Shelf-isolation: what we're reading during lockdown | 9Lives
Reading Time: 8 min

The 9Lives team has rediscovered their love for reading in a time when, let’s face it, there’s not much else to do. Our preferences are spread far and wide, so you’re bound to find your next best binge read in the treats below. Without further ado, here’s our shelf-isolation lockdown reading list.

Elené

Catch and Kill: Lies, spies and a conspiracy to protect predators

Ronan Farrow

I owe the discovery of this book wholly to Angelique. First off, she got me hooked on the podcast (Catch and Kill, also by Farrow) and as I got more and more enthralled in this story, I went out and bought the book as well. The older I get, the more I lean towards non-fiction rather than fiction, and this brilliant piece of investigative journalism falls exactly into the category of factual entertainment that I crave.

Catch and Kill is the story of how Ronan Farrow embarked on this seemingly impossible journey of bringing media mogul Harvey Weinstein to justice. He faces career suicide and risks his own life in a process that ultimately liberated nearly ninety woman who have been abused by this predator in some way. Farrow ultimately walked away with the Pulitzer prize for the book and I would highly recommend following up the reading of this book with the Catch and Kill podcast where he gives a behind-the-scenes look at how all of this was pieced together. 

The way in which Farrow writes might seem distracted at first. It took me quite a while to get used to the way that he describes and imagines situations. If you want to get a feel for his writing, give this article in the New Yorker, which initiated the Weinstein manhunt, a try.

 

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Upstream: The quest to solve problems before they happen

Dan Heath

This book has been on my Amazon pre-order list for ages (if you haven’t discovered the joy of ordering books from Amazon yet, all I can say is: treat yo’self). The book finally arrived last week and I’ve been devouring it ever since. The idea of the book revolves around the idea of getting out of a cycle of response. So often in our professional and private lives we get so used to dealing with just handling one problem after the other without ever questioning the systems that continually cause these problems.

Yes, the book sounds a bit self-helpy. But I can assure you that is not the case. It is very business-orientated and provides ample case studies which you can apply to your own situation. One of my favourite business thinkers, Adam Grant, placed this book on his 2020 must-read leadership books list and also praises the way in which Heath is able to take these concepts and apply them to real life situations. 

To me, lockdown is the perfect opportunity to do some housekeeping and I cannot think of a better way than embarking on a mission to question the systems that we ourselves have put in place. 

 

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This land is our land: An immigrant’s manifesto

Suketu Mehta

I had the immense privilege of attending the Woordfees’ Skrywerslangtafel in March this year where Suketu Mehta sat across from me. I spent the entire evening talking to this Indian New Yorker about shared realities, immigration patterns, mobility and adaptation. 

What makes this book even more relevant than ever is the fact that we are facing a nearly worldwide travel ban in a time where people in the world are more on the move than ever before. Mehta ascribes this change in mobility to civil strife and climate change which has not only reshaped large parts of our planets, but has also changed the way in which we view the world. The book places a definite focus on the fact that the West is not being destroyed by immigrants, but rather the fear of immigrants.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m a born Saffer, determined to make it work in my home country, but that evening around the table and with starting this book I’ve come to an understanding that mobility is survival and that our ability to adapt to new places might one day be our key to survival.

 

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Isabel-Marié

Melk die heilige koeie – van Baarde en Banting tot Zuptas en Zol

Deon Maas

Melk die heilige koeie was in ‘n groot rooi strik gebind vir my verjaarsdag deur mede-skrywer, Angelique. Alhoewel ek dit al begin lees het, was daar net een hoofstuk wat ek werklik woord vir woord kon onthou en dit was waar Maas die stelling gemaak het dat Jack Parow die vader van die Afrikaner moet wees in plaas van Steve Hofmeyr. Sy rede? Jack Parow kry mense van regoor die wêreld om saam uit een mond te sing, al verstaan hul nie die taal nie. Steve Hofmeyr, not so much. Met daardie stelling vasgepen in my brein, het ek vinnig weer op die geleentheid gespring om hierdie boek nader te trek. 

Melk die heilige koeie is tipies Deon Maas. Blatant eerlik, uitdagend en vrek snaaks. In hierdie boek maak hy ‘n lys van unieke Suid Afrikaanse heilige koeie en plaas hulle in die kollig. Sonder ‘n wag voor sy mond skryf Maas oor homoseksualiteit tot selfie sticks, Huisgenoot, die Guptas en troufoto’s in Sarie. 

Hierdie boek is skerp en kontroversieel. Maar het ons enige iets minder van Deon Maas verwag? 

“Heilige koeie kan nie meer heilig wees nie. Tyd om vir onsself te lag en nie vir die bure nie.”

Heel gepas vir dié tyd waar jou buurman se stoeplig heel moontlik die enigste vorm van lewe gaan wees. 

Vlam in die Sneeu – Die liefdesbriewe van Andre P. Brink en Ingrid Jonker

Saamgestel deur Fransic Galloway

Nog ‘n verjaarsdaggeskenk vanaf my gunsteling mense in die wêreld, Lumico. En soos ek deur die boek blaai onthou ek my kollega, Nina, se woorde: “Hierdie boek lees jy soos ‘n Bybel. Elke keer wat jy ‘n stukkie lees gaan dit jou aanraak, maak nie saak of jy kronologies lees of nie.”

