Your Joburg book list – what to read about Joburg

more than a year ago
Whether you're looking for a gift, wondering what to read next, or want to learn more about the City of Gold, our Joburg booklist brings the best books about Joburg into one place. We recommend supporting one of Joburg's independent bookstores or second-hand bookshops when buying these books.

Fictional furrows

Junx by Tshidiso Moletsane

Junx by Tshidiso Moletsane
The winner of the 2022 Sunday Times Book award, Junx is a rip-roaring ride through Johannesburg's nightlife as it follows one man's night out after he shares a joint with his imaginary friend Ari. Spanning Soweto and the city centre, this novel of anxiety, drugs and sex peels back Joburg's layers to sketch the collision of race, politics, violence, life and joy at its centre.

Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams
One of the first novels to raise international attention to the discrimination Black people faced in South Africa Abraham's tells the story of a country boy who has moved to Johannesburg to work on the mines. What follows is a forceful account of racism, poverty and the dehumanising nature of working on the mines.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Join Zinzi as she embarks on a gritty search for a missing person, with a sloth on her back. Weaving together elements of magical realism and sci-fi, Zoo City provides a unique starting point for exploring discrimination, Joburg's hustle mindset and the myriad of strange characters inhabiting it.
The Restless Supermarket by Ivan Vladislavic

Ivan Vladislavic
Born in Pretoria, Ivan Vladislavic has become one of Joburg's most prominent contemporary authors. Whether stitching together personal vignettes in Portait with Keys, exploring the post-apartheid transition through a supermarket in Hillbrow in The Restless Supermarket or sketching Johannesburg's unyielding sprawl in The Exploded View, Vladislavic's inimitable eye illuminates the people, problems and landscapes that make up Joburg.

Coconut by Kopano Matlwa
Matlwa's novel tells the story of a black teenager growing up in Joburg's white suburbs and private schools and is a brilliant exploration of identity and the difficulties of fitting in while mantaining one's blackness.

Between Two Worlds by Miriam Tlali
Set in Soweto during Apartheid, Tlali's novel problematises Joburg's spatial divides, discriminatory laws and gender discrimination through the eyes of Miriam, a bookkeeper at a furniture and electronics store. It provides an honest sketch of Apartheid and its dehumanising practices in the 1960s and still feels incredibly relevant today with Joburg's different and disaparate spaces.
Red Ink by Angela Makholwa
Darkly funny, this gripping thriller follows ex-journalist Lucy Khambule after serial killer Napoleon Dingiswayo contacts her to tell his story. As unexpected and violent events begin to unfold Lucy is forced to decide just how much she is willing to risk for the truth.

Dog Eat Dog by Niq Mhlongo
This coming of age story about a student in 1994 Soweto juxtaposes the difficulties of youth trying to embrace a new era with the immediate need to hustle in order to make it in the city. Mhlongo's first novel, Dog Eat Dog quickly established him as one of South Africa's most exciting young authors and it captures and questions Joburg's glittery allure.

Knucklebone by Nechama Brodie
Author, journalist and part-time musician Nechama Brodie’s debut detective novel Knucklebone is a crime thriller set in contemporary Joburg that weaves together a fast-paced tale of sangomas, disillusioned cops and animal poachers. The follow-up second novel in the detective series is Three Bodies which finds the two detective heroes on the trail of a serial killer on the loose in Gauteng. 

Joburg now

Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis
Edited by Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttall, The Elusive Metropolis brings together urban theory, personal essays and short stories to sketch the rapidly changing and contrasting environment of present day Joburg and casts it as a city of improvisation with a vibrant and increasingly important culture.
Wake Up, This Is Joburg by Tanya Zack and Mark Lewis

Wake Up, This Is Joburg by Tanya Zack and Mark Lewis
Wake Up, This Is Joburg brings together 10 essays by Tanya Zack written during her research on Joburg's inner-city. With incredible photos by Mark Lewis and frequent interviews, Zack highlights how the city is changed and influenced by the daily workings, hustles and contestations of everyday people whose dreams are as bold and vibrant as the city in which they live.

