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Alex Latimer launches Pig and Small

Saturday, May 31st 2014 at 11:00 AM

PIGANDSMALL-invite

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Launch of Africa’s Urban Revolution by Edgar Pieterse & Sue Parnell

Tuesday, May 27th 2014 at 5:30 PM

africa's urban revolution

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Charlie and Lola We still Love You Story Time

Saturday, May 24th 2014 at 11:00 AM

charlie and lolaAlthough they have been around for years, we still love Charlie and Lola and thought it is a good time to have a Charlie and Lola story time again. Is there any better brother and sister team in children’s book world when it comes to using their imagination and drinking pink milk and making up long and silly words? We think not.

Join us today for some Charlie and Lola classics, some pink milk and some colouring in. All the makings of a great Saturday morning 🙂

 

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Launch of Postmortem The Doctor Who Walked Away by Maria Phalime

Thursday, May 22nd 2014 at 5:30 PM

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May 2014

Thursday, May 22nd 2014 at 2:09 PM

Fiction

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

San Francisco, 1876: a stifling heat wave and smallpox epidemic have engulfed the City.

Deep in the streets of Chinatown live three former stars of the Parisian circus: Blanche, now an exotic dancer at the House of Mirrors, her lover Arthur and his companion Ernest.

When an eccentric outsider joins their little circle, secrets unravel, changing everything – and leaving one of them dead.

Frog Music, inspired by true events, is an evocative novel of intrigue and murder: elegant, erotic and witty.

Time and again, Emma Donoghue writes books that are unlike anything I have ever seen before.”                          Ann Patchett

Emma Donoghue is one of the great literary ventriloquists of our time. Her imagination is kaleidoscopic. She steps borders and boundaries with great ease and style. In her hands the centuries dissolve, and then they crystallise back again into powerful words on the page.”                   Colum McCann

Donoghue flawlessly combines literary eloquence and vigorous plotting in her first full-fledged mystery, a work as original and multifaceted as its young murder victim . . . In language spiced with musical interludes and raunchy French slang, Donoghue brings to teeming life the nasty, naughty side of this ethnically diverse metropolis . . . Most of her seedy, damaged characters really lived, and she not only posits a clever solution to a historical crime that was never adequately solved but also crafts . . . an engrossing and suspenseful tale about moral growth, unlikely friendship, and breaking free from the past. “                                                Booklist

Donoghue’s first literary crime novel is a departure from her bestselling Room, but it’s just as dark and just as gripping as the latter…Aside from the obvious whodunit factor, the book is filled with period song lyrics and other historic details, expertly researched and flushed out…Donoghue’s signature talent for setting tone and mood elevates the book from common cliffhanger to a true chef d’oeuvre.”                     Publishers Weekly

This is another smart and finely wrought consideration of parenthood, further proof of Donoghue’s significant skill as an author.”                               Observer

Frog Music is a roiling, simmering brew of a novel: dramatic, unexpected.”                         Spectator

The novel is brilliant as historical fiction and crime thriller… it succeeds best when showing the everyday things that don’t change with time.”                          Independent on Sunday

The Devil’s Harvest by Andrew Brown

After a secret drone strike on a civilian target in South Sudan, RAF air marshal George Bartholomew discovers that a piece of shrapnel traceable back to a British Reaper has been left behind at the scene. He will do anything to get it back, but he is not the only one.

Dissatisfied with his life and ousted from the marital bed, Associate Professor Gabriel Cockburn, an ambitious botanist at Bristol University, sets out to South Sudan in pursuit of a rare plant that is crucial to his research. Once there, he finds himself caught up in the travails of a young Sudanese woman, Alek, who agrees to guide him through dangerous territory to find the plant. But Alek has an agenda of her own.

As events move beyond their control, the lives of these characters are thrown together, with explosive results.

A political thriller that spans the globe, from the halls of Bristol University and London’s secretive MI6 building to the dusty streets of Juba and the refugee camps in war-torn South Sudan, Devil’s Harvest exposes the dark truths of the international arms trade and the plight of the world’s newest country.

A Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

Prosperous, and the secret that it hides beneath its ruins . . .

The community of Prosperous, Maine has always thrived when others have suffered. Its inhabitants are wealthy, its children’s future secure. It shuns outsiders. It guards its own. And at the heart of Prosperous lie the ruins of an ancient church, transported stone by stone from England centuries earlier by the founders of the town . . .

But the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter draw the haunted, lethal private investigator Charlie Parker to Prosperous. Parker is a dangerous man, driven by compassion, by rage, and by the desire for vengeance. In him the town and its protectors sense a threat graver than any they have faced in their long history, and in the comfortable, sheltered inhabitants of a small Maine town, Parker will encounter his most vicious opponents yet.

Charlie Parker has been marked to die so that Prosperous may survive.

