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The Good Book Appreciation Society

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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

How well do you know books?

Take the Good Book Appreciation Society quiz!

Answer these 19 questions to see how big a book nerd you really are.

Share your results with us on Facebook or Twitter, @BooksLIVESA and @TGBApp!

The Good Book Appreciation Society is a book club in a secret corner of Facebook.

Come tell us what you’re reading and invite your bookie friends to do the same.

To join, email – we’ll add you to the club.

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The Books Recommended Authors Recommend

What books do recommended authors recommend?

The Good Book Appreciation Society – a book club in a secret corner of Facebook – asked some of South Africa’s most recommendable authors (who all just happen to have new books out themselves) for their go-to recommendable title.

On the left is their own book, on the right, the book they happily recommend – we recommend both:

NTHIKENG MOHELE author of Rusty Bell recommends Life & Times of Michael K, JM Coetzee.

Rusty BellnullLife and Times of Michael K
HENRIETTA ROSE-INNES author of Green Lion recommends Portrait with Keys, Ivan Vladislavić.

Green LionnullPortrait with Keys
JOHN HUNT, author of The Space Between the Space Between, recommends The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan.

The Space Between the Space BetweennullThe Narrow Road to the Deep North
DARREL BRISTOW-BOVEY, author of One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo, recommends Papillon, Henri Charriere.

One Midlife Crisis and a SpeedonullPapillon
PAIGE NICK, author of Pens Behaving Badly, recommends Sum, David Eagleman.

Pens Behaving BadlynullSum

CRAIG HIGGINSON, author of The Dream House, recommends Selected Poems, Pablo Neruda.

The Dream HousenullSelected Poems
MASANDE NTSHANGA, author of The Reactive, recommends Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison.

The ReactivenullInvisible Man
REBECCA DAVIS, author of Best White and Other Anxious Delusions recommends The Worst Date Ever, Jane Bussmann.

Best White and Other Anxious DelusionsnullThe Worst Date Ever
IAIN THOMAS, author of How To Be Happy, recommends Good Omens, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett.

nullnullGood Omens
RICHARD POPLAK, author of Until Julius Comes, recommends London Orbital, Iain Sinclair.

Until Julius ComesnullLondon Orbital
KHAYA DLANGA, author of To Quote Myself, recommends What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness, Stanley Bing.

To Quote MyselfnullWhat Would Machiavelli Do?
The best way to join The Good Book Appreciation Society is to add Bea Reader as friend on Facebook, or to email

Book details

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Jennifer Crocker interviews Helen Walne

BEA READER: Good morning and welcome to another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival. Jennifer Crocker will be interviewing Helen Walne on her debut, The Diving. I’m told both are in pyjamas (of some sort) and drinking coffee as we go. Jen will open up to questions from the audience at 9:45, so if you can hang tight till then. Over to you Jennifer… — with Helen Walne and Jennifer Crocker.

all three

‪Jennifer Crocker Hallo ‪Bea Reader thanks for having ‪Helen Walne and letting me tag along. Hi Helen my fingers are frozen but in we go,

‪Helen Walne Hello all and sundry. I hope you look equally rancid at this time of the morning.

‪Jennifer Crocker Very rancid, so along with first gifted question: It’s not a spoiler to say that your book is about your brother Richard’s suicide? And promise not to give away too many details, but what made you decide to write a book about something so, in a sense intimate?

‪Helen Walne After my brother, Richard, drowned himself, I went looking for literature on suicide — something that would resonate with me; make me feel less alone. And at the time there wasn’t very much, so I decided to try to mend that.

‪Jennifer Crocker And what we are given in The Diving is a very different kind of book, you have a very edgy style and it seems almost cinematic at the time, you include the funny side of life too was this hard?

‪Jennifer Crocker Actually what I should have picked up on in that answer was the theme of mending because the story is about trying to mend something and finding that there is stuff that just can’t be mended, but that the ripping apart is terrifying, it so isn’t a self-help book and it so is as well?

‪Jennifer Crocker Argh sorry you are probably still typing ….

‪Helen Walne It’s not a self-help book, but there are some insights that will hopefully make people feel less isolated. I also hope it’s not a book that only people who have experienced suicide will be drawn to — I hope it resonates across all human experience.

