Follow @book_lounge
Subscribe here to receive invitations to our events and our monthly Newsletter
* = required field

Dual launch of In Search of Equality &, Marriage, Land & Custom with speakers Dee Smythe, Aninka Claassens & Nomboniso Gasa

Thursday, July 31st 2014 at 5:30 PM



Vociferous Wednesday: Post Platinum Times in South Africa

Wednesday, July 30th 2014 at 5:30 PM

South Africa’s platinum industry is in a state of turmoil and the recent strikes have had a major impact on the economy. The Book Lounge, together with the Open Society Foundation and the Daily Maverick bring together a panel of experts to analyse the situation and discuss how it is likely to influence South Africa’s future.

The panel will comprise veteran labour correspondent Terry Bell, independent economist and plitical commentator Gilad Isaacs and the Daily Maverick’s Greg Nicolson. The moderator will be Saliem Fakir, Head of the Living Planet Unit @ WWFSA.


Launch of Are South Africans Free? by Lawrence Hamilton

Tuesday, July 29th 2014 at 5:30 PM

are sa


Launch of David Klatzow’s new book, Justice Denied

Monday, July 28th 2014 at 5:30 PM

justice denied invite book lounge


July 2014

Monday, July 28th 2014 at 2:04 PM

July 2014


The Thrill of it All by Joseph O’Connor

At college in 1980s Luton, Robbie Goulding, an Irish-born teenager, meets the elusive Fran Mulvey, an orphaned Vietnamese refugee. Together they form a band. Joined by cellist Sarah-Thérèse Sherlock and her twin brother Seán on drums, The Ships in the Night set out to chase fame. But the story of this makeshift family is haunted by ghosts from the past.

Spanning 25 years, The Thrill of it All rewinds and fast-forwards through an evocative soundtrack of struggle and laughter. Infused with blues, ska, classic showtunes, New Wave and punk, using interviews, lyrics, memoirs and diaries, the tale stretches from suburban England to Manhattan’s East Village, from Thatcher-era London to the Hollywood Bowl, from the meadows of the Glastonbury Festival to a wintry Long Island, culminating in a Dublin evening in July 2012, a night that changes everything.

A story of loyalties, friendship, the call of the muse, and the beguiling shimmer of teenage dreams, this is a warm-hearted, funny and deeply moving novel for anyone that’s ever loved a song.

Occasionally, you read a sentence that you know couldn’t be bettered: Joseph O’Connor’s new novel is jam-packed with such sentences – paragraph after paragraph of brilliance.”               Guardian

“[O’Connor] is warm without being sentimental, and he cuts effortlessly between comedy and tragedy. Music nerds will love the most satisfyingly voluminous playlists since High Fidelity.”                           The Times

A novel about music, family and friendship…O’Connor brilliantly evokes the 1980s… This novel is shot through with humour, patois and all the human contradictions that make the characters truly memorable.”                   Mail on Sunday

Intoxicating…a love letter to rock ‘n’ roll…incredibly moving.”                   Sunday Independent

O’Connor writes with such passion, such precision, such beautiful sentences, with such an ear for language and with such knowledge and hilarity, that this book could only come from an extremely gifted Rock’n’Roll obsessive… A brilliant and vital document.”                        Bob Geldof

Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

‘Ma, I feel exhausted with consuming, with taking and grabbing and using. I am so bloated that I feel I cannot breathe any more. I am leaving to find some air, some place where I shall be able to purge myself, push back against the life given me and make my own. I feel I live in a borrowed house. It’s time to find my own. Forgive me.’

Calcutta, 1967. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind before disappearing is this note.

The ageing patriarch and matriarch of his family, the Ghoshes, preside over their large household, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. More than poisonous rivalries among sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, and the implosion of the family business, this is a family unravelling as the society around it fractures. For this is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change: the chasm between the generations, and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider.

Ambitious, rich and compassionate The Lives of Others anatomises the soul of a nation as it unfolds a family history. A novel about many things, including the limits of empathy and the nature of political action, it asks: how do we imagine our place amongst others in the world? Can that be reimagined? And at what cost? This is a novel of unflinching power and emotional force.

Longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize

Neel Mukherjee has written an outstanding novel: compelling, compassionate and complex, vivid, musical and fierce.”                                                                 Rose Tremain

A devastating portrayal of a decadent society and the inevitably violent uprising against it, in the tradition of such politically charged Indian literature as the work of Prem Chand, Manto and Mulk Raj Anand. It is ferocious, unsparing and brutally honest.”                              Anita Desai

“The Lives of Others is searing, savage and deeply moving: an unforgettably vivid picture of a time of turmoil.”                                 Amitav Ghosh

Very ambitious and very successful… One of Mukherjee’s great gifts is precisely his capacity to imagine the lives of others. . Neel Mukherjee terrifies and delights us simultaneously.” A S Byatt, Guardian

Masterful . His fierce intelligence and sophisticated storytelling combine to produce an unforgettable portrait of one family riven by the forces of history and their own desires.”                       Patrick Flanery, Daily Telegraph

Rich and engrossing . Consistently vivid and well realised, it confidently covers a great deal of varied social terrain. . Unfailingly interesting”                                 Sunday Times

The writing is unfailingly beautiful . Resembles a tone poem in its dazzling orchestration of the crescendo of domestic racket. His eye is as acute as his ear: the physicality of people and objects is delineated with a hyper-aesthetic vividness.”                                 New Statesman