The finest crime series currently in existence.”                   Independent on Sunday

“[What] is so impressive [is] the fact that he’s able to work poetic language into the thriller format . . . You may think at times you are reading a literary novel but then Connolly will remind you he’s just as adept at the violent strategies of the thriller. Either way you will be left shaken by the experience.”                      Daily Express

Skilful at humour and building suspense, Connolly’s writing is also poignant and at times downright beautiful.”                               Sunday Business Post

The Quick by Lauren Owen

You are about to discover the secrets of The Quick –

 But first you must travel to Victorian Yorkshire, and there, on a remote country estate, meet a brother and sister alone in the world and bound by tragedy. In time, you will enter the rooms of London’s mysterious Aegolius Club – a society of some of the richest, most powerful men in fin-de-siecle England. And at some point – we cannot say when – these worlds will collide.

It is then, and only then, that a new world emerges, one of romance, adventure and the most delicious of horrors – and the secrets of The Quick are revealed.

A suspenseful, gloriously atmospheric first novel, and a feast of gothic storytelling that is impossible to resist.”                                Kate Atkinson

A sly and glittering addition to the literature of the macabre . . . As soon as you have breathed with relief, much worse horrors begin. It’s a skilled, assured performance, and it’s hard to believe it is a first novel.”                                          Hilary Mantel

A Gothic blockbuster.”                                 Independent

The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry

Jack McNulty is a ‘temporary gentleman’, an Irishman whose commission in the British army in the Second World War was never permanent. In 1957, sitting in his lodgings in Accra, he urgently sets out to write his story. He feels he cannot take one step further, or even hardly a breath, without looking back at all that has befallen him.

He is an ordinary man, both petty and heroic, but he has seen extraordinary things. He has worked

and wandered around the world – as a soldier, an engineer, a UN observer – trying to follow his childhood ambition to better himself. And he has had a strange and tumultuous marriage. Mai Kirwan was a great beauty of Sligo in the 1920s, a vivid mind, but an elusive and mysterious figure too. Jack married her, and shared his life with her, but in time she slipped from his grasp.

A heart-breaking portrait of one man’s life – of his demons and his lost love – The Temporary Gentleman is, ultimately, a novel about Jack’s last bid for freedom, from the savage realities of the past and from himself.

Barry is an artist of the highest order.”                 Guardian, Book of the Week

Both fascinating and moving, The Temporary Gentleman shows Sebastian Barry to be one of our finest novelists – daring, accommodating and humane.”                                John Banville

Told in Barry’s flawless prose, it’s a book that leaves the reader bruised long after the final page has been, regretfully, turned.”                               John Harding, Daily Mail

“Engrossing … memorable … a notable addition to Barry’s ongoing chronicle of lives hitherto untold. “    Irish Independent

Few contemporary novelists are better equipped to unravel a long and complex life with insight and compassion.”                        Mail on Sunday

“The story sings with strong-pulsed poetry. “                      Sunday Telegraph

Arguably our greatest living novelist.”                  Irish Times

These lives are re-imagined in language of surpassing beauty.”                               New York Times

He writes like an angel.”                              Sunday Telegraph

Barry’s greatness isn’t just that he’s a fine writer and a deeply political writer. His greatness is he does it all simultaneously: he tells a desolating story and demolishes many myths at the same time. Ireland’s lucky to have him.”                   Financial Times

Gingerbread by Robert Dinsdale

Fairy tale and history, wilderness and civilisation collide in this brilliant and magical new novel from the author of Little Exiles.

In the depths of winter in the land of Belarus, where ancient forests straddle modern country borders, an orphaned boy and his grandfather go to scatter his mother’s ashes in the woodlands. Her last request to rest where she grew up will be fulfilled.

Frightening though it is to leave the city, the boy knows he must keep his promise to mama: to stay by and protect his grandfather, whatever happens. Her last potent gifts – a little wooden horse, and hunks of her homemade gingerbread – give him vigour. And grandfather’s magical stories help push the harsh world away.

But the driving snow, which masks the tracks of forest life, also hides a frozen history of long-buried secrets. And as man and boy travel deeper among the trees, grandfather’s tales begin to interweave with the shocking reality of his own past, until soon the boy’s unbreakable promise to mama is tested in unimaginable ways.

To the Black Women We All Knew by Kholofelo Maenetsha

Ama knew what this quilt represented to the women. It was their love for each other, stitched together to form a symbol of their love and a blessing for the union of love between Ama and Thabo. For a moment, she clutched it to her breast, before carrying it over to the stunned group.”

As Ama’s wedding day approaches and her friends – Beauty, Matlakala and Pamela are there to lend varying degrees of support. But when tragedy strikes on Ama’s wedding day and spreads to every corner of the group’s lives they hold on each other to survive. Will their misfortunes bring them closer together or will it tear the quilt of their friendship apart? They are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our girlfriends, our aunties. Pamela’s body is a ravaged canvas of her troubles. Matlakala tries to prop up a failing relationship. Beauty’s sharp tongue and dark secret threatens to doom her to a life lived alone.  In To The Black Women We All Knew, Maenatsha showcases the modern township existence and its weakening yet ever-present link to tradition.  Her vivid writing tells of the capriciousness of life and love and the strength of women in the face of a crisis.

