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Book Bites: 13 November 2016

Published in the Sunday Times

Early One Sunday MorningEarly One Sunday Morning I Decided To Step Out And Find South Africa
Luke Alfred (Tafelberg)
Known for his brainy sports writing, Alfred leaves the field in grand style with this delightful book, which recounts 12 long rambles he took across the cities and wildernesses of South Africa, from Soweto to the Groot Marico, from the Baviaanskloof to False Bay. His voice is by turns wry and lyrical, melancholy and jubilant, and his eye is superbly alert to the interminglings between our landscapes and our histories. There is much reverence for natural grace and for the remains of long-lost lives, from dam walls to Khoisan digging sticks to graves and railway tracks; “history throwing us a crumb across the great void of time”. It’s all an antidote to the national mood of mediated hysteria: a long stomp through the real world is the best way for urban worrywarts to get a grip. If you can’t get out there yourself, outsource the hard yards to Alfred, whose wandering mind is far from pedestrian. – Carlos Amato @CarlosBAmato

Cath Weeks (Little Brown)
Twyla has just had her first child, Charlie, on Christmas Day and everyone says he’s perfect. Only Twyla fears that he is not, and is proved right when Charlie is declared blind. Driven by her love for her son, Twyla is determined to restore his sight, and the opportunity presents itself in the form of experimental surgery with a staggering price tag. However, despite her hard work and dedication to the cause, when the day of Charlie’s surgery arrives, he is abducted. Blind is a superb, gripping read and emotional rollercoaster. Weeks has definite skill in portraying emotional depth and anguish. – Samantha Gibb @samantha_gibb

30 000 Years of Art30,000 Years Of Art
Various (Phaidon)
This is the updated and slightly downsized version – it’s still enormous, but your bookshelf will protest a little less, thanks to a slightly smaller format – of a truly wonderful compilation of artworks from, as the title suggests, the last 30 millennia. It’s a great resource for art lovers, being instant inspiration for those who are already informed in such matters and a goldmine of information and sumptuous visuals for anyone who cares enough about art. The editors and compilers of this tome have combined quantity (nearly 600 artworks, each on their own page) with quality, packing a wealth of data into four or five paragraphs. This makes it possible to read the giant volume in bite-size segments. – Bruce Dennill @BroosDennill

The Bedside ArkThe Bedside Ark
David Muirhead (Struik Nature)
Muirhead’s essays on a “motley collection” of animals is hugely entertaining and informative. Whether or not the knowledge is useful is beside the point. Although, who knows, your chance to win a million rand may hinge on your knowledge of porcupines’ sex lives. Muirhead charts the animals’ past and current appearances in human society; revered god, omen and dinner, and shares the bizarre facts you probably won’t find in guidebooks. His book is a reminder of just how varied and strange the animal kingdom is. Each essay is long enough for a quick chuckle. – Jem Glendinning @jemathome

Book details

Walking a writing life: Early One Sunday Morning by Luke Alfred launched at Kalk Bay Books

Luke AlfredEarly One Sunday MorningKalk Bay Books hosted the launch of Luke Alfred’s new book Early One Sunday Morning recently.

The Tafelberg Author was in conversation with Darrel Bristow-Bovey, and the two discussed Alfred’s latest book, his future projects and his illustrious career as a sports journalist.

The launch began with a refreshing walk from Kalk Bay Books to St James, and the guests enjoyed the crisp ocean breeze and drank in the scenery.

Alfred described his book as a “love story about South Africa”. The colourful journalist fondly recalled walking with his dad, the author Mike Alfred, as a young boy, saying, “I have always loved walking.” Commenting on the inspiration behind his book, Alfred said he feld he needed a change from sport, and also felt that he “didn’t want to get trapped in the addictive pessimism of the times”.

Making reference to iconic authors such as Dickens and Wordsworth, Alfred joked that he “didn’t compose odes or sonnets”, but emphasised the relationship between walking and writing, outlining how the two offer one “an ideal rhythm to meander and play with things [words]”. He added that both “enhance your eye for detail” making one notice more and giving one a more authoritative voice. Alfred went on to say that he has found this particularly striking because “South African journalists are not good enough noticers”.

