For the procrastinating philosopher: Essays by Michel de Montaigne
Not only did Montaigne invent the form of the essay, but his models of it are among the best in literature. Set off by his curiosities and fascinations, he wrote many short, provocative, and entirely personal pieces on the complexities and charms of life.
For political intrigue: Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
These historical novels show the political manoeuvrings that would give birth to England as a world power. The genius of Mantel’s fiction is in revealing to us what we thought we already knew by finely painting in details with her own insight and imagination.
For political provocation: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Orwell’s Animal Farm is a favourite high school setwork choice, which awakens us to the self-interest of the ruling classes. Nineteen Eighty-Four extends this vision, showing a government seizing control of people’s entire lives, and inspiring readers to enact justice against oppression.
For historical insight: Telling Times by Nadine Gordimer
This collection of stories and essays written by the South African Nobel Prize Laureate between 1954 and 2008 is a staggering document of South African history, fleshed out with clarity and passion.
For the poetry lover: poems by Ingrid Jonker, Mongane Wally Serote, and N.P. van Wyk Louw
These three South African poets reach dazzling heights of beauty and authenticity in their works, and are likely to move you deeply.
For the escapist: The intimate township short stories of Es’kia Mphahlele, the vivid South African novels of Zakes Mda, and the deliciously gruesome short stories of Roald Dahl. Add to this list the domestic thrillers of Gillian Flynn, the comedic novels of Nick Hornby, the dark and gripping detective novels of Raymond Chandler and the fantastical science fiction of Frank Herbert, and you have a wide variety of books to keep you happy throughout the year. These are for those readers seeking diversion from the real world, and for those who are hunting for alluring feats of imagination and fantasy on the page.