Here are five books that will keep you warm this winter
1/ The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This unexpected international publishing sensation has already sold over two million copies. Desperate to avoid his 100th birthday party, Allan Karlsson decides it’s never too late to start over and climbs out the window of his room, heading off on another adventure in an already colourful life.
Jonasson’s endearing Forest Gump like character takes the reader on a riotous romp through the twentieth century. This is an easy, uplifting read that will inspire even the most jaded souls.
2/ Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
Drawing on both her Appalachian roots and scientific background, Kingsolver delivers a passionate novel on the effects of global warming. The clash of family, science, religion, media, politics, and environment takes the central character, Dellarobia, on a journey of discovery and transformation. Much has been made of the novel’s polemic, but Flight Behaviour’s majesty lies in its finely drawn characters, sensual detail and Kingsolver’s dense, hypnotic language.
In this harrowing psychological page-turner, Smith tears to shreds the picture postcard image of Cape Town and pits a superb cast of messed up characters against a background that navigates between the glittering Atlantic seaboard and Vortreker Road. Smith reveals the hellish aspects of “this narcissistic little city” and puts a cynical spin on cultural diversity: whatever their background, the characters reveal themselves to be despicable opportunists, equally vulnerable to the vicissitudes of fate.
Smith has been compared to masters of the thriller genre, such as Dennis Lehane. He’s just at the start of his game and already has an international coterie of devoted fans. He’s going to be huge.
4/ Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa’s
This is an intriguing narrative about the Roger Casement written by the Peruvian Nobel laureate. The twenty years that he spent in Africa developed Casements radicalism, making him in Llosa’s estimation, “one of the great anti-colonial fighters and defenders of human rights and indigenous cultures of his time”. Llosa reveals little known facts, such as Casement being the muse for Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – Conrad admits that without Casements initiation to the Congo, the book would never have been written.
Even though he was born and died in Ireland, being executed at age 51 for his role in the 1916 Easter Uprising, Casement spent most of his life in Africa and South America. The Poet William Butler Yeats admired Casement as a citizen of the world, someone who isn’t from anywhere because he’s from everywhere.
5/ Zuma Exposed by Adriaan Bassonng>
Whereas Llosa portrays a true leader who is prepared to die for his beliefs, Basson exposes a leader who is only interested in self-aggrandizement.
Wisely, avoiding invective against Zuma, Basson forwards his book with a letter from a disgruntled Eastern Cape educator that shows the deleterious effect that Zuma is having on education. He then quotes Zuma’s inauguration speech (“As long as there are workers who struggle to feed their families…”). You have to laugh a bitter laugh. But how could we ever have expected anything else from a man who came to power under the cloud of an Aids preventing shower? Sadly, in some ways, Basson’s book is four years too late and only conveniently packages the widely known facts of his corruption. Still, it’s well researched and written and an essential read.
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