Attuned Leadership

by Reuel J Khosa (Penguin) ISBN 9780143528197 

This book is supposed to be about incorporating Ubuntu into Capitalism. 

I think the intent is to emulate Malcolm Gladwell and create the success and hype of an African Outliers. However, it is written in such a highbrow style that anyone who could benefit from reading this book will be bored to tears after the introduction. This book is aimed at young black, and white, professionals but will only be read by balding white professors. 

It is badly written with dense pages of facts, endless philosophising, and never-ending sentences.  It should be inspirational non-fiction but it comes off as purely factual with no analysis or insight. This is a good idea, badly executed. 

It is clear that a lot of time, effort, and research has been put into this book, but none in putting it together. It’s a self-indulgent work, perhaps interesting to a handful of people. If it sells at all it will sell to an ever-diminishing group of historians and academics. Khosa has not reached the people he wants to reach. 

Anything that has a glossary and several appendices of over 100 pages should be sold in an academic bookshop and not inflicted on the general public. If you’re looking for a unique perspective of irrelevant and boring events described in painful detail this is a great read for you. 

Christopher Dean

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Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear

by John van de Ruit (Penguin) ISBN: 9780143530244

Spud Milton has finished school and vanished into his future. Matric, with its agonies: maths, strange school rituals, The Glock, Mermaid; and its ecstasies: drama, cricket, The Guv, Mermaid; has ended. The Crazy Eight have grown up. Spud has changed over the four books - in a good way.
I enjoyed reading the fourth novel as much as any of the others. Once again, I was struck by the simple fact that the series has been so successful because the books are just about a boy dealing with the difficulties of growing up. For South Africans, that pleasure is rare. We usually have to trudge through a political mess of meaning if we want to read a local author. Van de Ruit is also a very good writer. His comedic timing and talent is as brilliant as ever. He has polished his style, and his writing has improved with each book.
South African fiction was given a second chance when Spud was published. I hope to see many more novels like these. I am grateful that Spud Milton enriched the reading lives of so many young South Africans. 

Amanda Patterson

For the Mercy of Water

by Karen Jayes (Penguin) ISBN 978-0-14-353021-3


This is no ordinary story and most of the time the meaning eludes me. A lot is left to the imagination of the author. I did glean from the novel that there was a shortage of water and there are guards who are ruthless and in control of the water supply.


An unexpected rain leads a group of water security guards to an abandoned town. They find an old woman, identified only as Mother, and a group of girls in a classroom. A journalist, two aid workers and a doctor arrive and what they discover soon afterwards shortly afterwards defies ordinary explanation.


When strange dislocated fragments of Mother’s story appear in the media, a young writer is intrigued enough to set off on a journey to find out about Mother, a journey that takes her deep into the heart of broken country in search of a truth that no one wants uncovered.


It is not possible to enjoy this novel. It is totally without meaning and I read it to the end hoping to find some logic in the story. This is one of the most unreadable stories I have ever come across.


Dee Andrew


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by Rahla Xenopoulos (Penguin) ISBN 978-0-14-353016-9


Bubbles is found murdered in a field in Johannesburg back in 1949.


While this story is mostly fictional, Rahla Xenopoulos has incorporated true events and woven them into a tale of childlike naivety and spine chilling darkness that leads to Bubble’s untimely demise.


Growing up in dire conditions in Lichtenburg, Jacoba “Bubbles” Schroeder believes she will find true happiness if she can become more like Mrs Botha, a wealthy lady who brings her grand dresses to her mom, who does laundry for a living. It is with this idea in her head that we follow Bubbles on her journey from poor waif to ‘glamour’ girl living in Johannesburg at the age of 16.


Bubbles believes she is truly on her way to realising her flights of fancy. A seedy character by the name of Barry takes her under his wing and shows her the real way to a man’s heart. However, not possessing street smarts and more obsessed with the trappings the upper crust has to offer, Bubbles never imagines the fate that awaits her.


A suspenseful read - the book held my attention from start to finish. Highly recommended.


Ashleigh Seton-Rogers


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Justin Bonello Cooks For Friends

by Justin Bonello (Penguin) ISBN 978-0-14-352829-6 R252, 00


Well it’s a cook book. With a famous name on the cover. This is perhaps this is all you need to sell such a book.


And It was the reason I bought it for my TV-chef fan Grandfather. So let us re-cap. Great presentation. Famous name. Cook book. Looks nice. These seem to be enough for me.


However… It’s much better than that. The book is well written. It is funny. It has character and even a small amount of plot. These are things one would expect to find in a fiction book. Sadly now-a-days you may be hard pressed to do just that.


All-in-all I laughed, I cried and had a jolly good time (with most books I read I just cringe) with this wonderful creation. Oh by the way it also tells you how to make food!


Christopher Dean


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The Swordmaster's Apprentice

by Edward Burke (Penguin) R198.95 ISBN NO: 9780143527978


Edward Burke sets off on a year-long journey of self-discovery and brutal training to be mentored under one of the greatest masters of martial arts.


He leaves his corporate job in London to train as a live-in student of the legendary Chiba Sensei, a master of aikido. From a business man accustomed to the freedom and independence of London, Edward now finds himself sharing tight living quarters at the back of the dojo, scrubbing floors and dusting, all to have the honour of training under Chiba Sensei.


