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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Six eBooks to read this month

Almost Human, Lee Berger

Almost Human is the personal story of a charismatic and visionary palaeontologist, a rich and readable narrative about science, exploration, and what it means to be human.

In 2013, Lee Berger caught wind of a cache of bones in a hard-to-reach underground cave near Johannesburg. He put out a call around the world for collaborators – men and women small and adventurous enough to be able to squeeze through 8-inch tunnels to reach a sunless cave 40 feet underground.

With this team of ‘underground astronauts’, Berger made the discovery of a lifetime: hundreds of prehistoric bones, including entire skeletons of at least 15 individuals, all perhaps two million years old. Their features combined those of known pre-hominids with those more human than anything ever before seen in prehistoric remains.

Berger’s team had discovered an all new species: Homo naledi.

The cave proved to be the richest pre-hominid site ever discovered, full of implications that challenge how we define ourselves as human. Did these ancestors of ours bury their dead? If so, they must have had an awareness of death, a level of self-knowledge: the very characteristic we used to define ourselves as human.

Did an equally advanced species inhabit earth with us, or before us? Addressing these questions, Berger counters the arguments of those colleagues who have questioned his controversial interpretations and astounding finds.

 
Billionaire$ Under Construction, DJ Sbu

DJ Sbu is not your ordinary entrepreneur.

He was born to be great and refuses to settle for less. Have you ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a successful entrepreneur? How they come up with their ground-breaking ideas, how they turn them into flourishing businesses, how they deal with failure, and what drives and motivates them?

Billionaire$ Under Construction answers these questions, and more, as it charts the rise and rise of Sbusiso Leope, one of South Africa’s most dynamic entrepreneurs.

From his childhood in Tembisa to the global stage as a world-class musician and DJ, from music mogul and co-owner of TS Records – the label behind some of South Africa’s brightest young stars – and, more recently, as the force behind the country’s first black-owned energy drink, Sbu’s story is one of courage, resilience, inspiration and a refusal to let failure stop him. In his own words, you just can’t stop his go.

Billionaire$ Under Construction is a blueprint of Sbu’s success; an honest and direct account of the setbacks he’s encountered, including his high profile dismissal from two of South Africa’s most prominent radio stations and his equally notorious run-in with Forbes.

Sbu’s handling of these situations shows the triumph of his entrepreneurial spirit and the tenacity of a man who does, indeed, consider himself a billionaire under construction – and won’t stop until his goal has become a reality.

More than this, it’s a handbook to show other entrepreneurs how they can do the same; a slice of motivation to show them that it can be done, and a tool-kit to show them how.
 
No Longer Whispering to Power, Thandeka Gqubule

Advocate Thuli Madonsela has achieved in her seven years as Public Protector what few accomplish in a lifetime; her legacy and contribution cannot be over-stated.

In her final days in office she compiled the explosive State Capture report and, before that, the report on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence.

Praised and vilified in equal measures, Madonsela has frequently found herself at centre stage in the increasingly fractious South African political scene.

Yet, despite the intense media scrutiny, Madonsela remains something of an enigma. Who is this soft-spoken woman who stood up to state corruption? Where did she develop her views and resolve?

This book attempts to answer these questions, and others, by exploring many aspects of Madonsela’s life: her childhood years and family, her involvement in student politics, her contribution to the constitution, her life in law.

Madonsela once described her role as Public Protector as being akin to that of the Venda traditional spiritual female leader, the Makhadzi, who whispers truth to the ruler. When the sounds of the exchanges between the ruler and the Makhadzi grow loud, Madonsela said, that is when the whispering has failed.

No Longer Whispering to Power is about Thuli Madonsela’s tenure as Public Protector, during which the whisper grew into a cry. It is the story of the South African people’s attempt to hold power to account through the Office of the Public Protector. More significantly, this important book stands as a record of the crucial work Madonsela has done, always acting without fear or favour.
 
Get South Africa Growing, Brian Kantor

South Africans have been poorly served by the economic choices their governments have made.

The consequences of these choices are everywhere to be seen but most importantly in unemployment and poverty.

In this book Brian Kantor advances spirited economic arguments for freer markets and less government intervention and regulation of the South African economy; the book will add significantly to a layman’s understanding of how our economy works.

It offers a succinct review of all the key drivers that determine a modern economy’s performance as well as the key institutions of a modern economy.

The book presents an insightful review of the challenges facing the South African economy and its policy makers.

Kantor’s sound economic insights, enriched by his familiarity with current affairs and developments in the local political milieu and financial markets, make his book a key and important contribution to the continuing debate which rages around our failing economy – indeed it presents solutions which policy makers ignore at their (and our) peril.
 
Wintersrust, Joyce Kotzè

Two sets of cousins, one Boer, one British, find their destinies inexorably intertwined by the tides of history, as politics and imperial hubris drag them into the Anglo Boer War of 1899–
1902. Bonds of love and friendship, forged in the bushveld of the Transvaal and the drawing rooms of Victorian England, are tested on the battlefields of South Africa.

As the early stages of war give way to a grim campaign of scorched earth and guerrilla warfare, the cousins must make stark choices and risk everything.

Vividly realised and pulsing with passion and adventure, Wintersrust is a towering story of the individual’s struggle against events he cannot control. Some, pushed beyond the threshold of despair, do not survive. Others must find their way back to a place of peace and forgiveness.

Through anger and injustice, the family discovers that there is a force stronger than war.
 
My Ballerina Droom, Michaela DePrince en Elaine DePrince

Michaela DePrince was ’n driejarige oorlogwesie in Sierra Leone toe sy op ’n dag ’n windverwaaide tydskrif optel met die foto van ’n glimlaggende ballerina op die voorblad.

Daardie dag het haar obsessie met ballet begin. Sy het haarself daar en dan voorgeneem sy sou eendag ook so gelukkig soos die vrou op die foto wees.

Sy is kort daarna deur ’n Amerikaanse gesin aangeneem. Sy het egter nooit die foto van die ballerina vergeet nie. Toe haar nuwe ma bewus word van haar belangstelling in ballet het sy begin klasse neem. Sedertdien het sy nog nooit ophou dans nie en vandag is sy ’n hoogs suksesvolle ballerina.

’n Storie wat enige jong meisie (of seun) sal inspireer om groot te droom.

 

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