‪Helen Walne As for the mending, it’s an attempt at some darning. I’m not sure these things can be forever fixed.

‪Helen Walne blaf blaf blaf — (thats’s the dogs barking at a man)

‪Jennifer Crocker‬ I think there are insights that will do that, I was drawn to the book before it even came out because of the way you write your column which is so insightful and frank, so I do think it does help, although I have experienced a little of what you did, but every experience is individual and I suppose there are commonalities as well which is what this made it a book I read in one gulp overnight, when did you start to write it (crush crush sound of game requests coming in)

‪Helen Walne‬ STAY AWAY FROM THE CANDY CRUSH!!! I think I started writing bits and pieces in the months after Richard’s death — scribbles in notebooks and on backs of till slips. But it only started taking book shape a few years later when I had managed to process quite a lot of what had happened and felt still enough to tackle it as a writing project rather than as an outpouring. I strongly believe in the craft of writing to convey the sense of things.

‪Helen Walne‬ I am boiling the kettle. Tea anyone?

‪Helen Walne‬ And I’ve just had the BIGGEST sneeze. Waaaaaaaa-hoooooooooo. I think the neighbours have called ADT.

‪Jennifer Crocker‬ Yes am trying you will be horrified ot know that another author who shall not be named just sent me one! I think as writers (and I am not an author) but I do write do try to make sense of life through scribbling down stuff, so when you realised you had a book how did you approach a publisher were they receptive to the idea of the topic? And I am going to say something very meaningful after that

‪Jennifer Crocker‬ Oh and will have two sugars please

‪Jennifer Crocker‬ Actually rather coffee if you don’t mind

‪Helen Walne‬ I sent the manuscript to two publishers. The first said it didn’t it their marketing profile; the second was very kind and nearly took it but the supporters of the book were out-voted — probably by the numbers dudes. Then, when I took it to Penguin, I was overwhelmed by how much they loved it.

‪Helen Walne‬ Mmmmmmm, English breakfast tea,

‪Jennifer Crocker‬ Oh how we love marketing profiles, not, I am so glad Penguin loved it, because for those of you who haven’t read this book you actually have to go and buy one straight after this, because it is a piece of literature as well as an intensely personal memoir, it should be upfront in book stores and every teenager should be forced to read it

‪Helen Walne‬ The publishing industry is a pretty intense place. I realise that now.

‪Helen Walne‬ It’s commerce — whether we like it or not. When I was a student, I dreamed of working in a bookshop. I had romantic notions of being around books all day and convincing people to read Bellow. Hahaha.

‪Jennifer Crocker‬ One thing I am interested in is that part of your life is filled with subbing and I aways was scared that ediiting stopped me from writing but clearly that isn’t the case with you? But it is a very disciplined book every word is there for a reason and you write like a dark poet at times, always been your style?

‪Jennifer Crocker‬ I still dream of working in a bookshop, but then I remember being told how poetry has to be kept but is never bought so it’s sort of written off on the books before it hits the shelvs (lovely pun somewhere in there) and that made me sad so I became a journalist instead

This is just an excerpt, to read the rest of the interview, join The Good Book Appreciation Society, by friending Bea Reader on Facebook, or by emailing

And please join us again next Sunday 29th June at 9am when Liesl Jobson will be interviewing Rebecca LLoyd, author of View From Endless Street.

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Kelly Ansara interviews Amanda Coetzee

Welcome to another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival. This morning renowned bookie blogger, Kelly Ansara is interviewing prolific crime author, Amanda Coetzee, over to you Kelly…

amanda - kell

‪Kelly Ansara ‪Amanda Coetzee – kettle boiled?

‪Amanda Coetzee Alcohol distilled and ready to answer it all…

‪Kelly Ansara Tell us, for those that don’t know, about your fourth novel ‘One Shot’?

‪Amanda Coetzee One Shot is a crime novel that pits our detective against a complex and competent adversary on British and South African shores. There is a drug war on home ground and a sniper with a grudge. There is also trouble in Badger’s personal life. A volatile mix

‪Kelly Ansara It was great! Why did you want to bring Badger to SA, considering your previous novels dealt soley overseas? (was it because Badger wanted to sweep a dear doe-eyed Kelly off her feet? ‪#Fangirl?)

