Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

“Segal’s account compels because of its visceral honesty.” Terry Shakinovsky reviews Lauren Segal’s Cancer: A Love Story

Published in the Sunday Times

Cancer: A Love Story
Lauren Segal, MFBooks Joburg, R265

“If this book helps just one person cross an invisible line of terror in their lives, I will have succeeded,” says Lauren Segal. And succeed it does, because this four-time cancer survivor’s book extends beyond cancer and illness.

We read of a childhood “like The Sound of Music before the war”; we warm to the insouciant optimist more concerned with her student romance than a first diagnosis of cancer. Decades later, a third diagnosis of cancer threatens that ebullience and “I am a cancer factory” becomes the pitiless internal dialogue. We recognise the stricken descent into terror as a universal one with familiar markers: self-contempt, shame, recrimination. “I circle the question of blame like a vulture,” Segal writes.

The fight for resilience, to remain capable of both taking and giving love, becomes a map of terror. Segal’s account compels because of its visceral honesty: a list of concerns about a mastectomy includes, “My fears are irrelevant. I won’t be here. I am dying.”

It is not only dying that the author has to stare down. Segal’s needle phobia adds further torment to her chemotherapy. We marvel as she chooses the “immersion therapy” of acupuncture and are aghast when it goes wrong.

We laugh at the coffee girls’ pink feather fan; we relish the chicken soup and flowers; we note the self-help truths intoned by an American therapist on a Skype call.

There are practical tips about what helped Segal, like: “I use anger and fear to paper over the long dark void that is opening up inside me;” or “I have tools and resources to conquer my distress.” – Terry Shakinovsky @terry_shak

Book details

» read article

Bridge Books publishes its first book!

The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus GarveyBridge Books, your go-to bookstore for new and second-hand African and South African books in downtown Joburg, has just published its first book, The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey!

Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887. He became a leading pan-Africanist in the United States, where he urged black Americans to return to Africa and preached solidarity among blacks around the world.

In South Africa in the 1920s, Garveyism inspired early protests for the return of land from whites to its ancestral owners.

This collection of his writings and speeches is the first volume of his work compiled by his second wife, the pioneering black journalist and publisher Amy-Jacques Garvey.

Book details

» read article

Prufrock Magazine calling for submissions


Prufrock Magazine is calling for submissions of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction:

Prufrock magazine is calling for submissions. We have no restrictions on content or style. We publish writers from all over the world but pride ourselves on publishing the best writing by African writers.

Click here for the submission guidelines.

» read article

Book Bites: 12 November

Published in the Sunday Times

Blackwing: The Raven’s Mark
ED McDonald, Gollancz, R310

Multi-volume fantasy series are generally soap operas, but every so often there is an excellent series with a rich, complex story that’s simply too long for a single volume. Blackwing may be one such, set in a world with three moons, where energy is spun from moonlight, magic has replaced science, and The Deep Kings (evil sorcerers) battle against The Nameless (non-evil magicians). Captain Ryhalt Galharrow works for Crowfoot, one of the Nameless; his workplace is the blasted wasteland of The Misery, frontier between The Republic and the Dhojara Empire of the Deep Kings. Galharrow and his cronies win this battle, but the war is still to come. Riveting. – Aubrey Paton

100: A Lovely Spirit Here
Cynthia Kros

Written to commemorate the centenary of Parkview junior and senior schools in Joburg, the book traces their evolution from one small school for whites to two multi-cultural, racially diverse schools open to all. Parkview Government School opened in 1917, a difficult time in both South African and world history. Kros has built a picture of what the school must have been like then, with the discovery of a fragile admissions register unearthed at Parkview Senior. Fast forward 100 years and you have a Model C school known for its academic excellence. This is not just a book about a school but one about the sorrows and triumphs of South Africa. – Bridget Hilton-Barber

Reading with Patrick
Michelle Kuo, Macmillan, R330

In her early 20s Michelle Kuo was determined to teach US history through black literature. Instead, the reality of rural poverty and institutionalised racism slapped her in the face. She persisted, making progress with her students before leaving for law school. A few years later, Patrick Browning, her most promising student, landed in jail for murder. Kuo returned to the Mississippi Delta to tutor him during his incarceration, feeding his love of words. The memoir goes beyond their story, providing insights into US racism. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Book details

» read article

2017 South African Literary Awards winners announced!

This year’s winners of the South African Literary Awards (SALAs) were announced on Tuesday night, 07 November 2017 at UNISA, Pretoria Campus.