The Unsaid by Richard De Nooy

Newshound J.R. Deo has spent his life pursuing tragedy to the darkest corners of the globe. He hasn’t emerged unscathed. Following a savage attack on fellow journalists in a bar, Deo’s mental state and criminal accountability for the attack are assessed at the Institute for Forensic Observation in the Netherlands.

The calm in his cell is initially ideal for taking stock of horrors past and present. But gradually sinister figures take control of his pen and begin dictating their confessions through his writing. Meanwhile, his fellow inmates at the Institute – violent, paranoid men – are plagued by mounting suspicions. Who is Deo reporting on and to whom?

“Insanely good. A ribald and twisted culture-clash of a mystery that’s outrageously funny, smart and moving.”                                                Lauren Beukes

A Sportful Malice by Michiel Heyns

Award-winning novelist Michiel Heyns is back with a darkly comic tale.

When a young South African literary scholar, Michael Marcussi, is offered, via a Facebook contact, a house in the Tuscan village of Gianocini, he accepts with alacrity: this is just the space and quiet he needs to complete his study of Literary Representations of Tuscany.

But even before he has boarded his plane at Stansted Airport, things start vexing him: an obnoxious old man jumps the boarding queue, and Michael is given the evil eye by a belligerent bovver boy covered in tattoos. Nor is this to be his last meeting with these objectionable characters: they turn up in unexpected places, first in Florence and then in Gianocini itself, with a frequency that cannot be purely coincidental.

In the meantime Michael is pursuing his own extracurricular agenda, through the streets of Florence and the passages of the Uffizi, then through the medieval alleys of Gianocini, only to find himself the object of mysterious designs and the subject of some very disturbing paintings. Add to this the innocent but curious Wouter, the startlingly rude upper-class harridan, Sophronia, the beautiful but supercilious Paolo and a dog called Thanatos: the Tuscan sun never shone on a more bizarre mix.

After the sophisticated comedy of The Typewriter’s Tale and Invisible Furies, and the poignant ironies of Lost Ground, Michiel Heyns here returns to the broader comedy of The Reluctant Passenger, in a scintillating tale of love, revenge and trippa.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffmann

Coney Island, 1911: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of a self-proclaimed scientist and professor who acts as the impresario of The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show offering amazement and entertainment to the masses. An extraordinary swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a 100 year-old turtle, in her father’s ‘museum’. She swims regularly in New York’s Hudson River, and one night stumbles upon a striking young man alone in the woods photographing moon-lit trees. From that moment, Coralie knows her life will never be the same.
The dashing photographer Coralie spies is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community. As Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and the dispute between factory owners and labourers. In the tumultuous times that characterized life in New York between the world wars, Coralie and Eddie’s lives come crashing together in Alice Hoffman’s mesmerising, imaginative, and romantic new novel.

Beautiful, harrowing, a major contribution to twenty-first century literature,”                                  Toni Morrison

A lavish tale about strange yet sympathetic people, haunted by the past and living in bizarre circumstances… Imaginative…Once Coralie and Eddie discover each other, their profound, mystical attraction and mutual obsession become forces of their own, driving the story forward.”                  New York Times Book Review

Alice Hoffman employs her trademark alchemy of finding the magical amid the ordinary in her mesmerizing new novel.…If you’re looking for an enchanting love story rich with history and a sense of place, step right up to The Museum of Extraordinary Things.”                   USA Today

The year 1911 had an apocalyptic feel in New York City as fire devastated the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village and destroyed the amusement park Dreamland that rose above Coney Island. Manhattan wasn’t yet entirely tamed by concrete and people still believed in the fantastical. Alice Hoffman, whose brand of magic realism really should have a patent pending, makes lovely work of the era in her new city-centric novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things.”                                 New York Daily News

White Paper, White Ink by Jonathan Morgan and Sipho Madini

Welcome to Picketberg Prison and to the historic moment in time when the gang-lord keepers of the code, for their own reasons, decide to publish the entire Pure White Book.

Two prisoners, neither of them gangsters, find themselves drawn into this project as ghost-writers. They are Sipho Madini – a street kid and gifted writer and poet – wrongfully imprisoned for burglary. And Don February, in his late sixties, who grew up in District 6 as a young gangster but who has since distanced himself from a gangster identity.

Don, who did time on Robben Island in the 1970s, when it was still called “the University”, has made it his mission to transform this backwater prison into a place of higher learning. Even the gangsters begin to show interest in Don’s weekly discussion groups which deal with the themes of colonisation, dispossession and slavery. Through this process they begin to interrogate their own gang histories, inscribed on their bodies in the form of tattoos, and their own stories begin to unfold and weave in ways they never could have predicted.

This is the story of two men’s efforts not only to survive harsh prison conditions but to bring mental freedom and higher consciousness to the other inmates, challenging them to ask what the difference is between a freedom fighter and a common criminal.

The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin

The Days of Anna Madrigal, the suspenseful, comic, and touching ninth novel in Armistead Maupin’s bestselling ‘Tales of the City’ series, follows one of modern literature’s most unforgettable and enduring characters – Anna Madrigal, the legendary transgender landlady of 28 Barbary Lane – as she embarks on a road trip that will take her deep into her past.

Now ninety-two, and committed to the notion of “leaving like a lady,” Mrs. Madrigal has seemingly found peace with her “logical family” in San Francisco: her devoted young caretaker Jake Greenleaf; her former tenant Brian Hawkins and his daughter Shawna; and Michael Tolliver and Mary Ann Singleton, who have known and loved Anna for nearly four decades.

Some members of Anna’s family are bound for the otherworldly landscape of Burning Man, the art community in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where 60,000 revelers gather to construct a city designed to last only one week. Anna herself has another destination in mind: a lonely stretch of road outside of Winnemucca where the 16-year-old boy she once was ran away from the whorehouse he called home. With Brian and his beat-up RV, she journeys into the dusty troubled heart of her Depression childhood to unearth a lifetime of secrets and dreams and attend to unfinished business she has long avoided.

The Tales of the City sequence has been one of the literary menus plaisirs of the past decade – Maupin with his elegance and charm has found a place among the classics.”                           Observer

May well be the funniest series of novels currently in progress…Maupin’s ear for dialogue is as acute as his feeling for characterisation, and the net result is as engaging a read as you are likely to encounter.”                                              The Times

Comedy in its most classical form…some of the sharpest and most speakable dialogue you are ever likely to read”                         Guardian

Hot from the Kitchen

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe

Two months behind on his rent, young graduate Monocle swallows his dreams and takes the only job he can find: the lowest-rung chef in a gastropub in Camden. Here he finds himself surrounded by a group of deranged hoodlums (his co-workers) and at the mercy of an ingenious sadist (the head chef, Bob). What follows is a furiously-paced, ribald, raucous and unexpectedly touching tale of loyalty and revenge, dark appetites and fading dreams, and a young man finding his way in the world as he is plunged into the fat and the frying pan and everything else besides.

Outrageously funny and completely original, Chop Chop by Simon Wroe is the story of a hapless young chef in the crazed world of the professional kitchen, featuring lust, revenge, neurosis and haute cuisine.

Perfectly baked [with] a rich, gooey pool of dark comedy hiding beneath the surface. Despite straying into the realm of sabotage, blackmail and secret dinner parties serving stomach-churning illegal fare, Wroe’s novel makes for fresh, appetising reading.”                       Independent

Confirms all your worst fears about professional kitchens in a debut novel that is dark, pungent, twisted, surprising and above all genuinely funny. If you enjoy eating out, don’t read this book.”                             William Sutcliffe, author of Are You Experienced?

Raucous and inventive, peopled with technicolour characters and savagely funny, Chop Chop announces Simon Wroe as both an heir to Martin Amis and an oven-fresh talent unto himself.”                       A D Miller, author of Snowdrops

A brutally funny look at the world of professional cooking. Sometimes the truth is so strange it needs to be sautéed in a pan of fiction”                   Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

Sous Chef: 24 Hours in the Kitchen by Michael Gibney

Put a new pan down. Season the bass. Always from a height. The bass goes in. A monk looks done. Give it the cake tester. It’s barely warm. Another minute. To the pass with it. A pan is too hot. The oil smells scorched. Start again. Burner at full tilt. Now for the mussels. They jump in the oil. Aromas flourish. On with more gambas. On with more pans. On with more burners. Scrape down the plancha. Towel your brow. Printers buzz. A new pick. Six more fish. Your legs are tired. Tickets blur.

Sous Chef takes you behind the swinging doors of a busy restaurant kitchen, allowing you to inhabit this normally hidden world, in real time. Follow chef from the moment he opens the kitchen in the morning as he guides you through the meticulous preparation, the camaraderie in the hours leading up to service and the adrenalin-rush as the orders start coming in. Thrilling, addictive and bursting with obsessive detail, Sous Chef will leave you breathless and awestruck – walking into a restaurant will never be the same again.

A terrific nuts and bolts account of the real business of cooking as told from the trenches. No nonsense. This is what it takes.”                  Anthony Bourdain

One of the most informative, funny and transparent books about the restaurant biz ever written.”                        Bret Easton Ellis

This is excellent writing – excellent! – and it is thrilling to see a debut author who has language and story and craft so well in hand. Though I would never ask my staff to read my own book, I would happily require them to read Michael Gibney’s.”                                Gabrielle Hamilton author of Blood, Bones and Butter

 

Non Fiction

Undivided Past: History Beyond Our Differences by David Cannadine

David Cannadine is one of Britain’s most distinguished historians and this is his masterpiece. The Undivided Past is an agonised attempt to understand how so much of the writing of history has been driven by a fatal desire to dramatise differences – to create an ‘us versus them’. Great works of history have so often had at their heart a wish to sift people in ways that have been profoundly damaging and provided the intellectual backing and justification for terrible political decisions. Again and again, categories have been found – whether religion, nation, class, gender, race or ‘civilisation’ – that have sought to explain world events by fabricating some malevolent or helpless ‘other’.