Die verhouding tussen die twee skrywers het nog altyd opslae gemaak en die liefdesverhaal was ‘n groot onderwerp in die letterkundewêreld en in die algemeen. Hierdie boek is ‘n samestelling van die liefdesbriewe wat deur die twee skrywers aan mekaar gestuur was gedurende hul verhouding wat begin het met die eerste brief op Sondag, 21 April 1963, deur Brink aan Jonker.  

Die boek bied ‘n blik op ‘n fase in die twee skrywers se lewens vol verliefdheid, gedeelde idealisme, meningsverwisseling, pret en die bevryding wat intimiteit aan albeigegee het. 

Die boek het ‘n hoe emosionele tempo wat jou sal meesleur. Alhoewel dit jou laat droom oor die liefde, besef jy ook vinnig hoe hierdie woordewisselinge die twee skrywers se loopbane en ander skryfwerk beinvloed het. Alhoewel ons weet hoe die storie eindig, kan jy nie help om aan te hou lees nie, behalwe daardie laaste brief. Ek sal nooit reg wees om dit te lees nie. 

“Ingrid, Ingrid, Ingrid: Jy wat in my arm geslaap het. Jy wat soms net myne was. Jy wat in jou mooi stem net poësie gelees het. Jy so helder en duister. So getrou aan my. Jy wat my vertroos en my mal maak. Ek kan nie sonder jou nie.”

Wie weet, dalk word liefdesbriewe weer ‘n norm terwyl ons in isolasie verkeer. 

Grensgeval

Marita van der Vyver

Tydens die Woordfees in Stellenbosch het ek en Elené die Skrywerslangtafel-geleentheid bygewoon. Dit was ‘n warrelwind aand vir beide van ons.  Net langs ons terwyl ek myself aan ‘n bottel Pinotage vergryp, het die elegante Marita van der Vyver gesit. Na ons ‘n geselsie met die skrywer aangeknoop het, kon nie een van ons wag om haar jongste roman, Grensgeval, te lees nie.

Ontmoet vir Theresa. Sy het ‘n brief tussen haar eks-man se besittings na sy dood ontdek en sy het net daar en dan besluit om die brief wat deur ‘n Kubaanse soldaat aan sy kind geskryf het terug te besorg. Daar is vir my ‘n bietjie naïwiteit in hierdie storie en die interessante karakters en ruimtes het my onmiddelik geboei en gaan aanhou so maak in hierdie “oorlog” teen Covid-19 waarin ons onsself nou bevind.

 

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Nina

A Good Man

Ani Katz

As I’ve recently stated, I’m in a bit of a reading rut so what better solution than a mandatory lockdown to shake me out of it. Granted, I will be spending a lot of time streaming series and playing Sims, but I’m hoping to make a considerable dent in my TBR pile which has some BODY. 

I am currently reading A Good Man and it is very odd. The narrator is a middle-aged man narrating his life in suburban New York with French wife Miriam and troubled pubescent daughter Ava. What makes this book difficult to explain is that I am not entirely sure what it is about? I know that the subject matter relies heavily on a preconceived knowledge of the #MeToo movement and gender-based violence and discrimination. Yet, it feels as if Katz is edging towards something, but the process to get there is cumbersome. 

Some reviewers have referred to it as running in the vein of The Perfect Nanny and We Need to Talk About Kevin, which is quite a favourable description. I am already halfway through and I can feel the big WTF movement simmering on the sidelines, I’m just waiting for it to come to the forefront. This type of suspense is not something I’m very used to, but now that I have started I can’t stop. Stay tuned for a full review.

 

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Tasha

House of Earth and Blood: Crescent City

Sarah J. Maas

This book is (impatiently) waiting on my bedside table, and I honestly can’t wait to sink my teeth into it during these 21 days that we have nowhere to go. If you have not yet heard of the brilliance that is Sarah J. Mass, you may want to check out her Throne of Glass series, or better yet, her Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Her books are delightfully unputdownable and I can’t imagine that her latest release will be anything different. House of Earth and Blood is the first book in the Crescent City series, featuring half-fey Bryce Quinlan as our protagonist and it is also her first “written for adults” series (not that her other two series had anything childish about them).

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.”

True to Sarah J. Maas fashion the book promises enough action, suspense, and romance to get your blood pumping despite lack of access to a gym for the next 21 days. 

 

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Darkdawn

Jay Kristoff 

As this series is one of my favorites of all time, I barely know where to start except to recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy. In this third (and final) installment of the Nevernight Chronicles our story comes to a dramatic conclusion.

We have our female lead, Mia Corvere, an aspiring assassin bent on avenging her family. We have her not-quite cat, Mr Kindly, and we have an overwhelming mess of family drama, emotions and ambitions.

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.”

I know, it sounds very sci-fi, but it’s way more than that. The writing style is very Terry Pratchett-esque (think entertaining footnotes and eccentric metaphors), with a storyline similar to that of Harry Potter, with classes and tests…. just a lot bloodier and a very real chance of dying.

Although I originally struggled to really get into the book due to the way the first few chapters were structured, I genuinely found myself unable to put the book down after a time, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with a dark humour and an interest in the Fantasy genre.

 

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What is on your lockdown reading list? Let us know in the comments!

Author

The girl with the sleek cut that can shop up a storm in a second-hand store. I love a good story, and I love it even more if it is told well. Don't like my blazer? Don't care. Looking for a short and sweet book or film review? You've come to the wrong place, my friend.

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