Books of the year
Nonfiction book of the year
It is easy to be intimidated by Helen Zille’s Not Without a Fight: The Autobiography. It is big and heavy enough to crack open Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s skull. But don’t be frightened. This book is what autobiographies and memoirs are supposed to be. It lays it all bare – from her family’s origins to the young girl’s pubescent adventures to her adult sexual exploits to the hurly-burly of political life. Not Without a Fight is not a polite book, which is why it has peeved a lot of people in the DA and the broader political scene. If Mark Gevisser’s Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred was the gold standard for biographics, this does it for autobiographies.
The Thabo Mbeki I Know, edited by Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu and Miranda Strydom
Make or Break: How The Next Three Years will Shape South Africa’s Next Three Decades by Richard Calland
Umkhonto we Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle by Thula Simpson
– Mondli Makhanya
Fiction book of the year
South Africa’s favourite literary uncle, Zakes Mda, delivered a stunning read this year: Little Suns. It tells the magnificently researched yet magical tale of Malangana, a desperate lover on an epic journey, and a cadre determined to decolonise the lives and land of the Mpondomise people from their British masters.
As I wrote in my review: “Mda in Little Suns is a trickster who, by writing history, writes about the consequences of colonisation ... With a glint in his eye, he peppers his tale with lessons from history, and restores stories that were erased. Into this real-life story of resistance, Mda weaves his love story as grandly as he did in Ways of Dying and The Whale Caller.” The runner-up:
The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo