Wits Staff Recommends Diverse Books for Festive Season Reading

Publisher at Wits University Press (WUP), Veronica Klipp

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, winner of the 2017 Booker Prize, is something I have just lately read. It’s one of the most unique and creative novels about living and coming to terms with death—in this case, the loss of Abraham Lincoln’s little son—that I’ve ever read. It addresses significant ethical issues including the meaning of life and one’s obligation to live one’s life with a startling amount of humor and lightness.

It seems unfair to the other Wits Press books to choose only one! Visualizing China in Southern Africa: Biography, Circulation, Transgression, edited by Juliette Leeb-Du Toit, Ruth Simbao, and Ross Anthony, is a book that I heartily suggest. Through the lens of visual arts and material culture, this groundbreaking book investigates the significant China-Africa interaction from both a historical and present perspective. It also makes a wonderful present due to the high manufacturing standards and outstanding artwork.


Kemantha Govender is the School of Governance’s manager of communications.

Dr. Thelela Ngcetane-Vika is a strong and formidable scholar, writer, and speaker who is the author of Running with my parents’ shadows. Thelela’s autobiography is a revelation that shows how she overcame obstacles in life and avalanches in leadership. She wanted to recognize the role that African leadership has had in forming families and society at large, even as she honored and paid respect to her parents and relatives.


The construction, curation, preservation, and celebration of life from many perspectives—in particular, the celebration of overcoming life’s traumas and triumphant living, which embodies the fundamental principles shown in her parents’ shadows—are the memoir’s salient features.

Former government spokesman Themba Maseko’s book, For My Country – Why I Blew The Whistle On Zuma And The Guptas, is a brave story of what it takes to stand up for what’s right and just. When Maseko refused to provide the Guptas the whole government advertising budget, he was fired and had to leave the public sector. Maseko, who is now the Acting Head of the School of Government, is a representative of a generation of activists who gave up their activism to become civil officials because they believed that serving the people and upholding the Constitution came first.

The race to be myself, as Caster Semenya puts it. An Olympian and hero from South Africa had to battle through legal systems and governmental authorities in order to compete in athletics. This book, which is about her life, is written in the astute, humorous, and clever Caster style. It lets you learn more about the individual and the professional athlete. Even though you might not want to run the 800 meters, you will want to get up and pursue your objective. A novel that is both heartbreaking and inspirational.


WUP’s commissioning editor, Roshan Cader

Good Jew Bad Jew by Steven Friedman is a nonfiction book that will help you understand how language is twisted to support bigotry and hold onto power when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A thoughtful and calm appraisal from one of South Africa’s most perceptive professors.

Children of the Sugarcane by Joanne Joseph is a work of fiction that I heartily recommend. A moving work of historical fiction, presented from the viewpoint of the female lead, Shanti, who travels to the Natal colony as an indentured worker after fleeing an arranged marriage in India. The book is deeply poignant, bringing to life the horrific history of British colonialism’s cruelty and enslavement in South Africa and India.


Production Editor Kirsten Perkins’ book WUP Corrupted by Jonathan Jansen offers a perceptive look at the dysfunction and corruption at South African universities, attempting to identify the underlying reasons and bring the institutions’ educational goals back to life. An must read.

In her book Black Cake, Charmaine Wilkerson tells the gripping tale of two brothers who, following their mother’s death, try to put together her past. A poignant read that tracks their family as they travel to the Caribbean, California, and London. Ideal for devoting time to while on vacation.

RF Kaung’s historical fantasy Babel addresses colonial resistance, student uprisings, and the British Empire’s use of language and translation as its primary instruments of control. It’s a fantastic dark academic book and an interesting look at the power of language.


Corina van der Spoel, WUP’s coordinator of marketing

Recently, two of my favorite writers released new books. Tremor is the third book by Nigerian-American novelist Teju Cole, who also wrote Open City. A book on race and history, literature, music, art, and leading a meaningful life. Questions that the book addresses include: How can we reevaluate, engage with, and enjoy art as our understanding of history changes? How can we make contemporary art that honors the past without being constrained by it? I’m eager.

And after a lengthy hiatus, the new book Held by Canadian poet and author Anne Michaels, the author of my favorite book, Fugitive Pieces, is out. Through her amazing lyrical and dreamlike writing, she revisits themes of history, memory, trauma, and loss in this book.

Additionally, I’ll be reading uMbuso weNkosi, a Wits Press author,’s groundbreaking sociological investigation of brutality and forced labor in the 1950s potato fields of Bethal, Mpumalanga: Because of its original interpretation of the relationship between land and labor, dispossession, and a person’s bond with the land, These Potatoes Look Like Humans: The Contested Future of Land, Home, and Death in South Africa is highly recommended. Mbuso uses the viewpoint of the eye to frame each chapter. Who is seeing the brutality on South Africa’s farmlands? The eyes of the workers, the spiritual eye, and the potato’s eye, the sprout/tuber, are all watching.

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