100 books like A Military History of Modern South Africa

By Ian van der Waag,

Here are 100 books that A Military History of Modern South Africa fans have personally recommended if you like A Military History of Modern South Africa. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Reginald (Reggie) L. Reed Jr. Author Of The Day My Mother Never Came Home

From my list on promoting the power of human healing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I experienced severe trauma at an early age in life, which involved numerous challenges that tested my resilience and inner strength. However, through perseverance, self-reflection, and seeking support, I was able to overcome these obstacles and emerge stronger than ever. My experiences have taught me the importance of resilience, the power of healing, and the transformative impact of sharing stories, including the messy ones. I believe that by recommending books that explore these themes, I can inspire and empower others who may be facing similar challenges to find hope, resilience, and a path toward healing.

Reginald's book list on promoting the power of human healing

Reginald (Reggie) L. Reed Jr. Why did Reginald love this book?

I highly recommend this book as it offers a unique and insightful perspective on the complexities of growing up in a world marked by crime and adversity. Noah’s candid storytelling and introspection resonate deeply with themes explored in my book, such as resilience, perseverance, and the capacity humans have for survival.

Through Noah’s journey, readers gain an understanding of the impact of injustices and personal experiences on shaping one's worldview and navigating life's challenges.

By Trevor Noah,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Born a Crime as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE THURBER PRIZE

The compelling, inspiring, (often comic) coming-of-age story of Trevor Noah, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

One of the comedy world's brightest new voices, Trevor Noah is a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of the US hit show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his…


Book cover of The Night Trains: Moving Mozambican Miners to and from the Witwatersrand Mines, 1902-1955

Gail Nattrass Author Of A Short History of South Africa

From my list on modern South Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gail Nattrass was born in Northern Rhodesia. She was educated at Mufulira High School and the universities of Natal, Rhodesia, Nyasaland, and UNISA. She relocated to South Africa with her husband in 1967, and subsequently lectured in the history department at the School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand for 20 years. She has written materials for students and presented papers on various aspects of South African and international history at four universities in South Africa. She is also the author of The Rooiberg Story, the co-editor with S B Spies of Jan Smuts: Memoirs of the Boer War, and a contributor to They Shaped Our Century and Leaders of the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902.

Gail's book list on modern South Africa

Gail Nattrass Why did Gail love this book?

This book by South Africa’s most eminent historian, Charles van Onselen, tells the story of the night trains which brought poverty-stricken Mozambican men from Rossania Garcia on the Mozambique border to work as migrant labourers on the gold mines in Johannesburg between 1902 and 1955.

The men travelled in appalling conditions and were preyed on by petty criminals, con men, and corrupt officials. The night trains were a transport system run in partnership between the mining houses and the railways and designed to maximise profit at the expense of the health, well-being, and even the lives of the men it conveyed. 

At the end of their time in the mines, the trains sent the men back to Mozambique, often ill and broken and even insane after their experiences in the mines and in the trains. The story reflects South Africa’s evolving system of segregation and apartheid and the brutal logic…

By Charles Van Onselen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Night Trains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This seminal book reveals how black labour was exploited in twentieth-century South Africa, the human costs of which are still largely hidden from history. It was the people of southern Mozambique, bent double beneath the historical loads of forced labour and slavery, then sold off en masse as contracted labourers, who paid the highest price for South African gold. An iniquitous intercolonial agreement for the exploitation of ultra-cheap black labour was only made possible through nightly use of the steam locomotive on the transnational railway linking Johannesburg and Lourenco Marques. These night trains left deep scars in the urban and…


Book cover of How Long Will South Africa Survive?: The Looming Crisis

Gail Nattrass Author Of A Short History of South Africa

From my list on modern South Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gail Nattrass was born in Northern Rhodesia. She was educated at Mufulira High School and the universities of Natal, Rhodesia, Nyasaland, and UNISA. She relocated to South Africa with her husband in 1967, and subsequently lectured in the history department at the School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand for 20 years. She has written materials for students and presented papers on various aspects of South African and international history at four universities in South Africa. She is also the author of The Rooiberg Story, the co-editor with S B Spies of Jan Smuts: Memoirs of the Boer War, and a contributor to They Shaped Our Century and Leaders of the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902.

Gail's book list on modern South Africa

Gail Nattrass Why did Gail love this book?