Authors, poets, writers other and literary practitioners whose works are continuously contributing to the enrichment of South Africa’s literary landscape were celebrated in an auspicious ceremony.

The SALA Awards have honoured over a hundred individuals in the past 12 years.

The 2017 South African Literary Awards (SALAs) winners are:

Category: First-time Published Author Award

Moses Shimo Seletisha, Tšhutšhumakgala (Sepedi)

Category: k.Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

Nthikeng Mohlele, Pleasure (English)

Category: Poetry Award

Helen Moffett, Prunings (English)

Simphiwe Ali Nolutshungu, Iingcango Zentliziyo (isiXhosa)

Category: Creative Non-Fiction Award

Dikgang Moseneke, My Own Liberator (English)

Category: Literary Journalism Award

Don Makatile, Body of work (English)

Phakama Mbonambi, Body of work (English)

Category: Literary Translators Award

Bridget Theron-Bushell, The Thirstland Trek: 1874 – 1881 (Afrikaans to English)

Jeff Opland, Wandile Kuse and Pamela Maseko, William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe Esinembali, Xhosa Histories And Poetry (1873 – 1888) (isiXhosa to English)

Jeff Opland and Pamela Maseko, DLP.Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange, Historical Poems (isiXhosa to English)

Category: Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award

Roela Hattingh, Kamee (Afrikaans)

Category: Posthumous Literary Award

|A!kunta, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

!Kabbo, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

≠Kasin, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

Dia!kwain, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

|Han≠kass’o, Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

Category: Lifetime Achievement Literary Award

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, Body of work (English)

Aletta Matshedisð Motimele, Body of work (Sepedi)

Etienne Van Heerden, Body of work (Afrikaans)

Category: Chairperson’s Award

Themba Christian Msimang, Body of work (isiZulu)

Book details

» read article

Book Bites: 5 November

Published in the Sunday Times

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight
Naoki Higashida, Sceptre, R315

Naoki Higashida allows a glimpse into the life of autism. He was declared a “non-verbal” autistic, but can communicate through an alphabet graph, and what he says for himself and those like him will astound you. Between poetry, memories and musings, Higashida shows that “non-verbal” does not mean he cannot communicate. He shares his frustrations and offers alternatives to pre-conceived notions of autism. His simple request is to allow people with special needs to be accepted along with everyone else, and to avoid autism dictating every aspect of their lives. Higashida decries pity, and believes in humanity, love and hard work. He is wise beyond his years, and profoundly admirable. – Samantha Gibb (@samantha_gibb)

A Thousand Paper Birds
Tor Udall, Bloomsbury Circus, R318

Green thumbs will delight in this wondrous novel set in the Kew Gardens. Meet Jonah the musician and widower, Milly the inquisitive child, Harry the lonely gardener, and Chloe the artist who finds comfort in origami. These characters have only two things in common: an attachment to the world-famous gardens, and Audrey, Jonah’s dead wife. Mystery abounds in this lyrical tale, treading lightly into the supernatural. But this story is not all sunshine and orchids; thorns poke and puncture with the raw realities of grief, loneliness, and human imperfection. It’s The Secret Garden for grown-ups. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng, Little Brown, R275

A fascinating slice of life in small-town America during the Clinton years. Artist Mia Warren moves herself and her teenage daughter Pearl to the conservative community of Shaker Heights in Cleveland. Here everything is carefully ordered, just as Mrs Richardson prefers. But soon Mia and Pearl disrupt the “perfect lives” of the Richardson family. Ng builds up the tension wonderfully, and her storytelling is refreshing as she doesn’t feel the need to wrap everything up neatly. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details

» read article

Launch: A hat, a kayak & dreams of Dar by Terry Bell (7 November)


In 1967, Terry and Barbara Bell embarked on a crazy misadventure – to paddle away from exile in London back to Africa (to Dar es Salaam in fact). Terry, best known as a journalist and labour analyst, reveals himself as a humourist in A hat, a kayak and dreams of Dar, his hilarious memoir about the trip. The Bells decided the book had to include Barbara’s recipes for the food she cooked along the way after wine journalist John Platter pressed them for the story of how they cooked in a kayak for over a year.

