizen, photography by Stephen Inggs
One of my small discoveries was finding Stanford, closer to Hermanus than to anywhere else. Enchanting un-tarred streets and still relatively untouched by decor luvvies, this book is all about what food ought to be. Which is why people queue to get into her bistro, Mariana’s. Filled with Cape hospitality and organic love, this is wholesome heaven made even more blissful by Stephen Inggs’ “I want it NOW” photography.
Anna Peters’ Year of Cooking Dangerously by Kathryn White
No-one thinks this is a cookbook, but it is. Anna Peters loses her man and tries to cook her way back into his heart. From culinary disaster after disaster and love affair after love affair, Anna expands her culinary repertoire until even the simpletons among us could make love and a souffle at the same time. You’ve got to love this book.
FICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR
What Will People Say? by Rehana Rossouw
A sure-fire short listed novel for next year’s Sunday Times Fiction Award. The year is 1986 and you can hear the music pumping. Apartheid was dying but it still bit as it walked alongside the poverty of the Cape Flats where the tumult of the revolution was in full swing. Ten years ago, Soweto was aflame. Now it is time for the first of many commemorations as families struggled to bring their children up decently in the midst of perfectly envisaged gang wars. I fell in love with Nadia David’s An Imperfect Blessing set in the same period in the same city – and I’ve fallen in love with this fine novel.
The Reactive by Masande Ntshanga
If ever there was a generational book, it is this one. Up for prizes everywhere, not just in South Africa, Ntshanga is someone to watch. Set in Cape Town, a city that has lost its shimmer, filled with the young and drifting, drugs, urban decay – and yet, the links with past, more settled lives inexorably call. The book quivers with life, with prose that delights, with a story that is both poignant and intimate and infinitely memorable.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
What is there to say that the Man Booker judges didn’t say about this simply extraordinary novel woven around an attempted assassination of Bob Marley? Almost too big (nearly 800 pages) to gulp down without pausing to consider what you have read, anyone turning the pages will delight in the lyricism of the language, the audacity of the plot and the delight in reading something that is an instant international classic. From now on, my conversations will begin with: “Yes, but have you read A Brief History of Seven Killings?”
The Dream House by Craig Higginson
Eschewing the Western Cape and giving us a break from the Karoo, Craig Higginson’s novel is set somewhere around Nottingham Road in the Midlands. Dark is falling, an old woman sits in her wheelchair as her farmhouse is disinterred ahead of her move to Durban. She listens intently as the kitchen door quietly opens. She shows no fear as a man walks into her sitting room, carrying a silent menace with him. So begins a beautifully crafted and immersing novel asking uneasy and provocative questions that insist on responses.
Up Against The Night by Justin Cartwright
Justin Cartwright left South Africa for Europe 40 years ago but he comes back often enough to keep the pulse racing and for his novelist’s eye to examine what is happening here. Frank (like Cartwright) is descended from Piet Retief and like Cartwright returns to the country of his birth every now and again. He decides to take his new love to KwaZulu Natal to see if it ‘talks’ to him. In the meantime, and so acutely observed I was in stitches, Frank’s errant nephew, just escaped from the Scientologists in the US, returns asking for alms and family bonding. The result is a novel of great power, hilarious scenes and deadly descriptions of our democracy.
NON-FICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR
Stoked! by Chris Bertish
If ever there was a South African story of great endeavour, this is it. After all, this skinny Cape Town boy managed to win the Mavericks Big Wave Invitational surfing event without any sponsorship at all. Now he is famous not only in the surfing world but in the real one as well, inspiring not only the thousands of wannabe surfers but also people whose dreams are more modest and who surf alongside Chris and achieve in their own field. Beautifully written, this book will make your pulse race and then some!
On the Move by Oliver Sacks
As the neurologist, writer and Renaissance man, Oliver Sacks was dying, he continued to write, he continued to love and he continued to wring as much as he could out of every remaining second, questioning the way his brain was working, as he had done for most of his life. This is just a glory of a memoir and it reminds me inexorably of Christopher Hitchen’s last book, written almost entirely as he was dying and as irreverent as ever. On the Move has been described as “filled with his restless energy” but there is so much more to this touching and sometimes astonishing memoir that will linger with you – and with the stories of some of his patients.