The Blinded City by Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon
Following residents of the inner-cities 'hijacked' buildings between 2010 and 2019 Wilhelm-Solomon's work embeds their personal lives and challenges within the ongoing court cases surrounding these buildings. An illuminating work on the issues of crime, dispossesion, work and lack of political representation, The Blinded City raises vital questions about who has the right to land in the city and what this entails.

Anxious Joburg
Through a mix of academic and more personal approaches Anxious Joburg asks what is it like to live in Johannesburg and in doing so seeks to embed it within Global South theory. The work is not overly academic and anyone living in Joburg, or interested in what makes its urbanity unique, will find something they resonate with in these compelling essays.

Up Up: Stories of Johannesburg's Highrises
Up Up uses photgraphs, architectural plans, stories, interviews and essays to look at the modernist towers which have become paramount to Joburg's iconography. The result is not only new ways of looking at Joburg's highrises but of urban life in general.

The Accidental Mayor by Michael Beaumont
Beaumont chronicles the challenges, achievements and failings of Herman Mashaba's time in office in The Accidental Mayor. This behind-the-scenes look at the contestations for power in South Africa's evolves to provide an analysis of South Africa's politics and its future.

Joburg's history

Johannesburg Style by Clive Chipkin
By tracing the history of Johannesburg's architecture Chipkin argues that Johannesburg, like Chicago, New York and Paris has come to develop its own recognisable procession of styles with Chipkin locating it in the global marketplace and Johannesburg's industrialisation. Few books give as comprehensive of a history of Joburg's architecture than Johannesburg Style.

Lost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser
From 20 years worth of photographs, maps and letters, Mark Gevisser sketches his path through the City of Gold. From his Jewish heritage, his first tentative explorations as a gay man to his present day experiences Gevisser provides a moving tribute to the city as he meditates on place, identity and home.

Literature, Life and Cricket by Yusuf Chubb Garda: Tales of Fietas
Stitching together vignettes, stories and essays, Garda's book looks not only at his days of playing cricket but also his experiences of growing up in Fietas during apartheid and the books that made him.

Coffee table books

'The Lemon Squeezer Church' from RSA 365 by Shaun Gaylard.

RSA 365 by Shaun Gaylard
This beautiful book brings together 365 intiricate drawings of iconic South African buildings. With text by heritage expert Brett McDougall it is a fascinating overview of South African architecture, its influences and its importance in shaping the city around it.

Johannesburg Then and Now by Marc Latilla
By putting archival photos of Johannesburg next to modern day photos Latilla creates a fascinating contrast between Joburg's history and present while highlighting the ways it has stayed the same.

I Love You, I Hate You
Bringing together design, t-shirts and essays, this unique collection of work by Love Jozi, edited by Laurice Taitz-Buntman, tells the story of Johannesburg in two parts and sketches a seductive, exciting, dangerous and often contradictory city and the complicated relationships residents have with it, as told through the lens of 32 different contributors. 

History of Johannesburg Street Names
This rare collectible gives the stories and backgrounds to street names in Johannesburg. The captions are short but taken together are a look at the different influences in different areas.

Firewalker by William Kentridge
You may have seen the sculpture by the same name near Queen Elizabeth Bridge. This is the focus of the book but it quickly becomes a book about public art and space, and the complexities of Johannesburg.

No Fusion by Stephen Hobbs
Stephen Hobbs has always been an artist heavily inspired by Johannesburg with his work appearing across the city. The work brings together prints, monotypes and words to archive his exhibition of the same name while also providing insights into public space and design in Johannesburg.

Skoobs Theatre of Books

Montecasino Casino and Entertainment Complex, Cnr William Nicol Dr and Witkoppen Rd, Fourways


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