‪Amanda Coetzee Sadly not and remember how dangerous he is to be around Kelly… I thought it was time, maybe like Badger to confront both my identities; British and South African.

‪Kelly Ansara A girl can dream right! Talking about Badger (Harry ‘Badger’ O’connor); What made you write a flawed protagonist, seemingly a ‘Bad Boy’ persona and is he based on anyone real? He is very dark, mysterious, enigmatic and haunted… (easy ladies).

‪Amanda Coetzee He has a lot of my husband in his more redeeming qualities; loyalty to family, honour, ruthlessness when protecting those he loves… Perhaps he is a little of the damaged man we meet that is worth saving – the man who is unable to love not because he is emotionally constipated – but because he believes he is unworthy of love.

Kelly Ansara It’s an interesting thread to tie Harry ‘Badger’ O’Connor to an Irish Traveller family. What was your inspiration behind this?

To read the rest of this interview, join The Good Book Appreciation Society on Facebook, by friending Bea Reader, or emailing

Join us next Sunday at 9am on The Good Book Appreciation Society, when Jennifer Crocker will be interviewing Helen Walne on her debut book, The Diving.


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Fiona Snyckers interviews Eusebius McKaiser on GBAS

In another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival, author, Fiona Snyckers, interviewed Author, Journalist, radio personality and political analyst, Eusebius Mckaiser, about his book Could I Vote DA.
It was a hugely popular interview that went on for hours after it officially ended with members throwing questions, thoughts and opinions into the mix:

‪Fiona Snyckers: Welcome Eusebius and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. ‘Could I Vote DA’ is primarily a work of political journalism, but I noticed that there is a lot of you in the book too. Your childhood, the community you grew up in, your sexuality, your schooldays, your family and siblings. Was this because, as you say, ‘politics is personal’? Indeed, in your discussion of DA MP Ian Ollis you say that politics may even be more personal than sex. Did this influence your decision to bring your personal slant to the book?

‪Eusebius Mckaiser : Good morning all and thanks for inviting me. In fact I’m very chuffed to be a member now and looking forward to being active going forward.

On the first question, “Yes, times 100!”

Politics is deeply personal the world over. And in particular so here in South Africa.

A book about who to vote for cannot be detached from my biography.

It touches ME.

As a human being with a real personal history.

It’s not an exercise in abstract thought.

‪Fiona Snyckers: Yes, that comes across continually in the book. And what about the gap that you perceive between ‘perfect logic’ and ‘persuasion’? In talking about your formal training and experience as a debater, you discuss the realisation you eventually came to that it is not enough to bludgeon the listener with logic. You need to ‘steal their hearts’. Could that also be why you chose to make the book more personal and not simply a political tract?

‪Eusebius Mckaiser: Spot-on ‪Fiona Snyckers and a HUGE, and avoidable, communicative weakness the DA makes too often. Still.
To recall from the book: As a national & world masters debate champ I could show off with formal logic on a white board what is logically invalid about racism or homophobia. How many new gay rights champions or non-racists will leave the room after my logical dazzling?


Or I can use stories, testify, speak personally, from the heart, etc.

It’s not either or.

You mix up these tools.

But in the DA is there is a slavish obsession with data-driven communication.

That is where the disconnect comes with many black African voters.

Don’t show me spreadsheets about clean audits.

Talk to me. Have tea with me. Empathise with me. Emote with me.

Similarly I’ve stopped showing off logic in relation to homophobia and simply talk from the heart how k*k it is when you look at me and my boyfriend.

Well…when I had one!

‪Fiona Snyckers: I have been following the progress of the book on social media and I noticed something interesting. Several black intellectuals have expressed nervousness about reading it and a ‘fear of being converted’. Many, I think, believe that it is an argument in favour of voting DA and are afraid of being persuaded because you are known to be highly persuasive. But the book is not that at all, is it? You are not preaching for the DA. If anything, you are skewering with an extremely sharp blade the DA’s rather blundering attempts to increase its black voter base. Shall we reassure our comrades on social media that you are not in fact the Jehovah’s Witness of the DA knocking on their doors on Sunday mornings?