The way he describes the training and his immense passion for it, encompassing fear and pain with beautiful skill and artistry is gripping to read. Whether you are a fan of martial arts or not you can’t help but develop an appreciation for it as you see it through Edward’s eyes.


The power in the subtlety of movement, the discipline required as well as the fear and dedication almost become real presences in the book they are so prevalent in the author’s writing.


Intertwined with intense training, Edward learns profound lessons and gains a new awareness of identity. The pure joy of the physical exertion, fitness and fleeting moments of pure connectedness are enticing and makes the reader want to discover an inner peace of their own.


Kylie Crichton and Shanel Munger


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A Sangoma’s Story

by Melanie Reeder (Penguin) ISBN: 9780143026167


‘My body has two lives,’ says traditional healer, Elliot Ndlovu, ‘the spiritual as well as the physical.’


Reeder, a well-known magazine writer, relates the story of this charismatic sangoma in a clear, readable style that avoids the academic approach and draws the reader into another world – a world of storm chasing and magical serpents and bewitched bones.


Ndlovu found his calling as a young man, woken by an apparition sent by his ancestors. From that moment, he followed a path of suffering and knowledge to embrace his cultural heritage, to be a healer of both minds and bodies.


Surprisingly, his path also led to meeting Queen Elizabeth and a brush with Hollywood. In fact, he is a bit of a celebrity, dividing his time between Thendela village in rural KwaZulu-Natal and the luxurious Fordoun Hotel and Spa in the midlands, where he consults.


Ndlovu’s message is essentially to protect our natural resources and to practice Ubuntu in all aspects of life: from relationships to religion.  A Sangoma’s Story captures the essence of both this fascinating man and Zulu culture with poignancy and insight.


Anthony Ehlers


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Being Afrikan

by Mandivamba Rukuni (Penguin) ISBN: 9780143026808


Being Afrikan by Mandivamba Rukuni is the most inspiring, enlightening, educating piece of information I have read in a long time.


The blurb says: this “is a book that will change your view of what of what it is going to take for us to co-create the Afrika we want.”  Rukuni tells you what he has seen and heard all over the world. He acknowledges the uniqueness of different cultures, traditions, races and religions. His motto is: if you are an African, do not westernise, but, modernise. I am making this my mantra. 


He encourages people, to stay true to who they are. At the end of the day, we all worship the same “higher-power” He specifically encourages children of the African soil to remain true to the dust, herbs and “powers” that saw their ancestors through turmoil.


I share the same worry as him, Europeans and others, come here and “expect” Africans to change into certain things that they are not. He advises “us” to borrow from the Indians (meditation), Chinese (technology), Europeans (English language) and others, only to better what we already are (soil; flora and fauna; African healing; uBuntu, and the list is endless). Let us not lose ourselves.


Great Africans, among many others, such as: Credo Mutwa, Alemseged Tesfai, Barolong Seboni, Bessie Head and Nelson Mandela, have paved the way. Let’s follow. 


Refilwe Thobega


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 by Ellen Banda-Aaku (Penguin Books) ISBN 978-0-14-352753-4


Patterns of thinking and emotional behaviour seem to persist through generations.


Pumpkin, a nine-year-old girl, is living in Lusaka. We are led through her torrid journey and the way she perceives it.


Her mother a seemingly respectable and fashionable woman is secretly a drunk. Her father seldom sees them. She witnesses situations beyond her years, with some graphic descriptions. All Pumpkin yearns for is for her parents to be united in marriage.


In later years she begins to understand women’s insecurities regarding the men in their lives. Women get the raw end of the deal, especially when they love the same man. Material needs may be met but emotional riches are often lacking.


Pumpkin supports her father in his political campaign, which reveals some insights of that time. The book gains momentum towards the end, reaching its pinnacle at the right time.


The reader may well ask, “Can we patch up our mistakes?” People’s beliefs and cultures are revealed through the pages of this book. It’s an easy read.


Dawn Blankfield




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This way up

by Paige Nick (Penguin) ISBN: 978-0-14-352755-8


Paige Nick is a regular columnist for the Lifestyle section of the Sunday Times. This Way Up is her second novel.


The story bumbles along. Conservative Stella dreams of becoming a feature writer. She wants to escape the Dr Dee column she has penned for two years, two months and nine hours, answering the letters of ‘deranged’ and ‘retarded’ people about their sexual problems.


Her life unravels when she tells a little white lie to her family. This lie snowballs, causing an avalanche in her life. Stella finds herself in unfamiliar territory when she has no home, her marriage is falling apart and her twin sister refuses to speak to her.


Stella’s story is in contrast to Poppy, who is travelling the world with her best friend, Buck. Poppy is young and adventurous and it is appears that Nick uses this story as a comparison between two different lives. This comparison is contrived and confusing.


The book is about family bonds and that despite bad things happening, it is just a phase and things will end up the way they should.


Nick tries to be humorous but fails to deliver.


This Way Up does not quite make it in the Bridget Jones’ Diary or Eat, Pray, Lovecalibre. It may appeal to people who are leading dead end lives.


Ulrike Hill


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