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The Good Book Appreciation Society

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Archive for the ‘International’ Category

How many books get sold in SA every year?

An excerpt from The Good Book Appreciation Society August Newsletter:

Have you ever wondered what SA publishing looks like from the inside? How many books the average South African author sells? Or what constitutes a local bestseller? We took a closer look at the numbers, read ‘em and weep:

There were 10.5 million books sold in South Africa in 2015*.

But let’s not pop the champagne quite yet. The majority of this number, about 80%, is made up of non-fiction sales; text books, biographies, sports books, self-help, memoirs, cook books, the Kardashians telling all – again, adult colouring-in books, religious books, kids books, joke books, Zapiro’s Xmas special etc.

Out of those 10.5 million books, adult fiction only makes up about 2.5* million sales annually, or around 20%, if that. And only a FRACTION of those sales come from SA fiction. The rest are internationals; your JK Rowlings, Lee Childs, John Grisham, Gillian Flynn et al.

Harry Potter And The Cursed ChildTheodore Boone: The ScandalMake MeGone Girl

South African fiction sells somewhere in the region of 550 000 books a year across thousands of titles (and that’s being generous). BUT here’s the zinger, more than 450 000* of those are Afrikaans books.

And this is where we get to the sad part of the story. Your average SA novelist writing in English only sells 600 – 1000 copies of a novel in its lifetime. In a country with a population of more than 60 million people** (**2013).

The cherry on top: there were only 3 traditionally published South African english novels that sold more than 2000 copies in 2014. Any guesses which those were?

So please, give something local a shot next time you’re buying. It’s not life and death, but it kind of is.

* Nielsens Bookscan. Nielsen’s measure book sales at mainstream retail outlets – these figures do not include independent book stores.

The Good Book Appreciation Society is a ‘secret’ book club on Facebook with almost 6000 members.
To join the Good Book Appreciation Society or sign up for the monthly newsletter, email or friend Bea Reader on FB, and we’ll add you to the club.

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This week’s interview live with Marita van der Vyver in France

terry - cover.001

Welcome to Cocktail Hour on The Good Book Appreciation Society.

At 5pm on Sunday 15th November, Terry Ellen Raats chatted to Marita van der Vyver about her incredible book, A Fountain in France live on The Good Book Appreciation Society. Here is an exerpt of that interview.

To join The Good Book Appreciation Society simply friend Bea Reader on Facebook or email

Terry Ellen Raats Thank you Bea Reader! And hello Marita van der Vyver

Marita van der Vyver Hi there.

Terry Ellen Raats In the aftermath of Friday night, our deepest sympathy, Marita, to you and your adopted and beloved France. We trust that you and your loved ones, Alain, Hugo, Thomas, Mia and Daniel, and their loved ones, are all safe ….?

Marita van der Vyver Thank you. We are all sad and shocked, but fortunately everyone I know personally seems to be safe.

Terry Ellen Raats It must feel strange, having grown up in a country where terror was used to fight for ideals, to be in a similar situation again … How are you feeling as you witness the events of this weekend … ?

Marita van der Vyver Very strange. Kind of déjà vu? My 15-year-old daughter sent an SMS Friday night: ‘Maman, I am so glad they are not attacking small villages. But if they do, where do you think we can go and live?’ This was not a question I ever thought I’d have to answer in the heart of ‘civilised’ Europe.

Terry Ellen Raats So tragic in so many ways ….And now to our book A fountain in France ends with “…why would

Marita van der Vyver Why would I want to be French?

Terry Ellen Raats “Why would I want to become French when I can stay Afrikaans – and along the way become a tiny bit provencal too”. How do you manage your dual identity?

Marita van der Vyver I don’t see it as being torn, I see it as being enriched. I often quote a friend who says she has her roots in Africa, but her branches and leaves are thriving in another country.

Terry Ellen Raats How beautiful!

Marita van der Vyver Yes, I wish I thought of it first.

Terry Ellen Raats And with your writing- that is so heartfelt, from the heart, is there a difference between the character Marita, and the Marita who writes?

Marita van der Vyver Ooh, that’s a difficult one. But I suppose the answer is yes, because the moment I write about myself, even in non-fiction like this book, I fictionalise myself. Have you noticed that when you read writers’ autobiographies there is often more fiction in there than in their fiction?
By which I don’t mean I’m lying all the time!

Terry Ellen Raats No, of course not, but as writers we can make up as much as we want to …
Your book Where the Heart Is has been described as an autobiographical novel – did this influence how your wrote A fountain in france?

Marita van der Vyver I’m still struggling to define both Where the Heart Is and Fountain in France (FIF). They’re not travel books, they’re not novels, they’re not autobiography because I’m not old enough to write a ruthlessly honest autobiography (I have to wait for a few people to die first), so I think the reader can call my writing whatever he/she wants to call it.

Terry Ellen Raats Your books read like a travelogue – and some sections feel like a handbook on how to manage/survive a household of teenagers … was that planned, or does your natural humour just make it feel that way?

