I am often asked if I have a chance to read between my travels and the short answer is “Yes”. I am a voracious reader by nature although my levels of concentration during the COVID-19 pandemic seem to have been lacking.
I enjoy novels, especially if there is a body on page one! Autobiographies inspire me and books on our natural world to keep my passion for the bush alive.
These are not reviews, rather my opinions about the books featured. I hope that I have done justice to what the authors were trying to achieve.
I hope that my readers will find something of interest…
Blood Trail by Tony Park published by Pan Macmillan.
I was hoping for a body on page one of this, the 18th African themed novel written by Parks, instead, I got a lion roaring and Captain Sannie van Rensberg strapping on her sidearm before heading off to work.
The opening, for those who have never read a Parks novel, will establish two things.1]The story is undoubtedly set in Africa and 2] seeing a Captain is a lead character, there will be murder and mayhem afoot.
Add to that mix an expert tracker in Mia Greenaway and mystery and muthi readers know that they are in for a book that they will not easily put down before the last page.
Poachers and the misery they create are shrouded in the mists of culture and Parks tackled these with an understanding of a writer who has an affinity for African traditions, albeit they are being used in the slaughter of innocent animals for money.
Weave into that the nightmare that every parent dreads…the disappearance of a child and the novel takes on a whole new persona.
If you are already a Parks fan, I don’t have to tell you that this needs to be added to your collection and if this is your first Parks novel, I hope that you are prepared to purchase the other 17.
Madam & Eve Family Meeting by Stephen Francis and Rico published by Jacana
What better way to begin your end of the year reading? The term “Family meeting” will no doubt make it into the lexicon of South African expressions together with classics like “Howzit Bru” and “Ja nee”. In this edition, Stephen Francis and Rico have once again tapped into the South African psyche and have highlighted just how resilient we are as a nation. Yes, we whine and moan, but at the end of the day we are survivors and we have proved that time and again. Published by Jacana it makes for a great Christmas gift…if you can bear to part with it after having bought it.
Mammals of Southern Africa and their Tracks & Signs by Lee Guttterage and Louis Liebenberg published by Jacana
This is the expanded and updated 2nd edition of this book that forms part of the Track & Sign trilogy by Lee Gutteridge. In this book, he has a co-author in Louis Liebenberg. The other two books that should be on your shelves alongside this one are Tracks & Signs of Invertebrates and Tracks & Signs of Birds (both published by Jacana)
What is new in this edition? The animal track and spoor illustrations are as close to actual size as possible to help trackers, guides and those using the book more easily identify the species making it a unique offering.
With updated species info and photographs, this field guide to mammal tracks and signs also serves as an ID guide to the mammals of southern Africa as full-colour photographs of each animal are included.
Thanks to Louis Liebenberg’s highly accurate sketches of ‘perfect’ animal tracks are combined with a wide selection of photographs that explain that what you actually see is dependent on the many different substrates where the animals walk.
The combined talents of Lee’s 20 years of experience and Louis’s being a world authority on animal spoor make this a must-have book for both the professional as well as the amateur tracking enthusiast.
Please note: Due to circumstances beyond the control of the publisher, the book will be available in late December or early January 2022. A belated Christmas present or early Easter gift?
Bait by Janine Lazarus and published by Melinda Ferguson Books.
Would you knowingly paint a target on your back and set yourself up as a possible target? This is what investigative journalist Janine Lazarus did in order to try and enable the police to catch a serial killer. It could be said that Lazarus became obsessed with Kobus Geldenhuys and even went so far as to talk with him once he had been sentenced after his trial. It is a story of bravery in the face of adversity, not only from the potential threat of the killer but from her editor at the time as well as the police who were investigating Geldenhuys.
It is a ripping good read and it is one of those stories that you have to ‘clear your desk for’ as it almost demands to be read in one sitting.
The experience has left Lazarus with 30 years worth of trauma and this book has finally helped her lay the demons to rest,” My past has finally left my present”.
The Vegetarian Option by Jan Braai published by BookStorm.
It had to happen! As a carnivore, I have to nail my colours to the mast concerning vegetarians at a braai. If there is a fire and smoke, I want to smell meat cooking, not Brussel sprouts and broccoli.