‪Eusebius Mckaiser: Hahaha


Thank you.

Alas ‪Fiona Snyckers voters are like supporters of football clubs —- experts in confirmation bias.

My book will not be the last – nor is it the first – to be reviewed by many without reading it.

Some didn’t even bother judging it by the cover!

No. It’s not an Ode to the DA.
Equally though I think the DA was shocked to be taken so seriously eg my exposition on liberalism or my, uhm, Ode to Tony Leon!

‪Fiona Snyckers: Writers often have an audience in mind while they are writing – a kind of imaginary readership that they are addressing their remarks to. Who was your intended audience for this book? Was it the undecided voter? Or was it actually addressed to the DA – as an exposition of what they have done right and wrong so far, and what they need to do going forward to broaden their voter base in a meaningful manner? At times it seemed to me to be the latter.

‪Eusebius Mckaiser: Thanks for that question. Tough one actually. Seriously.

I think we should debate this separately on this page as a NORMATIVE question for authors.

For now here’s a truncated honest quicky: If I lived in New York I would not be writing in this chatty style.

This goes for both my books.

I’d write for a reader who belongs to this book club – authors themselves, ferocious readers, educated, progressive, already engaged, etc.

I’d write, you know, “award winning craft” hahaha.

But ‪Louise Grantham my publisher and I are committed to IDEAS being my strength to share with the widest possible audience.

Like my radio listeners. Undergraduates. First time book buyers.

The caveat is this: I do NOT compromise on the granularity of argument.

But tonally and stylistically I use devices – like a simple register and stories – to reach the largest audience possible.

I don’t care about the DA.

I care, actually, about the average Joe.

Or the average Xolani. As it were.

Even if the Sunday Times Literary Awards team doesn’t

‪Fiona Snyckers: The Mail & Guardian came out this week with its first explicit directive to voters in years. It asked us to vote strategically against the ANC simply for the purpose of diluting its majority. It doesn’t matter whom we vote for, the M&G implied, merely that we vote to teach the ANC a lesson. What do you think of this strategy? It seems to me to be negative and reactive, rather than an expression of positive choice, but perhaps it has some merit after all?

‪Eusebius Mckaiser: The M&G was not brave. They were being cowardly, upon reflection.
That editorial reads like a leaked internal letter from a disgruntled elder – call him Ronnie Kasrils – to ANC branches that got leaked to the media.
It was too qualified — 50% of the space spent summarising the amazing history of the ANC, justifying the call to not vote ANC with a complex principle – ‘dilute power’ and never giving a positive ideological alternative.

They should have simply said: STOP ANC!



Why didn’t they? Fear of losing state advertising so hoping the ANC won’t be TOO offended by a torturous qualification of their editorial.

True media freedom would be a paper bluntly saying, ‘Vote DA!’

‪Fiona Snyckers: I am intrigued to know how your book has been received in DA circles; particularly the part that takes the DA to task for not having in place a genuine mentoring programme to encourage young black leaders who do not come from Model C or private school backgrounds. Your discussion of Makashule Gana and the invisible glass ceiling struck home with particular force. Have you had any indication that your words are being taken seriously, and could perhaps result in change?

‪Eusebius Mckaiser: Helen Zille blocking me on Twitter must be a sign that the book hit a nerve, surely ‪Fiona Snyckers?

And her fabulously chilled husband and I had a great chat about whether she’s a closeted liberal or not when he came to my book launch, and asked me to sign a copy for her, reassuring me that many of the debates -eg liberalism’s compatibility with ubuntu- happen in the DA.

I promise you if I shared WhatsApp messages, DM messages, sms messages and inbox messages from Facebook from many DA MPs, communication team members, youth leaders, etc, you’d have the evidence of an affirmative answer.

The party has huge potential.

They must just stop being tone deaf and pick some low hanging fruit after the election.

Starting with ditching Helen.