“The walks were not arbitrarily chosen,” he said, adding that he “looked for the beloved back story … scaffolding to attach the chapter to”. Detailing his experience of walking in South Africa, he noted that he felt “simultaneously exposed and invisible” and it gave him a “slight appreciation of the horrors of walking life” for the poor and marginalised in society.

Luke Alfred and Darrel Bristow-Bovey

After a few sports jokes and some ribbing of the South African print media, Bristow-Bovey concluded the session by asking Alfred about his future projects. “I am completely useless at life” the author responded. “I feel very happy writing, it is something I do well. I have always been interested in the Boer War and books about it sell …” Alfred said he would also like to write about South African trees.

Summing up the book and the entire experience of writing it, Alfred said that the “pessimism comes and goes; writing and walking provided a lifting of spirits”.

Kasuba Stuurman (@kasuba_sun) tweeted live from the event:

Book details

Black cat

So I Iost one of my four temporary charges–three black cats and a black dog–for a day and it was a short trip from there to despair and searching of the soul and such matters. I got to thinking about how I should be somewhere else, in my own home (with my own dog) and not wearing someone else’s for a week like a sorry hermit crab, talking to someone else’s beloved pets like a crazy man–they just stare back in what looks like alarm and then bolt and hide for as long as they’re hungry–and to hell with cats anyway, who just want to run away for good as soon as they find the gap to a better life.

Charlie's good food

I drove a ski-boat down to Alexandria, Minnesota for something called “winterization”, listening all the way to the country music stations popping up from town to town: Tim McGraw singing how he’ll always be, and another man singing them pantyhose ain’t stayin’ on for long if the DJ puts Bon Jovi on.

Don't miss the launch of Early One Sunday Morning by Luke Alfred with Darrel Bristow-Bovey

Invitation to the launch of Early One Sunday Morning

Early One Sunday Morning: I Decided To Step Out And Find South AfricaPlease join Luke Alfred at a launch with a difference!

Alfred will lead members of the local press and interested parties on a circular ramble along the Kalk Bay, St James and Muizenberg beachfront in celebration of his latest book, Early One Sunday Morning: I Decided To Step Out And Find South Africa.

Alfred will regale those attendees with historical facts along the way. Dress warmly, preferably with a pair of good shoes.

The walk will start in front of Kalk Bay Books and finish off there an hour later with an official launch in the bookshop, where Alfred will be in conversation with Darrel Bristow-Bovey.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 13 October 2016
  • Time: Walk starts at 5:15 PM, book launch starts directly after the walk at 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Kalk Bay Books (Meet the author outside the bookstore)
    124 Main Rd
    Kalk Bay
    Cape Town | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Darrel Bristow-Bovey
  • RSVP:, 021 788 2266
  • – please state whether you will join the author for the walk, or just the launch – you’re welcome to attend both.

Book Details

What's your cat up to when you're not around? This question and more explored in Don Pinnock's Wild as it Gets

Wild as it GetsTafelberg is proud to present the new book from Don Pinnock, Wild as it Gets:

What’s your cat up to when you’re not around? Do dragons exist? Are clouds alive? Why did three men risk their lives for a single penguin egg?

These are just a few of the questions and stories puzzled over by award-winning travel writer and naturalist Don Pinnock. Assembled from years of wandering around Africa, this is a funny, entertaining and thought-provoking book.

This book will convince you that if we remove the wild places from our hearts, we will wilt and die – Kingsley Holgate

Makes science read like a thriller – Justin Fox

Instantly engrossing – Mike Nicol

About the author

Don Pinnock, former editor of Getaway magazine, is also a criminologist who co-drafted the Youth Justice White Paper for the ANC government. He is among South Africa’s top experts on gangsterism and wrote the seminal book on the topic, The Brotherhoods: Street Gangs and State Control, Gangs, Rituals and Rites of Passage​, which caused quite a stir when it was published in 1984, and the City Press Non-fiction Award-winning Gang Town. Pinnock is a specialist in adolescent deviance and founder of Usiko, a rehabilitation organisation for high-risk youths.

Book details