100 books like Every Secret Thing

By Gillian Slovo,

Here are 100 books that Every Secret Thing fans have personally recommended if you like Every Secret Thing. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Everyday Madness: On Grief, Anger, Loss and Love

Susie Orbach Author Of Bodies

From my list on contemporary memoirs by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Memoirs have crept up on me as favorites. I could list many more. Please let me! As a psychoanalyst, I listen to the pains and struggles of individuals trying to become more at ease with themselves. They engage with their demons and try to make sense of how to manage the way their personal history has created their worldview and how to expand it enough to enter a present. Memoirs are another way of addressing such struggles. They have an elegance and a universality that emerges out of their individual stories. We learn about the other and we learn about ourselves.

Susie's book list on contemporary memoirs by women

Susie Orbach Why did Susie love this book?

Lisa’s husband dies as he is being treated for cancer. She writes about the first year after in which grief, madness, confusion, isolation, and fury coincide with Britain’s beginning Brexit madness. Nothing can be made sense of and yet we need words to express what’s happening. And then words provide for consoling and managing.

By Lisa Appignanesi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'You will find all of life in this' Deborah Levy

After the death of her partner of thirty-two years, Lisa Appignanesi was thrust into a state striated by rage and superstition in which sanity felt elusive. Then, too, the cultural and political moment seemed to collude with her condition: everywhere people were dislocated and angry.

In this electrifying and brave examination of an ordinary enough death and its aftermath, Everyday Madness uses all Lisa Appignanesi's evocative and analytic powers to scrutinize her own and our society's experience of grieving. With searing honesty, lashed by humour, she navigates us onto the…


Book cover of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Polly Hall Author Of Myrrh

From my list on capturing the experience of adoption.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was adopted as a baby, so I have first-hand experience of the emotions and challenges this presents. I am passionate about shining light on this often misunderstood and complex family trauma through my writing. My memoir Blood and Blood, an emotive exploration of the search for my birth relatives, was shortlisted for the Mslexia Prize. My research extends to fiction and non-fiction, where the psychological effects of adoption are referenced or highlighted. I am always keen to chat with fellow care-experienced people. I hope you find the books on this list helpful.

Polly's book list on capturing the experience of adoption

Polly Hall Why did Polly love this book?

One thing about being adopted is you have an in-built radar to seek out others who are too. I read Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit when I was a teenager, and since then, I have been in awe of her as a writer and her ability to eloquently describe her personal experience as an adoptee. 

This book is her autobiography, and there were occasions while reading it that I had to stop and cry. Finally, someone else had written about what I had kept holed up inside me. Her final chapter, "The Wound," speaks so profoundly to me as an adopted adult. It is honest, sharp, and fierce.

By Jeanette Winterson,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The shocking, heart-breaking - and often very funny - true story behind Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette's version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.

This book is that story's the silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness,…


Book cover of Red Dust Road

Susie Orbach Author Of Bodies

From my list on contemporary memoirs by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Memoirs have crept up on me as favorites. I could list many more. Please let me! As a psychoanalyst, I listen to the pains and struggles of individuals trying to become more at ease with themselves. They engage with their demons and try to make sense of how to manage the way their personal history has created their worldview and how to expand it enough to enter a present. Memoirs are another way of addressing such struggles. They have an elegance and a universality that emerges out of their individual stories. We learn about the other and we learn about ourselves.

Susie's book list on contemporary memoirs by women

Susie Orbach Why did Susie love this book?

Jackie and her brother were adopted by a loving working-class family in Glasgow. They were communists and thoughtful about the adoption process. Jackie becomes a beloved poet and a wonderful public performer. She was recently made the Poet Laureate of Scotland – The Scots Makar. In this book, she traces her childhood and her quest to meet her father in Lagos and to discover her biological parentage and story. It’s a story of belonging and of not belonging. Of finding, fitting, and not fitting. It moves and uplifts us.

By Jackie Kay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Taking the reader from Glasgow to Lagos and beyond, Red Dust Road is a heart-stopping memoir, a story of parents and siblings, friends and strangers, belonging and beliefs, biology and destiny.

With an introduction by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

From the moment when, as a little girl, she realizes that her skin is a different colour from that of her beloved mum and dad, to the tracing and finding of her birth parents, her Highland mother and Nigerian father, Jackie Kay's journey in Red Dust Road is one of unexpected twists, turns and deep emotions. In a…


Book cover of Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

Susie Orbach Author Of Bodies

From my list on contemporary memoirs by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Memoirs have crept up on me as favorites. I could list many more. Please let me! As a psychoanalyst, I listen to the pains and struggles of individuals trying to become more at ease with themselves. They engage with their demons and try to make sense of how to manage the way their personal history has created their worldview and how to expand it enough to enter a present. Memoirs are another way of addressing such struggles. They have an elegance and a universality that emerges out of their individual stories. We learn about the other and we learn about ourselves.

Susie's book list on contemporary memoirs by women

Susie Orbach Why did Susie love this book?

Afua’s father is from a Jewish refugee family, her mother is Ghanian. She grows up in an affluent middle-class suburb of London. As she explores her Black and Ghanian identity she looks at what it means to be British; the political heritage, race, and identity from the inside of a loving mix raced family. It is an important commentary on her experience of being in more than one place at the same time.

By Afua Hirsch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brit(ish) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Afua Hirsch - co-presenter of Samuel L. Jackson's major BBC TV series Enslaved - the Sunday Times bestseller that reveals the uncomfortable truth about race and identity in Britain today.

You're British.

Your parents are British.

Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British.

So why do people keep asking where you're from?

We are a nation in denial about our imperial past and the racism that plagues our present. Brit(ish) is Afua Hirsch's personal and provocative exploration of how this came to be - and an urgent call for change.

