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

From Rupi Kaur to Orhan Pamuk: these are the five must-read international titles for October

the sun and her flowers
Rupi Kaur

From Rupi Kaur, the top ten Sunday Times bestselling author of milk and honey, comes her long-awaited second collection of poetry. Illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming. It is a celebration of love in all its forms.

this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
in order to bloom

Praise for Sunday Times bestseller milk and honey:

‘Kaur is at the forefront of a poetry renaissance’ Observer

‘Kaur made her name with poems about love, life and grief. They resonate hugely’
Sunday Times

‘Poems tackling feminism, love, trauma and healing in short lines as smooth as pop music’ New York Times

‘Caught the imagination of a large, atypical poetry audience … Kaur knows the good her poetry does: it saves lives’ Evening Standard

‘Breathing new life into poetry … It has people reading, and listening’ The Pool

Rupi Kaur is a top ten Sunday Times bestselling author and illustrator of two collections of poetry. She started drawing at the age of five when her mother handed her a paintbrush and said – draw your heart out. After completing her degree in rhetoric and professional writing, she published her first collection of poetry.

The Boat Runner
Devin Murphy

Beginning in the summer of 1939, fourteen-year-old Jacob Koopman and his older brother, Edwin, enjoy lives of prosperity and quiet contentment. Many of the residents in their small Dutch town have some connection to the Koopman lightbulb factory, and the locals hold the family in high esteem.

On days when they aren’t playing with friends, Jacob and Edwin help their Uncle Martin on his fishing boat in the North Sea, where German ships have become a common sight. But conflict still seems unthinkable, even as the boys’ father naively sends his sons to a Hitler Youth Camp in an effort to secure German business for the factory.

When war breaks out, Jacob’s world is thrown into chaos. The Boat Runner follows Jacob over the course of four years, through the forests of France, the stormy beaches of England, and deep within the secret missions of the German Navy, where he is confronted with the moral dilemma that will change his life – and his life’s mission – forever.

Epic in scope and featuring a thrilling narrative with precise, elegant language, The Boat Runner tells the little-known story of the young Dutch boys who were thrown into the Nazi campaign, as well as the brave boatmen who risked everything to give Jewish refugees safe passage to land abroad. Through one boy’s harrowing tale of personal redemption, here is a novel about the power of people’s stories and voices to shine light through our darkest days, until only love prevails.

Devin Murphy grew up near Buffalo, NY in a family with Dutch roots. He holds an MFA from Colorado State University, a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Bradley University. He has worked various jobs in national parks around the country and once had a three-year stint at sea that led him to over fifty countries on all seven continents. His fiction has appeared in over 60 literary journals and anthologies, including The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, and the Chicago Tribune. He lives with his wife and children in Chicago.

The History of Bees
Maja Lunde

England, 1851. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive – one that will give both him and his children honor and fame.

United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper and fights an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation.

China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident – and is kept in the dark about his whereabouts and condition – she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.

Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought provoking story that is just as much about the powerful relationships between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity.

Maja Lunde is a Norwegian author and screenwriter. Lunde has written ten books for children and young adults. She has also written scripts for Norwegian television, including for the children’s series Barnas supershow (“The Children’s Super Show”), the drama series Hjem (“Home”) and the comedy series Side om Side (“Side by Side”). The History of Bees is her first novel for adults. She lives with her husband and three children in Oslo.

The Red-Haired Woman
Orhan Pamuk

A virtuosic and spell-binding novel from Orhan Pamuk – the Nobel Prize-winner’s tenth novel.

“Many years have now gone by, and jealousy compels me to keep her name a secret, even from my readers. But I must provide a full and truthful account of what happened.”

It is mid-1980s Istanbul and Master Mahmut and his apprentice use ancient methods to dig wells – they are desperate to find water in a barren land. This is the tale of their struggle, but it is also a deeper investigation – through mesmerising stories and images – into Pamuk’s prevailing themes: fathers and sons, the state and individual freedom, reading and seeing.