Brilliant… his command of storytelling is so astounding, he draws the reader into places they would prefer not to look.”                Metro

A Seth-ian narrative feast with dishes to spare … a graphic reminder that the bourgeois Indian culture western readers so readily idealize is sustained at terrible human cost.”                         Patrick Gale, Independent

Deeply affecting and ambitious… In startling imagery that sears itself into the mind, The Lives of Others excellently exposes the gulf between rich and poor, young and old, tradition and modernity, us and them, showing how acts of empathy are urgently needed to bridge the divides.”       Anita Sethi, Observer

Full of acute, often uncomfortable and angry, observations, The Lives of Others is a picture of a family in all its disunity, and beyond it a city and country, on the brink of disaster.”                          The Times

In The Approaches by Nicola Barker

Open yourself up again to all that terrible light and savage bliss and deafening reverberation …’

In the Summer of 1971, a charismatic family seeks refuge in the quiet, English coastal backwater of Pett Level. Bran Cleary is a controversial Irish muralist; his fractious and promiscuous wife (and muse) ‘Lonely’ Allaway is half Aboriginal; their strange, sickly daughter, Orla Nor, is almost a Saint.

Thirteen years later, a shifty individual turns up in Pett Level, apparently determined to get to the bottom of the bizarre and ultimately tragic events which unfolded in the aftermath of that arrival. But does he really want to understand, or is he just way too close to the story to make any clear sense of it? And what of the locals who seem so determined to resist and undermine his investigations?

In The Approaches is a fabulously twisted comedy of very bad manners which starts out as a seaside idyll and ends up as a pilgrimage – sometimes sacred, sometimes profane, and frequently both at once. Set in a 1984 which seems almost as distantly located in the past as Orwell’s was in the future, Nicola Barker’s tenth novel offers a captivating glimpse of something more shocking than any dystopia – the possibility of faith.

I have never read anything like it … Barker is some kind of genius … The book is textured, playfully philosophical and increasingly moving. I read the last 150 pages at a sitting with my heart and mind stirred… And yet it’s also funny.”          Observer

With her cast of extravagant characters, a refusal to be tied down to anything as parochial as a traditional plot or narrative arc, near-farcical humour and big ideas, Nicola Barker is an author who transforms the mundane into the magisterial…Sounds a bit heavy going? Fear not, it’s also a delightful romantic comedy… More than the mere sum of its parts, it’s a novel that propels you helplessly forward into the light.”                       Independent

Exhilarating… she is an author whose comic energy is infectious.”                           Daily Mail

The antic virtuosity of Barker’s prose style… carries a kind of visionary intensity of its own. There’s a sort of realism in play, too – a magical or, better perhaps, mystical realism… the sheer blethering strangeness of life thickens into a kind of metaphysical dimension.”            Literary Review

The banshees Barker summons up in this delightful novel cast a magic spell over her readers.”                  Tatler

Eyrie by Tim Winton

Tom Keely has lost his bearings. His reputation in ruins, he finds himself holed up in a flat at the top of a grim high-rise, looking down on the world he’s fallen out of love with.

He has cut himself off, and intends to keep it that way, until one day he runs into some neighbours: a woman from his past and her introverted young boy. The encounter shakes him up in a way he doesn’t understand and, despite himself, Keely lets them in.

But the pair come trailing a dangerous past of their own, and Keely is soon immersed in a world that threatens to destroy everything he has learnt to love.

Eyrie is a heart-stopping novel written with breath-taking tenderness. Funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting, it asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

Often extremely funny…Some readers will be surprised that a novel from the twice-Booker-shortlisted author takes place around a tower block, so successfully has he made himself the poet laureate of the wide sky, the red dirt, the salt and thick estuarine mud of Western Australia in his previous work. But it is in many ways the logical end point of tensions between the natural world and human exploitation of it that have been present in his work from the beginning…Winton is in absolute command of his story. The pace and tension is unremitting, the language unfussy while retaining Winton’s trademark lyricism . . . After reading this novel, I had a feeling of bruised revelation.”                      Guardian

Winton has always been good on estrangement and never more so than here… [he] is also terrific on physical sensation. Here, as a befuddled Keely tries to negotiate the baking-hot streets assailed by impressions on all sides, it’s almost as if he’s surfing on dry land … Time and again I found myself panting admiringly at Winton’s … one hell of a ride.”                             Evening Standard

In Tom Keely, Winton has created a narrator whose misfortune and fury is matched by a merciless and mordant wit, and Winton has rarely been funnier…Eyrie is a superb novel: a novel of disillusionment and redemption, loss and beauty, the taking of responsibility and the overcoming of disappointment.”                              Guardian Australia

A heartfelt story of disillusionment and salvation … Winton has a raptor’s eye for telling images and tender acts … The rhythmic, highly wrought prose [is] undercut by bathos and mordant wit.”                          Telegraph

The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham

A vision appears in the sky above wintry New York and seems to exert an influence over two brothers, in this luminous, compassionate novel from the author of The Hours.

Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up; in the sky he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn’t believe in visions—or in God—but he can’t deny what he’s seen.

At the same time, in nearby Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett’s older brother, a struggling musician, is trying to write a song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a wedding song that will not be merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.

Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion, while Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers.

Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of the human soul. Beautiful, unexpectedly comic and truly heartbreaking, The Snow Queen proves again that Cunningham is one of the great novelists of his generation.