R W Johnson, an international commentator on South African affairs, first wrote a book with this question in 1977. It provided a controversial and highly original analysis of the survival prospects of the apartheid regime. 

Now, after more than twenty years of post-apartheid ANC (African National Congress) majority rule, the situation has become so crucial that he feels the question must be posed again. He moves from an analysis of Jacob Zuma’s corrupt rule to the increasingly dire state of the economy and concludes that South Africa under the ANC is fast slipping backward.

He feels that twenty years of ANC rule have shown that the party is hopelessly ill-equipped to cope with the challenges of running a modern industrial economy.

By R.W. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Long Will South Africa Survive? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1977, Johnson's best-selling How Long Will South Africa Survive? offered a controversial and highly original analysis of the survival prospects of apartheid. Now, after more than two decades of ANC in government, he believes the question must be posed again. 'The big question about ANC rule,' Johnson writes, 'is whether African nationalism would be able to cope with the challenges of running a modern industrial economy. Twenty years of ANC rule have shown conclusively that the party is hopelessly ill-equipped for this task. Indeed, everything suggests that South Africa under the ANC is fast slipping backward and that even…


Book cover of Jan Smuts - Unafraid of Greatness

Gail Nattrass Author Of A Short History of South Africa

From my list on modern South Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gail Nattrass was born in Northern Rhodesia. She was educated at Mufulira High School and the universities of Natal, Rhodesia, Nyasaland, and UNISA. She relocated to South Africa with her husband in 1967, and subsequently lectured in the history department at the School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand for 20 years. She has written materials for students and presented papers on various aspects of South African and international history at four universities in South Africa. She is also the author of The Rooiberg Story, the co-editor with S B Spies of Jan Smuts: Memoirs of the Boer War, and a contributor to They Shaped Our Century and Leaders of the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902.

Gail's book list on modern South Africa

Gail Nattrass Why did Gail love this book?

This book by former lawyer and journalist, Richard Steyn, is a study of one of South Africa’s most celebrated, brilliant yet enigmatic figures, Jan Smuts.

Soldier, statesman, philosopher, and politician, Smuts was all of these things and a man unafraid of greatness. Prime Minister of South Africa from 1919 - 1924 and again from 1939 - 1948, a distinguished veteran of three wars, an international figure, whose opinions were sought after in the councils of the world, and the personal friend and confidante of world leaders like Winston Churchill and King George VI, Richard Steyn gives an extremely readable account of how Smuts achieved greatness in so many areas. He helped establish the United Nations and drew the attention of the world to South Africa, yet failed to address the growing need to create equitable political, economic, and social relations between black and white peoples in South Africa.

Steyn does…

By Richard Steyn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jan Smuts - Unafraid of Greatness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jan Christian Smuts was soldier, statesman and intellectual, one of South Africa's greatest leaders. Yet little is said about him today even as we appear to live in a leadership vacuum. Unafraid of Greatness is a re-examination of the life and thought of Jan Smuts. It is intended to remind a contemporary readership of the remarkable achievements of this impressive soldier-statesman. The author argues that there is a need to bring Smuts back into the present, that Smuts' legacy still has much to instruct. He draws several parallels between Smuts and President Thabo Mbeki, both intellectuals much lionised abroad and…


Book cover of A Just Transition to a Low Carbon Future in South Africa

Najma Mohamed Author Of Sustainability Transitions in South Africa

From my list on justice and sustainability in South Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

While my childhood in a coastal community in South Africa contributed to my deep appreciation and love for nature, I was born and grew up as a person of colour in the apartheid era when barricades divided humans, the land, and the sea. I developed a profound understanding, rooted in my lived experience, of the interlinkages between justice, equity, and sustainability. I've remained actively involved and interested in developing and profiling transformative and inclusive approaches to sustainability from community to the international level. I've maintained this focus on the nexus between climate, nature, and inequality throughout my career, where I've led transformative and inclusive approaches to nature and climate policy and practice for 20+ years. 

Najma's book list on justice and sustainability in South Africa

Najma Mohamed Why did Najma love this book?

This book has been timely as policymakers in the carbon-intensive economy of South Africa is in the throes of a developing framework and plan for implementing a just transition to a low carbon economy.

It brings some of the best thinkers and doers in science, policy and academia to unpack the key shifts – social, economic, and technological and builds on thinking in earlier works on transitions.