Burchell’s Travels by Susan Buchanan
What a rare plant this book is: filled with the drawings and paintings by one of South Africa’s most outstanding naturalists, William John Burchell. By the time his extraordinary four year journey through the Cape ended, he had covered 7 000 mostly unexplored terrain in his ox waggon filled with the impedimenta of science. He collected over 50 000 plant and animal specimens – but that is the least of this book which takes us back to an unspoiled country of extraordinary beauty. His paintings are so vivid it is almost possible to walk within them. This is a book to pour over and wonder.
Empire, War and Cricket by Dean Allen
Little did Dean Allen know when he drove to Matjiesfontein for a short break that he would discover so many stories! He ended up writing a best selling book about a village built by a canny Scot, discovered once-famous cricket matches were played on the stony fields and, as he disinterred the past of the one-time health resort, that he would bring back to life of an era of high colonialism in this outpost of the Karoo where anything seemed possible for the settlers, even if history ended up by mostly bypassing everything they created here. Fascinating, and a really great read.
We Have Now Begun Our Descent by Justice Malala
Justice Malala has written veritable fury of a book, his anger almost tripping him up it is so powerful. Dissecting South Africa’s current plight, he spares no-one as he analyses the state of this nation and rips into the corruption he (and we) see all around him. Unlike so many books attempting to explain our politics, lack of vision and deplorable education, Malala ends his book with a paean of thanks to Thuli Madonsela and, in his last chapter, outlines how we could become again a respected and respectable modern nation. I found it breathlessly inspirational and quite terrifying.
COFFEE TABLE BOOKS OF THE YEAR
Mozambique by Moira Forjaz
This photographic book spans a decade in the life of Mozambique (1975-1985) and Moira Forjaz, the photographer and observer, has brought that country to life,from forgotten Portuguese and Arab forts to fishermen bringing in their catch, from modest houses to the struggle as we catch glimpses of Graca Machel in khaki military gear to Ruth First, from troubadours and to lonely old men sipping their coffee in deserted cafes. It is a beautiful and sensitive memoir about a time in a near neighbour’s history in a time of revolution.
A City Refracted by Graeme Williams
Joburg as you’ve never seen it before, dreamscapes and shadows and colours, some glimpsed at the end of a long corridor or through a half open door. Beautifully produced, this is a unique and artistic depiction of a complex, energetic city where the buzz never stops.
365 Postcards by Lorraine Loots
Easily the most beautiful of this year’s crop of coffee table books is this very little jewel hiding behind a modest white cover which gives no hint of the magic which lies within. For 365 days Lorraine painted a miniature painting and here they all are: meerkats and beer, Cape buildings and bontebuck, picnic baskets and the Vredehoek quarry, malachite kingfishers imprisoned on the page but just waiting to fly – it is just a diamond from beginning to end. If ever there was a magical book this is it.
We are the Champions: The Champion Trees of South Africa by Enrico & Erna Liebenberg
This is a truly wonderful photographic record of all of South Africa’s 75 Champion Trees – and you all know how much I adore trees! It is the first extensive and complete collection of full-tree photographs of the wonderful tree heritage of this country. Did you know The oldest known measured tree is 1,800 years old? Or that The oldest planted Oak tree is 300 years old?
This fantastic book includes Champions such as the Post Office Tree, The Slave Tree, the Ruth Fischer tree and Marriott’s Lane. A perfect gift for every tree-lover and conservationist, and anyone who believes in protecting South Africa’s natural heritage for future generations.
Ultimate Star Wars by Ryder Windham and Patricia Barr, forward by Anthony Daniels
Who DOESN’T love Star Wars?? This is a luscious and comprehensively detailed book with an unparalleled selection of Star Wars information – planets, cities, characters, space vehicles, blasters – you name it, this book has got it. Packed full of facts, info and gorgeous photos from all 6 Star Wars movies – it’ll keep kids, boys, men and every Star Wars devotee on the planet engrossed for hours. The only drawback? I’ll have to start saving for the Episode VII reference book which is sure to follow. An utter delight, and worth every penny.