“[Cannadine’s] great strength is his lucid and crushing treatment of false prophets … his case is urgent, as the news demonstrates every day … Cannadine is frank in acknowledging that his is not the last word … but he has uttered the first word and deserves exhaustive discussion. His plea is of enormous value. It should be heard in every think tank, madrassa, history workshop and sixth form and should guide the utterances of statesmen.”                                             History Today

Cannadine marshals modern scholarship, a sure historical sweep, and a confident polemic … Quite rightly, Cannadine denounces the collective, warring identities conjured up by [neoconservative scholars] and again highlights a broader history of cultural exchange … this collection winningly combines history, politics, and contemporary culture in a refreshingly optimistic manner .”                              Tristram Hunt, BBC History

“[An] impassioned plea … The Undivided Past should earn applause … The next time some tub-thumping loudmouth proclaims the timeless truth of a binary divide – between, say, ‘Britain’ and ‘Europe’ – throw this book at them.”                 Boyd Tonkin, Independent

Highly intelligent, stimulating, occasionally provocative and enormous fun to read … The Undivided Past is a cry for tolerance … It is a noble message and one that historians would do well to heed.”                            Philip Ziegler, Spectator

Elegantly written and stimulating … [Cannadine] goes much further than most academic historians in challenging the centrality of tensions based on nation, class, ethnicity and gender.”                        Guardian

Cannadine urges us to see through [prejudices] and past them, to get away from the old chestnuts of class, race, gender and the rest, and to concentrate on exploring what brings us together.”                               Mark Mazower, Financial Times

Each chapter of Cannadine’s book … displays the incisive and original argument for which he is renowned … Cannadine is surely right to insist on a recovery of the unchronicled swathes of human history dominated by cooperation and peace, rather than wars of race, religion or nationalism … [The Undivided Past displays] his characteristic style and ingenuity.”                                Times Literary Supplement

Bloody Lies: Citizens Reopen the Inge Lotz Case by Thomas Mollett and Calvin Mollett

This book takes head-on one of the highest-profile murder cases in recent South African history.  In 2007 Fred van der Vyver was acquitted of the 2005 murder of fellow student Inge Lotz. He then sued the police to the highest court for malicious prosecution – and failed.

In spite of the defence’s trashing of the prosecution’s case at the trial, the authors show, compellingly, how every key element of the prosecuting evidence withstands the closest scrutiny. They use models, measurements, forensic tests, mathematical formulae and the views of experts both here and overseas.

They show how an ornamental hammer found in Van der Vyver’s vehicle, but thrown out as evidence, could match the head wounds. Contrary to the claim accepted at court they show convincingly that a disputed fingerprint was not lifted off a drinking glass – a detail that could make all the difference.

They demonstrate how blood marks on a towel could have come off the hammer, how blood stains on the floor could have been shaped by a specific shoe and how a closer look at cellphone records reveal a different choreography of movements than what was accepted by the court.

Could it be that two amateurs succeeded where the state prosecution failed? Thomas, a language practitioner, and his engineer brother Calvin, have made headlines, been featured on Carte Blanche and vilified, but not proven wrong – leaving wide open one of the most tantalising unsolved murder cases on record.

Really Don’t Panic by Alan Knott-Craig

Remember when South Africa had load shedding in 2008? Remember the rush on generators and property in Perth? An email from Alan Knott-Craig reminding South Africans of the upsides to living in South Africa went viral and elicited responses from thousands of South Africans. The resulting book – Don’t Panic! – captured a moment in SA history.

Fast forward to 2014, and we’ve forgotten load shedding (mostly), we hosted the Soccer World Cup, we survived the global recession, but now the panic feeling is settling in again. The Rand is crashing, politics dominate headlines, service delivery protests are everywhere – should we be panicking now?

Read the advice of Alan Knott-Craig, Alec Hogg, Max du Preez, Siya Mnyanda, Brand Pretorius and a host of others (well-known people, ordinary South Africans and international citizens drawn to South Africa) who tell us:  Really, Don’t Panic!

Alan Knott-Craig is a well-known South African tech-preneur specialising in social media, telecoms and social impact technology. He is the editor of the 2008 bestseller Don’t Panic! and the author of Mobinomics, the story of Mxit – the biggest African social networking tool. Named a 2009 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Knott-Craig is currently the CEO of Project Isizwe, bringing free wi-fi networks to South Africa.

The Digested 21st Century by John Crace

What do Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel, J. K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Paul Hollywood, Pippa Middleton, Tony Blair and Pope Benedict XVI have in common?

Their books have all featured in the Digested Read parodies, the Guardian‘s longest running column. Each week since the beginning of 2000, John Crace has read the books that have produced the most media hype and retold them in 800 words that highlight clunky plot twists, stylistic tics and the presence – and absence – of big ideas.

The Digested 21st Century is the funniest and most entertaining guide to the state of modern publishing. Ideal for those who take their literature just a little too seriously, and for those who don’t take it seriously enough.

