The best apartheid books (South Africa)

Who picked these books? Meet our 60 experts.

60 authors created a book list connected to the apartheid, and here are their favorite apartheid books.
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Anyone But England

By Mike Marqusee,

Book cover of Anyone But England: Cricket and the National Malaise

Duncan Stone Author Of Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

From the list on cricket histories.

Who am I?

A historian interested in the ‘cultural war’ over the legitimate form, function and meaning of sport, it is strange to look back and consider how ignorant I was of the class and cultural dynamics that shaped cricket in England until I began studying sport in my early thirties. Why, for instance, was English cricket ‘posh’ when compared to Australia? And why, within England, did the North and South have completely different cricket cultures and regional identities? These were questions I began to address in earnest and, a short twenty years later, I believe I finally have the answers. I could not have done it without these books. Enjoy! 

Duncan's book list on cricket histories

Discover why each book is one of Duncan's favorite books.

Why did Duncan love this book?

If James and Birley upset the game’s establishment, the impact of Marqusee’s Anyone But England was on an altogether different level. Like James, Marqusee was a Marxist. But where James pulled his punches and has, regrettably, been co-opted by English cricket’s establishment, there is very little danger of Marqusee ever suffering the same fate. One must only read his Wisden obituary to understand this. 

Suffice to say, Marqusee’s unflinching analysis exposed English cricket’s institutional hypocrisy, class discrimination, and racial prejudices long before the issues of elitism and racism became points of serious discussion in 2021. Considering this, it is a genuine tragedy that Marqusee and this book were not taken more seriously. Nevertheless, despite the passing decades, Anyone But England still packs a serious punch!

By Mike Marqusee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work is a timely exploration of the bonds which tie English cricket to the English nation as both face apparently inexorable decline. Mike Marqusee, an American who has lived in England for 20 years, turns the amused gaze of an outsider on to the idiosyncrasies of the English at play, delving into the interminable wrangles over coloured clothing, covered pitches and commercial sponsorship. Yet Marqusee also displays the knowledgability and passion of a dedicated cricket follower who has watched matches on four continents. His accounts of the origins of the game, its romance with the British Empire, and its…

Apartheid of Sex

By Martine Rothblatt,

Book cover of Apartheid of Sex: A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender

Peg Tittle Author Of Gender Fraud: a fiction

From the list on to make you think about gender and sex.

Who am I?

I am the author of several novels—in addition to the one featured here, Impact, It Wasn't Enough (Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award), Exile, and What Happened to Tom (on Goodreads' "Fiction Books That Opened Your Eyes To A Social Or Political Issue" list).  I was a columnist for The Philosopher Magazine for eight years, Philosophy Now for two years, and the Ethics and Emerging Technologies website for a year ("TransGendered Courage" received 35,000 hits, making it #3 of the year, and "Ethics without Philosophers" received 34,000 hits, making it #5 of the year), and I've published a collection of think pieces titled Sexist Shit that Pisses Me Off. 

Peg's book list on to make you think about gender and sex

Discover why each book is one of Peg's favorite books.

Why did Peg love this book?

Although I endorse Rothblatt's ideal of a sex-irrelevant society, I think he fails to fully comprehend the subordination by sex that females currently experience. And if he hadn't been so rich (like Jenner), he might not have voluntarily become a member of that sexed underclass. (I suspect his money has largely insulated him from the negative effects of being perceived as a woman.) That said, this 1995 book is a pioneering classic. (Though I think the subtitle should have been "A Manifesto on the Freedom from Gender" — not " A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender".)

By Martine Rothblatt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rothblatt makes a case for the adoption of a new sexual model that accommodates every shade of gender identity. She reveals that traditional male and female roles are dictated neither by genetics, genitals, nor reproductive biology, but rather by social attitudes that originated in early patriarchal cultures and that have been institutionalized in modern law, and she calls a new acceptance of human sexuality in all its prismatic variety. 10 charts.