It is also a richly literary work: The Red-Haired Woman borrows from the tradition of the French conte philosophique and asks probing questions of ethics and of the role of art in our lives. It is both a short, realist text investigating a murder which took place thirty years ago near Istanbul – and a fictional inquiry into the literary foundations of civilizations, comparing two fundamental myths of the West and the East respectively: Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex (a story of patricide) and Ferdowsi’s tale of Rostam and Sohrab (a story of filicide).

The Red-Haired Woman is a masterful and mesmerising work which further confirms Orhan Pamuk as one of our greatest novelists.

Orhan Pamuk, is the author of many celebrated books, including The White Castle, Istanbul and Snow. In 2003 he won the International IMPAC Award for My Name is Red, and in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His most recent novel, The Museum of Innocence, was an international bestseller and shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. Orhan Pamuk lives in Istanbul.

The Secret Books
Marcel Theroux

Nothing is more dangerous than a story

A world on the brink of catastrophe.

A two thousand year old mystery.

A lost gospel.

Seeking adventure, a young man flees the drudgery of shopkeeping in Tsarist Russia to make a new life among the bohemians and revolutionaries of 19th century Paris.

Travelling undercover in the mountains of British India, he discovers a manuscript that transforms the world’s understanding of the historical Jesus. Decades later, in a Europe threatened by unimaginable tragedy, he makes a despairing attempt to right a historic injustice.

This breathtaking novel by the award-winning author of Far North and Strange Bodies tells the extraordinary tale of Nicolas Notovitch and his secret gospel. It is the epic story of a young man on the make in a turbulent world of spies and double-cross, propaganda and revolutionary violence, lost love and nascent anti-semitism – a world which eerily foreshadows our own era of posttruth politics.

Based on real events, The Secret Books is at once a page-turning adventure and an examination of the stories that humans are willing to kill and die for.

Marcel Theroux is the author of four previous novels: The Paperchase, winner of the 2002 Somerset Maugham Award; A Blow to the Heart; Far North, which was shortlisted for America’s prestigious National Book Award; and Strange Bodies. He lives in London.

Book details

Also available in eBook format

Also available in eBook format

Also available in eBook format

Also available in eBook format

Also available in eBook format

Literary Crossroads: Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Tania Haberland, Xabiso Vili (10 October)

Literary Crossroads is a series of talks where South African writers meet colleagues from all over the continent and from the African diaspora to discuss trends, topics and themes prevalent in their literatures today. The series is curated by Indra Wussow and Sine Buthelezi.

The guests for the October edition of #LiteraryCrossroads are:

Writer-performer Phillippa Yaa de Villiers is the author of three collections of poetry and lectures at Wits University. Her autobiographical play Original Skin toured South Africa and Germany between 2008-2012. Her work has appeared in local and international journals and has been translated into Burmese, Mandarin, German, Italian, Flemish and Dutch. She is on the judging panel of African Poetry Book Fund (University of Nebraska) and is part of the South African Poetry Project (Zapp). She performs her poetry internationally and locally.

Tania Haberland (BA, HDE, MA) is a Mauritian-German-South African hybrid poet-artist-teacher-bodyworker. Her book Hyphen won the Ingrid Jonker Prize. Tania’s work brings poetry into educational and therapeutic contexts. Artistically, she loves to co-create multidisciplinary pieces exploring ‘carnal poetics’. Her current projects include The Technology of Tenderness with movement artist Fabrizio Dalle Piane, JazzGa: creating & singing poem-songs with musicians, translating Dome Bulfaro’s poetry… Mille Gru will publish an Italian anthology of her poems in 2018. Her second book, Other, is searching for a home.

Xabiso Vili is a performer, writer, social activist, TEDx speaker and soul collaborator. His writings explore his inner world to relate to the outer world. He is the champion of multiple slams and WordNSound poet of the year 2014 and 2015. Xabiso has performed all over South Africa, in Scotland, UK, the U.S. and India. As part of his activism work, Xabiso works with Mthubi the Hub, an organisation that takes over abandoned buildings and transforms them into art hubs for the community. Xabiso also runs writing, performance and event organizing workshops through Scribe Rites, a performance writing collective he co-founded that has produced other award-winning writers and performers. He released his album, ‘Eating My Skin’, created with Favela Ninjas. His one-man show ‘Black Boi Be’ has travelled extensively to critical acclaim.