That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the recipes between the covers of this book. And not only the recipes, but the images also make the dishes look mouth-wateringly stunning. Both the words and the pictures are by Jan Braai himself and he does know how to sell a non-meat offering. “Everything tastes better when braaied”! and I have to agree with him.
Although meat is lekker, it is in these dishes where the creative nature of both professional and home cook alike can be explored.
It only comes in Orange Mr Zuma by Zapiro, published by Jacana.
It has become an end of year tradition to have a book of cartoons from Zapiro. Despite COVID he has kept that flame alight.
Interestingly enough, although the cover features OUR ex-president, the first few pages poke fun at Number 45 (the ex-president of the USA whose name no one wants to mention)
Nothing seems to be sacred here and every public figure is fair game for the sharp and acerbic wit of this iconic South African cartoonist.
You may not agree with Zapiro’s politics or his almost flagrant disregard for figures of authority, but deep down you are rooting for him to push the boundaries just a little more.
The book is a snapshot of 2021 and as such deserves a place on bookshelves across the nation.
Scatterlings of Africa by Johnny Clegg published by Pan Macmillan
I first discovered Johnny Clegg when I bought a copy of Woza Friday from a record store near Park Station back in 1976/7. This was his first 7-single made together with the legendary Sipho Mnuchu. The guy behind the counter in the shop was interested to know why a white man, me, was listening to what he perceived as black music.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of interviewing both Johnny and Sipho (“Enough talking Johnny, play our music David”) to attending almost all of his concerts over the many years and incarnations that he and his band have had.
The book is a tribute to this legendary performer and humanitarian who fought for equality and who walked the talk even before he gained fame and a platform to speak from.
For me the tragedy is that the book has been published posthumously, Johnny having succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2019.
The book is not an autobiography as much as a history of Johnny’s early life.
To quote Roddy Quinn; ” And so, incomplete as it might appear to some, the book contains what John wrote until he stopped writing”.
I don’t want to die unknown by Dan Moyane, published by Tracey McDonald Publishers.
No of us do Dan, least of all you! I had the pleasure to work with Dan at 702 many years ago and I always looked forward to our early morning chats, however brief they were with me just coming off-air and Dan about to head into the studio with John Robbie to do their early morning show. Who can forget the rivalry between the two, especially when it came to pronouncing The Fruit Spot for a live read…but I digress.
The book is a look at his life and the challenges that he had to overcome in order to achieve his dreams and aspirations.
Some say that writing a book, specifically, an autobiography is a daunting task. Seeing that Dan sang the National anthem in front of 65000 people at the Rugby World Cup Final in 1995, committing his memories to paper must have been a piece of cake!
There is a picture of Dan, aged 19 in 1978, to cool for school and for the epitome of a young rebel.
It was an honour working with Dan and a pleasure reading the book, finding out more about the man behind the microphone that I knew.
Snakes and other reptiles of Zambia and Malawi by Pieterson,Verburgt and Davies, published by Struik Nature
If like me, you have a deep respect for reptiles that slither, then this might be just what you are looking for once we are allowed to head North of our borders once again.
Like all of the Struik Nature catalogue, the book is beautifully produced with clear information and colour plates that make identification easy.
There are also chapters on snake fangs, snake bites and treatment.
It can be used as a field guide as it will fit into a backpack and will make for an important addition when out hiking or trailing in areas where these reptiles might occur.
To the Edges of the Earth. A journey into Wild Land by Peter Pickford, published by BookStorm.
If you think that his name is a familiar one, perhaps you know him better as one half of Peter and Beverly Pickford internationally recognized professional wildlife photographers.
This book, without any photographs, is a look at a 4.5 years overland trip that took them both to every continent on Earth to document and record what could be the last truly wild places on our planet.
From Antarctica to Alaska and from Patagonia to Tibet, readers will feel that they are almost passengers in the specially adapted Land Rover.
Although the stories and the travels are exciting, I missed the images that they usually produce and I have to say that I found the font small. In my opinion, this had the possibility to be two books that were produced in a font that enabled easy reading and with images to excite and inspire.