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Sunday Times Literary Awards – Longlist

Jonathan Ball Publishers has eight titles on the longlist for the prestigious Sunday Times Literary Awards. This year marks the 34th anniversary of the non-fiction prize that forms part of the Sunday Times Literary Awards. The longlist was announced on Sunday, 16 June, and we are celebrating eight of our authors who made the list.

Jonathan Ball Publishers titles longlisted for the Sunday Times Literary Awards
Hiding among killers in the City of Gold

Mother. Nurse. Gold-digger. Cause célèbre. When Daisy de Melker stood trial in 1932, accused of poisoning her son and two husbands, the public couldn’t get enough of her. Crowds gathered outside court baying for blood, and she waved to them like a celebrity.  

Against the backdrop of Johannesburg in its golden age, a booming metropolis of opulence and chaos nicknamed the ‘City of Gold’ and the ‘University of Crime’, she had quietly gone about her sinister business while around her sensational crimes grabbed the headlines. There was the marauding Foster Gang, which left at least ten people dead; a dashing German hustler; a local Bonnie and Clyde; an innocent student walking in Zoo Lake Park at the wrong time; and a man who escaped death row to become one of South Africa’s most revered authors.

These stories are told in the style of a thriller and with riveting, kaleidoscopic detail. In Daisy de Melker, Ted Botha weaves together a fantastic cast of killers and con men, detectives and lawmen, journalists and authors – even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Herman Charles Bosman – to depict a grand and desperate city. For almost twenty years Daisy hid in the shadows but when someone finally spoke up about the suspicious deaths around her, it led to a trial like nothing the City of Gold had ever seen and spread her name across the world.

Shackleton, My Father and a World Without End

When Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance was discovered below the Antarctic ice in March 2022, 106 years after it sank, the world thrilled anew with one of the greatest survival stories of all time.

Acclaimed South African writer Darrel Bristow-Bovey has a deeply personal relationship with the story of Endurance and in this lyrical journey into past and present, into humanity and the natural world, above and below the Antarctic ice, he revisits the famous story wondering why it seems to mean more today than ever before. Drawing on literature, natural history, personal memoir and the thrilling epics of polar adventure, this is a celebration of the human spirit.

If this story tells us anything, it’s that in the face of self-inflicted natural disaster, we can still pull off a miracle or two. From the bottom of the Weddell sea, Endurance still whispers that not all is lost, and not forever.

Diamonds, Gold and Dynasty

As chairman of the Anglo American Corporation and De Beers Consolidated Mines, Harry Oppenheimer held sway over his family’s gold and diamond empire for a quarter of a century. 

In this first full-scale biography of Oppenheimer, Cardo has crafted a fully-rounded portrait based on unrestricted access to his subject’s private papers and extensive interviews with Oppenheimer’s relatives and close associates. Cardo brings to life the places, people and events that shaped Oppenheimer’s career at the intersection of business and politics.

From the diamond fields of Kimberley, where his father, Ernest, arrived to seek his fortune shortly after the death of Cecil John Rhodes, through the heir’s long apprenticeship, to Harry Oppenheimer’s emergence on the world stage as a magnate and monarch in his own right – Cardo tells the story of a dynasty.

How Classification Became Culture

Coloured as an ethnicity and racial demographic is intertwined in the creation of the South Africa we have today. Yet often, Coloured communities are disdained as people with no clear heritage or culture — ‘not being black enough or white enough.’

Coloured challenges this notion and presents a different angle to that narrative. It delves into the history of Coloured people as descendants of indigenous Africans and a people whose identity was shaped by colonisation, slavery, and the racial political hierarchy it created.

Although rooted in a difficult history, this book is also about the culture that Coloured communities have created for themselves through food, music, and shared lived experiences in communities such as Eldorado Park, Eersterus, and Wentworth.

Coloured is a reflection on, and celebration of Coloured identities as lived experiences.

An Intimate Portrait of a Brave and Bewildered Nation

A dozen years in the making, The Inheritors weaves together the stories of three ordinary South Africans over five tumultuous decades in a sweeping and exquisite look at what really happens when a country resolves to end white supremacy.

  1. Political activist Dipuo, who fought to take down history’s strictest segregationist system.
  2. Dipuo’s daughter Malaika, who excels brilliantly after segregation’s collapse but wrestles with her relationship to her mother and her duty to her country.
  3. And Christo, one of the last White South Africans drafted to fight for apartheid as it crumbled around him.