By Nqobile Xaba (editor), Saliem Fakir (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Just Transition to a Low Carbon Future in South Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Deliberations on the just transition in South Africa have intensified and will continue to do so for the next few years and decades. Climate change, widening socio-economic inequality, the precarious future of work and emergent approaches to financing arrangements have brought new urgency to the issues. It therefore remains critical to interrogate how South Africa can ensure a just transition to a low carbon economy.

This book underlines the fact that the low carbon transition in South Africa has to grapple with complex historical, social, economic, cultural and political factors. The main message is that the transition to a low-carbon…


Book cover of Breakthrough: Corporate South Africa in a Green Economy

Najma Mohamed Author Of Sustainability Transitions in South Africa

From my list on justice and sustainability in South Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

While my childhood in a coastal community in South Africa contributed to my deep appreciation and love for nature, I was born and grew up as a person of colour in the apartheid era when barricades divided humans, the land, and the sea. I developed a profound understanding, rooted in my lived experience, of the interlinkages between justice, equity, and sustainability. I've remained actively involved and interested in developing and profiling transformative and inclusive approaches to sustainability from community to the international level. I've maintained this focus on the nexus between climate, nature, and inequality throughout my career, where I've led transformative and inclusive approaches to nature and climate policy and practice for 20+ years. 

Najma's book list on justice and sustainability in South Africa

Najma Mohamed Why did Najma love this book?

A great journey through how and why corporate South Africa is responding to the green transition.

It features case studies of leading national and multi-national corporations charting the sometimes bumpy road to integrating sustainability in business models.

From retail, energy, finance, insurance, and banking sectors businesses share the highs and lows of going green. 

By Godwell Nhamo (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Breakthrough as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book addresses hot issues pertaining to the manner in which corporate South Africa has engaged the emerging green global economy. Firstly, the book profiles the green and low carbon economy landscape in South Africa and interfaces it with global trends. This way, the book aligns very well in terms of the Rio+20 outcomes on 'The Future We Want' that fully embraces the green global economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. The rest of the chapters in the book profile breakthroughs from selected companies. The book also comes as the second in a series that is…


Book cover of The Third Reel

Michiel Heyns Author Of A Poor Season for Whales

From my list on by Africans that don’t have much to say about Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an African author, I find that my books end up on the ‘African fiction’ shelf in the bookstore, which can be a disadvantage if my novel is, say, about Henry James or the Trojan War, both of which I've written novels about. As a lecturer in English literature, I've become acquainted with a vast and varied array of literature. So, whereas of course there are many wonderful African novels that deal with specifically African themes, I think the label African novel can be constricting and commercially disadvantageous. Many African novelists see themselves as part of a larger community, and their novels reflect that perspective, even though they are nominally set in Africa.

Michiel's book list on by Africans that don’t have much to say about Africa

Michiel Heyns Why did Michiel love this book?

The ex-pat novel has become something of a South African genre, what with many young people searching for new opportunities overseas, in flight from the old repressive racist regime or, latterly, the corrupt, inefficient new regime. In his debut collection of short stories, The Alphabet of Birds, Naudé referred to "the diaspora of fearful, grim, white children from South Africa," and this novel is another variation on that theme. It’s easy to fall into stereotype and cliché, and part of Naudé’s achievement is to remake the familiar scenario into something wholly original, in an account of his main character’s search for the missing reel of a film made by a Jewish filmmaker in Hitler’s Germany.

The novel contains vivid accounts of life in a ‘squat’ in London, as well as the grim atmosphere of an East German film school under Russian occupation – contrasting with the hedonistic excess of…

By S. J. Naudé,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Third Reel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Scott Pack: Books of the Year 2018

Shortlisted for The Sunday Times Literary Awards (South Africa)

Twenty-two-year-old Etienne is studying film in London, having fled conscription in his native South Africa. It is 1986, the time of Thatcher, anti-apartheid campaigns and Aids, but also of postmodern art, post-punk rock, and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Adrift in a city cast in shadow, he falls in love with a German artist while living in derelict artists' communes.

When Etienne finds the first of three reels of a German film from the 1930s, he begins searching for the missing reels, a project that…


Book cover of The Conservationist

Lewis DeSoto Author Of A Blade of Grass

From my list on about life, literature and South Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up during the apartheid era of racial segregation and oppression. A Blade of Grass was written with a sense of exile and regret, but also with love. It is not overtly about South Africa and apartheid. It asks a fundamental question: Where is home, and how shall we live there?