A swift kick up the backside to some of modern literature’s most iconic works. Accurate, merciless and very, very funny. “                                Sarah Waters

I’ve read all these books at least twice – and now I’ve read John Crace’s digested versions I wonder why I bothered.”                      Will Self

For the last 10 years [Crace’s] ‘Digested Reads’ have been reason enough to buy the Guardian. Taking a well-known novel, he gives a brief distillation of the plot while capturing – often perfectly – the tone of its author. At the same time, he jabs a sharpened elbow into their pomposities and limitations.”                             Spectator

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

What is it like to be a brain surgeon?

How does it feel to hold someone’s life in your hands, to cut into the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason?

How do you live with the consequences of performing a potentially life-saving operation when it all goes wrong?

In neurosurgery, more than in any other branch of medicine, the doctor’s oath to ‘do no harm’ holds a bitter irony. Operations on the brain carry grave risks. Every day, Henry Marsh must make agonising decisions, often in the face of great urgency and uncertainty.

If you believe that brain surgery is a precise and exquisite craft, practised by calm and detached surgeons, this gripping, brutally honest account will make you think again. With astonishing compassion and candour, one of the country’s leading neurosurgeons reveals the fierce joy of operating, the profoundly moving triumphs, the harrowing disasters, the haunting regrets and the moments of black humour that characterise a brain surgeon’s life.

Do No Harm is an unforgettable insight into the countless human dramas that take place in a busy modern hospital. Above all, it is a lesson in the need for hope when faced with life’s most difficult decisions.

Marsh has written a book about a love affair, and one cannot help feeling similarly smitten … ‘Elegant, delicate, dangerous and full of profound meaning’. All four of those epithets might describe this book.”                  Sunday Times

Do No Harm is an elegant series of meditations at the closing of a long career. Many of the stories are moving enough to raise tears … At heart, this is a book about wisdom and experience.”                      Daily Telegraph

Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh… sets a new standard for telling it like it is… His love for brain surgery and his patients shines through, but the speciality – shrouded in secrecy and mystique when he entered it – has now firmly had the rug pulled out from under it. We should thank Henry Marsh for that. We need his wisdom as a “roof” for future surgeons and a rein for public expectations. A good death, without surgery, is a very good outcome.”                    The Times

Brain surgeons such as Henry Marsh, the author of this startling and moving memoir, have to live breathe, operate and make urgent decisions in full awareness of a terrible dilemma: if they open the skull they might save the patient’s life, but a slip of the scalpel can cause appalling disability which, as Marsh puts it, can be much worse than death… It’s this disarming candour that makes the book such an enthralling read… fascinating.”                   Guardian

“Do No Harm is in many respects a self-lacerating document: by and large, it contains stories not of triumph, or the author’s skill and expertise, but of the emotional and psychological toll exacted when things go horribly wrong… His understanding of the nature of suffering is deep and personal.”                                               New Statesman

Why has no one ever written a book like this before? It simply tells the stories, with great tenderness, insight and self doubt, of a phenomenal neurosurgeon who has been at the height of his specialism for decades and now has chosen with retirement looming to write an honest book. Why haven’t more surgeons written books, especially of this prosaic beauty?… Well, thank God for Henry Marsh… One of the finest admissions to emerge in this phenomenal book is that of every surgeon’s dilemma… what a bloody, splendid book: commas optional.”                                Euan Ferguson , Observer

Night School by Richard Wiseman

Almost a third of your whole life is spent asleep. Night School uncovers the scientific truth about the sleeping brain – and gives powerful tips on how those hours of apparently ‘dead’ time in the dark can transform your waking life.

Based on new peer-reviewed research, mass-participation experiments and the world’s largest archive of dream reports, Night School will teach you how to:

*Learn information and solve problems while you sleep

* Find out why nightmares can be good for you, and what your dreams really mean

* Unlock the creative power of the six-minute nap

* Banish jet-lag, night terrors and snoring *

Discover the secrets of the ‘super sleepers’ – and get the best night’s sleep of your life

Studies show that even a small lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on our health, lifespan and happiness. Professor Richard Wiseman’s authoritative, entertaining new book introduces the powerful new science of sleep – and gives us back the missing third of our days. Welcome to Night School.

From the author of Quirkology and 59 Seconds.

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam

Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building, or steer your car into oncoming traffic? You are not alone. In this captivating fusion of science, history and personal memoir, writer David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind, and how they drive millions of us towards obsessions and compulsions.

David has suffered from OCD for twenty years, and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop is his unflinchingly honest attempt to understand the condition and his experiences. What might lead an Ethiopian schoolgirl to eat a wall of her house, piece by piece; or a pair of brothers to die beneath an avalanche of household junk that they had compulsively hoarded? At what point does a harmless idea, a snowflake in a clear summer sky, become a blinding blizzard of unwanted thoughts? Drawing on the latest research on the brain, as well as historical accounts of patients and their treatments, this is a book that will challenge the way you think about what is normal, and what is mental illness.

Told with fierce clarity, humour and urgent lyricism, this extraordinary book is both the haunting story of a personal nightmare, and a fascinating doorway into the darkest corners of our minds.