The House of the Spirits

By Isabel Allende,

Book cover of The House of the Spirits

Anne Echols Author Of A Tale of Two Maidens: A Medieval French Story of Fate, Adventure, and the Hundred Years' War

From the list on sweeping historical fiction by women.

Who am I?

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, I was surrounded by history and imagined time travel to the past. Yet my history courses in school consisted mostly of dry facts that I was expected to memorize. I sought out historical fiction that got the facts right but more importantly, could transport me completely to another place and time. Inspired by high school teachers, I began to see myself as a writer. I was particularly interested in exploring women’s history. After co-authoring two nonfiction books, Between Pit and Pedestal: Women in the Middle Ages and An Annotated Index of Medieval Women, I began to write fictional stories of ordinary women from that period.

Anne's book list on sweeping historical fiction by women

Discover why each book is one of Anne's favorite books.

Why did Anne love this book?

Growing up, I avidly read fairy tales and especially enjoyed a character’s transition from suffering to joy.

Discovering magical realism in my twenties was a natural progression, and House of the Spirits remains my all-time favorite of this genre. Isabelle Allende’s writing style is amazing – she is so gifted at intertwining the achingly beautiful with the harsh realities of our cruelty to other humans. 

House of the Spirits opened a window onto a time and place I had never explored, Chile during the rise of dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Through the character Alba’s unflinching narration, I not only witnessed the horrors of that time period but felt them deeply. Alba’s connection to her female ancestors sustained both her and me during her ordeal as a prisoner.

A powerful and inspiring read!

By Isabel Allende,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The House of the Spirits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Spectacular...An absorbing and distinguished work...The House of the Spirits with its all-informing, generous, and humane sensibility, is a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present, and future of Latin America.” —The New York Times Book Review

Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson Goodreads Book Club Pick November/December 2020!

The House of the Spirits, the unforgettable first novel that established Isabel Allende as one of the world’s most gifted storytellers, brings to life the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of the Trueba family. The patriarch Esteban is a volatile, proud man whose voracious pursuit of political…


By Lucas Richert (editor), Jim Mills (editor),

Book cover of Cannabis: Global Histories

Chris S. Duvall Author Of The African Roots of Marijuana

From the list on the history of cannabis.

Who am I?

I study people-plant relationships from perspectives including ecology, history, cultural studies, and biogeography. Cannabis is certainly the most famous plant I’ve studied. A decade ago I was researching how Africans used an obscure tree in historical Central America, and came across accounts of cannabis use that surprised me. As I dug into cannabis history, I was continually amazed at how little the topic has been researched. It’s a great time to start learning about the plant’s past, because it’s a fresh, new field for professional academics. Cannabis has been portrayed so simplistically for decades, but in reality it’s a complex plant with a complicated history.

Chris' book list on the history of cannabis

Discover why each book is one of Chris' favorite books.

Why did Chris love this book?

Although this book is written by and for professional historians, it’s really accessible and provides a great geographic range of chapter-length cases of the plant’s past. This book is where to go for a sound knowledge of the plant’s worldwide past. The chapters cover places and times ranging from 19th-century France to apartheid-era South Africa and post-revolutionary Iran—and many of the studies aren’t published elsewhere.

By Lucas Richert (editor), Jim Mills (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cannabis consumption, commerce, and control in global history, from the nineteenth century to the present day.

This book gathers together authors from the new wave of cannabis histories that has emerged in recent decades. It offers case studies from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. It does so to trace a global history of the plant and its preparations, arguing that Western colonialism shaped and disseminated ideas in the nineteenth century that came to drive the international control regimes of the twentieth.

More recently, the emergence of commercial interests in cannabis has been central to the challenges…

The Zebra Affaire

By Mark Fine,

Book cover of The Zebra Affaire: An Apartheid Saga

Wanda DeHaven Pyle Author Of The Stone House Legacy

From the list on narrative historical social injustice.

Who am I?