Lewis' book list on about life, literature and South Africa

Lewis DeSoto Why did Lewis love this book?

I read this novel in university in a course taught brilliantly by the scholar WH New. It was the first time I understood the complexity of layers in great literature. Ostensibly about a businessman who buys a farm, it encompasses race relations, power in all its guises, sexuality, relationships to nature, and how character influences personal destiny. Written with outrage and compassion.

I kept The Conservationist in mind when I wrote my own book as an example of what a novel could be, but more than that, it taught me how to think about the world in a new way.

By Nadine Gordimer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Conservationist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mehring is rich. He has all the privileges and possessions that South Africa has to offer, but his possessions refuse to remain objects. His wife, son, and mistress leave him; his foreman and workers become increasingly indifferent to his stewardship; even the land rises up, as drought, then flood, destroy his farm.


Book cover of The Covenant

Neville Sherriff Author Of Wings of Gold

From my list on making history come alive through storytelling.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since a tender age I’ve been fascinated by history and the people who dwelled in and shaped those times. My first two writing awards – at 8 and 12 years of age – were for stories with historical settings. I devoured novels dealing with the past, walked the pages with characters who showed me a life and time of romance and danger and enormous challenge. Every piece of history I research drives me to create characters in my mind, to see how they would fare in those circumstances. Once they become alive to me, they use that background to write their own story. It's especially the lesser-known or “smaller” parts of history that intrigue me.

Neville's book list on making history come alive through storytelling

Neville Sherriff Why did Neville love this book?

Because it is about my own, complex country, South Africa, The Covenant is of special interest to me. Michener uses an array of characters from the various population groups to carry the story forward from prehistoric times to the turbulent 1970s, illustrating via storytelling the interaction and conflicts between these groups.

The novel received some criticism for inaccuracies, but I felt it did a sterling job of giving non-South Africans a greater understanding of South Africa and its problems, which remain prevalent to this day. An array of characters ranging from scoundrels to adventurers made this possible, taking us on this journey through history, exposing the reader to an understanding of the daunting ruggedness, beauty, and physical challenges which shaped the formation of this country.

By James A. Michener,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Covenant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James A. Michener’s masterly chronicle of South Africa is an epic tale of adventurers, scoundrels, and ministers, the best and worst of two continents who carve an empire out of a vast wilderness. From the Java-born Van Doorn family tree springs two great branches: one nurtures lush vineyards, the other settles the interior to become the first Trekboers and Afrikaners. The Nxumalos, inhabitants of a peaceful village unchanged for centuries, unite warrior tribes into the powerful Zulu nation. And the wealthy Saltwoods are missionaries and settlers who join the masses to influence the wars and politics that ravage a nation.…


Book cover of Riding High: Horses, Humans and History in South Africa

Ann Greene Author Of Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America

From my list on horses in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I was crazy about both horses and books, so it’s not surprising that in grad school I became a horse historian. I found that writing about work horses linked my love of horses with my interests in technology and nature. The books I’ve chosen show how humans and horses shaped each other, society, the environment, and built the modern world. I hope readers browse (graze?) these books at their leisure and pleasure.

Ann's book list on horses in history

Ann Greene Why did Ann love this book?

Swart makes a big argument: studying horses changes how we understand all history. This sweeping overview shows that “The history of horses is the history of the desire for power” whether economic, political, military, social, or cultural. The history of horses in South Africa offers an interesting comparison with both the American West and the American South in terms of frontiers, the military, race, class, and gender. Swart is a lively, funny, and entertaining writer. The fieldwork she did for this book gives the reader a visceral sense of what South Africa is like as a place. What is there not to love about a book with chapter titles like “The Reins of Power” and “The Empire Rides Back?”

By Sandra Swart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Riding High as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

0||The aim of this volume is to examine nascent movements, genre shifts, developing authors/playwrights and controversial themes as they emerged in both drama and theatre. The editors have focused on the essence of creative nexus of London from the end of the nineteenth century up to the beginning of the Great War (1914). The resultant study discusses Gordon Craig and production design, Wilde, Shaw, Synge, Pinero, Strindberg,Harley Granville Barker,Jones, Archer, Ford Madox Ford, D.H.Lawrence,Galsworthy, Sims, women playwrights, popular theatre among other topics. The work complements J.L.Styan s 3 volume Modern Drama in Theory and Practice and is more focused on…


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