Cooking, cash and crime: These were some of the South African bestsellers in 2020

Business Insider SA
Best books of 2020 South Africa
South Africa's local best-sellers of 2020
  • In line with global trends, South Africans spent more time reading during lockdown.
  • Takealot's best-selling local books in 2020 show that South Africans were interested in cooking and managing their finances better.
  • Afrikaans titles remain popular, with Deon Meyer’s latest thriller topping the 2020 sales chart.
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In a year that has been dominated by uncertainty and forced self-isolation owing to the coronavirus’ pervasive spread, global trends indicate a surge in book reading as a way of passing the time.

While the print industry and brick-and-mortar retailers have been dealt a devastating knock in 2020, South African e-commerce giant, Takealot, has reported a massive boost in sales as shoppers turn to online alternatives.

Speaking to Business Insider South Africa, Karla Levick, Takealot’s Head of Brand and Communications, revealed the online retailer’s top-ten best-selling local books – across all genres – in 2020.

1. Donkerdrif by Deon Meyer

Best South African books 2020
Donkerdrif by Deon Meyer

This Afrikaans award-winning crime fiction novel by Deon Meyer topped Takealot's local sales chart. Published by Human & Rousseau in November 2020, Meyer’s latest offering tells a twisted tale of murder, mystery, and greed.

Two disgraced cops, Bennie Griessel and Vaughn Cupido, tasked with solving the disappearance of a Stellenbosch student, zero-in on the estate agent responsible for the sale of Donkerdrif wine estate. A bloody murder at the Cape Town Waterfront, mysterious letters and the antics of corporate crook Jasper Boonstra make for an immersive thriller in true Meyer style.

2. The Lazy Makoti's Guide to The Kitchen by Mogau Seshoene

Best South African books 2020
The Lazy Makoti's Guide to The Kitchen by Mogau Seshoene

Mogau Seshoene left the corporate world to pursue a career in South African cuisine and culture in 2014. “The Lazy Makoti” – the lazy daughter-in-law – which started as cooking lessons for Seshoene’s friend, a “culinary-challenged” bribe-to-be, quickly developed into a fully-fledged business.

Published in late October 2018 by Quivertree Publications, The Lazy Makoti's Guide to The Kitchen takes a simplified look at cooking, with easy-to-find ingredients and uncomplicated recipes.

“I’ve found that what most people want is simply to learn to prepare delicious and visually appealing food – the kind that will gain likes on social media – which is what inspired this cookbook,” says Seshoene.

3. Manage Your Money like a F*cking Grown Up by Sam Beckbessinger

Best South African books 2020
Manage Your Money like a F*cking Grown Up by Sam Beckbessinger

Multitalented author, Sam Beckbessinger, who has written “weird horror stories” and kids' TV shows, turned her attention to personal finance advice in 2020. Manage Your Money like a F*cking Grown Up addresses some of the common financial mistakes encountered by millennials.

“We never have to pass a test to get our Money Licence before we can take a new credit card for a drive,” explains Beckbessinger. “Most of what we learn about money comes from advertising or from other people who know as little as we do.”

The self-help book, published by Jonathan Ball back in February 2018, is labelled as “the best money advice you never got” and deals with topics like compound interest, inflation, negotiating a raise, and much more.

4. Banting by Rita Venter, Natalie Lawson, and Kim Blom

Best South African books 2020
Banting by Rita Venter, Natalie Lawson, and Kim Blom

What started as a successful Facebook group founded by Rita Venter, Banting 7 Day Meal Plans, which was inspired by the hugely successful low-carb bible, the Real Meal Revolution, developed into a cookbook in 2019.

Featuring 100 recipes, voted best by 1.6 million followers of the Facebook group, Banting focuses on tasty cooking on a budget while still keeping with the low-carb philosophy.

“They are not scientists, doctors, or nutritionists but decided to take back their health and help others do the same,” Quivertree Publications said of authors Venter, Natalie Lawson, and Kim Blom.