Fiona Snyckers: Your book was put to bed in approximately October of last year, correct? At that time, Mamphela Ramphele had recently announced the formation of Agang, but you state quite explicitly that discussions about her joining the DA were still ongoing. You also warn that this would be a huge mistake for all concerned. The truth of this was borne out this year by the fiasco that was Dr Ramphele announcing her intention to stand as the DA’s presidential candidate only to revoke it the next day. How destructive do you think this event was to opposition politics in South Africa in general and the the DA in particular?

To read the rest of the interview, join The Good Book Appreciation Society on Facebook by emailing

To buy Eusebius’ book (Which is a must-read by the way) click here.


To buy Fiona's books (which are hugely popular) click here:
class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-148″ />fiona all books

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Read your way through democracy (non-fiction)

To celebrate 20 years of democracy, The Good Book Appreciation Society (a thriving book club in a secret corner of Facebook) compiled this infographic of every Sunday Times Alan Paton Prize Winning book from the last 10 years.

10 years non fic

Click on infographic to enlarge.

If you want to read your way through the whole of democracy, check out the full infographic over here.

To join The Good Book Appreciation Society, email

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Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival: Paige Nick Chats to Susan Newham-Blake

Making Finn

Making FinnThe Good Book Appreciation Society has hosted another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival, during which Paige Nick chatted to Susan Newham-Blake about her memoir Making Finn.

To join the Good Book Appreciation Society send a friend request to Book Club on Facebook, or write to to receive your invitation.

Making Finn is the story of a couple’s unconventional journey to motherhood, and Nick admits that as “a single, heterosexual woman who doesn’t have or want kids”, she had little or nothing in common with Newham-Blake, but says despite that she was quickly “sucked into this book”.

Read an excerpt from the interview here:

Susan Newham-Blake Thanks Paige! I didn’t even think of turning it into a book while I was going through it all. It was such a huge absorbing task that I didn’t have time to jot it all down. Although all of it is factually accurate in terms of what happened and the order of events, I did draw on my memory and reconstruct a lot of it

Paige Nick Interesting. It felt incredibly well and accurately documented. So what was the catalyst that made you think to write the book, and when did that happen?

Susan Newham-Blake Also, I never delete emails so I had a fair bit of information from emails from Sperm Banks in the States to draw from. And also, all the papers on the various donors both from South Africa and the States.

Susan Newham-Blake There were a couple of things. While I was pregnant I was asked to write a weekly column for on my experience of being pregnant. I enjoyed writing this column and it also got quite a bit of positive attention. People I met also seemed very curious about our story and I thought why not put it down in a book

Susan Newham-Blake I’m also a writer. And it seemed a story worth writing.

Paige Nick So then what was your path to publication once you’d written it?

Susan Newham-Blake I sent the manuscript to one publisher and waited six months before receiving a one-line email saying they weren’t interested in publishing it. And so I sent it to every other publisher in SA and two then came back to me quite quickly to say they were keen. It was surreal.

Paige Nick Did you always think you wanted to write a book of some kind?

Susan Newham-Blake Yes, I’d always hoped I’d write a book. I’d hoped for some literary work of fiction! But this story seemed to want to be told first. And somehow non-fiction seemed less daunting at the time.

Paige Nick There are so many quotes out there about how even non-fiction is actually fiction, I remember delving into a lot of them after reading Julian Barnes’ Sense of an Ending, where the insight is that narrators aren’t always reliable, or that all stories are tinged with the experience of the author. I wondered how your partner, Roxi, felt about the book? Were there any experiences in it that she remembered or related to differently?

Susan Newham-Blake My experience writing this book was that although there was a predetermined plot I could thankfully draw from, I was aware that it had to be engaging and readable. You don’t want to put in every conversation or thought that entered your mind during a particular period because you might be bored to death by the time you’ve finished writing it, boring your readers in the process. So there was a fair amount of creativity and imagination involved in shaping the work to be a compelling read. So while all the facts and timelines are accurate, I might have left some details out or focused on events I could write in a humorous or engaging way. I gave Roxi the manuscript to read before I’d sent it to publishers and there were thankfully no arguments about how she remembered it all. She did laugh at herself in it!

For the complete interview, and to take part in future Sunday Morning Pyjama Flash Festivals, join the Good Book Appreciation Society.

Book details

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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: 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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