Nelson Mandela books: a selection


The world’s authors – from biographers and journalists to friends and comrades – have found compelling stories to tell about Nelson Rohlihlahla Mandela and a life lived with courage and conviction.

Mandela: The Authorised Portrait, draws on 60 original interviews with family members, close friends, colleagues, former comrades and many of the world’s leading figures in politics and entertainment. (Image: Nelson Mandela Foundation)

Brand South Africa reporter

Here’s a selection of some of the best books about the man we call Madiba:

A Long Walk to Freedom
By Nelson Mandela. Macdonald Purnell: 1994
“I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.’
Madiba’s autobiography was begun in prison, worked on for several months after his release in 1990, and finally published in 1994. At almost 700 pages, it is a hefty but compelling read in which Mandela traces his journey from the Transkei to his inauguration as the first president of a democratic South Africa. A movie based on the book, starring British actor Idris Elba as the Nobel Peace prize winner, was released in December 2013.

Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years
By David James Smith. Little, Brown: 2010
English journalist and author James Smith tells the story of Mandela’s youth and his rise within the ANC before his imprisonment in 1964.

(Image supplied)

Conversations With Myself
By Nelson Mandela. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2010
Drawn from Mandela’s personal archive, this is an in-depth and thoroughly indexed collection of letters, journal entries, meditations and recorded private conversations, including diaries and draft letters written in Robben Island and notebooks from the post-apartheid transition. Foreword by US President Barack Obama. Has been translated into French and Portuguese.

Mandela: The Authorised Biography
By Anthony Sampson. Updated by John Battersby, HarperCollins: 2011
Sampson, a former editor of Drum magazine and a long-time friend of Mandela, depicts the realities of the global leader’s private and public life. Originally published in 1999, it has recently been updated by South African journalist, John Battersby.

The World That Made Mandela: A Heritage Trail – 70 Sites of Significance
By Luli Callinicos. David Krut, 2000
Bringing history and geography together, historian Luli Callinicos’ book is filled with archival and contemporary images telling Mandela’s story through the many places associated with his life. From his birthplace in Qunu to the Old Fort in Johannesburg, where he was held prisoner (and which is now the site of the Constitutional Court), from Soweto to Mpumalanga, the images provide a historical context for South Africa today, combining to form a unique “heritage trail”.

A Prisoner in the Garden
By Sarah Groves. Penguin: 2005
Visually documents the 27 years Mandela spent in prison on Robben Island, including previously unpublished photographs as well as diary and letter extracts.

Mandela: The Authorised Portrait
By Mac Maharaj, Mike Nicol, Ahmad Kathrada, Tim Couzens. Bloomsbury: 2006
Draws on 60 original interviews with family members, close friends, colleagues, former comrades and many of the world’s leading figures in politics and entertainment. Foreword by former US president Bill Clinton and introduction by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Illustrated with 250 images.

Nelson Mandela’s Warders
By Mike Nicol. Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory: 2011
Examines the nature of the relationship between Mandela and three of the warders who claimed a close relationship with him during his 27 years in prison. James Gregory, Christo Brand and Jack Swart all remained in contact with Mandela after his release.

Nelson Mandela: A Life in Cartoons
By Harry Dugmore, Stephen Francis and Rico. David Philip: 1999
Documents an extraordinary life in more than 150 of the world’s finest cartoons about Mandela.

Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage
By Richard Stengel. Virgin Books, 2010
American journalist and now editor of Time magazine, Stengel collaborated with Mandela on The Long Walk to Freedom. Here, he revisits an old friend – and distils 15 “core truths” about Mandela’s life. This is much more than a book about Mandela: in its review, the Financial Times described it as the “ultimate manual on leadership and on how to manage a dysfunctional organisation”.

(Image supplied)

Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations
Nelson Mandela Foundation, 2011
While collections of Mandela’s quotes abound, this is the first authorised, fully referenced record of his “most important and inspiring” quotations. Spanning 60 years, the 2 000 quotations are organised into more than 300 categories, such as courage, optimism and democracy.

In the Words of Nelson Mandela
By Jennifer Crwys-Williams (editor). Walker & Company: 2011
A compilation of aphorisms drawn from Madiba’s speeches, interviews, books and court reports. First published in 1999.

Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation
By John Carlin. Penguin: 2008
A fascinating account of South Africa’s journey to victory in the 1994 World Cup. The story reveals Mandela’s wily strategy to use sport to heal the nation. Don’t miss the movie, starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, which captures the spirit of the time perfectly.

Ukutya Kwasekhaya: Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen
By Xoliswa Ndoyiya. Real African Publishers: 2011.
Xoliswa Ndoyiya was Nelson Mandela’s personal cook for 20 years. In Ukutya kwasekhaya (“home food” in isiXhosa), she shares 60 of Mandela’s favourite recipes, as well as belly-warming food-related anecdotes.

Hunger for Freedom: the story of food in the Life of Nelson Mandela
By Anna Trapido. Jacana Media: 2008
Examines the role that food has played throughout Mandela’s life: from his childhood and years in prison, to during and after his time as president. Trapido unearths fascinating and humanising stories, noting that in prison Mandela would speak about freedom as he spoke about food.

For children

Nelson Mandela: the Authorised Comic Book
Nelson Mandela Foundation, Umlando Wezithombe, Jonathan Ball Publishers: 2009
Excellent and fully authorised graphic biography. Expanded from a series of eight comics to help children learn about Nelson Mandela. The golden artwork is by a Johannesburg-based collective, Umlando Wezithombe.

(Image supplied)

Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (children’s edition)
Abridged by Chris van Wyk, Paddy Bouma (illustrator). Macmillan: 2009
Simple and powerful picture book, abridged from Mandela’s 1994 autobiography.

Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela
By Bill Keller. Kingfisher: 2008
A tightly and interesting written profile of Mandela by the former New York Times Johannesburg bureau chief, Bill Keller. Includes articles from the Times, as well as an excellent selection of photographs.

Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales
Nelson Mandela (editor): 2007
Collection of 32 “beloved stories, morsels rich with the gritty essence of Africa”. Numerous authors and bright illustrations by a diverse range of artists. Legends and folk tales from all over the continent. The award-winning audio version is worth seeking out, with contributions from actors such as Whoopi Goldberg, Blair Underwood, Sean Hayes, Matt Damon, Benjamin Bratt, LaVar Burton, Hugh Jackman and Samuel L Jackson.

Reviewed: December 2013

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