This blew me away. Stunning.”                                Ian Sample, Guardian

Clear-sighted and eminently accessible … a fundamentally important book that will bring a breath of fresh understanding to sufferers – as well as mental-health professionals, and family and friends of anyone who exhibits symptoms of OCD. I urge anyone to buy it. It will make you think again.”                       Sunday Times

A fascinating study of the living nightmare that is obsessive compulsive disorder … one of the best and most readable studies of a mental illness to have emerged in recent years … an honest and open and, yes, maybe life-changing work.”                                Matt Haig, Observer

Combines a scientific account of OCD from ancient times to the most recent research with passages of tenderly written memoir.”                             Telegraph

Superb… A brave and helpful contribution to deepening our understanding of the intricate complexities of mental ill-health.”                                The Times

“[An] engaging, exhaustively researched neuro memoir, a blend of brain science and personal history.”                                Evening Standard

A captivating first-person account of how a blizzard of unwanted thoughts can become a personal nightmare. At times shocking, at times tragic, at times unbelievably funny, it is a wonderful read.”                    Focus

David Adam, a successful writer, is also a sufferer of obsessive compulsive disorder … He covers the history of OCD, the treatments that have been tried without success, and his experience of cognitive behavioural therapy, CBT, which was greatly helpful. A well-written, thorough account.”                          Independent

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life by Ariane Huffington

In Thrive, Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post and one of the most influential women in the world, has written a passionate call to arms, looking to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world.

She likens our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. It may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we’re going to topple over. We need a third leg – a Third Metric for defining success – in order to live a healthy, productive, and meaningful life.

In this deeply personal book, Arianna talks candidly about her own challenges with managing time and prioritising the demands of a career and two daughters. Drawing on the latest groundbreaking research and scientific findings in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep and physiology that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging and giving, Arianna shows us the way to a revolution in our culture, our thinking, our workplaces, and our lives.

In Thrive, Arianna urges all of us to get in touch with who we really are so that we can live life on our own terms. From the importance of sleep to the imperative to listen to our own inner voice for ways to deal with the daily time crunches we all feel, this book lays out a path for each of us to look within and make our lives more authentic and fulfilling.”                      Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In

At once intimate and formidable, this book is Arianna Huffington at her persuasive best. Thrive is a clarion call, a meditation, and a practical response to the question of how to live.”                       Susan Cain, author of New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

War: What is It Good For? The Role of Conflict in Civilisation from Primates to Robots by Ian Morris

War is one of the greatest human evils. It has ruined livelihoods, provoked unspeakable atrocities and left countless millions dead. It has caused economic chaos and widespread deprivation. And the misery it causes poisons foreign policy for future generations.

But, argues bestselling historian Ian Morris, in the very long term, war has in fact been a good thing. In his trademark style combining inter-disciplinary insights, scientific methods and fascinating stories, Morris shows that, paradoxically, war is the only human invention that has allowed us to construct peaceful societies. Without war, we would never have built the huge nation-states which now keep us relatively safe from random acts of violence, and which have given us previously unimaginable wealth. It is thanks to war that we live longer and more comfortable lives than ever before.

And yet, if we continue waging war with ever-more deadly weaponry, we will destroy everything we have achieved; so our struggles to manage warfare make the coming decades the most decisive in the history of our civilisation. In War: What Is It Good For? Morris brilliantly dissects humanity’s history of warfare to draw startling conclusions about our future.

Perhaps you think that you already know everything about the history of all peoples on all the continents for the last 15,000 years. Even if you do, you’ll still get a fresh perspective from this thought-provoking book. With this volume and his previous Why the West Rules-for Now, Ian Morris has established himself as a leader in making big history interesting and understandable.”                            Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel

That war is the antithesis of everything we cherish in our modern civilization is that one rare idea nobody would dare disagree with in polite company. Nobody except Ian Morris that is. This delightful, erudite and thought-provoking book challenges some of our core beliefs. Morris argues, fairly convincingly, that far from being its antithesis, war is the mainspring of our civilization, and we are far from the last chapter of the history that war has made. You will be surprised, informed, entertained and most importantly challenged by this book. “                 Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Trials of Passion: Crimes in the Name of Love and Madness by Lisa Appignianesi

This book journeys into the heart of dark passions and the crimes they impel. When passion is in the picture, what is criminal, what sane, what mad or simply bad?

Brighton, 1870: A well-respected spinster infuses chocolate creams with strychnine in order to murder her lover’s wife.

Paris, 1880: A popular performer stalks her betraying lover through the streets of the city for weeks and finally takes aim.

New York, 1906: A millionaire shoots dead a prominent architect in full view of a theatre audience.

Through court and asylum records, letters and newspaper accounts, this book brings to life a period when the psychiatric professions were consolidating their hold on our understanding of what is human. An increasingly popular press allowed the public unprecedented insight into accounts of transgressive sexuality, savage jealousy and forbidden desires.