What gives “The Snow Queen” heft and substance is [Cunningham’s] gift for language, and the precision with which he anatomises his characters’ most secret thoughts. He writes beautifully … he never averts his gaze from the most uncomfortable and painful complexities of feeling. But the book is also shot through with a dark humour … Clean and sharp as an ice crystal; a brief but profound and poetic meditation on love, death and compassion from a master craftsman of language.”                 Stephanie Merritt, Observer

Luminously written… page-turningly enjoyable, this is a profound … novel about love from a highly regarded, Pulitzer-winning novelist.”                          Sunday Times

A thoughtful, closely wrought novel about creativity and dissipation … What really strikes is Cunningham’s remarkable control of tone, his ability to maintain a kind of muted ardency. This is a complicated, messy, peopled novel, and yet it has the slippery feel of a fable, an otherworldly quality in which everyday objects – a barge, a biscuit-coloured couch – acquire a strangeness, a temporary and oddly touching gleam.”                  Guardian

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours tells the poignant story of two brothers grappling with religion, ageing and loss.”                         Mail on Sunday

Michael Cunningham’s resonant new novel . . . is arguably [his] most original and emotionally piercing book to date. It’s a novel that does not rely heavily on literary allusions and echoes for its power—a story that showcases the author’s strengths as a writer.”                      Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

The Ballad of a Small Player  Lawrence Osborne

‘I waited patiently for the next hand to be played out, and I had a feeling it was going to be a Natural, a perfect nine.’

His name is Lord Doyle.

His plan: to gamble away his last days in the dark and decadent casino halls of Macau.

His game: baccarat punto blanco — ‘that slutty dirty queen of casino card games.’

Though Doyle is not a Lord at all. He is a fake; a corrupt lawyer who has spent a career siphoning money from rich clients. And now he is on the run, determined to send the money – and himself – up in smoke.

So begins a beguiling, elliptical velvet rope of a plot: a sharp suit, yellow kid gloves, another naughty lemonade and an endless loop of small wins and losses. When Lady Luck arrives in the form of Dao-Ming, a beautiful yet enigmatic lost soul, so begins a spectacular and unnatural winning streak in which millions come Doyle’s way. But in these shadowy dens of risk and compulsion, in a land governed by superstition, Doyle knows that when the bets are high, the stakes are even greater.

The Ballad of a Small Player is a sleek, dark-hearted masterpiece: a ghost story set in the land of the living, and a decadent morality tale of a Faustian pact made, not with the devil, but with fortune’s fickle hand.

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman

Spanning three decades and criss-crossing the globe, The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers is the story of Tooly Zylberberg and how she got to a second-hand bookshop in Wales via the streets of Manhattan and downtown Bangkok. This novel, dazzling in its scope and inventiveness, is peopled by an extraordinary array of unforgettable characters, from Humphrey the chess-playing Russian émigré to Venn, Tooly’s shadowy protector.

“…One of the paciest, easiest to read novels you could imagine… mesmerising: a thorough work-out for the head and heart that targets cognitive muscles you never knew you had.”                 The Times

Some novels are such good company that you don’t want them to end; Tom Rachman knows this, and has pulled off the feat of writing one… All this amounts to a touching story of fallen idols, with brilliant insights into misplaced loyalties, and the power that adults have over children. Rachman has written a hugely likeable, even loveable book about the people we meet and how they shape us.”                  Sunday Telegraph

When a Tom Rachman novel lands in the bookstores I stop living and breathing to devour it. It’s hard to think of anyone who has a better grasp on the world we live in (and I mean, like, the entire planet) and can write about it with such entertainment and panache.”                    Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure)

A bookshop-lover’s book, and beautiful prose-lover’s book, and read-it-all-in-one-weekend book.”                       New Republic

The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry has done more than any other living writer to shape our literary imagination of the American West. With The Last Kind Words Saloon he returns again to the vivid and unsparing portrait of the nineteenth-century and cowboy lifestyle made so memorable in his classic Lonesome Dove. Evoking the greatest characters and legends of the Old Wild West, here McMurtry tells the story of the closing of the American frontier through the travails of two of its most immortal figures: Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Opening in the settlement of Long Grass, Texas not quite in Kansas, and nearly New Mexico we encounter the taciturn Wyatt, whiling away his time in between bottles, and the dentist-turned-gunslinger Doc, more adept at poker than extracting teeth. Now hailed as heroes for their days of subduing drunks in Abilene and Dodge more often with a mean look than a pistol Wyatt and Doc are living out the last days of a way of life that is passing into history, two men never more aware of the growing distance between their lives and their legends. With the buffalo herds gone, the Comanche defeated, and vast swaths of the Great Plains being enclosed by cattle ranches, Wyatt and Doc live on, even as the storied West that forged their myths disappears. As harsh and beautiful, and as brutal and captivating as the open range it depicts.

Treachery by SJ Parris

August, 1583. Giordano Bruno, a heretic fleeing the Inquisition, finds a new life working as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham.

Along with his friend, Sir Philip Sidney, Bruno travels to Plymouth on the Queen’s behalf. There, they meet Sir Francis Drake, who is preparing to launch a daring expedition against the Spanish, which could turn the tide of war.

Unbeknownst to Bruno, however, Sidney plans to stowaway with Drake’s fleet and return a hero – dragging Bruno with him to the New World. But when a murder occurs aboard Drake’s own ship, fear and suspicion grip the fleet and threaten to abort the expedition before it begins.

Navigating the jealousies and loyalties of the crew, Bruno learns that someone with a deadly grudge is shadowing his investigation.