'The book for our divided…


Book cover of Cry, the Beloved Country

Shenaaz Nanji Author Of Child of Dandelions

From my list on stories every teen must read before they turn 18.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer with multiple cultures and heritage. I believe stories are magical, they touch our hearts and change the way we think and behave. Having lived in different continents around the world, my book list reflects stories with diversity of cultures and story settings around the world, and how the impact of these stories reverberated with me for a long time after reading them.

Shenaaz's book list on stories every teen must read before they turn 18

Shenaaz Nanji Why did Shenaaz love this book?

I studied this great work of literature in the 1960s in Secondary School in Mombasa and the injustice of humanity in this tragic story is still indelibly etched in my heart. The story is set in Ndotsheni, a poor, agricultural village in South Africa but with a strong sense of community and in the city of Johannesburg a corrupt, big city where it's every man for himself. It is about a Zulu pastor, Stephen Kumalo, who receives a letter that his sister in Johannesburg has fallen sick. Kumalo undertakes the difficult journey travelling from his village to the city in the hopes of aiding his sister and of finding his son, Absalom, who left to go to the city and never returned. What really moved me is the estranged relationship of two fathers and their sons that evoke anguish in the fathers. Upon reading this book the message that resonated…

By Alan Paton,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Cry, the Beloved Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel depicting the racial ferment in the beautiful country of South Africa in 1948.


Book cover of I Heart Robot

Dave-Brendon de Burgh Author Of Betrayal's Shadow

From my list on speculative fiction by South African authors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a bookseller specializing in SFF for around 13 years, during which I wrote two novels and many short stories, and I ran a review blog for many years. My love of SFF and Horror began when I was around nine years old, at which time I read Pet Sematary, which opened up the world of ‘grown-up’ books for me. I’m proud to say that I read more speculative fiction than anything else, and I love discovering new voices and visions in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.  

Dave-Brendon's book list on speculative fiction by South African authors

Dave-Brendon de Burgh Why did Dave-Brendon love this book?

I was expecting the quintessential and stereotypical forbidden romance, and instead, what I read was one of the best explorations of humanity (in its various forms) I’ve ever encountered.

The novel explores how AI and androids might impact society in terms of art, politics, personal relationships, and much more. The author also has a way of making music important and beautiful – a difficult thing to do when it comes to being restricted to using text.

By Suzanne Van Rooyen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won't belittle her musical aspirations. Q-I-99, aka “Quinn,” lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power. Tyri and Quinn's worlds collide when they're accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn's love…


Book cover of A History of South Africa

Kenneth P. Vickery Author Of The African Experience: From "Lucy" to Mandela

From my list on Southern Africa as picked by a historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

For fifty years I have studied and taught the history of Africa, which  makes me about the luckiest guy around.  My focus has been on Southern Africa, and especially Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.  Aside from the fantastic physical beauty, the region attracts because of the comparability of its history and experience with that of the United States at many points:  for instance, a colonial past, systems of slavery, and fraught [to say the least] racial dynamics.  I have enjoyed 23 journeys or lengthier sojourns in Southern Africa, and have taught at five universities, including North Carolina State, Duke, and the University of Zimbabwe as a Fulbright Lecturer.

Kenneth's book list on Southern Africa as picked by a historian

Kenneth P. Vickery Why did Kenneth love this book?

Okay, he was my dissertation advisor. Sorry! But Thompson’s is a concise, perceptive, and readable one-volume history of the great country, a splendid introduction. Born and raised in South Africa, the late Thompson was a Rhodes Scholar before seeing extensive service in World War II. Like so many talented South Africans from many fields, he went into exile around 1960 when the apartheid regime moved toward a no-holds-barred stranglehold on all opposition. This was his last book, and in it he distills a lifetime of research, teaching and experience. The fourth edition has an update and new preface by Lynn Berat.

By Leonard Thompson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A History of South Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fresh and penetrating exploration of South Africa's history, from the earliest known human inhabitation of the region to the present

"I did not think it was possible for a white person to write a history of South Africa which a black South African would find to be a fair and accurate account of a beautiful land and its people. Leonard Thompson has disabused me of that notion. His is a history that is both accurate and authentic, written in a delightful literary style."-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Fourth Edition of this classic text brings South Africa's history up to date…


Book cover of AfroSF

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Author Of Bridging Worlds: Global Conversations on Creating Pan-African Speculative Literature In A Pandemic

From my list on introduce you to African speculative short fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an African speculative fiction writer who had long hoped to see the development of African speculative fiction being embraced by the larger SFF community, it was a joy to see all these anthologies showcasing the works of Africans and platforming them for a larger audience to see. And it's been a joy as well to contribute to this growth both as an award-winning writer and editor of African speculative short fiction. 

Oghenechovwe's book list on introduce you to African speculative short fiction

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Why did Oghenechovwe love this book?

AfroSF is the first ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only open to submissions of original fiction works from Africa and abroad. It was one of the pioneering anthologies of African science fiction and published a number of household names in African speculative fiction in both this and its subsequent volumes. 

By Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

AfroSF is the first ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only that was open to submissions from across Africa and abroad. It is comprised of original (previously unpublished) works only, from stellar established and upcoming African writers: Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz, Tendai Huchu, Cristy Zinn, Ashley Jacobs, Nick Wood, Tade Thompson, S.A. Partridge, Chinelo Onwualu, Uko Bendi Udo, Dave de Burgh, Biram Mboob, Sally-Ann Murray, Mandisi Nkomo, Liam Kruger, Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, Joan De La Haye, Mia Arderne, Rafeeat Aliyu, Martin Stokes, Clifton Gachagua, and Efe Okogu.

Print Edition release March 2013.

'Proposition 23' by Efe Okogu nominated…


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 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…


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