This story was first published as a newsletter; click here if you would like to sign up for our newsletter to get the best of Maverick Life delivered to your inbox every Sunday morning.
It probably comes as no surprise that our team of journalists at Daily Maverick does a lot of reading, so we’d like to think that we know a good book from a bad one.
In an effort to share our wordy wisdom with you, we’ve spotlighted excerpts and reviews of an array of books covering South African realities that we believe deserve your attention.
From shedding light on Eskom’s shady business to encouraging affirmative action in addressing both the climate crisis and the poaching crisis, Daily Maverick has your holiday reading list covered.
We’ve also popped in a couple of lighter-hearted options for those sunny summer days by the pool: excerpts from a coming-of-age story that’ll have you in stitches, an interview with the author of a Cape Town women’s story reminiscent of Sex and the City and a vibrant review of an equally vibrant photographic guide to South Africa’s birdlife.
To sate the intellectual cravings of our practically minded readers we’ve included book excerpts that’ll equip you with tools and tips to face the real world: like how leaders can capitalise on Gen Z’s disruptive demands for change, and South Africa’s top CFO-backed strategies for success.
We hope you enjoy our selection of the year’s most thought-provoking South African reads this holiday season. Let us know if you follow any of our recommendations – we’d love to hear from you.
‘Sabotage’ by Kyle Cowan: Eskom’s corruption and neglect uncovered
In May 2022, evidence of sabotage emerged at three Eskom power stations – cables and an air pipe were cut at Tutuka, crucial copper parts were removed from three units in the heart of Hendrina, and an attempt was made to take a unit offline at Matla. Sabotage at Eskom is real, the utility proclaimed. At that time, Cowan’s book on Eskom, aptly titled Sabotage, was on the printing press.
Book review: Apartheid’s pernicious legacy lives on in the former homelands
Apartheid may be over, but the Bantustans live on – and the ANC is milking this for all it’s worth. Ed Stoddard reviews Land, Law and Chiefs in Rural South Africa: Contested Histories and Current Struggles, a stimulating collection of 12 essays.
From Robert F Kennedy’s visit to UCT to Frank Sinatra at Sun City: A new history of South Africa
With South Africa in crisis, History of South Africa: From 1902 to the Present shows us that the problems are neither unprecedented nor insurmountable. Author Thula Simpson believes history has lessons for the future.
‘Black Lion’ is an inspirational walk on the wild side
South African wilderness guide Sicelo Mbatha believes that journeys into the wild should be a healing and spiritual experience. In Black Lion: Alive in the Wilderness – co-authored with Bridget Pitt – he traces his own path into the wild. As a black trail guide and author, he brings an important perspective to African conservation that is missing from most accounts of this nature.
Book review: ‘It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way’ – a must-read fiction about the very real climate crisis
Alistair Mackay’s It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way is a captivating read about love and connection, while also being a painful, heart-wrenching call to action on behalf of our planet.
Rhino War: Military man recalls bureaucratic minefields in battle against SA’s poaching scourge
Johan Jooste, a retired major-general, was appointed commanding officer: special projects at SANParks in 2012. His remit was to reduce the number of rhinos being poached for their horns by adopting a military approach. In Rhino War he makes a credible case that things would have been worse without this intervention, although the jury remains out on its overall effectiveness.
Search for home and meaning: As a teenager I asked ‘too many’ questions and got whacked over the head
This is a lightly edited excerpt from DM168 contributor Ismail Lagardien’s new book, Too White to be Coloured, Too Coloured to be Black: On the Search for Home and Meaning, published by Melinda Ferguson Books.
‘The Presidents: From Mandela to Ramaphosa, Leadership in the Age of Crisis’ by Richard Calland and Mabel Sithole
Since 1994, South Africa has had five presidents who have varied greatly in style and character, despite all belonging to the same political party. How do they compare? How did they handle the crises they faced? What impact did they have on the country?
‘Breach: How the next generation are consciously disrupting the world’ by Ronen Aires
Generation Z are standing up for their futures. In Breach, performance coach Ronen Aires explains how leaders should embrace and listen to young people’s aspirations so their organisations thrive.
Seize the moment: Songezo Zibi and the case for reshaping SA’s future democracy
The bestselling Manifesto: A New Vision for South Africa is author Songezo Zibi’s ‘so far and no further’ moment. He calls on South Africans on whom ‘the country’s democracy has bestowed professional skill, global citizenship and connections and the ability to plan for the long term’ to step up, ‘haal uit and wys’, and help form a new and cohesive ‘professional class’.
‘Letters to my Mother – The Making of a Troublemaker’ by Kumi Naidoo
In this poignant new memoir, the human rights and environmental activist details his fight against the apartheid regime.
Up close with Cape Town-based author Qarnita Loxton
Her Being series is reminiscent of Sex and the City, giving that same salubrious dose of feel-good endorphins that comes with a group of women who are there for each other through thick and thin.
Onke Mazibuko’s debut novel ‘The Second Verse’ is a humour-laced coming-of-age story
In his debut novel, Mazibuko looks at South Africa’s ‘missing middle’. DM/ML