Someone once said that before you travel to a new destination, you should read a story about it — not a guidebook with facts and tips on what to pack and where to eat, but a novel set in a country or city whose mystery is yet to be explored. Memoirs of Geisha had us crying for cherry blossoms, and Shantaram lit up a Mumbai of colourful crime and impossible love. Joburg with her golden history and rainbow insides has served as a backdrop to moving, beautiful, hilariously funny and heart-warming tales. Here are some books that will you draw you closer to her core. We promise we won't give too much away.

A Dry White Season by André Brink

This may be a predictable pick, but we simply can’t justify not including one of the most profound contributions ever made to South African literature — it'd be like leaving Shakespeare off a list of great English playwrights. A Dry White Season tells the story of Ben du Toit, a schoolteacher with unquestioning faith in the South African justice system. Never doubting the Apartheid regime, he ends up embroiled in the inequality and cruelty that resulted in the supposed suicide of a janitor at the school. It follows the raw steps of discovery as a man decides to open his eyes to the reality of life around him. Deep, moving, inspiring and heartbreakingly personal. Keep the tissues close by.


The Restless Supermarket by Ivan Vladislavić

This masterpiece is not nearly as celebrated as it should be. Through crafty elements of humour, sarcasm, wit and endearing crankiness, the reader is swept into the internal struggles faced by a man as he grapples with and adapts to change. The Restless Supermarket is narrated by Aubrey Tearle, a retired proofreader of telephone directories who is trying to navigate his way through a politically shifting Johannesburg. A creature of habit, even the closure of his favourite Cafe Europa throws Tearle's routine and existence for a loop. It's an entertaining read with such subtle suggestion that it will stimulate even the most discerning bookworm.  

Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie 

For those who can spend hours in front of the Crime and Investigation Channel and then curl up in bed with a John Grisham or Peter James page-turner, this is just the pick for you. Random Violence follows private investigator Jade de Jong as she combs through the intricate details around an alleged hijacking that resulted in the murder of a very wealthy woman named Annette Botha. Jade's investigation also uncovers memories and mysteries that surrounded the murder of her very own father many years ago. Random Violence is gripping and captivating — everything you want from a crime thriller.


Dub Steps by Andrew Miller

A science-fiction superstar set in Johannesburg: Who'd have thought? Dub Steps takes you into a bizarre, comedic and fantasy-filled world where things happen without explanation and where everything works according to a different set of rules. And what better reason to read than to escape to a different reality? Roy Fotheringham, a virtual-reality-focused advertising mastermind, wakes up in a Johannesburg where everyone has disappeared. There’s no chaos or remnants of a devastating tragedy, there’s just absolutely nobody left. The Johannesburg he knows as a bustling metropolis starts morphing into a sort of Jungle Book, and other discovered survivors add their own mysteries and challenges. Does this all sound enticingly confusing and intriguing? We haven’t even scratched the surface yet.


Love Next Door by Amina Thula

No list would be complete without a romantic tale. Love Next Door is a chick flick in book form, a frothy, fresh read for those sun-soaked afternoons. The story follows Abby, a young woman who moves into a new apartment building and meets a welcoming neighbour who just happens to look like Tyson Beckford's long-lost twin. But ... does he have a girlfriend, or is she imagining things? Are they just friends or is there more to his flirtatious tone? You catch our drift, right? Lighthearted, fun and frivolous — just like your dream spring collection.

By Suzette Leal

Suzette only stays at home to watch Orange Is The New Black. She limits her fluid intake to water, wine and champagne and she absolutely doesn't get the selfie trend. Burma is next on her to-do list. That, and salmon fishing in Iceland.