Tracking the killer through Plymouth’s menacing backstreets, he uncovers some of the darkest secrets the city is harbouring. Failure will come at the highest cost – not just for Bruno, but all of England…

 “Hugely enjoyable… It’s played straight, but never humourlessly so, and there’s just enough “proper” history amid the intrigue to keep purists on side.”                               Guardian

With its twisting plot and vivid scene-setting, Treachery confirms Parris’s growing reputation as a writer of historical thrillers.”                              Sunday Times

An evil bookseller and a terrifying brothel lie ahead; what’s not to like? Gripping and fun.”                         Observer

Parris’s Giordano Bruno series has been a joy. Her Elizabethan England is loud, pungent and blessedly free of some of the genre’s more egregious clichés. She wears her research lightly: at home with the detail of the period, she is quite happy to engage in a little creative anachronism to bring the story home.”                              Telegraph

There are echoes of CJ Sansom’s Shardlake series here. But Parris is better than the usual run of imitators. Her prose is taut and compelling. Her wielding of the historical material is always convincing but never overwhelming.”                    The Times

It has everything – intrigue, mystery and excellent history.”                       Kate Mosse

Fascinating … The period is incredibly vivid and the story utterly gripping.”                          Conn Iggulden

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

There’s nothing like a dental chair to remind a man that he’s alone in the world’

Paul O’Rourke, 40 year-old slightly curmudgeonly dentist, runs a thriving practice in New York. Yet he is discovering he needs more in his life than a steady income and the perfect mochaccino. But what?

As Paul tries to work out the meaning of life, a Facebook page and Twitter account appear in his name. What’s at first an outrageous violation of privacy soon becomes something more frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the man in the flesh. Who is doing this and will it cost Paul his sanity?

Longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize

Enormously impressive: profoundly and humanely engaged with the mysteries of belief and disbelief . . . dismayingly funny in the way that only really serious books can be.”                                Guardian

Joshua Ferris has proved his astonishing ability to spin gold from ordinary air . . . As brave and adept as any writer out there.”                  New York Times Book Review

Funny, thought-provoking, and touching. One hesitates to call it the CATCH-22 of dentistry, but it’s sort of in that ballpark. Some books simply carry you along on the strength and energy of the author’s invention and unique view of the world. This is one of those books.”                  Stephen King

Very funny [and] highly entertaining… Josh Ferris is a gifted satirist and very much in touch with the fear and paranoia that undercut US society.”                           Irish Times

Geek-smart prose and wry humour…hilarious.”                               Economist

Genuine, funny, tragic and never dull. It’ll also leave you flossing with a vengeance.”                    GQ

It’s a pleasure watching this young writer confidently range from the registers of broad punchline comedy to genuine spiritual depth…There’s a happy side effect to reading the novel, as well: If you’re a backslider like I was, it will guilt you into flossing again.”                                Wall Street Journal

Laugh-out-loud hilarious, combining Woody Allen’s New York nihilism with an Ivy League vocabulary.”                                Booklist

Brilliant…witty…passages of flashing comedy that sound like a stand-up theologian suffering a nervous breakdown.”                  Washington Post

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen

In Paradise tells the story of a group of men and women who come together for a weeklong meditation retreat at the site of a World War II concentration camp, and the grief, rage and upsetting revelations that surface during their time together. Even as it probes the suffering, conflicts, and longings of these diverse characters, In Paradise raises provocative and unanswerable metaphysical questions: what responsibility comes with bearing witness to such cruelty and tragedy; and what insights into the nature of good and evil may be lost in the next decade or two, as the last survivors of – and witnesses to – the death camps pass away. In Paradise is Matthiessen’s first work of fiction since Shadow Country, which won the National Book Award in 2008. Having participated in three Zen retreats at Auschwitz beginning in the 1990s, he had long wished to comment on the ongoing fallout of last century’s global catastrophe, but ‘as a non-Jewish American journalist, I felt unqualified to do so, I felt I had no right. But approaching it as fiction – as a novelist, an artist – I eventually decided that I did. Only fiction would allow me to probe from a variety of viewpoints the great strangeness of what I had felt.’

The fiction of Peter Matthiessen is the reason a lot of people in my generation decided to be writers.”   Richard Ford

His writing does every justice to the blood and fury of his themes.”                         Don DeLillo

Darkly humorous… [In Paradise] gives no hint of the writer’s age or declining physical powers. The maturity of its insights, and its emotional restraint, are the only signs the author is not a youth.”                              Herald

A moving valedictory for one of America’s most wide-ranging and poetical writers… compelling… vivid… hypnotic.”                       Financial Times

Skilful… affecting and powerful… In Paradise gets at the heart of the defining tragic enigma of the 20th century… [It] is Matthiessen’s complex and worthy adieu.”                         Jane Smiley, Guardian

The best passages here are beautifully observed evocations of the place… There is much to meditate on and many reasons to read this novel.”                          The Times

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey’s stunning debut novel, introduces a mystery, an unsolved crime and one of the most unforgettable characters since Mark Haddon’s Christopher. Meet Maud …

‘Elizabeth is missing’, reads the note in Maud’s pocket in her own handwriting.

Lately, Maud’s been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she’s made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war.

A fast-paced mystery with a wonderful leading character: Maud will make you laugh and cry, but she certainly won’t be forgotten.