With great story-telling flair, Lisa Appignanesi teases out the vagaries of passion and the clashes between the law and the clinic as they stumble towards a (sometimes reviled) collaboration. Sexual etiquette and class roles, attitudes to love, madness and gender, notions of respectability and honour, insanity and lunacy, all are at play in that vital forum in which public opinion is shaped – the theatre of the courtroom.

The Wipers Times: The Famous First World War Trench Newspaper edited by Chris Westhorp

Decades ahead of the amusing but distorting buffoonery of ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, this complete edition of the Wipers Times, the famed trench newspaper of the First World War, is an extraordinary mix of black humour, fake entertainment programmes and pastiche articles and constitutes a unique record of life in the wartime front line. From its long-running cartoon pun (‘Are We Being Offensive Enough?’) to its brilliantly subversive column ‘Things We Want to Know’ (‘The name of the officer who originated the idea’), its hilarious spoof ads to its pastiche fake contributors (Belary Helloc), this complete facsimile edition of the Wipers Times is a historical masterpiece that enables us to sample the real spirit of the trenches . . . from the safety of our armchairs.

If you can drink the beer the Belgians sell you,
And pay the price they ask with ne’er a grouse,
If you believe the tales that some will tell you,
And live in mud with ground sheet for a house,
If you can live on bully and a biscuit.
And thank your stars that you’ve a tot of rum,
Dodge whizzbangs with a grin, and as you risk it
Talk glibly of the pretty way they hum,
If you can flounder through a C.T. nightly
That’s three-parts full of mud and filth and slime,
Bite back the oaths and keep your jaw shut tightly,
While inwardly you’re cursing all the-time,
If you can crawl through wire and crump-holes reeking
With feet of liquid mud, and keep your head
Turned always to the place which you are seeking,
Through dread of crying you will laugh instead,
If you can fight a week in Hell’s own image,
And at the end just throw you down and grin,
When every bone you’ve got starts on a scrimmage,
And for a sleep you’d sell your soul within,
If you can clamber up with pick and shovel,
And turn your filthy crump hole to a trench,
When all inside you makes you itch to grovel,
And all you’ve had to feed on is a stench,
If you can hang on just because you’re thinking
You haven’t got one chance in ten to live,
So you will see it through, no use in blinking
And you’re not going to take more than you give,
If you can grin at last when handing over,
And finish well what you had well begun,
And think a muddy ditch’ a bed of clover,
You’ll be a soldier one day, then, my son.

Now faithfully reproduced page by page, it remains immensely moving in the laughter of its resilience and still relevant as a testament to gallantry under fire.”                       The Times

The humour woven into the correspondence, observations and stories for all 23 issues published characterises an indomitable spirit.”                         Discover Britain

And finally….

Ma – Book One of the Tree of Life by Mark McKeown and Andre Human

The first novel of The Tree of Life Trilogy, MA – An Original Graphic Novel, is an adaptation of the story from which all other stories have their roots; it is a tale that follows how everything as we know it has come into being.

The inspiration comes from the iconic tale Indaba, My Children written by Credo Mutwa, which McKeown was given the rights to adapt, and proceeds from book sales will be donated to The Credo Mutwa Aids Hospital.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Indaba, My Children, was written by Credo Mutwa, the High Witchdoctor of the Zulus in 1964. He belongs to an ancient chain of knowledge-keepers whose duty it is to pass the profound knowledge of the ancestors down to their firstborn son. When his son was murdered, and thus the link in the chain of knowledge had been broken, he was determined not to let this profound ancient wisdom die with him, and so he wrote Indaba, My Children. In so doing, he broke his sacred oath and betrayed his lineage, becoming a traitor to his people. Indaba, My Children, like its author, has long since vanished into obscurity, yet it has been hailed as one of the top ten most iconic African Books ever written.

Join Marco Botha for the launch of Coach at Portswood House

Wednesday, May 21st 2014 at 6:00 PM

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Launch of Paradise by Greg Lazarus

Wednesday, May 21st 2014 at 5:30 PM

Paradisegreg-lazarus

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Launch of An Imperfect Blessing by Nadia Davids

Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 5:30 PM

An Imperfect Blessing at The Book Lounge - Invitation

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PEN Dialogue: The Politics of Publishing and Bookselling

Monday, May 19th 2014 at 5:30 PM

South Africa PEN, Open Book and the Book Lounge have a long history together and are delighted to be extending their collaborative events outside of the five day Open Book Festival and into the rest of the year.

The next dialogue, The Politics of Publishing and Bookselling, will take place at the Book Lounge on the 19th of May, chaired by Margie Orford from SA PEN.

Margie will be in discussion with Ingeborg Pelser (publisher at Jonathan Ball), celebrated author, Niq Mhlongo and Mervyn Sloman (Book Lounge).

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The Circus Story Time

Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 11:00 AM

circus actSome of us might have been to the circus. You might have seen the acrobats swinging through the air, or maybe seen the jugglers balancing all those balls at the same time. And then there’s the clowns, funny looking and making fools of themselves. Some circuses have animals too, there might be a lion or a elephant all dressed up.

Today Ringmaster Tao will read some circus stories and we will make our own clown faces.

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