Here is a list of books by African authors that came out this year – we think they’re worth adding to your summer reading list. 

1. THE THEORY OF FLIGHT

The Theory of Flight may be Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu’s first novel, but it’s written with the kind of excellence and detail one would expect of an author with decades of experience. The truly African and enchanting book pulls you in from its cover art – which basically tells the whole story in symbolic images – to its first pages where all the characters are listed and named for reference to when the story begins, and you feel as if you’re part of the very fabric this interconnected story is woven on.

Although there are more than 30 characters – which I must admit did make the novel a little tiring at times – it’s made up for by the sheer power of the hatched-from-a-golden egg protagonist Imogen “Genie” Zula Nyoni, who is the magic of the whole story. The characters each have a purpose and that purpose is directly tied to the protagonist and her strength. The book is a delightful, heartrending, thrilling and heartbreaking read that will leave the reader sad that they couldn’t be a part of Genie’s short yet impactful life. – Pam Magwaza

2. THE LOVE DIARY OF A ZULU BOY

This romantic memoir is written by a talented journalist Bhekisisa Mncube – where he delves into interracial relationships and the discriminations thereafter. The Love Diary of a Zulu Boy zooms into the author’s imagination about marrying across colour lines eight years before he even met his wife, who he refers to as Professor D.

This may be Bhekisisa’s debut book but it’s written with such intelligence and wit. Even though his story is about serious struggles faced by couples in interracial relationships, you can also sense the author’s humour when he speaks about his wife’s blackness, or rather his whiteness.

READ MORE: I married a white woman and many call me a traitor

He relives the chemistry he shared with an Afrikaans woman named Ria. No, they weren’t dating but the chemistry he felt cut deep into his soul. Was the feeling mutual? It doesn’t look like it but at least it was mutual with Professor D. Their relationship began when Professor D was a PhD candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand.

She was also a senior lecturer at University of Natal while he was just doing his undergraduate studies in journalism. The story touches on various topics about his 17-year relationship with his wife such as masculinity, infidelity and how he suffered racial prejudice and discrimination. – Khosi Biyela

3. THE ZULU WEDDING

From the famous Hlomu series, Dudu Busani-Dube was challenged to pen the book adaptation of a film called The Zulu Wedding. Usually, it’s a movie adaptation of a book but in this case it was the other way round. After her successful book series, Dudu was approached by film director Lineo Sekeleoane to create different scenarios that aren’t in the movie.

The book, which tells a story of Lou who’s been promised to the Zulu king in marriage to repay an old ancestral debt, is an Africa-meets-modern-day story. Lou has been running from this obligation since the death of her parents when she was 15. When she meets her soulmate, Tex, she realises she has to return to South Africa to confront her demons.

Tex is an American and the only man Lou has ever loved. But what stands in their way is the agreement between Lou and the king’s family. For them to get their happy ending, Lou tries to get out of the arrangement by confronting the king. If you’ve read Dudu’s other pieces, you know how relatable her African romantic stories are and you’d definitely enjoy this one as well. – Khosi Biyela

4. INTRUDERS

Some have begun calling her the face of South African speculative fiction, yet she insists her book is just the beginning of what local authors can do with this genre. As we sit down at the Cape Town Book Lounge just minutes before the launch of her book I understand why fans would want Mohale Mashigo to be the face of South African speculative fiction.

She’s fresh-faced with colourful dreadlocks that are tied up into two ponytails. She’s also has a tattoo of wings on her shoulder and Clark Kent glasses which give her the mystery of an actual fictional superhero. “For the past three years I’ve been telling my best friend, Marcee, I want to write these speculative fiction stories about ordinary people and I’ve always known I wanted to call it Intruders,” she says. 

Intruders came out of her desire to write mystical stories about people who don’t conform to societal standards – the outcasts, the homeless and the misunderstood. It all started when she was commissioned by a local newspaper to write a short story for Women’s Day and she gave them The High Heel Killer – a story about a woman who killed a guy who sells sunglasses at the taxi rank with her stiletto. The High Heel Killer is one of the most impactful stories in the collection.

READ MORE: SA women of colour whose fiction novels you should be reading right now

She’s a normal, everyday Joburg girl who has to walk through the streets daily and life hasn’t been kind to her. She falls into a puddle of water after her heels make her trip. After a man makes an unkind comment, she beats him to death with a shoe and later grows wings. The story encompasses what Intruders is all about, extraordinary things happening to people who are unseen by the world.

The book has been titled Intruders for the very fact the characters seem to be anomalies in a world that has no time to truly see them for who and what they are. From a doctor who made the world’s first baby without a man to a vampire from Limpopo who cares for her werewolf friend from Cape Town – the stories are on one hand believable and on the other, too fictional to believe.

Her most horrific story in the book is called BnB in Bloe’, and she says African folktale and social issues in present-day South Africa tie her book together. That’s what made Intruders more impactful, that a local audience can imagine the things in the book and most importantly they can relate to it. – Pam Magwaza


5. THE GOLDDIGGERS

If ever there was an author who could do a book like Gold Diggers justice, it would be none other than Sue Nyathi. After her groundbreaking debut, The Polygamist, Sue has come back with an even more heart-wrenching story in Gold Diggers. 

Set in the 2008 during the height of Zimbabwe’s economical demise, a group of passengers are in a Quantum about to embark on a perilous journey to Johannesburg.

Full of hope for a better life, the Zimbabweans are about to illegally cross the border into South Africa but what awaits them on the other side is nothing they could’ve imagined.Reading this novel was an emotional journey.

Reading the book, I experienced their excitement as they got into the Quantum towards their futures and I was engulfed by fear as they crossed the crocodile-infested river watching one of their own die and when they crawled under barbed wire. The relief came when they were finally on the other side of the fence.

