Reading To Remember & Honor the Life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela | Wyatt’s World

President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918–2013) was to lie in state December 11–13 before being laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu, South Africa. I imagine that most libraries have already put their collections relating to the antiapartheid activist on display and are quickly buying copies, as they remain in stock, of works they do not currently own. To aid those efforts, and as a resource to suggest titles to patrons for their home collections, here is a list of five books that address a range of issues, from Mandela’s life story to the history of South Africa.

  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson longwalktofreedom1213Mandela (Back Bay: Little, Brown).
    Mandela started writing his life story while serving a 27-year prison sentence, smuggling out pages as he could. This is one of the most accessible accounts of his history and surveys his life from childhood to his inauguration as president of South Africa on May 10, 1994. It is also one of his most widely known works (a movie version starring Idris Elba has just been released). Consider suggesting as well two of his other books: Conversations with Myself (2010) and Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words (2004).
  • Mandela: The Authorized Portrait. ed. by Mac Maharaj & Ahmad Kathrada (Andrews McMeel).
    Filled with photographs and facsimiles of Mandela’s papers as well as reflections and thoughts offered by world leaders, activists, friends, and family, this large and glorious commemoration of Mandela’s life is as much a tribute as a biography. Patrons may also enjoy Luli Callinicos’s The World That Made Mandela: A Heritage Trail; 70 Sites of Significance.
  • Tomorrow Is Another Country by Allister Sparks (Univ. of Chicago).
    Refer readers who want to understand how South Africa adopted majority rule to this illuminating and gripping work by noted South African journalist Sparks. He details the behind-the-scenes negotiations and politics among Mandela, the leaders of the ruling party, and the African National Congress on the long road from oppression to free elections; from enmity to reconciliation.
  • A History of South Africa. 4th ed. by Leonard Thompson (Yale Univ., Apr. 2014).
    The fourth edition of this classic in the field is due in April, but if you own the third release, suggest it to readers seeking a comprehensive record of the country—from its first inhabitants to Mandela’s election and beyond. It is a history forever marred by the effects of colonization and its long and harrowing reverberations but also one, as Thompson illustrates in his closing chapters, of great change and possibility.
  • South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid by Nancy L. Clark & William H. Worger  (Longman).
    In the midst of celebrating President Mandela’s life and achievements, it is worth remembering what he was fighting against. This clear and straightforward account of the apartheid system outlines the regime, its actions, and the long resistance to its dictates both within the country and outside its borders. Also suggest Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart: A South African Exile Returns To Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience.

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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at