12 Books to Celebrate South Africa’s Heritage

This entry was posted on 10 September 2021.




In honour of South Africa's heritage day, we've rounded up the
books that embrace its culture and diversity with stories
about its cities, new and old, its music and its food to its
magnificent landscapes and indigenous natural world.





The Tearoom
by Gretchen Haley

Meet Thirapatheegadu Ezekiel Reddy, Tubby for short, because heaven knows a man called Thirapatheegadu walks a lonely road. Proud proprietor of The Tearoom in deepest KwaZulu-Natal, he’s also a father, a timid dreamer and the long-suffering husband of hypochondriac Lynette. For many years, Tubby has been working on a marvellous plan which involves the object of his affection – his enigmatic kitchen assistant.

In the month before his birthday, the countdown begins. But just as Tubby is set to embark on his dream life, he is delivered a blow which could turn his dream to ashes. Sprinkled with delicious humour and spoonfuls of local flavour, The Tearoom  is a warm tale with characters you’ll never forget.


YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY | Extract: The Tearoom by Gretchen Haley 


Wayfarers’ Hymns
by Zakes Mda

“The concertina keened across the gorges and was echoed by boulders on the hills and cliffs on the mountains. Even the rock rabbits stirred, and women gathering firewood in the bush stopped their gossip and paid attention to the song undulating from the bellows. They must have muttered, there he goes, the boy-child whose body will end up being food for the vultures, Moliehi’s brother, there he goes, giving himself to the land.”

Infused with rhythm and melody, Wayfarers’ Hymns invites you to travel from Lesotho’s Mountain Kingdom to the City of Gold through the history of famo. Famo music was born in the drinking dens of migrant mineworkers in Lesotho, where the men would sing to unwind after work, accompanied by the accordion, a drum and sometimes a bass.



Blues for the White Man
by Fred de Vries

“For me, Blues for a Hip King is Ibrahim’s ultimate record. I hear black South Africa and black America. Histories that repeat, overlap and complement each other. The piano and the saxophone play meandering melodies, which sometimes sound South African and then American. They don’t care about borders.”

It started with a question about the blues: what makes the music of the downtrodden black man so alluring to white middle-class ears? And that’s where it gets interesting. Because blues is more than a musical genre: it’s a cultural phenomenon that spans several centuries on both sides of the Atlantic, from slavery to Black Lives Matter, from Jan van Riebeeck to Fees Must Fall, from Robert Johnson to Abdullah Ibrahim.


YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY | Digging for the Blues, a column by Fred de Vries in the June edition of Exclusive Reads


History of South Africa
by Thula Simpson

This book explores South Africa’s tumultuous history from the aftermath of the Second Anglo-Boer War to the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on never-before-published documentary evidence – including diaries, letters, eyewitness testimony and diplomatic reports – the book follows the South African people through the battles, elections, repression, resistance, strikes, massacres, economic crashes and health crises that have shaped the nation’s character.

Tracking South Africa’s path from colony to Union and from apartheid to democracy, History of South Africa  documents the influence of key figures including Pixley Seme, Jan Smuts, Lilian Ngoyi, H.F. Verwoerd, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, P.W. Botha and Jacob Zuma. The book also gives detailed accounts of definitive events such as the 1922 Rand Revolt, the Defiance Campaign, Sharpeville, the Soweto uprising and the Marikana massacre.


Our Italian Legacy of Love
by Chiara Viljoen 

Basking in a combined Italian and South African heritage, this family knows how to put their heart and soul into presenting the most scrumptious food to their guests, and now you, the reader. From colazione (breakfast) and antipasto (appetisers), through primo (pasta and risotto) and secondo (main courses), to desserts and cocktails... we challenge you to page through this book without your appetite roaring to life! 

So step into the kitchen with the Café del Sol famiglia and delight your family and friends by making these dishes in the comfort of your home. Create your own legacy of love with these contemporary Italian recipes. Buon appetito! 


YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY | Recipes: Our Italian Legacy of Love by Chiara Viljoen with Ryan Viljoen and Luciana Treccani


Hidden Karoo
by Alain Proust & Pat Kramer

The Karoo is big sky country; a land of vast plains punctuated by flat-topped mountains, conical hills and secluded valleys, a land of scrubby bushes and hardy trees, where pioneers carved roads out of rock to set down roots in an unforgiving environment.