Event details

Date: Tuesday, 10 October
Time: 19:00
Venue: Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, 119 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood

Hilda Smits met Ingrid Jonker-prys vir poësie 2017 bekroon

Die bome reusagtig soos ons wasHilda Smits se debuutdigbundel, Die bome reusagtig soos ons was, is onlangs met die Ingrid Jonker-prys vir poësie bekroon.

Dié bundel is deur beoordelaars beskryf as “‘n boeiende debuut” wat die by die hoogs persoonlike betrek en wat tegelykertyd ook betekenis aan die universele belewenis gee. “Wat die digter hier vermag het, is enorm,” skryf ’n ander beoordelaar, soos berig deur Naomi Meyer vir LitNet.

Die prys word op 16 September by die Tuin van Digters in Wellington oorhandig. Simone Jonker, dogter van Ingrid Jonker, sal die prys oorhandig.

Hierdie verrassende debuutbundel is een van die eerlikste sienings in Afrikaans van die werklikheid van die emigrant of expat wat Suid-Afrika verlaat het, maar nog steeds worstel met identiteit in ’n nuwe omgewing.

Die kinderjare van die digter word byna deurlopend gekontrasteer met haar nuwe lewe in die buiteland. Die herinneringe is skrynend eerlik en brose familiebande word sonder skroom ondersoek. Klein besonderhede kry reusegestalte in die herinneringe van haar kinderjare en staan skerp afgeteken teen die besef van nietigheid wanneer die ek-spreker in ander kontekste beland. Die belewenis van die grootstad Londen het soms ’n byna onwerklike en dromerige kwaliteit, asof die digteres sukkel om tot ’n vergelyk te kom met die verplaasde self.

Afstand, afsondering en verlange word egter teengewerk deur vlugtige kontak met ander mense, objekte en herinneringe. Die stad met sy glas en beton word byna ook ’n persoonlikheid en word soms direk aangespreek, maar dit is veral die waarneming van die gewone lewe in teenstelling met die bekende toeristiese gesig van die stad wat uitstaan, soms morbied, onverskillig en smerig, maar dikwels ook warm en verwelkomend.

Deurgaans is daar sprake van die spreker se kamera-oog wat objektief probeer waarneem en registreer, maar die ondertoon van melancholie verseker dat die gedigte die leser nie ongeraak laat nie.

Hilda Smits is ’n boorling van Potchefstroom, maar het haar nagraadse studie in Sielkunde in Londen gedoen. Van haar gedigte het in Nuwe stemme 6 verskyn. Sy woon tans in Nashville, VSA.


Teenager’s poem illustrates power of literacy at National Book Week launch

A sobering poem by primary school learner Mbali Mabangula (12) highlighting poverty and the importance of education stole the show at the launch of National Book Week at the Despatch Community Hall today.

Even though the grade 5 teenager is a literary novice, she managed not only to trump esteemed speakers; her turn of phrase encapsulates the importance of establishing a culture of reading.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Head of Libraries, Bongiwe Chigumbu, said prior to the implementation of National Book Week (NBW), a national study showed that only 14% of South Africans read. NBW takes place from 4 – 10 September this year and the theme is #OurStories.

“Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality became part of this national promotional week in 2012. It is based on the premise that the country will ultimately benefit with improved literacy levels.

“Like Mbali, we are not only encouraging writers to put pen to paper, we also endeavour to promote their stories as well.

“Last year Eastern Cape author Unathi Magubeni launched his novel Nwelezelanga The Star Child at the Nelson Mandela Bay rendition of National Book Week. This year his book is used as part of a reading and comprehension competition between Bay High Schools,” Chigumbu said.

She said activities for the week include a train ride by librarians from Uitenhage to Port Elizabeth from 07:00 tomorrow morning and a return trip from 13:00 to encourage commuters to read and write.

A workshop highlighting mobi sites also takes place at the Zwide Library from 09:00 today (Tuesday, 5 September).

Residents can also attend an e-media workshop at the Gelvandale Library from 10:00 to learn how to get free access to newspapers, magazines and e-books by having a valid library card.