I am the author of several works of historical fiction. My writing explores the untold stories of past generations and the impact of their actions and choices on those who follow. All across the country, the landscape is dotted with abandoned farmsteads and buildings whose walls are filled with stories of heartache and happiness. As each generation struggles with the unequal distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society, they pave the way for succeeding generations. These are the stories I tell and the ones I love to read. 

Wanda's book list on narrative historical social injustice

Discover why each book is one of Wanda's favorite books.

Why did Wanda love this book?

As an indie author myself, I am committed to supporting other independent authors and Mark Fine is one of the best. Fine has created an epic love story set against the backdrop of South Africa’s apartheid in the 1970s. When a beautiful white model falls in love with a black man, they become prey in a deadly manhunt that stretches from the golden city of Johannesburg to the dangerous wilds of the African bushveld. The author’s compelling characters and vivid descriptions shine a light on the effects of tribalism and social injustice during a dark period in this nation’s history. This story will keep you riveted until the last page is turned.

By Mark Fine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When affairs of State battle affairs of the heart, ordinary people become heroes! The critically acclaimed novel set in 1976 apartheid South Africa. It tells of the courage of love across the color divide – especially in the face of an unyielding racist police state, and the extreme lengths a man and a woman must go to remain together.
When Stanwell Marunda, a proud descendant of the Zulu, meets the beautiful Elsa, the daughter of a white farmer, he is certain his bad luck has just begun. She has just rescued him, bloodied and hurt, from a car wreck.



By Athol Fugard,

Book cover of Tsotsi

Fiona Sussman Author Of Another Woman's Daughter

From the list on the human capacity to rise above prejudice.

Who am I?

Growing up in a house filled with books – my father was a publisher –  meant that I fell in love with the written word at an early age. Growing up in apartheid South Africa and witnessing the brutal regime at work meant that I was sensitised to issues of injustice and racial prejudice at an early age too, issues which would come to inform much of my writing. I’ve always been drawn to the underdog’s story and often write to shine a light on the lives of the marginalised. My first literary heroes were brave authors such as Nadine Gordimer, Athol Fugard, and Alan Paton, who used their pens to provoke change. 

Fiona's book list on the human capacity to rise above prejudice

Discover why each book is one of Fiona's favorite books.

Why did Fiona love this book?

Having grown up in South Africa during apartheid and witnessed how the appalling regime destroyed so many lives, I was profoundly affected by this read. It takes place in the sprawling black township of Soweto at the height of apartheid, where survival was a daily battle for the oppressed and marginalised inhabitants. To this end, Tsoti, an apparently heartless young township thug, lives a life of brutal crime. That is until he unwittingly kidnaps a baby during a bungled carjacking. Forced to care for the infant, Tsotsi gradually rediscovers his own humanity. The reader can’t help but be moved from a place of horror to one of deep understanding and empathy for the main character – a remarkable feat for any author. A compelling story of hope.

By Athol Fugard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tsotsi is an angry young gang leader in the South African township of Sophiatown. A man without a past, he exists only to kill and steal. But when he captures a woman one night in a moonlit grove of bluegum trees, she shoves a shoebox into his arms: the box contains a baby and his life is inexorably changed. He begins to remember his childhood and rediscover the self he left behind.

Tsotsi's raw power and rare humanity show how decency and compassion can survive against the odds.

Rumours of Rain

By Andre Brink,

Book cover of Rumours of Rain

Iain Parke Author Of The Liquidator

From the list on African set political thrillers.

Who am I?

Looking for an adventure in the mid-90s I found myself in East Africa helping wind up a failed African bank, locked out of a t-shirt manufacturing plant, chasing down missing bulldozers (which turned up creating Rwandan refugee camps), taking over a toilet paper manufacturer which couldn’t manage to perforate the paper, and running a match factory on the slopes of Kilimanjaro before selling it to a Nigerian chief who turned up in his private jet. Meanwhile feeling like an alien who really didn’t understand what was really going on around me, and uncomfortable with much of the hard-drinking and arrogant expat culture, drove me to start to write as a way of making sense of what I was seeing and feeling.    

Iain's book list on African set political thrillers

Discover why each book is one of Iain's favorite books.