Palesa Morudu will interview Terry Bell at the launch at Love Books, Bamboo Centre, Melville, Jhb on 7 November, 6 for 6:30.
John and Erica Platter will chat to Terry and Barbara at Ike’s Books, Florida Road, Durban, on 14 November, 5:30 for 6.

This is the recipe for Barbara’s “Consolation” Island Mushroom crêpes, cooked on a convenient island that they “happened” to camp on in Paris. You can read about how they came to be doing that in Chapter 8: In the wake of Robert Louis Stevenson. (“Why pay for an official campsite?” asked Terry.)

Consolation Island Mushroom Crêpes

This was the second meal on “our island”, after the visit to the famous Les Halles market and after we discovered the theft of our tent. We bought six freshly-cooked crêpes at the market and this is the recipe for the mushroom filling.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of finely chopped marjoram or oregano or heaped teaspoon dried mixed herbs
goodly (about 5/6 tablespoons) glug of red wine
500g thinly sliced button mushrooms
2 tablespoons plain flour
½ mug/cup chicken stock
grated cheese for sprinkling
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil, then add onions and garlic and cook gently until pale gold. Add herbs and then pour in red wine. Cook until wine evaporates. Add mushrooms and cook until they start to ooze juice. Continue to cook until all but about 2 tablespoons of juice has evaporated. Sprinkle flour over,stir and then add chicken stock. Bring to boil, stirring, then cook for about 10 minutes until thick and creamy. Heat crêpes, fill with mixture and sprinkle with cheese.

Book details

» read article

Submissions are open for the 2018 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for non-fiction and the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Alert! Submissions are open for the 2018 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for non-fiction and the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. As in previous years, formal longlists for the prizes will be drawn up: convenors Jennifer Platt and Michele Magwood, along with the chairs of the respective judging panels, will select longlists of approximately 25 books per prize for the judges to assess. The winners will be announced next year. Please find below the links to the 2018 entry forms and submission rules and procedures.

  • NB: The list of titles that publishers wish to enter should reach the convenors, by email, by Monday 20 November 2017.

Publishers are requested to nominate no more than FOUR TITLES per imprint and to submit a list of other titles published in 2016 that are eligible. The judging panels may select additional titles for consideration at their discretion.

  • Only upon receiving notification from the conveners that a title or titles have been included on the longlist, should publishers send five print copies of each title to the Sunday Times, by Monday 4 December 2017

Prize criteria & Entry forms

Note: you can print/download these documents at their links.

Publishers are requested to email a list of all titles that they wish to enter to Jennifer Platt of the Sunday Times, at by no later than Monday 20 November 2017.

Click below to view previous winners:

» read article

Finding the real universal themes in storytelling – a conversation with Lucy Hawking

Nal’ibali Column 14: Term 5. Published in The Sunday World, Daily Dispatch, and Herald
By Carla Lever

Say the name Hawking and it’s impossible not to think of science. Stephen Hawking has become the most instantly recognised and globally beloved scientist of our time, thanks in no small part to his global popular science bestseller A Brief History of Time.

Stephen and Lucy Hawking, authors of George’s Secret Key to the Universe

Stephen’s daughter, Lucy, shares this desire to make science compelling and accessible, working with him for several years to create a series of rollicking adventure books for children. The multi-book tales of George and Annie take children on adventures across the cosmos, encountering everything from blue moons to the black holes Hawking is so famous for studying.

The Hawkings’ science adventure series has been translated into over 40 languages now, but it’s the latest additions that are proving so exciting to South Africans. In association with The Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), Jacana Publishers has added isiXhosa and isiZulu to the list of translations.

“Ideas can only spread as far as they can be understood,” commented PRAESA Director Dr Carole Bloch. “Lucy has done great work in making science thrilling and accessible for children. Thanks to translators, Xolisa Guzula and Phiwayinkosi Mbuyazi (isiZulu) these ideas can now reach so many more South African children, as it is only right they should.”

