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Jenny’s Reads: Great Books for the Festive Season


Finally, we’ve come face to face with whatever 2019 holds for us. It was only yesterday, it seems, that we were saying the same thing at the end of 2017. The one thing that is certain is that this year has been so tumultuous that nothing any of the sages and wannabe sages gave us any real indication of what the path to 2019 was going to be like.

Certain things remain immutable, however, and nothing could give us more joy or angst than the books that continued to be published throughout the year. There have been highlights, of course, unpredictable books that knocked us off our feet or enlarged our beating hearts. It will be just the same in 2019, come rain, shine or Donald Trump.

One of the signs of the kind of book we are reaching for was launched at Exclusive Books Sandton City a couple of weeks back. Dazed booksellers estimated the crowd which pitched for the launch at between 500 and 600. Exclusive Books noted with delight that it had sold close to 500 copies of the book. For a book store still trying to come to terms with the orgy that was Black Friday, this was like flying to the moon and back just to express true love.

I’m short. So is Maria Ramos. We stood shoulder to shoulder in the heaving mass of people trying to see something other than tall people’s navels. We were better off, though, than Adrian Gore who couldn’t even get through the doors, try though he might. It seemed to me to be a fabulous way to go to my last book launch of the year and see what made this crowd rock, roll and perspire just for the sake of a book. It’s called Lift As You Rise by Bonang Mohale. Viva!

Mile 8Why you’ll enjoy Mile 8: Firstly, you’ll have time in the weeks ahead to appreciate what the book is all about, and although it’s full of food, it’s also full of memories for five star chef David Higgs of Marble and Saint fame. It’s the memories that make the book, stretching from the cold ocean lapping the Namibian shore where he learnt to fish and, under his father’s tutelage, to cook on an open fire on the beach, to the swankiest of wineland restaurants. It’s a Michelin star kind of book. The paper was especially chosen, the photographer a luminary among local and international photographers, the layout executed by an architect. In short, what you have is a privately conceived, produced and printed book that will give you hours of pleasure and thought – and recipes. The book as a whole is touching, beautiful and a superb Christmas book to gift someone special.
Mile 8 by David Higgs (Marble Group)

Mile 8Why you’ll enjoy Becoming: Michelle Obama’s book was released more or less at the same time around the world. And within seconds of it’s release it was on best seller lists everywhere, including South Africa. The book has been written with the kind of candour we have come to expect from this remarkable (and extremely clever) woman. Brought up on the South Side of Chicago, sharing a bedroom with her brother, then Princeton, then high powered corporate lawyer – and then Barack Obama. What was it like being thrust into the limelight as the first African American First Lady of the US? She tells us, taking us behind the scenes of eight years in the White House. I haven’t finished the book, but it makes for absorbing, thoughtful and inspiring reading. And always, the stories have an ethical base.
Becoming by Michelle Obama (Viking)

Mile 8Why you’ll enjoy Safari Style Africa: Firstly, when do you get time in a busy year to just sit and look? Secondly, it’s just beautiful. Three media luminaries have contributed to Safari Style Africa: photographer Dook, Annemarie Meintjies and Laurian Brown, whose writing, as always, is a marvel of clarity and sensitivity. Safari, she says, is ‘an irresistible invitation to pack up and go’. There are tall tales around campfires, she writes, of explorers and writers, such as Rider Haggard and Ernest Hemingway and, of course, Karen Blixen. Today more people than ever are able to access the wonders of wild Africa – and this luscious book illustrates why. It’s a wonderland where, often, the lodge has become a destination in itself. As you page through this evocative publication you’ll see exactly what she means. And why it is our own piece of heaven.
Safari Style Africa – photography by Dook, in collaboration with Annemarie Meintjies (Quivertree Publications)

Mile 8Why you’ll enjoy Lift As You Rise: Bonang Mohale is a mover and a shaker. He is also impassioned, fearless and determined. Now the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, the book was born out of his desire to help mould future generations, the importance of mentorship, transformation, constructive collaboration and, always, and again and again, integrity. It is a powerful cocktail. It is also immensely practical and useful. Nothing of what you read will be the result, as he says, of blind patriotism, but based on a number of shifts that the world continues to see, for instance the ‘dark continent’ is now perceived as ‘the final investment frontier.’ A book you can’t afford to miss. And be ready for some blunt reflections.
Lift As You Rise by Bonang Mohale (Tracey McDonald Publishers)


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