South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is the southernmost country in Africa. South Africa has three capital cities: Pretoria is the Executive Capital; Cape Town, the Legislative Capital; and Bloemfontein, the judicial Capital. However, the largest city in South Africa is Johannesburg. There are 11 official languages, including English, Afrikaans, Sesotho, Setswana, Xhosa, and Zulu. The literature selected for this booklist covers some of the books available in English.
To visit South Africa without reading and learning about its tumultuous history would be to miss a crucial part of the country’s identity. Writers have dealt with apartheid and contemporary issues in so many different forms, and they are both discussed in fiction and non-fiction. Though not lighthearted, it will help you understand South African society’s fabric and appreciate how far the country has come. But despite the heart-wrenching past, there is great pride in South Africa and an immense sense of promise for the country’s future.
From city life to adventure, wildlife to culture, breathtaking scenery to sun-soaked coasts – travelers to South Africa will experience a unique blend of African and Colonial cultures. If you’ve never visited or simply long to go back, these books set in South Africa are sure to transport you there and inspire a future adventure!
The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner (1883)
This pioneering work was a cause celebre when it appeared in London, transforming the shape and course of the late Victorian novel. Lynall, Schreiner’s articulate young feminist, marks the entry of the controversial New Woman into nineteenth-century fiction. From the haunting plains of South Africa’s high Karoo, Schreiner boldly addresses her society’s greatest fears: the loss of faith, the dissolution of marriage, and women’s social and political independence.
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (2017)
Jock of the Bushveld by Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick (1907)
Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais (2017)
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (1948)
“Cry, the Beloved Country” is a beautifully told and profoundly compassionate story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set in the troubled and changing South Africa of the 1940s.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016)
The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing (1950)
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (2016)
The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (1974)
A Dry White Season by André Brink (1978)
Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew (2015)
Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer (1979)
Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry (2014)
July’s People by Nadine Gordimer (1981)
A Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg (2014)
Fiela’s Child by Dalene Matthee (1985)
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh (2012)
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (1989)
The Housemaid’s Daughter by Barbara Mutch (2010)
Jump and Other Stories by Nadine Gordimer (1991)
Coconut by Kopano Matlwa (2007)
Tandia by Bryce Courtenay (1991)
Tandia is a child of Africa: half Indian, half African, beautiful and intelligent, she is only sixteen when she is first brutalized by the police. Her fear of the white man leads her to join the black resistance movement, where she trains as a terrorist.
Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk, 2006
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (1994)
Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh (1995)
Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor (2005)
Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda (1995)
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (1999)
Country of My Skull by Antjie Krog (1998)
No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu (1999)
What do you think of these books set in South Africa?
Have you been to South Africa before or is it on your bucket list? Have you read any of these books set in South Africa? Do you know any books set in South Africa that I may have missed? Let me know your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions about South Africa and the books set there in the comments below!