Why did Iain love this book?

A true South African classic. Told from an Afrikaner point of view which is an unusual experience for me as someone with modern liberal sensibilities, this is a grown-up psychological and political thriller about loyalties, conflict, and betrayals set against the shadow of the Angola conflict and the beginning of the end of apartheid.

By Andre Brink,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winter in South Africa - a time of searing drought, angry stirrings in Soweto, and the shadow of the Angolan conflict cast across the scorched bush.

Martin Mynhardt, a wealthy Afrikaner, plans a weekend at his old family farm. But his visit coincides with a time of crisis in his personal life. In a few days, the security of a lifetime is destroyed and, with only the uncertain values of his past to guide him, Mynhardt is left to face the wreckage of his future.

The Night Trains

By Charles Van Onselen,

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 the list on modern South Africa.

Who am I?

Gail Nattrass was born in Northern Rhodesia. She was educated at Mufulira High School and the universities of Natal, Rhodesia, and 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, Johannesburg 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, published by the mining house, 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

Discover why each book is one of Gail's favorite books.

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 on the mines, the trains sent the men back to Mozambique, often ill and broken and even insane after their experiences on 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…

The Distance

By Ivan Vladislavic,

Book cover of The Distance

Michiel Heyns Author Of A Poor Season for Whales

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

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Michiel's favorite books.

Why did Michiel love this book?

Taking stock of my selections, I realise that they are all to some degree autobiographical or semi-autobiographical. Just why I am attracted to this genre I don’t know: perhaps I am fascinated by the technical challenge of finding a narrative voice that is both personal and detached, of impersonalising emotions that could easily just be self-indulgent. Humour is often useful here, and Vladislavics’s novel is richly humorous, in its (lightly fictionalised) account of a culturally challenging boyhood in Pretoria, at the time the whitest and most conservative city in South Africa (interestingly, also the setting for Galgut’s The Promise). Young Joe, the stand-in for the author has, apart from an addiction to reading, a consuming interest in Muhammed Ali, and has kept a scrapbook of every newspaper item he could find relating to the great boxer. The bookworm-boxing addict is entirely engaging, as brought to life by a master…

By Ivan Vladislavic,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1970, a Pretoria schoolboy, Joe, becomes obsessed with Muhammad Ali. He begins collecting daily newspaper clippings about him, a passion that grows into an archive of scrapbooks. Forty years later, when Joe has become a writer, these scrapbooks become the foundation for a memoir of his childhood. When he calls upon his brother, Branko, for help uncovering their shared past, meaning comes into view in the spaces between then and now, growing up and growing old, speaking out and keeping silent.


By J. M. Coetzee,

Book cover of Boyhood

Tim Bascom Author Of Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia

From the list on memoirs of American and European expats in Africa.

Who am I?

Ever since spending seven years of my youth in East Africa, I have read the literature of that continent. I have relished the incredible novels of authors like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Maaza Mengiste, but I have also sought out stories of those who entered Africa from outside, wanting to confirm my experience and to make sense of it. My reading has included masterpieces like Abraham Verghese’s novel Cutting for Stone or Ryszard Kapuscinski’s journalistic expose The Emperor. But here are a few personal memoirs that have given me a basis for my own understanding of being an expatriate shaped profoundly by life in Africa.  

Tim's book list on memoirs of American and European expats in Africa

Discover why each book is one of Tim's favorite books.

Why did Tim love this book?

Some would claim Coetzee’s Boyhood is an autobiographical novel, and others would insist it is a fictionalized memoir. In any case, it is a powerful depiction of a child’s experience of being raised in the harsh, racist culture of Afrikaners in apartheid South Africa. Maybe because the author decided to tell the story from the 3rd person perspective—as if standing outside of himself—the bleakness of his home and community presses home twice as hard. One senses, behind the cruelty and callousness, the buried ugliness of entrenched bigotry. I lived in a kinder missionary community, learning to admire the people I encountered in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan, but over time I had to recognize subtler prejudices that went with that evangelistic expatriate culture. Boyhood spoke to me in a necessary, truth-telling way that was not comfortable but very important.

