Monday, December 30, 2013

My best, almost-best and worst of 2013

Favourite books of 2013

All the feels, all the TEABS, all the books I enjoyed reading most this year

Stone against the mirror by Hugh Lewis

I have been telling everyone I know to go read this book. This is a rich and unsentimental account of a group of youngish white kids, trying to do what they could to put a dent in the Apartheid regime. It does not pretend that their contribution, though well meaning and not without success, was particularly significant in the greater scheme of things. Nor does it overblow their place in history or have any delusions about what they achieved. Instead, Lewis takes an earnest and honest look at his actions and those of his friends’. He tells the story of the personal and political betrayal by his closest friend, a man he considered practically a brother. As he charts the events that led to an 8 year imprisonment all those years ago, he is in the present time travelling to London to meet his old friend after not speaking for some 40 year. This is some deep shit. But it’s wonderful. Go read this book.


Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Vortex by Julie Cross
Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Way Back Home by Niq Mhlongo
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Sharp Edges by SA Partridge
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Merit awards for 2013

I liked these books very, very much but they weren’t quite my favorites...

The Mall by SL Grey

I did not really expect to be scarred by this. I have not been frightened by a book since Goosebumps in the second grade. But. The Mall is scary in ways that you do not imagine it will scare you. It is a thinking man’s horror because so much of what is scary about it is only frightening when you really, really think it through. It’s clever and wicked and mischievous but it’s pretty difficult to talk about it in any detail without giving away too much. I’d hate to spoil the fun so I’ll say this: if you’re into a book with a bite, push on through a very slow start and prepare to see your local mall (and actually the whole way we live these days) in a whole new, much creepier light.

South Africa’s Suspended Revolution by Adam Habib

South Africa’s Suspended Revolution is an unaffected but serious work that examines the challenges of our times while charting a way forward. Habib explores a range of topics including institutional design and human agency, affirmative action and conservative macroeconomic policies and the balance of power between corporates and unions. The result is a book that goes to the core of our social context, not shying away from controversial ideas, but instead dealing with them evenly and accessibly. In the midst of strike season, Habib’s fresh perspective on the crisis of service delivery and widespread deficiencies in political accountability are particularly timely. As an introduction to contemporary South Africa, South Africa’s Suspended Revolution is a compelling snapshot of our complex socio-political and economic landscape.


Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield by Jeremy Scahill
The Imposter by Damon Galgut
Go Tell the Sun by Wame Molefhe
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

It’s not you, it’s me

Try though I did, there were also some books this year that just didn’t quite hit the spot. There’s always some debate about whether reviewers should write negative reviews. I’m of the opinion that reviews should be fair, balanced but honest. If it was bad, I have to say so. What I do not have to do it tear apart a book or it’s author. So, in the spirit of transparency, sorry books: it’s not you, it’s me.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Passion for Freedom by Mamphela Ramphele
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Less than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Pretty Bad Things by CJ Skuse
The Smell of Apples by Mark Behr
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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