Elizabeth Is Missing will stir and shake you: an investigation into a seventy-year-old crime, through the eyes of the most likeably unreliable of narrators. But the real mystery at its compassionate core is the fragmentation of the human mind.”                                Emma Donoghue

A thrillingly assured, haunting and unsettling novel, I read it at a gulp.”                               Deborah Moggach

The novel is both a gripping detective yarn and a haunting depiction of mental illness, but also more poignant and blackly comic than you might expect from that description… perhaps Healey’s greatest achievement is the flawless voice she creates for Maud.”                          Observer

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring a retired homicide detective who’s haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular – the pre-dawn slaughter of eight people among hundreds gathered in line for the opening of a jobs fair when the economy was guttering out. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. The plot is kicked into gear when Bill Hodges receives a letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. He taunts Hodges with the notion that he will strike again.

Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he’s preparing to kill again.

Only Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, can apprehend the killer in this high-stakes race against time. Because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.

Pays off exuberantly… Surprising and invigorating.”-                   Megan Abbott, New York Times

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

She was always Em to us. There may have been a time when we called her something ordinary like Mummy, or Ma, but I don’t remember. She was Em, and our father, sometimes, was the Big Hoom.

In a tiny flat in Bombay Imelda Mendes – Em to her children – holds her family in thrall with her flamboyance, her manic affection and her cruel candour. Her husband – to whom she was once ‘Buttercup’ – and her two children must bear her ‘microweathers’, her swings from laugh-out-loud joy to dark malevolence.

In Em and the Big Hoom, the son begins to unravel the story of his parents: the mother he loves and hates in the same moment and the unusual man who courted, married and protected her – as much from herself as from the world.

It is utterly persuasive and deeply affecting: stylistically adventurous it is never self-indulgent; although suffused with pain it shows no trace of self-pity. Parts of it are extremely funny, and its pages are filled with endearing and eccentric characters.”                       Amitav Ghosh

Pinto chases the elusive portrait of a mother who simply said of herself that she was mad. As I read this novel, that also portrays a very tender marriage and the life of a Goan family in Bombay, it drowned me. I mean that in the best way. It plunged me into a world so vivid and capricious, that when I finished, I found something had shifted and changed within myself. This is a world of magnified and dark emotion. The anger is a primal force, the sadness wild and raw. Against this, the jokes are hilarious, reckless, free falling …. This is a rare, brilliant book, one that is wonderfully different from any other that I have read coming out of India.”                    Kiran Desai

A child’s-eye view of madness and sorrow, full of love, pain, and, unaccountably, much wild comedy. One of the very best books to come out of India in a long, long time.”                               Salman Rushdie

A delightful debut . . . Written with genuine compassion and sincerity, while a sprinkling of black humour ensures it is never overly sentimental.”                       Financial Times

A near-perfect account of a psychologically troubled mother and the shockwaves felt by her family. Rich and beguiling . . . Within sentences of this touching, funny and calmly shocking narrative, their son makes it clear that he knows about the things that really matter.”                           Irish Times

The book is moving because it is howlingly funny – Em has a kind of enchanted loghorrea – and wholly unsentimental in its handling of the “phenomenal expense of empathy”. It’s a memorable chamber work, with wide appeal.”                             Independent

Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom

It is 1861, and Angel Woolsack is a Confederate about to breathe his last, as the Union forces make their inexorable approach. Rejected by his wife, his wealth no longer useful to him, he sets about recording his testament.

His story is that of a preacher’s son, who flees the hardscrabble life of his itinerant father and falls in with a charismatic highwayman. The novel moves from the bordellos of Natchez to the Mississippi plantations, and finally to the back rooms of New Orleans where would-be revolutionaries are plotting to break away from the young United States.

The Blood of Heaven is a remarkable portrait of a young man seizing his place in a violent new world.

In the present age of cultural strife and national re-definition, a brilliantly resonant novel blooming from America’s ever-thus history is just what the zeitgeist deserves. And The Blood of Heaven is as achingly beautiful in its personal story as it is savagely clear-headed in its national story. Kent Wascom has arrived fully-formed as a very important American writer.”                                Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain

Young Kent Wascom went down to the crossroads and there he made his deal. Or maybe he was just born spirited for this kind of work. Either way, I cannot name such a stunning debut as this one. It reads as not written, but lived and remembered – and how impossible is that? Whoever may own Kent Wascom’s soul, The Blood of Heaven will forever be ours.”                    Robert Olmstead, author of Coal Black Horse

A genuine American historical epic.”                      D.J. Taylor

Every page of Kent Wascom’s debut, The Blood of Heaven, struck me with its beauty and ugliness… This is not, like most novels, a glimpse of a life. It is a life.”                      Esquire

A bold, brilliant debut… It’s the work of a young writer with tremendous ambition, a bildungsroman of religion and revolution… Wascom writes with a fire-breathing, impassioned eloquence.”                       Washington Post

Compelling. Wascom’s writing rolls from the page in torrents, like the sermon of a revivalist preacher in the grip of inspiration. You can’t help listening, no matter how wicked the message.”                            Wall Street Journal

An astonishingly assured debut… He is more knowing than a writer his age has any right to be and displays a virtuosic command of biblical cadence and anachronistic vernacular without striking any false notes.”                     San Francisco Chronicle

Tokoloshe Song by Andrew Salomon

When Richard Nevis quit the rat race, being pursued to the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda by an assassin with a books fetish was not what he had in mind.

The trouble started while Richard was volunteering at a shelter for mistreated tokoloshes. There he befriended Lun, one of these often misunderstood creatures. But Richard and Lun come to the unwelcome attention of both a brutal villain and Cape Town’s most dangerous criminal mastermind.

