Trevor Noah’s children’s book wins big at the South African Book Awards

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Over the last 20 years, the South African Book Awards have recognised the literary excellence of books written and published in South Africa. (Facebook/ SA Book Awards)
Over the last 20 years, the South African Book Awards have recognised the literary excellence of books written and published in South Africa. (Facebook/ SA Book Awards)
  • Every year, as a part of the SA Book Awards, local bookseller select the best books to be written and published in South Africa. 
  • Following the success of his autobiography, Born a Crime, Trevor Noah published a children’s version of the book. 
  • Apart from Noah this year’s winners include Jackie Phamotse and Pieter Du Toit. 


Over the last 20 years, the South African Book Awards have recognised the literary excellence of books written and published in South Africa. To select the winning titles, local booksellers are given a shortlist of the country’s best selling titles.  

This bestseller shortlist is drafted based on measurements by Nielsen BookScan South Africa. Nielsen is an international literary institution that provides a range of services to the book industry. The services are aimed at aiding the discovery and purchase, distribution and sales measurement of books.  To celebrate its 20th anniversary while announcing the year’s winners, the SA Book Awards held a virtual ceremony on 1 October 2020. 

This year, the number of booksellers who voted for their favourites, based on shortlists, broke all previous records. The shortlists and winners for 2020 are as follows: 

Adult Fiction 

Over the last 20 years, the South African Book Awa
Shortlisted Adult Fiction titles at the SA Book Awards 2020. (Facebook/ Sa Book Awards)
  • Death on the Limpopo by Sally Andrew
  • Sex, lies & Stellenbosch by Eva Mazza 
  • Zulus of New York by Zakes Mda 
  • Bare by Jackie Phamotse 

The adult fiction prize went to Jackie Phamotse for Bare: The Cradle of the Hockey Club. On winning, Phamotse described the award as an honour, thanking everyone who has supported her over the years.

Adult Non-Fiction 

Shortlisted Adult Non-fiction titles at the 2020 S
Shortlisted Adult Non-fiction titles at the 2020 SA Book Awards (Facebook/ SA Book Awards)
  • Dit proe soos huis by Herman Lensing 
  • Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule by Pieter-Louis Myburgh 
  • Betting on a Darkie by Mteto Nyati
  • Stellenbosch Mafia by Pieter Du Toit 

The award went to Pieter Du Toit for the book Stellenbosch Mafia. Du Toit thanked the booksellers and dealers for ensuring that the South African public has access to books; an act that has continued to encourage authors to keep writing. 

Children’s Titles (Fiction and Non-Fiction)

Shortlisted Children's Fiction titles at the SA Bo
Shortlisted Children's Fiction titles at the SA Book Awards 2020. (Facebook/ Sa Book Awards)
  • Die Groot Jaco Jacobs Storieboek by Jaco Jacobs
  • Zackie Mostert by Jaco Jacobs
  • Yes Yanga! by Refiloe Moahloli
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

The children’s adaptation of Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime took home the children’s titles award. Before thanking the children who read the book, the parents who read the book with their children and the teachers who recommended it, Noah said the following:  

Writing a book was a very scary experience but turning the book into a book specifically for kids was even more scary because children have a very short attention span if your book is boring!

This was followed by Noah being announced as 2020’s overall winner because the children’s adaptation of Born A Crime received the highest number of votes across all categories. This prompted Noah to praise South African authors. He encouraged them to keep writing because the country still has so many more inspirational stories to tell that the rest of the world needs to hear about. 

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