This October, Lucy Hawking was in South Africa promoting the book series in English, isiXhosa and isiZulu. “We’re very proud of this,” she said. “I grew up with storytelling as a family tradition on one side and science on the other side.”

“My father is an amazing science communicator – he has an extraordinary ability to speak in very simple terms about complex things. A young boy at my son’s birthday party once asked my father what would happen if he fell into a black hole. No-one knew quite how to answer that, but Dad simply said, ‘You’d turn into spaghetti.’ The adults were puzzled, but all the kids instantly got it! In that moment, I realised that this was the start of a story – and that we were ideally placed to write it. I could tell the story and my father could provide the scientific information. That’s how George’s Secret Key to the Universe – the first book in the series – was written.”

The Hawkings are no strangers to storytelling, being the subjects of the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne. Now, though, it’s a different kind of narrative they are focused on.

The message in the children’s books? That science is fun and that anyone can understand it. “Don’t think science is something that belongs to other people,” Hawking exclaims.

Just how simple can you make award-winning scientific theory, though? “Not everything can be simplified, but we’ve tried to use the power of storytelling so that you have an experience,” Hawking observes. “Through having that, hopefully it makes an abstract concept easier to understand.”

Together, the father and daughter team have tackled storytelling around everything from robotics to the big bang, climate change to astronomy.

“I wanted to write these books as adventures stories because I believe that scientists view their work as an adventure, as thrilling journeys of discovery into the unknown in order to unlock the secrets of the universe,” said Lucy Hawking.

“Our children are going to have to make very big decisions about the planet in the future,” Lucy Hawking points out. “The sooner they start understanding that their opinions are worthwhile, the better. They’re starting on a journey they will continue all their lives.”

Stephen and Lucy Hawking’s George’s Secret Key to the Universe, is now available at Exclusive Books and other bookstores in English, isiZulu and isiXhosa.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit:

George's Secret Key to the Universe

Book details

» read article

Lee Berger’s Almost Human “rollicks along like an adventure story,” writes Margaret von Klemperer

Published in the Sunday Times

Almost HumanAlmost Human: The Astonishing Tale of Homo Naledi
Lee Berger and John Hawks (Jonathan Ball Publishers, R295)

Paleoanthropologist Lee Berger probably wouldn’t dispute his reputation as a controversial figure – there are those who consider him a publicity-seeker, prone to shoot from the hip when it comes to announcing his discoveries. Be that as it may, he is a born storyteller and populariser of his field.

Berger and John Hawks, who is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have collaborated on this book, which covers more than its subtitle suggests. It starts with Berger’s nine-year-old son, Matthew, out with his father and a colleague on a fossil hunt in 2008 at Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind, turning over a rock to discover an ancient, fossilised collarbone.

That turned out to be Australopithecus sediba, a previously unknown hominin (humans, their early ancestors and related primate species) who walked upright as we do, but displayed many of the characteristics of an ape.

Then, five years after the discovery of A. sediba, Berger decided to have another look at the area around Malapa, suspecting the existence of unmapped caves. So he recruited some skinny amateur cavers (underground passages can be claustrophobically narrow), and a search began. Then, having squeezed through an 18cm gap in the Rising Star cave system, 40m underground, they hit the jackpot – a cave with hominin fossils littering the floor. Homo naledi had been discovered.

Berger is too big to wriggle into the cave – but he’s always up for a challenge. Using Facebook, he advertised for archaeologists and palaeontologists who had caving experience and were small and thin. His assistant was soon alarmed by the messages that poured in for him from women giving their vital statistics. Skype interviews were set up, National Geographic agreed to take the expedition live on social media, and the time-honoured, slow and secretive methodology of the profession was turned on its head.

It makes for a riveting read. Berger’s “underground astronauts” did their job. Even for those of us who don’t know our Australopithecus from our Homo, it rollicks along like an adventure story. There is still debate, of course, about exactly who and what H. naledi was and how the fossils got into the cave, but Berger and Hawks bring these dry bones to exuberant life.

Book details

» read article