All three, and many others, had to remake their own lives while facing huge questions: What do we owe to history? And what will people who care about being good do when the meaning of right action changes nearly overnight? 

Chris Hani’s murder and the week Nelson Mandela averted civil war

Johannesburg. Easter weekend. 1993. Chris Hani, the charismatic ANC leader, is shot and killed outside his home by white supremacist Janusz Waluś. The aim of the assassination is simple and chilling: to tip the country into all-out civil war.

Twenty-two-year-old rookie journalist Justice Malala was one of the first people at the crime scene and he covered the growing chaos of the next nine days – the protests and police brutality, reprisal killings, arson and calls for paramilitary units to get combat ready.

On the 30th anniversary of Hani’s death, Malala revisits the unforgettable events of these nine days. Unspooling political history in the style of a thriller, he takes the reader into the thought processes and consequential actions of the key players.

Through vivid archival research and revealing original interviews, Malala digs into questions that were never fully answered amid the tumult of the time: how influential were far-right elements within the government in inciting and even planning the assassination? And as the time bomb ticked, how did Mandela, De Klerk and their close confidants – despite provocation and their own fears – work together to choose the path of peace?

Aged eighteen, Caster Semenya shot to fame on the global sporting stage for her blistering speed. But shrouding her monumental win were fierce rumours about her physical body rather than her phenomenal performance.

Called ‘a threat to the sport’ and ‘not woman enough’, she found herself at the centre of the debate around the newly drawn line between gender and sport. Throughout the intense speculation, harmful rumours and long legal battle she has remained quiet, letting her running do the talking until she was banned from competing and defending her Olympic title in 2020.

Now, Caster is ready to own her story and tell it in full. In this book, Caster speaks openly about growing up in a loving family and community that never regarded her as different, just Caster; of her early years understanding her agency, sexuality and athletic ability; and of her infectious spirit and tenacity to be the best.

Portrait of a Marriage

One of the most celebrated political leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela has been written about by many biographers and historians. But in one crucial area, his life remains largely untold: his marriage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

During his years in prison, Nelson grew ever more in love with an idealised version of his wife, courting her in his letters as if they were young lovers frozen in time. But Winnie, every bit his political equal, found herself increasingly estranged from her jailed husband’s politics.

Behind his back, she was trying to orchestrate an armed seizure of power, a path he feared would lead to an endless war.

Jonny Steinberg tells the tale of this unique marriage – its longings, its obsessions, its deceits – making South African history a page-turning political biography.

Winnie and Nelson is a modern epic in which trauma doesn’t affect just the couple at its centre, but an entire nation. It is also a Shakespearean drama in which bonds of love and commitment mingle with timeless questions of revolution, such as whether to seek retribution or a negotiated peace.

Steinberg reveals, with power and tender emotional insight, how far these forever entwined leaders would go for each other and where they drew the line. For in the end, both knew theirs was not simply a marriage, but a struggle to define anti-apartheid policy itself.

Wild Nature in the Age of Climate Breakdown

A revelatory exploration of climate change from the perspective of wild species and natural ecosystems – an homage to the miraculous, vibrant entity that is life on Earth.

The stories we usually tell ourselves about climate change tend to focus on the damage inflicted on human societies by big storms, severe droughts, and rising sea levels. But the most powerful impacts are being and will be felt by the natural world and its myriad species, which are already in the midst of the sixth great extinction. Rising temperatures are fracturing ecosystems that took millions of years to evolve, disrupting the life forms they sustain – and in many cases driving them towards extinction. The natural Eden that humanity inherited is quickly slipping away.

Although we can never really know what a creature thinks or feels, The End of Eden invites the reader to meet wild species on their own terms in a range of ecosystems that span the globe. Combining classic natural history, firsthand reportage, and insights from cutting-edge research, Adam Welz brings us close to creatures like moose in northern Maine, parrots in Puerto Rico, cheetahs in Namibia, and rare fish in Australia as they struggle to survive. The stories are intimate yet expansive and always dramatic.

An exquisitely written and deeply researched exploration of wild species reacting to climate breakdown, The End of Eden offers a radical new kind of environmental journalism that connects humans to nature in a more empathetic way than ever before and galvanizes us to act in defense of the natural world before it’s too late.

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