By J. M. Coetzee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The critically acclaimed author of In the Heart of the Country tells his personal story of growing up under apartheid in South Africa with a father he cannot respect and a mother he both adores and despises. 12,500 first printing.

Where We Belong

By Catherine Ryan Hyde,

Book cover of Where We Belong

Laura Drake Author Of Amazing Gracie

From the list on women at the edge of change.

Who am I?

I was raised in middle-class America by a strong woman and an alcoholic. I survived an abuser when I realized that I was the answer to my problems. I write about tough subjects but am an eternal optimist who believes a strong spirit will always ensure a happy ending.

Laura's book list on women at the edge of change

Discover why each book is one of Laura's favorite books.

Why did Laura love this book?

A coming of age story – for a fourteen-year-old who’s discovered she’s gay, her inadequate mother, her severely autistic younger sister, and a reclusive, distant older man and his dog.

The protagonist is the doer of the family who refuses to give in to poverty and give up to allow her sister to be institutionalized. What one determined soul can do when she refuses to give up.

I love stories that resolve in a happy ending, despite facing seemingly hopeless odds.

By Catherine Ryan Hyde,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fans of Mark Haddon, Mitch Albom and Alice Sebold will love this remarkable, moving story about family and the many forms this can take by Richard & Judy bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde.

'A smashing read and left me feeling so positive about human nature' -- ***** Reader review
'An absolute joy to read' -- ***** Reader review
'Beautifully written' -- ***** Reader review
'Fantastic' -- ***** Reader review
'Catherine, you've done it again. Another awesome read that will stay with me' -- ***** Reader review
'A page-turner' -- ***** Reader review

Book cover of White Dog Fell from the Sky

Susan Lewallen Author Of Distorted Vision

From the list on postcolonial Africa through the eyes of foreigners.

Who am I?

I’ve lived and worked intensely in the medical field for over two decades in many countries in Africa. I’ve seen global health programs from the academic, research, developmental, and humanitarian viewpoints of both Africans and Europeans. It’s a complicated mix of politics, good intentions, and, sometimes, egos. There’s much to be learned from both fiction and nonfiction about the complexity of it all. 

Susan's book list on postcolonial Africa through the eyes of foreigners

Discover why each book is one of Susan's favorite books.

Why did Susan love this book?

This slow, haunting novel shows newly independent Botswana in the 1960s, when Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president, welcomed Europeans to help build the country. Alice is an American anthropologist working for the government; her marriage to another American, in the Ministry of Finance, dissolves, as he embraces the ex-pat lifestyle and she falls in love with the country. An equally important POV character is Isaac, a South African medical student who has to flee for safety to Botswana after witnessing a killing by the South African police. He finds work as Alice’s gardener and a relationship based on mutual respect ensues. When he falls afoul of the law, he disappears, his life once again in danger. Meanwhile, Alice suffers in a tragic love affair. Both he and Alice lose what they love most, but Alice has the grace to understand that his suffering is worse. Their stories play out…

By Eleanor Morse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Dog Fell from the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An extraordinary novel of love, friendship, and betrayal for admirers of Abraham Verghese and Edwidge Danticat

Eleanor Morse's rich and intimate portrait of Botswana, and of three people whose intertwined lives are at once tragic and remarkable, is an absorbing and deeply moving story.

In apartheid South Africa in 1977, medical student Isaac Muthethe is forced to flee his country after witnessing a friend murdered by white members of the South African Defense Force. He is smuggled into Botswana, where he is hired as a gardener by a young American woman, Alice Mendelssohn, who has abandoned her Ph.D. studies to…

Medical Apartheid

By Harriet A. Washington,

Book cover of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

JJ Savaunt Author Of Barren

From the list on detecting bullsh*t.

Who am I?