Teaming up with a potent duo of midwives, who are members of a secret order equally adept at delivering infants and performing martial arts, Richard and Lun have to race across the Karoo in a quest to open an ancient metal box to stay alive.

Delightfully entertaining and funny, Tokoloshe Song is Andrew Salomon’s fantasy debut.


However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph by Aimee Molloy

In However Long the Night, Aimee Molloy tells the unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa.

This moving biography details Melching’s beginnings at the University of Dakar and follows her journey of 40 years in Africa, where she became a social entrepreneur and one of humanity’s strongest voices for the rights of girls and women.

Inspirational and beautifully written, However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph is a passionate entreaty for all global citizens. This book is published in partnership with the Skoll Foundation, dedicated to accelerating innovations from organizations like Tostan that address the world’s most pressing problems.

Molly Melching saw a deeply disturbing but deeply entrenched practice and refused to accept that it couldn’t be stopped. Her relentless efforts are proof that commitment and partnership can drive transformational change.”                                 Hillary Rodham Clinton

Melching’s incredible journey from Illinois to Africa, from graduate student to great humanitarian, is paralleled by the journey of the countless women touched by her work: a journey to understanding, empowerment and human dignity.”                                 Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The story of Molly Melching and Tostan proves that determined and loving individuals can accomplish the seemingly impossible–abandonment of a harmful tradition that is thousands of years old.”                             Former President Jimmy Carter

There is no way to overestimate the gift that Tostan and its leader, Molly Melching, have given to the world. The amount of suffering they have alleviated is beyond anything we can gauge. What a story, what a power, and what a blessing.”                                 Marianne Williamson, New York Times bestselling author

Molloy offers a moving account of one woman’s struggle to empower African women and challenge tradition…Reading like a novel, this book demonstrates the power of education and grassroots organizing.”                             Publishers Weekly

This is the story of an extraordinary woman: Molly Melching. Molly has worked in Senegalese communities to improve lives of the country’s poorest people. . . . This book reinforced my belief that developing communities already have the potential to spark change that will lead to better lives for themselves and their families.”                               Melinda Gates

The Skeleton Cupboard: The Making of a Clinical Psychologist by Tanya Byron

The Skeleton Cupboard is Professor Tanya Byron’s account of her years of training as a clinical psychologist, when trainees find themselves in the toughest placements of their careers. Through the eyes of her naive and inexperienced younger self, Tanya shares remarkable stories inspired by the people she had the privilege to treat. Gripping, poignant and full of daring black humour, this book reveals the frightening and challenging induction faced by all mental health staff and highlights their incredible commitment to their patients.

Powerfully moving and beautifully written, The Skeleton Cupboard shares the tales of ordinary people with an amazing resilience to the challenges of life.

Moving and thought-provoking.”                          Sunday Times

A compelling book that will challenge and comfort all who have strived to make the journey from chaos to clarity.”                       Psychologies

Quite simply, I love this book for its candour, wisdom and courage. Mistakes are our greatest lessons and other people, wherever we find them, our greatest teachers. As Tanya Byron describes so eloquently, life is about connection. There is nothing else.”                    Sally Brampton

Fascinating composite case studies of some of the vulnerable patients [Tanya Byron] encountered at a stage when she was often just one chapter ahead of them.”                       Metro

A strangely fascinating profession … what’s most appealing about Byron is her genuineness and openness. I can imagine why, if you were in distress, you’d want her on your side.”                            Scotsman

My Salinger Year by Joanna Smith Rakoff

At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. She spends her days in the plush, wood-panelled agency, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches, and at night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Brooklyn apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities and struggling to trust her own artistic sense, Joanna is given the task of answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back.

Poignant, keenly observed and irresistibly funny, My Salinger Year is a memoir about literary New York in the late 1990s, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself swept into one of the last great stories and entangled with one of the last great figures of the century. Above all, it is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer and a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives.

Here is the story of a reader becoming a writer, of a young woman deciding who she will be, of the power of books. Here is a memoir that manages to be dreamlike but sharp, poignant but unsentimental. Here is a book I’m going to have to insist you read immediately.”                                 Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements

An utterly beguiling memoir, not only about Salinger and a bygone era of publishing, but about relationships, finding one’s voice, and surviving in the big city.”                             Bookseller

A warm, witty, occasionally sly piece of storytelling … An affectionate love letter to a first job in an industry that in just 20 years has changed beyond recognition.”                              Harper’s Bazaar

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

The subjects of this stylish and audacious collection of essays range from an assault in Nicaragua to a Morgellons meeting; from Frida Kahlo’s plaster casts to a gangland tour of LA. Jamison is interested in how we tell stories about injury and pain, and the limits that circumstances, bodies and identity put on the act of describing.

Leslie Jamison grew up in Los Angeles. Educated at Harvard College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has also worked as an innkeeper in California, a schoolteacher in Nicaragua, and an office temp in Manhattan. She is currently studying for a PhD at Yale University, where she is writing a dissertation on poverty and degradation in twentieth century American writing. Her first novel, The Gin Closet, was published in 2010.