5. Unbecoming to Become by Ayanda MaNgubane Borotho

Best South African books 2020
Unbecoming to Become by Ayanda MaNgubane Borotho

Ayanda Mangubane Borotho, best known for her lead role in the popular SABC1 sitcom Nomzamo and current role on Isibaya, has detailed her journey in a personal memoir. Published in September 2019, Unbecoming to Become divulges intimate details of Borotho’s life.

From growing up in the impoverished streets of Ntuzuma, on the outskirts of Durban, to being ostracised for falling pregnant out of wedlock, Borotho confronts social expectations and cultural conditioning as a black woman in the white male-dominated corporate environment.

“By unlearning and reflecting on the untrue narratives girls and women are told and taught about themselves and learning a different truth, girls and women can begin the 'Unbecoming To Become' journey of restoring their identity, reclaiming their power and redefining their self-worth,” says Protea Publishers of Borotho’s memoir.

6. Cape, Curry & Koesisters by Fatima Sydow and Gadija Sydow Noordien

Best South African books 2020
Cape, Curry & Koesisters by Fatima Sydow and Gadija Sydow Noordien

Paying homage to Cape Malay cuisine and culture, twin sisters take readers on a personal culinary journey with Cape, Curry & Koesisters. Linking recipes to childhood memories of growing up on the Cape Flats, this book puts the emphasis on home cooking with easy-to-follow, quick and affordable recipes.

Published by Human & Rousseau in March 2019, Cape, Curry & Koesisters has been listed as the quintessential guide to Cape Malay cooking.

7. Kook en Geniet by S.J.A. de Villiers

Best South African books 2020
Kook en Geniet by S.J.A. de Villiers

With a history dating back to 1951, Kook en Geniet has sold over half a million printed copies and is regarded as a classic South African staple when it comes to home cooking. In addition to the more than 700 affordable, “tried and tested” recipes, Kook en Geniet offers kitchen tips and tricks.

The latest edition by S.J.A. de Villiers, published back in 2009, remains a firm favourite with Afrikaans audiences and continues to top best-selling charts year-on-year.

8. Dit Proe Soos Huis by Herman Lensing

Best South African books 2020
Dit Proe Soos Huis by Herman Lensing

Literally translated to “it tastes like home”, Dit Proe Soos Huis is the latest offering by acclaimed food writer, Herman Lensing. As an ode to his mother’s favourite recipes and associated stories, Lensing’s cookbook is as much about childhood memories as it is about the homestyle cooking which weaved those memorable moments together.

Dit Proe Soos Huis, Lensing’s fifth cookbook, was published by Human & Rousseau in October 2019.

9. The Stellenbosch Mafia by Pieter Du Toit

Best South African books 2020
The Stellenbosch Mafia by Pieter Du Toit

The Stellenbosch Mafia, written by News24 assistant editor Pieter Du Toit and published by Jonathan Ball in July 2019, continued to attract new readers in 2020. A look inside the opulent and shadowy world of the “billionaires’ club” – dominated by Johann Rupert, Jannie Mouton, Markus Jooste, Christo Weise, and others – The Stellenbosch Mafia studies one of the wealthiest towns in South Africa.

“Julius Malema refers to them scathingly as ‘The Stellenbosch Mafia’, the very worst example of white monopoly capital,” says Jonathan Ball. “But who really are these mega-wealthy individuals, and what influence do they exert not only on Stellenbosch but more broadly on South African society?”

From the corrupt collapse of Jooste’s Steinhoff to influence over South African rugby and political posturing, Du Toit’s analysis of Stellenbosch’s “old guard” has won critical acclaim.

10. You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich by Mapalo Makhu

South Africa best books 2020
You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich by Mapalo Makhu

Personal finance coach, public speaker, and City Press columnist, Mapalo Makhu, wants to change millennial mindset around money. You're Not Broke, You're Pre-Rich, published by Penguin Random House in September 2019, focuses on day-to-day money management issues while addressing topics like Black Tax, budgeting, emergency funds, savings, financial scams, and retirement planning.

Makhu says she wrote the book to help millennials “get out of debt and stay debt free; invest their money; and, ultimately, live their best life”.

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