Writing is my life. As a child I wrote poems, scripts, and short stories. A couple of decades, a BCALA literary award, and a three-book deal later, my wild imagination has grown into a passion for exposing the truth. In 2020, a third of the 300,000 missing women in the United States were Black, and in that same year, I was almost a victim of human trafficking myself. With this second chance, I write to bring awareness and attention to women who cannot speak for themselves. I write to shed light on the truth and these five books have helped me on my journey.  

JJ's book list on detecting bullsh*t

Discover why each book is one of JJ's favorite books.

Why did JJ love this book?

Did you know that 75% of bones in the human body are found below the knee? I thought that was interesting as well… if only it were true! This book taught me to critically assess data and not blindly accept every ‘scientific-sounding’ statement as truth. Medical Apartheid details the origins of several medical innovations which shockingly date back to slavery. The things doctors once considered permissible to do to enslaved women on the basis that ‘they did not feel pain’ brought literal tears to my eyes, but it was necessary for me to read because it shared the truth. A horrible, terrifying truth that pharmaceutical giants—like Pfizer—refuse to acknowledge to this day. 

By Harriet A. Washington,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Medical Apartheid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • The first full history of Black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment. No one concerned with issues of public health and racial justice can afford not to read this masterful book.

"[Washington] has unearthed a shocking amount of information and shaped it into a riveting, carefully documented book." —New York Times

From the era of slavery to the present day, starting with the earliest encounters between Black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, Medical Apartheid details the ways…

Kaffir Boy

By Mark Mathabane,

Book cover of Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

Tim Crothers Author Of The Queen of Katwe: One Girl's Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion

From the list on young African heroes.

Who am I?

For most of my life I have been fascinated by Africa, but I could never figure out a good reason to go there. Then one day in 2010 while delivering a book talk in North Carolina, a gentleman approached me afterward saying that he’d read a brief item in a missionary newsletter that morning and he thought it might make “a good story” for me. Six months later, I was on a flight to Uganda and that “good story” was born as a magazine piece before evolving into a book and finally in 2016 into a Disney movie. I have since traveled to Africa many times and it is a magical place, my home away from home.  

Tim's book list on young African heroes

Discover why each book is one of Tim's favorite books.

Why did Tim love this book?

Phiona once told me that she grew up in Katwe believing that everyone in the world lived in the same desperate circumstances that she did and that if you’re born in Katwe, you are expected to die there. Mathabane was similarly anchored to his poverty-ravaged township of Alexandra outside of Johannesburg. “Kaffir” is an ugly ethnic slur common during Apartheid-era South Africa, a term that the author battled to overcome every day while surviving an environment plagued by gang violence. Mathabane’s salvation was his education (and, similar to Phiona, success in an unlikely sport), which eventually led him to attend college in the U.S., just like Beah, Kamkwamba, and Mutesi.

By Mark Mathabane,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kaffir Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic story of life in Apartheid South Africa.

Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa's most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is…

Book cover of Cry, the Beloved Country

Shenaaz Nanji Author Of Child of Dandelions

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

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Shenaaz's favorite books.

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.

Muriel at Metropolitan

By Miriam Tlali,

Book cover of Muriel at Metropolitan

Joel Cabrita Author Of Written Out: The Silencing of Regina Gelana Twala

From the list on literary women you’ve never heard of.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of Southern Africa who is fascinated by questions of visibility and invisibility. I love probing beneath the surface of the past. For example, why is this person famous and renowned, but that person isn’t? To me, recognition and reputation are interesting to scrutinize as social categories in their own right, rather than as factual statements. I’ve written two books focusing on the history of religious expression in Southern Africa, and my most recent book is a biography of the forgotten South African writer and politician Regina Gelana Twala. 

Joel's book list on literary women you’ve never heard of

Discover why each book is one of Joel's favorite books.

Why did Joel love this book?

I find the notion of the “unknown” writer quite problematic.

Most of the time, at least somebody has, in fact, heard of the writer. So by whom is this writer unknown, and for what reasons has their reputation been erased?

The South African writer Miriam Tlali – the first South African woman writer to publish a book in English - is a case in point.