But it wasn’t long before Joburg became their worst nightmare.In light of all the prejudices many of us hold about foreign nationals, this book gives a much-needed glimpse into the hardships, losses, countless pain and unrelenting fight for survival illegal immigrants face on a daily basis in the unwelcoming streets of Hillbrow in Johannesburg. – Pam Magwaza

6. THE ONES WITH PURPOSE

“Truth is, I have been burying my sister for years.” This statement in Nozizwe Cynthia Jele’s latest book, The Ones with Purpose, perfectly sums up not only the essence of the novel but the experience of the family members of a person dying of cancer. The Mabuza family have been hit with hardship after hardship after the sudden and horrific death of their father earlier in their lives.

The unexpected death of their eldest sister, Fikile, after a breast cancer diagnosis has been the most recent one. Nozizwe effortlessly tells the story through narration by Fikile’s sister Anele – who must now be the caretaker and figure of strength for her family and Fikile’s children. This is a story of sacrifice through Anele, healing through their brother Mbuso, recovery through their mother, corruption and infidelity through Fikile’s husband and many more themes which are told through other family members as the family unite in their pain and loss.

There is also a fluidity in the narration of the story that makes relating and connecting with the characters feel like second nature.Nozizwe perfectly captures the black experience of grief while detailing every aspect of the characters’ lives so vividly that the reader is drawn into it and becomes a silent member of the family – reliving memories with their beloved Fikile. – Pam Magwaza

7. SPEAK NO EVIL

Unlike his first book – Beasts of No Nation, which is about an African boy recruited to a rebel military force – which was published to extraordinary reviews and an array of prizes, Uzodinma Iweala’s Speak No Evil came bit short. 

Although it’s an enlightening story, it’s also too familiar – unlike the Beasts of No Nation which was even turned into a film starring Idris Elba. 

READ MORE: 33 of the biggest Oscar snubs of all-time

Speak No Evil is a story of a Nigerian-American boy named Niru who realises he is gay in his high school years. He struggles with what’s expected of him and dealing with his traditional parents. Although he’s a top student and his future looks bright, Niru has a secret he can’t share with his conservative parents.

When his father discovers Niru is actually gay, all hell breaks loose. One person who knows his secret is his best friend, Meredith. She doesn’t judge him but when the secret is out she isn’t able to be there emotionally for Niru. She too is trying to cope with her own problems. The two friends subsequently find themselves in more violent situations. One way or another, they both get hurt.

8. SOWETO, UNDER THE APRICOT TREE

It’s funny how the title of this book came about. At the book launch, Niq Mhlongo revealed that when people were moved from Sophiatown to Soweto the apartheid government planted fruit trees such as peach, plum and apricot in each backyard. He says this became a place where all stories were told. His curiosity about if the apricot trees of Soweto could talk, what stories would they tell?

Niq has penned three novels, Dog Eat Dog, After Tears and Way Back Home.Literally critic Karina Magdalena Szczurek said this about Niq’s book: “The topics are as diverse, but the execution even more sophisticated. Mhlongo is one of those writers who goes from strength to strength with every book.” Yet The Johannesburg Review of Books wrote the story if filled with vivid sense of Soweto and it captures the vibrancy of the township and surroundings.

“Life and death are intertwined in these tales, which are told with Mhlongo’s satirical flair.”The story touches on what happens at funerals, the ancestors and cemeteries being a place where people show off their cars and a place for gossipmongers. This story will entertain you and Niq knows how to keep his readers entertained.

9. THIS MOURNABLE BODY

This book by Tsitsi Dangarembga received great reviews internationally. The New York Times Book Review described Tsitsi’s book as a masterpiece. “Dangarembga writes with intimacy and compassion, there’s a sharp poetic crack to the work that keeps the story from muddying in melancholy, as it might in the hands of a less cinematic writer.” 

This is a story of a middle-aged Zimbabwean woman named Tambudzai Sigauke who is educated but unemployed. She stays at a hostel in Harare and then later moves in with a widow who has a niece, Christine. However, Christine is an ex-combatant in the war for liberation.“Dangarembga writes this often-grim story with a great deal of wit,” writes Sheila McClear of The Washington Post. 

Tsitsi is a Zimbabwean author and filmmaker whose first novel, Nervous Conditions, was published in 1988 and was the first to be written in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe. It was named as one of the top 100 books that have changed the world. In 2006 she also published Book of Not: A Sequel to Nervous Conditions.

10. THE BROKEN RIVER TENT

This book by Mphuthumi Ntabeni is about the life and times of Maqoma, the Xhosa chief who was at the forefront of fighting British colonialism in the Eastern Cape during the 19th century. 

The story is told through the eyes of young South Africans, Phila and Maqoma. Phila suffers from a “triple-N” condition – which he refers to as neurasthenia, narcolepsy and cultural ne plus ultra. Phila, who just came back from his architectural studies in Germany, is going through a process of rediscovery.  

The story is told in is told in an order of interconnected events. Maqoma and Phila engage in different conversations about cultural history, literature, the past and the present. “As a book of historical literature, it flirts between the borders of fact and fiction, even rattles a historical cage or two,” writes Zoe August of The Reading List.  

Zoe further described the book as “an entrancing novel that marries imagination with history”. Yet book critic Phehello Mofokeng believes this book is a reminder that not only apartheid was a crime against humanity, but it is also a reminder that this country and the economy of the world is built on a murderous civilisation that enslaved people the world over and dispossessed them of their land. 

“The Broken River Tent is one such book – it is a left-hand slap on the face of a slumbering democratic nation and a jab on the gut of a nation that seems to slowly wake up to the reality of its current dispossession and dire situation.”