Marita van der Vyver What I do know, is that I have to be more careful of ‘real’ people’s feelings when i write non-fiction. In fiction you can literally get away with murdering your characters.

Terry Ellen Raats There is a strong dose of humour in your writing – and i’m reading your English versions – to what extent do you feel your sense of humour translates – or is it lost?

Marita van der Vyver Sorry, I added something to your previous question. I never plan humour. It always comes uninvited, even when I try to write quite seriously. But then I console myself with the fact that even Shakespeare wrote some very humorous passages.

To enjoy the rest of the interview simply join The Good Book Appreciation Society. Friend Bea Reader on FB or email

A reader, reviewer and some-times-writer and poet, Terry is mostly a Reader!
Steeped in a career of communications, marketing and copywriting, she has facilitated writing courses and creative workshops in Joburg and Cape Town. She also confesses to being a serial Literary Festival attendee. Terry’s work has also been included in a number of short story collections. Her poetry was selected as the Women’s 2002 Finalist in the Ottakars et Faber Competition, in Banbury, England.

Marita van der Vyver was born in Cape Town and holds a masters degree in journalism from the University of Stellenbosch. She published three novels for adolescents before her first adult novel, Griet skryf ‘n sprokie, became a best-seller, winning the M-Net, Eugène Marais and ATKV Prizes in 1992. Since then she has been a full-time writer of fiction for readers of all ages, producing novels, a collection of humorous essays, a collection of short stories, picture books for young children and numerous stories included in anthologies. She has won several awards as well as a bursary for international study from the SA Foundation for Creative Arts, and was invited to take part in the renowned writers’ programme of the University of Iowa in the USA. All her adult novels are translated from the original Afrikaans into English, Dutch and German, while Griet skryf ‘n sprokie has been translated into a dozen languages including Chinese and Icelandic. She lives in a small village in the south of France with her French husband, Alain Claisse. They have 3 sons and a daughter.

You can buy Marita’s novel here

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Jeanne-Marie Jackson interviews Tendai Huchu on GBAS


Welcome to Cocktail Hour at The Good Book Appreciation Society. Jeanne-Marie Jackson will be chatting to Tendai Huchu about his highly acclaimed novel; The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician.

Here is an excerpt of this interview, to read the whole thing join The Good Book Appreciation Society by friending Bea Reader on Facebook, or email

Jeanne-Marie Jackson Hi everyone, thanks for joining us. And – mhoro munyori – waswera sei kuEdinburgh? First, let me note that I’ll be using “MMM” to refer to Tendai’s novel more quickly. I also want to start off with a quick plot summary here for anyone who may not have the novel ready to hand. The Maestro, The Magistrate, and the Mathematician is essentially an interweaving of three different Zimbabwean diaspora novellas across the shared terrain of Edinburgh. The Magistrate is, well, a (former) Magistrate; the Maestro is a solitary, serious reader who also works at a grocery store; and the Mathematician is a grad student in economics. The different plotlines don’t cross, at least for the most part, but I’ll stop there at risk of offering too many spoilers (which I’m sure I’ll end up fumbling into anyway).

Tendai Huchu Mhoro JM, taswera maswerawo. Thank you guys for having me here.

Jeanne-Marie Jackson And now for my first question! Tendai’s first novel, as many of you know, took place entirely in Harare. It is very much grounded in ZANU-PF politics and “new Zimbabwean” wealth. MMM, in contrast, takes place completely in the UK, and the only glimpses of life in Zimbabwe are afforded through phone calls, Skype, etc. So I’d like Tendai to speak a bit to the different challenges of depicting Edinburgh vs the challenges of depicting contemporary Harare. It seems too simple just to say that MMM is a “diaspora novel,” without unpacking what that means, especially given its epigraph from Hugh MacDiarmand’s lovely and understated poem ‘Scotland.’

Jeanne-Marie Jackson While Tendai is typing, here’s the first line of ‘Scotland’ for people who don’t know it: “It requires great love of it deeply to read / The configuration of a land…”

Tendai Huchu I suppose the thing I find about most of my writing is it’s set in cities and urban environments, which give you quite a lot to material. I think writing about the countryside is so much more difficult, unless one is well embedded into that culture and way of life.

Tendai Huchu But Edinburgh and Harare are two very different cities, if I can just go on for a bit longer…

Jeanne-Marie Jackson By all means! smile emoticon

Tendai Huchu I sort of try to have the city as a strong background character in its own right, and each city has a vibe of its own, a personality, if I may call it that. Edinburgh is a small city, lower tempo, much slower than Harare. But I think you find that as you write, you just play by ear and go with how you feel about each space and what you think, rather where you think the soul of the place lies.
Please tell me that makes some sense.

