Our country’s wonders ... through books

A Short History of South Africa  by Gail Nattrass
A Short History of South Africa by Gail Nattrass

Want to find out more about Joburg and Gauteng? What about gardens, beaches and our history? Kate Turkington suggests you read...

A Short History of South Africa by Gail Nattrass
Jonathan Ball
302 pages

Gail Nattrass says her aim was to write a short, accurate single-narrative history book that would cover South Africa’s history from 3 million years ago to the present day.

Given our complicated, controversial past, she has achieved no mean feat of managing to condense and clarify this history into her absorbing and comprehensive book.

We discover lesser-known facts and meet many of the people who shaped the nation.

Nattrass peppers her history with memorable anecdotes, such as when the Zulus defeated the British at the Battle of Isandlwana in January 1879, there was an eclipse of the sun at noon and the sky went black. One Zulu warrior is noted to have said: “Our eyes were dark and we stabbed everything we came across.” Another participant recorded that it was “a slaughter so savage that even God closed his eyes”.

Keep this at hand as an excellent reference book.

Secret Johannesburg by CL Bell and Lisa Johnston

Secret Johannesburg by CL Bell and Lisa Johnston

JonGlez Publishing

208 pages


This pocket-size book will take you to places in Egoli that you didn’t know existed.

For example, do you know where there’s a rock so strong that a coin sticks to it?

Or where South Africa’s oldest monument is? Have you eaten at a fine-dining home in Alexandra, visited a lighthouse in the sky or seen Nelson Mandela’s missing pistol?

These are just some of the secrets unveiled in this fascinating little book, and a visit to most of them won’t cost you a cent – you just have to get there.

The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge by Heather Mason

The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge by Heather Mason

R400 at 2summers.net

212 pages

This is another fascinating book to share with family and friends. Well-known travel blogger and photographer Heather Mason decided she would publish one blog post a week about visiting a place in Gauteng, and #Gauteng52 was born.

Read Mason’s interesting take on art galleries, a 150-year-old Tamil Temple, the Multiflora Flower Market, a kota restaurant in Tembisa, a steam train ride, a prison museum, Krishna’s Lenasia, barber shops, race courses, swimming pools and lots more. Then decide which ones you are going to visit.

The superb photographs will help you make up your mind.

Garden Style: Creating Beautiful Gardens in South

Garden Style: Creating Beautiful Gardens in South Africa by Melanie Walker with photography by Connall Oosterbroek

Sunbird Publishers

237 pages


Whether you have a tiny yard, an urban balcony or a big garden or plot, this beautifully illustrated and user-friendly book will inspire you to plant your own space.

Walker describes in detail how you can start and manage any of 19 different garden styles from rock and rose gardens to ones scattered with pot plants, indigenous flora and grasslands.

Each chapter gives you basic information on planning and planting, the best plants to choose, and how to look after them.

If you’re someone who enjoys being outdoors, it’s very satisfying to create and enjoy your own garden.

An added bonus – the photography is stunning.

Beachcombing in South Africa by Rudy van der Elst

Beachcombing in South Africa by Rudy van der Elst

Struik Nature

144 pages


There’s much more to a beach holiday than sun, sand and surf. This book introduces you to the sights and treasures you can find along the 3 000km of South Africa’s coastline.

Whether you’re a stroller, a dog walker, a fisherperson, a birdwatcher or just fed up with sitting and watching the waves rolling in and out, the author will show you exactly how and where to go beachcombing.

Look out for seaweeds, oysters and mussels, shells of all kinds, sponges and sea-beans, crabs, other crustaceans and jellyfish, as well as birds and mammals.

There’s even treasure to be found if you’re near the site of shipwrecks.

If you’re thinking trash, then be proud to know that South Africa is a member of the International Coastal Cleanup campaign and, in 2015 alone, 10 000 South African volunteers cleaned up 502km of our coast, collecting 68 tons of rubbish – mainly plastic.

If you are on a beach, don’t litter and maybe do a bit of trash collecting yourself.


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