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Recommended Autumn Reads

Our friends at Stellenbosch Books share some of the most notable, captivating and talked-about titles on their shelves. 

Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once – a timely reminder during the recent storm had us trapped indoors like Mary Shelley at the Villa Diodati. While we didn’t come up with Frankenstein, we did think of a few reading recommendations for your pleasure…

Maktub by Paulo Coelho

 

In the 30th year anniversary of its original publication, Paulo Coelho’s Maktub has finally been given an English-language release. A compilation of some of his best columns printed in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Maktub is a tapestry of rich parable and tale woven together with beautiful line-art throughout. It promises to take the reader on a spiritual journey, shedding light on our interactions with the world and on our perennial search for meaning. Those who read and loved The Alchemist will find a similar comfort in the self-reflectivity of this “inspirational companion. Read more

How to hide inside a three by Jane van der Riet

 

A local gem from clinical psychologist, anti-apartheid activist, and Cape Town’s very own Jane van der Riet. Set in the cushy Southern suburbs in 2017, Leigh-Anne grapples with a loveless marriage, unruly children, and an ominous letter from her father. Privy to her thoughts as her life unravels, she encounters the racist truths and mistruths within her, and is confronted with the guilt of a past misdeed. Whilst often light and humorous, this is, in the author’s own words, “a serious novel about whiteness and shame.” A debut with much to give, truly an enjoyable read. Read more

Victory City by Salman Rushdie

 

From the master of magical realism himself, comes yet another dazzling triumph of fantastical literary fiction. After the tragic demise of her parents, Pampa Kampana is visited by a goddess who grants her supernatural power. From this she wills a great empire into existence, whispering its inhabitants to life. As the centuries pass, we are witness to its wars, its miracles, and to the girl who created it all… Stylised as the translation of a long-lost epic, Victory City is a gorgeous display of Rushdie’s ability to marry historical inspiration with his unbounded imagination. Read more

Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

Darkly humorous and starkly jarring, Kuang’s latest novel is a satirical take on the world of publishing.

Following the aftermath of a freak accident, June Hayward finds herself in possession of an unpublished manuscript by her (much) more successful friend. Does tweaking something really make it yours? And how far will she go to defend her claim over it? Equal parts funny and disturbing, Yellowface even ropes in the phenomenon of the ‘Twitter sleuth’ to further complicate matters.

Fans of Babel and the Poppy War trilogy will be pleased to know that Kuang’s strong style translates well from fantasy to literary fiction. Read More

Metamorphoses by Ovid

Written over 20 centuries ago, Ovid’s Metamorphoses is still considered one of the most influential literary works of its era. Loosely considered an epic, it recounts various myths and stories in chronological fashion, starting with Creation and ending with the death of Julius Caesar.

While it has undergone multiple translations since the original Latin, the latest by Stephanie McCarter is a welcome addition. A professor of classical literature, McCarter manages to capture the polished style of Ovid while surfacing some of the nuance in his work that has been lost in previous translations. Where others have preoccupied themselves with passion as a thematic thread, McCarter is interested in the dynamics of power, particularly in its abuse. Read More

Who will rule South Africa? by Adriaan Basson and Qaanitah Hunter

As Human Rights Day will be celebrated across the country next week, it is a good time to reflect on the state of our democracy.

Veteran journalists Adriaan Basson and Qaanitah Hunter take a look at the past 30 years under ANC rule, and set their predictions for the next five years in Who will rule South Africa? Incisive and sharp, they measure up the key parties and players, with a view towards what a collaborative future might look like. Read More

Bahari by Dina Macki

Step into the world of up-and-coming chef Dina Macki, as she explores her heritage through cuisine.

With over 90 mouth-watering recipes, Bahari is an exploration of the amalgam of influence that make up the Omani food culture. Littered with personal essays and the fascinating stories behind the ingredients, this award-winning cookbook deserves a spot in your kitchen. And did we mention how visually stunning it is? One finds themselves poring over the photography so much that they are pleasantly surprised to find that it is accompanied by delicious recipes too! Read More

Last Year’s Favourites

2023 was a year for the books. Three titles that entranced their readers, rippled across best seller lists, and swayed judges for some of the top awards, stand out. They delve into everything from totalitarianism to psychiatric treatments, nostalgia to betrayal, and displacement to empire.

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

Claiming the coveted Booker Prize, Paul Lynch’s Prophet Song is hauntingly good. In a dystopian rendering of Ireland, in which an ultra-right nationalist party has seized control, violence and paranoia reign supreme.

We follow Eilish Stack, mother of four, as she tries to keep her family from being torn apart by the powers that be. Read against a backdrop of perennial war and mass displacement, Lynch’s novel comes at a critical time. Fear, loss, and hope swarm the pages, making for a compelling read. Claustrophobic in its pacing yet brilliantly executed, this is not a novel you will soon forget.

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov

Originally published in 2020, Georgi Gospodinov’s Time Shelter was translated from its native Bulgarian into English in 2022. Winning the International Booker Prize, the novel presents us with the possibility of treating Alzheimer’s patients by ‘recreating’ bygone eras in which they had once felt secure. Different floors in a psychiatric clinic are made to look, with surgical precision, like a specific decade.

Replete with political and historical innuendoes, Gospodinov’s novel cleverly blurs the line between recollection and imagination; highlighting how the weaponization of nostalgia can have far-reaching consequences. Witty, heart-breaking, and profound, Time Shelter strikes at the core of that which we are all too often preoccupied with: Memory.

Trust by Hernan Diaz

Previously longlisted for the Booker Prize, Trust deservingly snatched up the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2023. Hernan Diaz’s sophomore novel is a literary delight of embedded, unfolding narratives; each one more shocking and revelatory than the last. Set in New York across the 20th Century, the book explores the elusive life of a powerful financier and his enigmatic wife. Competing tales weave together a delicious tapestry of power, betrayal, and love.

Fans of the book will be delighted to learn that it is being adapted into a limited series at HBO (with Kate Winslet attached to star and produce!).

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Click here for more recommended reads, or vist Stellenbosch Books at 14 Andringa Street in Stellenbosch Central.