TOP TEN BOOKS 2013
By Karin Schimke
There are a great many contenders each year, but here’s my pick for The Star’s Top Ten Books of 2013. Sheesh, what challenge to narrow it down.
Categories of Persons: Rethinking Ourselves and Others
Edited by Megan Jones and Jacob Dlamini
These nine engrossing essays grasp way beyond stereotype towards richer understandings of what it means to be South African. In lucid prose, each essay reveals the intimate politics of body, language or role. Outstanding writing and exciting slant-wise thought on the absurdity and inefficiency of simple identity markers.
Endings and Beginnings
The rigorous and unflinching story Tlhabi’s childhood and of her friend Mabegzo – who started well but went down in flames – is driven by truth not ego. It’s savagely intense and moral without being preachy.
The Spiral House
Archaic language makes it difficult to get into this book with its two intertwined narratives in across two centuries, but the rewards are manifold. Complex and rich with experience and sensation.
A harrowing book with a shocking sting in the tail, Wolf Wolf tells the story of a young gay man looking after his dying father. Masterful tale about people losing control.
From Quantum to Cosmos: The Universe Within
Faber and Faber
This SA-trained scientist weaves personal experiences and thinking into a wide-ranging tour through science’s history and philosophy, presenting thrilling ideas plainly but lucidly.
An albino teenaged orphan and her brother flee Zimbabwe for Cape Town. There are no clichés in this kaledeiscopic debut about the life of immigrants on the fringes of society.
This story of lefty Afrikaans farm kids making their troubled way into adulthood is lyrical and memorable. Poignant, funny and richly poetic, it’s not just another South African farm story.
My children have faces
The Karoo gypsies – known as karretjiemense – are given faces in this debut novel full of intrigue and drama. Fast-paced and filled with romance, tenderness, jealousy and revenge.
The Imagined Child
A jaded city woman seeks a fresh start in a small town in this gently humorous story, which explores parenthood, secrets, guilt and fear. Increasing suspense makes it absorbing.
This astonishing debut explores modern urban life and its attendant dangers for a young graduate with a cushy first job. It calls to mind the work of K. Sello Duiker and Phaswane Mpe.
LAST YEAR: 1.The Big Stick 2. The Garden of Evening Mists 3. My Father, My Monster 4. The Hungry Season 5. The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods 6. The Long Way Home 7. This Book Betrays My Father 8. Eloquent Body 9. Biko 10. Absent Tongues