A work of tremendous pleasure and tremendous pain. Leslie Jamison is so intelligent, so compassionate, and so fiercely, prodigiously brave. This is the essay at its creative, philosophical best.”                  Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries

Extraordinary… Her cerebral, witty, multichambered essays tend to swing around to one topic in particular: what we mean when we say that we feel someone else’s pain. I’ll read whatever she writes. A rare writer.”                             New York Times

Extraordinary, exacting and virtuosic… There is a glory to her writing that derives as much from its ethical generosity as it does from the lovely vividness of the language itself. It’s hard to imagine a stronger, more thoughtful voice emerging this year.”                    New York Times Book Review

A page-turner… Jamison is revitalising the post-Susan Sontag essay.”                  Sunday Times

Extraordinary… Jamison is one of the form’s most compelling voices. The Empathy Exams is a challenging book, pushing the reader forward even when the subject matter grows gruesome or difficult.”                                New Statesman

Leslie Jamison has been hailed as a startling new voice in American letters. The Empathy Exams demonstrates why she’s attracting such attention. She combines fearless questioning with utterly compelling story-telling.”                          New Internationalist

The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Tale of Amnesia by David Stuart MacLean


At twenty-eight years old, David Stuart MacLean woke up in a foreign land with his memory wiped clean. No money. No passport. No identity. Taken to a mental hospital by the police, who thought he was a drug addict, MacLean started to hallucinate so severely he had to be tied down. Soon, he could remember song lyrics and scenes from television shows, but not his family, his friends, or the woman he loved.
All of these symptoms, he discovered, were the result of the commonly prescribed anti-malarial medication he was taking. Upon his return to the United States, he struggled to piece together the fragments of his former life. This memoir reveals that harrowing, frequently absurd and unforgettable journey.

The Answer to the Riddle Is Me confronts and celebrates the dark, mysterious depths of our psyches and the myriad ways we are all unknowable . . . especially to ourselves.

Mesmerizing… Written in vivid, blooming detail.”                           Gillian Flynn, bestselling author of Gone Girl

Brilliant and painful and hilarious.”                        Antonya Nelson

A gripping medical mystery, a heartwarming personal journey, and a chilling indictment of the commonly prescribed drug that upended MacLean’s life – but left his superb literary skills very much intact.”                               Rebecca Skloot, bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“The Answer to the Riddle Is Me is a harrowing account of vanishing… What does it mean to be the person you are? How much can be stripped away before you are no longer you? This is a thrilling, fascinating book that resides in the mind as if you lived it yourself.”                      Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown and The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success by Dr Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab

What is a good psychopath? And how can thinking like one help you to be the best that you can be?


Professor Kevin Dutton has spent a lifetime studying psychopaths. He first met SAS hero Andy McNab during a research project. What he found surprised him. McNab is a diagnosed psychopath but he is a GOOD PSYCHOPATH. Unlike a BAD PSYCHOPATH, he is able to dial up or down qualities such as ruthlessness, fearlessness, conscience and empathy to get the very best out of himself – and others – in a wide range of situations.

Drawing on the combination of Andy McNab’s wild and various experiences and Professor Kevin Dutton’s expertise in analysing them, together they have explored the ways in which a good psychopath thinks differently and what that could mean for you. What do you really want from life, and how can you develop and use qualities such as charm, coolness under pressure, self-confidence and courage to get it? The Good Psychopath Manifesto gives you a unique and entertaining road-map to self-fulfillment both in your personal life and your career.

Black Widow White Widow by De Wet Potgieter

When in 2013 he first published a report on the active presence of Al-Qaeda in South Africa, all hell broke loose for investigative reporter De Wet Potgieter. He was forced to retract before two more substantiating articles could be published.

Then the massacre at Westgate Mall hit Nairobi, which made the involvement of the so-called White Widow – operating on an illegally acquired South African passport – front-page news. Suddenly the world’s media was beating a path to Potgieter’s door.

Now, for the first time, he tells the full unsettling story of Al-Qaeda’s presence in this country. Not only is the veil lifted from this mysterious British woman, but the identity of another is disclosed: an Afrikaans-speaking counter-terrorist operative known as the Black Widow.

The book shows how, taking advantage of corrupt state machinery, Al-Qaeda factions launch attacks in other African countries. It discloses details of paramilitary and urban warfare training on a secluded farm and reveals disturbing details of the support they receive from various local extremist groups. Based on investigations spanning two years, Black Widow White Widow paints a frightening picture of the all too real possibility of future attacks from, or on, South African soil.

Class of ’79: The Story of Three Fellow Students who Risked their Lives to Destroy Apartheid by Janice Warman

When did this story begin? It began when three Rhodes University students realised that what was happening in South Africa’s so-called ‘separate development’ was wrong. And that they simply couldn’t tolerate it.

A defining moment for each sets them on a path of defiance and rebellion against the apartheid regime. As they stand to take their graduation photo as the ‘Class of ’79′ who would think or ever imagine that one would bomb a government building in six months’ time, the other be tortured and appear in the TRC hearings post-94, and the third would be arrested for possession of banned books and sentenced for four years in prison.

An Atheist’s History of Belief: Understanding our Most Extraordinary Invention by Matthew Kneale

What first prompted prehistoric man, sheltering in the shadows of deep caves, to call upon the realm of the spirits?

And why has belief thrived ever since, leading us to invent heaven and hell, sin and redemption, and above all, gods?

Religion reflects our deepest hopes and fears; whether you are a believer or, like Matthew Kneale, a non-believer who admires mankind’s capacity to create and to imagine, it has shaped our world. And as our dreams and nightmares have changed over the millennia, so have our beliefs – from shamans to Aztec priests, from Buddhists to Christians: the gods we created have evolved with us.

Belief is humanity’s most epic invention. It has always been our closest companion and greatest consolation. To understand it is to better understand ourselves.