Hidden Karoo  presents a snapshot of the region, offering a glimpse into towns and villages, farms and churches, public buildings and private homes, all against a backdrop of awe-inspiring landscapes. Through words and pictures, it prompts us to consider what was, what is and, perhaps, what might be. One constant about the Karoo is change. A book can do no more than capture a moment in time or depict fragments of a place, but in doing so, it bears witness to the past and offers the hope that there may yet be a future for this unparalleled part of our country.


The West Coast
by Leon Nell

Beginning at Melkbosstrand just north of Cape Town, and ending where the Orange River meets the Atlantic Ocean, the book divides the coastal stretch into four discrete and easily explored regions. Coastal and inland towns are described, together with their main attractions, offering glimpses into early human history, local culture and traditions, nature and wildlife, and modern-day economic pursuits.

Framed by the Atlantic in the west and the winding N7 highway in the east, the West Coast is a place of varied landscapes and vast contrasts: from moody and at times tempestuous seas and windswept beaches, to verdant vineyards and kaleidoscopic swathes of wildflowers in spring. Wild yet tranquil, playful yet contemplative, dramatic yet understated – its eclectic offering beckons residents and travellers alike.


YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY | The Wonderful West Coast, a column by Leon Nell in the Jan/Feb edition of The Penguin Post


Palaces of Stone: Uncovering Ancient southern African Kingdoms
by Mike Main & Tom Huffman

Across the face of southern Africa are more than 460 remarkable stone palaces – some small, others rambling, but many are astonishing. All are the legacy of kingdoms past. Some, such as Great Zimbabwe, Khami in Botswana and Mapungubwe in South Africa, are famous world heritage sites, but the majority are unknown to the general public, unsung and unappreciated.

Palaces of Stone  brings to life the history of various early African societies, from AD 900 to approximately 1850. By exploring a selection of known and unknown sites, the authors uncover the emergence of ancient civilisations and reconstruct the meaning of the ruins they left behind. Woven into the narrative are stories of powerful political states; ­nourishing local economies; long-distance trade; and the destruction wrought by colonialism and modern-day treasure hunters. This book will appeal to anyone interested in Africa’s ancient heritage.


by Cariema Isaacs

This joyful homage to one of the world’s most beloved and versatile dishes – the curry – is inspired by the author’s memories of the slow-cooked Cape Malay curries of her childhood, as well as the fast-paced landscape of the Middle East, where she now lives.

Curried  embodies a culinary curiosity and global consciousness for the times. Mindful of both environmental responsibility and affordability, Cariema celebrates the nourishing comfort of pulses and legumes in a multitude of wholesome and delicious vegetarian curries for everyday cooking.


YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY | Cariema Isaacs’ Recipe for Decadent Vegetable Butter Curry


The Abundant Herds
by Marguerite Poland

A unique publication that contributes to the recording and understanding of a significant aspect of South Africa's cultural heritage. 

This book is an appreciation of the creative imagination and linguistic versatility of the Zulu people. It is a book about human creativity. Not the creativity of the plastic arts, or of music, but rather that of the poet, the wordsmith. It gives an overview of the history of the Nguni cattle and their economic, social, political and spiritual importance to the Zulu people, both past and present.


Dinner at Matloha’s
by Liziwe Matloha

You’ll find recipes for all times of the day and every season. Start with savoury mince, indulge in amagwinya with your morning coffee, choose a salad or soup for lunch, snack on hot-and-crispy chicken wings while watching the game, or savour an oxtail stew on a winter’s night.

For bakers, there are biscuits, breads and cakes, while desserts include favourites like cheese cake and pancakes. Fancy an Asian feast? We’ve got you covered. And if you crave a taste of home, there’s isijingi, umnqusho, umleqwa, dikwata or a traditional ‘seven colours’.




YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY | Right this way for cosy eating with three mouth-watering recipes from Dinner at Matloha’s


Johannesburg Then and Now 
by Marc Latilla

In less than a century, the jumble of shabby tents and lean-tos that constituted Johannesburg’s first settlement has grown into a modern metropolis of towering office buildings, high-rise apartments and sprawling suburbs. Its rapid development has been in no small measure the result of the fabulous wealth that lay in the goldrich deposits of the now-famous Witwatersrand basin.

The story of gold is also the story of Johannesburg, and in a fascinating series of photographic juxtapositions, Johannesburg Then and Now  chronicles the city’s expansion from dusty mining camp to economic powerhouse. Rare archival photographs, dating from the 1880s to the 1940s, are contrasted with vivid scenes of the modern city, providing a hitherto untold portrait of the Place of Gold.


Image: StockSnap/Clem Onojeghuo

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