Local books to buy your loved ones this Christmas

For me, the festive season means two things – time to buy presents for my nearest and dearest, and having quality time to catch up on reading. To help you do both, I’ve put together a list of books by some of South Africa’s best female authors that were published this year.

Please do yourself a favour and visit The Book Lounge in Cape Town or Love Books in Jozi and ask for their personal recommendations. There were so many good books published this year that deserve to be taken home. (I cheated and mentioned a few more at the bottom.)


Shadow Flicker by Melissa Volker

A high-stakes environmental romance set in St. Francis Bay. If ever there was a beach holiday read, this is it.

The Unfamous Five by Nedine Moonsamy

South Africa is changing and five Lenasia teens witness a terrible crime that changes everything.

Being Shelley by Qarnita Loxton

Another page-turner for the holidays. Shelley Jacobsen bites off more than she can chew when she hires an attractive, young barista to work at her coffee shop.

Lacuna by Fiona Snyckers

In Lacuna, one of South Africa’s best novelists offers her take on JM Coetzee’s Disgrace. 


A little twisty

The Pact by Amy Heydenrych

A prank turns to murder at a fast-paced start-up. This brand-new novel is available on Audible right now, with the paperback hitting local shelves in January.

A Walk at Midnight by Alex van Tonder

A writer’s husband dies in the same way that she describes a murder in her book.  Is she the evil genius behind his death or is someone else twisting the narrative?

Death on the Limpopo by Sally Andrew

A murder mystery series set in the Karoo – with recipes. Where do I sign up? Death on the Limpopo is book three in the highly-successful Tannie Maria series.

The Book of Malachi by T.C. (aka Tracy) Farren

A dark and twisty speculative novel set in a top-secret lab at sea.


Short stories!

Hair: Weaving & Unpicking Stories of Identity edited by Joanne Hichens and Karina M. Szczurek

Nothing beats a short story while the sun shimmers through the trees above your picnic blanket. This fabulous collection features some of my favourite local female writers including Mary Watson, Diane Awerbuck, Shubnum Khan, Alex Smith, Sue Nyathi and Melissa A. Volker.

If you Keep Digging by Keletso Mopai

A beautiful, heartfelt collection of short stories by a brave new literary voice. Read an excerpt here.

Fool’s Gold edited by Arja Salafranca

A celebration of previously published short stories including works by Lauri Kubuitsile, Makhosazana Xaba, Jayne Bauling and Colleen Higgs.

New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African descent, edited by Margaret Busby

A must-have anthology featuring the work of more than 200 women writers including locals Nadia Davids, Sisonke Msimang, Zukiswa Wanner and Yewande Omotoso.

Young adult & MG

Sing Down the Stars by Nerine Dorman

This was the 2019 Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature English gold winner.  A thrilling space opera for teens is something local bookshelves have been desperately needing.

The Wickerlight by Mary Watson

An utterly gorgeous magical romp through a small Irish village at war. This book glimmers with intrigue, mystery and magic. Read my review, here.

Water Birds on the Lakeshore edited by Zukiswa Wanner

A vivid collection of short stories for teen readers. The collection is the fruit of the
AfroYoungAdult project.

The Choice Between Us by Edyth Bulbring

A wonderful coming of age novel that pivots between the present and the past. Read my review here.

Night of the Red Moon by Bontle Senne

Book four in this highly-entertaining adventure series for kids. The Shadow Chasers have to race against the clock to defeat the monsters intent on destroying their world. Read my review of books one-to-three here.

Wait, here’s more.

Here are a few more recommendations because you can never have enough books!

Siren by Kuli Roberts

Here’s a book I’m very excited about. Siren is a no-holds-barred tale of a young woman navigating the scandalous entertainment industry.

Okay, Okay, Okay by Finuala Dowling

Knowing Dowling, expect exquisite, engaging prose with a light touch of humour.

Upturned Earth by Karen Jennings

Set in Namaqualand in 1886, this ambitious book puts the origins of the mining industry in South Africa in sharp focus.

The Woman of the Stone Sea by Meg Vandermerwe

A West Coast fisherman discovers a mermaid on a deserted beach, but how much of what he experiences is real and how much is imaginary?

Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch

A story about tradition, motherhood and connection in a divided world.

Borderline by Marita van der Vyver

Also available in Afrikaans, the latest novel by one of South Africa’s best-selling female authors looks at one woman’s determination to atone for the past.

Yellow and Confused by Ming-Cheau Lin

A beautiful, timeous memoir about how immigration affects one’s identity.

Because I Couldn’t Kill You: A Memoir by Kelly-Eve Koopman

A personal take on some universal themes that affect all South Africans. It’s getting some rave reviews on Goodreads.  I can’t wait to read it!

Happy shopping!

PS: I have probably missed a lot of great books. Please send me your favourite works of fiction by female writers published in 2019 so I can add them.


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