Jeanne-Marie Jackson Of course it does. And it seems that on that score, MMM is part of a larger momentum toward depicting the “global” city, instead of focusing on the characters who inhabit it as the primary point of exploration (which isn’t to say you don’t have characters, of course). I’m thinking of Zadie Smith’s NW, Teju Cole’s Open City, a lot of Ivan Vladislavic’s work on Joburg, etc.
One thing that occurs to me here is that moving from Harare to Edinburgh is also a way for you to emphasize “downward mobility,” as opposed to the novel’s traditional domain of upward mobility.
By that I mean that novels have focused mainly on how characters’ develop and better themselves to move through an increasingly stable world: the Bildungsroman in broad strokes, but also in contemporary African lit in particular. Think about Chris Abani, Adichie, or Nervous Conditions in a Zimbabwean context.

Your characters in MMM, though, are former officials and highly educated people who end up working low-wage jobs at nursing homes and grocery stores. So my question for you is: how does this downward mobility figure into the way you actually structure the book? What’s the correspondence of social reality, here, to form?

Tendai Huchu I envisioned the novel as a book of illusions. It is kinda hard to get stuck in without spoilers, but here goes. The title of the novel itself is a misnomer. It is presented as a literary novel but it is actually a genre novel of a very specific kind, The reader will find that though the narrators of all three novellas are reliable, they are still being lied to. So in that sense, looking at the “downward mobility” thing, I suppose most of the novels I read about diasporas are about folks on a sort of upward trajectory and I kind of wanted to go in the opposite direction to those narratives.
The question of form is a little trickier.

The final structure and language in the text were because of the failure of my first drafts of the damn thing which envisioned a more integrated, conventional narrative. When that didn’t work, I riffed off Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy and decided to have the three characters in the same city, but inhabiting distinct universes.

Jeanne-Marie Jackson It’s a very revealing failure, don’t you think? The book ends up, as far as I’m concerned, even more reflective of contemporary discontinuity and global mediation than do a lot of more fluid, or even “Afropolitan” novels in which characters seem to glide across oceans and skies with ease.

to read the rest of the interview, join The Good Book Appreciation Society by friending Bea Reader on Facebook, or email

Jeanne-Marie Jackson is an Assistant Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale, and also works in Russian, Afrikaans, and Shona. Her first academic book is South African Literature’s Russian Soul: Narrative Forms of Global Isolation (Bloomsbury 2015). She’s now researching a book on Zimbabwean intellectual culture, and also writes for outlets like n+1, Africa in Words, Bookslut, and The Literary Review.”

And Tendai Huchu’s first novel The Hairdresser of Harare was released in 2010 to critical acclaim, and has been translated into German, French, Italian and Spanish. His multi-genre short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the Manchester Review, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Interzone, Shattered Prism, AfroSF, Wasafiri, Warscapes, the Africa Report and elsewhere. He is a creative writing PhD student at Manchester University. Between projects, he translates fiction between the Shona and English languages. His new novel is The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician. Find him @TendaiHuchu or on .

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Valentine’s Day Gift Suggestions for Book Lovers

Are you a romantic, or do you just want to get lucky? Whatever your answer, the Good Book Appreciation Society has the infographic for you!

Valentine's Day Book Suggestions

Click on a cover to find the book:

The History of LoveThe Pursuit of HappinessDark MatterThe New Girl
SwitchScandalous LiaisonsAfrikamasutraWeight Loss Kit for Dummies

Join the Good Book Appreciation Society to discuss these and more – or any other bookish thoughts that cross your mind. Friend Book Club on Facebook, or write to to receive your invitation.

Book details

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Infographic: Recommendations for Fans of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

Did you love The Goldfinch? The Good Book Appreciation Society – a book club in a secret corner of Facebook – has some suggestions for your next read …

Donna Tartt’s latest novel was over a decade in the making – if you’ve already devoured its 800 pages and are gasping for something new, you may enjoy one of these four next:

The Good Book Appreciation Society | Goldfinch infographic

Do you agree with these recommendations? Join the Good Book Appreciation Society to discuss these and more – or any other bookish thoughts that cross your mind. Friend Book Club on Facebook, or write to to receive your invitation.
Click on a cover to buy the books:

The GoldfinchCutting for StoneThe Promise of HappinessThe FlamethrowersFraction of the Whole

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Infographic: The Good Book Appreciation Society Recommends the Best Books to Give as Gifts

Christmas may be a distant memory, but a book makes an excellent gift all year round. Here is the Good Book Appreciation Society’s most recent gifting guide.

Whether you want something literary, something easy to read, or something sporty to solve the problem of what to get dad, the GBAS has a suggestion for you:

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The Good Book Appreciation Society Guide to Xmas 2014 – Chapter One
The Good Book Appreciation Society Guide to Xmas 2014 – Chapter Two
The Good Book Appreciation Society Guide to Xmas 2014 – Chapter Three

Are you mad about reading? Join the Good Book Appreciation Society – a book club in a secret corner of Facebook – to discuss these novels, or any other bookish thoughts that cross your mind. Friend Book Club on Facebook, or write to to receive your invitation.

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