Tlali’s novel Muriel at Metropolitan (about an office worker in apartheid Johannesburg) was banned when it was published in 1975 for its critical portrayal of white South Africans.

Tlali was subsequently ignored by her literary (almost entirely male) peers, dismissed as offering “reportage” rather than “art”. Yet since 2017, Tlali’s work has been celebrated.

The question of whether a writer is “known” or “unknown” is complex with many layers to consider, including the prejudices of racism and sexism. 

By Miriam Tlali,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Banned when it was first published in South Africa in 1979, "Muriel at Metropolitan" is set in a bustling furniture and electronics store catering for poor whites and blacks and describes the daily experiences of Muriel, the accounts typist. Her relationship with her colleagues and her feelings about the stream of customers who come into the shop are depicted and illustrate life on the fringes of white society. Miriam Tlali draws on her own experience of working in Johannesburg to write this novel. She lives in Soweto and is now a professional writer. She has published a collection of short…

Citizen and Subject

By Mahmood Mamdani, Mahmood Mamdani,

Book cover of Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism

Mohamed Haji Ingiriis Author Of The Suicidal State in Somalia: The Rise and Fall of the Siad Barre Regime, 1969-1991

From the list on contemporary Africa and late colonialism.

Who am I?

I am a Somali scholar in the field of Somali Studies and African Studies, specialising in anthropology, history, and the politics of Somali society and state(s). I am recognised as an authority and expert on the historical and contemporary Somali conflicts in the Diaspora and back home. I am a Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where I am tasked to study the political economy of Mogadishu. I am also a visiting professor at the African Leadership Centre, King’s College London, where I deliver lectures about the genesis of the Cold War in the Horn of Africa and the Civil War in Somalia. 

Mohamed's book list on contemporary Africa and late colonialism

Discover why each book is one of Mohamed's favorite books.

Why did Mohamed love this book?

This is one of the most compelling books written on Africa. The author insightfully and thoughtfully reassesses the predicament and plight of the African continent with regards to socio-cultural development, institution-building, nation-building, and state-building. The book – both challenging and stimulating as it is – proves to be a somewhat difficult read as the author alternately targets scholars of African studies more than students of Africa as his main audience and recipients.

By Mahmood Mamdani, Mahmood Mamdani,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In analyzing the obstacles to democratization in post- independence Africa, Mahmood Mamdani offers a bold, insightful account of colonialism's legacy--a bifurcated power that mediated racial domination through tribally organized local authorities, reproducing racial identity in citizens and ethnic identity in subjects. Many writers have understood colonial rule as either "direct" (French) or "indirect" (British), with a third variant--apartheid--as exceptional. This benign terminology, Mamdani shows, masks the fact that these were actually variants of a despotism. While direct rule denied rights to subjects on racial grounds, indirect rule incorporated them into a "customary" mode of rule, with state-appointed Native Authorities defining…


By J. M. Coetzee,

Book cover of Disgrace

Benjamin Nugent Author Of Fraternity: Stories

From the list on fiction about being disgraced.

Who am I?

I’m the author of Fraternity: Stories. I don’t consider myself a fraternity bro, but I hold the Greek men and women I write about very close to my heart because I know the feeling of being young and lost and wanting a guidebook for behavior, and how easily the young can be exiled, in one way or another, by their peers. I feel for every young person who’s disgraced and humiliated, whether it’s on social media or in a tumbledown colonial with wooden letters nailed to the front. I also feel for every young person who lives in fear of disgrace and humiliation.

Benjamin's book list on fiction about being disgraced

Discover why each book is one of Benjamin's favorite books.

Why did Benjamin love this book?

David Lurie, an English professor, seduces an undergraduate after he tires of sleeping with sex workers. He proceeds to lose his job, his social status, his home, and his dignity. Along the way, he also loses his solipsism and his vanity. I’ve never messed around with a student, thank God, but the story is true to my life experience nonetheless. When you make mistakes, and suffer losses that seem to erase who you are, you discover a self you didn’t know was there.