On Wednesday, 6 September a parent and child interactive reading session starts at 09:00 at the Walmer/Gqebera Library. At 10:00 library staff will be competing in a comprehension competition at the Kwadwesi Community Hall after reading Zakes Mda’s Rachel’s Blue.

On Thursday, 7 September book donations to specially selected primary schools take place at the Newton Park Library from 09:00 and the Colchester Modular Library from 11:00.

Following a brisk walk, starting at 08:30 on Friday from Allanridge Library to Uitenhage Market Square, Nal’ibali storytelling takes place at 09:45 at the Uitenhage Town Hall. The closing ceremony takes place at the Uitenhage Market Square from 10:00 with a myriad activities including a book launch, an award ceremony and a motivational talk.

My dear future

by Mbali Mabangula

Hello, hello, hello!
I greet you my dear future.
I hope you’re bright and full of opportunities
Just like I’ve imagined being alive with possibilities.
And be equipped with new responsibilities
I am three steps ahead at reaching new frontiers
Escaping the heavy poverty left by my forefathers
Who said no to school, but yes to slavery!
That caused their death at Calvary

I’ve learned my A.B.C’s
And counted my 1.2.3’s
But still there’s no shadow of hope under my tree
Only leaves falling for me to see, that with no education you’re not free
Instead you’re like a person who’s walking on knees,
Trying to flee from poverty through the grace of the almighty.

I say to you my dear future
Be my teacher and make my life more richer.

Nick Mulgrew awarded 2016 Thomas Pringle Award for his short story '1-HR FOTO'

Nick Mulgrew has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Thomas Pringle Award for his short story ’1-HR FOTO’, published in Oppikoppi’s annual zine, Ons Klyntji (2016), and his short story anthology, Stations.

The Thomas Pringle Award is an annual award for work published in newspapers, periodicals and journals. The awards are allocated to either a book, play, film or TV review; a literary article or book review; an article on English education; one or more poems; and – in Nick’s case – a short story or one-act play.

Congrats, Nick!

Book details

Getting to grips with memory in Wings of Smoke: Dave Mann reviews Jim Pascual Agustin’s new collection

There are moments in Jim Pascual Agustin’s latest collection that will test both mind and memory and, really, that’s what makes it so good.

Titled Wings of Smoke, the collection comprises 41 poems spread across four parts and features both new and previously published works by the Philippines-born, Cape Town-based writer and translator.

To take a leisurely read through Agustin’s works is no easy task. His writing is the kind that encourages you to stop and consider what you have just read, and in this way, you’ll find yourself combing through the same lines and picking out newer and more complex treasures each time. This is not to say that a cursory read of Wings of Smoke isn’t possible. Rather, it’s a flexible read – you pick it up and take what you want from it.

Structurally, Agustin’s collection is considerate. There are small poems early on, such as ‘Pause’ and ‘Midnight Bugs’ that read like exercises in the senses, full of new smells, tastes, and sounds. Pieces such as ‘Unbearable’, also early on in the collection, play around with space and movement so viscerally and succinctly that you’ll need to backtrack a good few times in order to grab hold of the piece in its entirety.

In the sections that follow, you’ll traverse the ephemeral and intangible, the humorous, the horrific, the political, and even a touch of the lyrical. Read in succession, the poems tend to dart from tone to tone, almost intentionally cutting the tension between each other, rather than expanding upon any singular, thematic thread. Pieces such as ‘Armed Response’ for example, with its somewhat reflexive and cheeky take on suburban living, come just before the painfully visceral ‘Red Letter’.

Altogether, Wings of Smoke reads like a spell of nostalgia or recollection – (Ten. Or nine. / Memory plays with me. / Stillness was a butterfly carefully settling on skin.) – the way a sound or smell may break the floodgates on a set of memories, or how a dream you don’t remember having will revisit you the following afternoon. Agustin’s writing is sharp and measured, each line plump with thought and vivid remembrance, relentless in its delivery, but light enough in its form to keep you pressing on, keenly.


International orders may be placed via Onslaught Press, and SA orders and queries can be coursed on Jim’s blog, Matangmanok. PS – Fixional recently conducted an interview with Jim; read it here.

Book details