And if you want Something Visual…

The Sick Rose: Or Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration by Richard Barnett

The Sick Rose is a beautifully gruesome and strangely fascinating visual tour through disease in an age before colour photography. This stunning volume, combining detailed illustrations of afflicted patients from some of the world’s rarest medical books, forms an unforgettable and profoundly human reminder of mankind’s struggle with disease. Incorporating historic maps, pioneering charts and contemporary case notes, Richard Barnett’s evocative overview reveals the fears and obsessions of an era gripped by epidemics.

“The Sick Rose is a transfixing, sublime collection of portraits of the highest art. They show the dying in a way that teaches us about life and all the good things in it. They are life studies.”                  The Times

The strange, symbiotic relationship between medicine and social oppression is here given full-colour form: not only by anatomical illustrations of paupers’ and criminals’ corpses, but also by what – were they not so disfigured – would be regarded as straightforward portraits of the leprous and the syphilitic, the tubercular and the cancerous … Richard Barnett’s superbly erudite and lucid accompanying text would really suffice in itself as an introduction to the history of western medical science.”                            Will Self, Guardian

“[A] trove of extraordinary illustrations.”                              Independent

A fascinating, gruesome look at how the medical profession depicted afflictions before colour photography.”                  Big Issue

A fascinating yet gruesome tour through disease as depicted in the age before colour photography.”                   International Business Times

A strangely fascinating, often gruesome visual tour.”                   Focus

Gripping – and occasionally a wee bit stomach-churning … lucid and knowledgeable … [the] writing is as vivid as the illustrations.”                     Fortean Times

If you’re able to detach yourself from the knee-jerk reaction of: ‘Oh my f**king god what’s wrong with that dude’s face?’, these illustrations are really neat to look at.”             

Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present

The first global history of comics from 1968 through to the present day, arranged chronologically and richly illustrated with prime examples of the artists, styles and movements being discussed. The authors contextualize the crucial modern period within the art forms broader history and offer a description of the more fluid, international and digital scene that is the mediums likely future. They supply examples from around the world including the US and UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand and from a range of renowned and lesser-known artists.

Packed with the very best illustrations.”                              The Bookseller

Ambitious … worth reading for the wealth of graphic novels it draws attention to.”                       Sunday Herald

Comprehensive, in-depth … an impressive reference book that is a must in every comics library.”                             Publishers Weekly

Smart and interesting, and might make you laugh, too.”                            Observer

Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology by Barrie Tullett

The first typewriter artist to find fame was Flora F. F. Stacey, with her butterfly drawing of 1898; but since the very beginning of the typewriters existence, artists, designers, poets and writers have used this rigorous medium to produce an astounding range of creative work. This beautiful book brings together some of the best examples by typewriter artists around the world. As well as key historical work from the Bauhaus, H. N. Werkman and the concrete poets, there is art by contemporary practitioners, both typewriter artists who use the keyboard as a palette to create artworks, and artists/typographers using the form as a compositional device. The book will appeal to graphic designers, typographers, artists and illustrators, and anyone fascinated by pre-digital technology.

Brian Eno: Visual Music

World-renowned musician Brian Eno is celebrated in this comprehensive monograph for his equally innovative explorations in the world of visual art. Spanning more than thirty large-scale projects over forty years of work, this book weaves a dialogue between Eno’s museum and gallery installations and his musical endeavors–which have included collaborations with everyone from Devo and the Talking Heads to U2 – all illustrated in archival materials, many never before published, including sketchbook pages, installation views, screen shots and more. Texts by Steve Dietz, Brian Dillon, Roy Ascott, and William R. Wright contextualise Eno’s contribution to new media art, while text by Eno himself reveals a first-person glimpse into his creative thinking and process. Every copy includes a download code for a previously unreleased piece of music created by Eno, making this collection a must-have for Eno fans and collectors everywhere.

For more than 40 years Brian Eno ‘has explored the complex relationship between light and sound, ‘ Christopher Scoates writes in Brian Eno: Visual Music, a beautifully designed analysis of how Eno became ‘completely enveloped in new and unorthodox ways of thinking about the world, visual ideas and music.’ This is a catalog of awesome accomplishments, in which we see how Eno’s ‘parallel practices have often informed each other.”                       New York Times Book Review

Happy Reading!

Have You Slurped Strawberry Soup? Story Time

Saturday, July 26th 2014 at 11:00 AM

have you slurped


Down in the Basement Returns: Improv Comedy Night

Friday, July 25th 2014 at 5:30 PM


The Masters of Improverse are an improvised comedy group consisting of a number of Cape Town’s top comedians; Gareth Woods, Rhys Woods, Brendan Murray, Angel Campey, Oliver Booth and Bradford Keen.

Short form Improvised comedy consists of short scenes usually constructed from a predetermined game, structure, or idea and driven by an audience suggestion. The unpredictability of the situations that are created and the performer’s reactions lead to hilarious antics.

Do join us for a great night, tickets  are available for R40 cash at the Book Lounge counter.  See you there 🙂


Launch of In the Heat of Shadows edited by Denis Hirson

Thursday, July 24th 2014 at 5:30 PM


Launch of In Search of Happiness by Sonwabiso Ngcowa

Wednesday, July 23rd 2014 at 5:30 PM

Invite - Sonwabiso Ngcowa Launch - 23 July 2014


Launch From Courtrooms to Cupcakes by Niki Malherbe

Tuesday, July 22nd 2014 at 5:30 PM

From Courtrooms