By J. M. Coetzee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Disgrace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. J.M. Coetzee's latest novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, is now available from Viking. Late Essays: 2006-2016 will be available January 2018.

"Compulsively readable... A novel that not only works its spell but makes it impossible for us to lay it aside once we've finished reading it." -The New Yorker

At fifty-two, Professor David Lurie is divorced, filled with desire, but lacking in passion. When an affair with a student leaves him jobless, shunned by friends, and ridiculed by his ex-wife, he retreats to his daughter Lucy's smallholding. David's visit becomes an…

Helen Suzman

By Robin Renwick,

Book cover of Helen Suzman: Bright Star in a Dark Chamber

Norman Baker Author Of ...And What Do You Do?: What the Royal Family Don't Want You to Know

From the list on how the world works.

Who am I?

We all need to understand more about how the world ticks, who is in control, and why they act as they do. And we need to salute those of courage who refuse to go along with the flow in a craven or unthinking way. I was an MP for 18 years and a government minister at the Department for Transport with a portfolio that included rail, bus, active travel, and then at the Home Office as Crime Prevention minister. After leaving Parliament, I became managing director of The Big Lemon, an environmentally friendly bus and coach company in Brighton. I now act as an advisor to the Campaign for Better Transport, am a regular columnist and broadcaster, and undertake consultancy and lecturing work.

Norman's book list on how the world works

Discover why each book is one of Norman's favorite books.

Why did Norman love this book?

This is a heart-warming true story of the courage of one woman you have probably never heard of but you need to. A woman of great courage and integrity who took on the South African apartheid regime and for a while as a liberal was the only opposition member (and I think the only woman) in the racist all-white parliament. Some are naturally courageous, some have courage thrust upon them. Nelson Mandela and the ANC took on the racist regime from outside, Helen Suzman almost single-handedly took it on from within parliament. A real hero.

By Robin Renwick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The task of all who believe in multiracialism in this country is to survive. Quite inevitably time is on our side...' Helen Suzman was the voice of South Africa's conscience during the darkest days of apartheid. She stood alone in parliament, confronted by a legion of highly chauvinist male politicians. Armed with the relentless determination and biting wit for which she became renowned, Suzman battled the racist regime and earned her reputation as a legendary anti-apartheid campaigner. Despite constant antagonism and the threat of violence, she forced into the global spotlight the injustices of the country's minority rule. Access to…

Playing the Enemy

By John Carlin,

Book cover of Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation

Larry Olmsted Author Of Fans: How Watching Sports Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Understanding

From the list on Sports Fans.

Who am I?

As a New York Times Bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and visiting professor at Dartmouth College, who has written for the biggest newspapers and magazines worldwide, I look for interesting untold stories for my books. As a result, I spent the past five years researching the topic of sports fandom, what makes people fans, and how it affects them and our society.

Larry's book list on Sports Fans

Discover why each book is one of Larry's favorite books.

Why did Larry love this book?

One of the many benefits of sports fandom I researched is its use in international affairs, nation-building, and the peace process. There is no better example of this than what has been called the “South African Miracle,” and in this great book, veteran English journalist Carlin, who was in the country for years covering its politics, shows how the late great Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner and South Africa’s first black President, used the intense fandom behind the nation’s beloved spectator sport, rugby, to ease the transition from apartheid to democracy and prevent an almost inevitable Civil War. The book was later the basis for the Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon movie Invictus.

By John Carlin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Playing the Enemy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the book that inspired the Academy Award and Golden Globe winning 2009 film INVICTUS featuring Morgan Freeman and Matt Daymon, directed by Clint Eastwood.

Beginning in a jail cell and ending in a rugby tournament- the true story of how the most inspiring charm offensive in history brought South Africa together. After being released from prison and winning South Africa's first free election, Nelson Mandela presided over a country still deeply divided by fifty years of apartheid. His plan was ambitious if not far-fetched: use the national rugby team, the Springboks-long an embodiment of white-supremacist rule-to embody and engage…