Reading Up on South Africa

With the passing of Nelson Mandela this week, I thought it would be a good time read up on South Africa.

I  ordered Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, the story of how rugby brought healing to a nation. I look forward to digging into it.

playing the enemy





For those wondering where to start, I’ve compiled a short list of books and movies about South Africa. I’m sure there are many more (and perhaps better) items, but I wanted to confine my list to things I have actually read or seen.


Cry the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton 

This novel, which has become a classic, details the racial tensions in South Africa in the 1940’s. Extremely powerful.

cry the beloved country





The Covenant, by James Michener

Another great Michener novel, set against the backdrop of the birth and rise of South Africa. I think I am going to re-read this.

the covenant





The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild, by Lawrence Anthony

I picked this book put at the Cape Town airport a few years back, and didn’t put it down for the entire 12-hour flight to Dubai. It is about a conservationist who agrees to take in a herd of “rogue” elephants. The story of how he tames them and builds a relationship with them is amazing.

elephant whisperer






Cry, the Beloved Country (based on the book)

cry the beloved country movie





Cry Freedom

This movie is about black activist Steve Biko and a liberal white newspaper reporter who was instrumental in telling Biko’s story to the world. (Based on a book by the same name)

cry freedom movie





And finally, I found this article by Ed Stetzer on his Christianity Today blog, to be very helpful: Nelson Mandela Has Died: Some history, thoughts, and reaction from South African pastors. In fact it inspired me to write this post.

What have I missed? What are your favorite resources on South Africa and Nelson Mandela?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “Reading Up on South Africa

  1. Read Cry the Beloved Country in college. Hard read, but important. Read The Covenant by Michener – that took me about a year! So detailed, but interesting. Couldn’t bring myself to watch “Cry Freedom” but did watch “A Dry White Season” – also hard to watch but I felt I needed to watch something about apartheid to understand the atrocities that happened. Also watched “Sarafina” – it was a little lighter. I would love to borrow your Elephant Whisperer if I may?

  2. I’d add the movie “Invictus” based on “Playing the Enemy” with credible performances by Morgan Freeman & Matt Damon, among others.
    Also the movie “The Color of Freedom” about Mandela’s imprisonment from the perspective of one of his guards (James Gregory, who wrote the book “Goodbye Bafana”).
    “A Dry White Season” gives insight into the journey of some whites in their growing understanding of how brutal apartheid actually was when it wasn’t sanitized by those in power, but touched their lives directly.
    Mark Mathabane’s autobiography “Kaffir Boy” is powerful and brutal in describing his youth, growing up black in South Africa.
    “The Country of My Skull” by Antjie Krog was the basis for the movie “In My Country” with Samuel L. Jackson & Juliette Binoche about the impact of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
    “The Power of One” as a movie or the original book by Bryce Courtenay is particularly significant to me, as a tale about a young white boy starting life in rural Zululand, then shipped off to a rough life in boarding school. As he comes of age and becomes politically active, he finds himself bridging cultures & navigating the complexities of segregated S. Africa.
    All are powerful, difficult, and worth spending the time to understand the hard context out of which Mandela chose to lead with forgiveness & reconciliation instead of retribution. A truly remarkable man in the extraordinary choices he made for the good of all in his country, and will likely be unequalled in our lifetimes.
    I can also loan you my copy of “Out of the Ditch: The Mseleni Story” by Anita Theron (out of print) if you want to read the history of the mission statiion where I began my time in South Africa. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jon. I knew you would come through! The only reason I didn’t include Invictus is because I haven’t actually seen it. I will remedy that soon and very soon!