Mzansi travellers’ top 10 books to read this holiday

A woman chilling at the beach while reading a book. Picture: Supplied

A woman chilling at the beach while reading a book. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 21, 2023


A recent online poll conducted by Flight Centre South Africa has revealed that 41% of respondents at least one to two hours a day during their holiday or “every chance they get”.

The FCSA survey also gave insight into travellers’ reading preferences – romance was the most popular genre, securing 38% of the vote, followed by murder mysteries at 30%, biographies at 20% and science fiction at 12%.

“As for the preferred reading spots, 43% preferred reading during their flight, 27% found solace at the beach, 22% utilised their waiting time at the airport, and 8% loved nothing more than peacefully reading in the tranquillity of the bush,” said FCSA.

The data shows that reading while travelling is not just fad but a norm and something ingrained in our culture.

If you’re travelling this season, here are the top 10 books to dive into, according to Flight Centre SA’s bookworm travellers:

The Girl Who Was Taken” by Charlie Donlea (Crime Thriller)

The nail-biting thriller revolves around the disappearance of two girls from a beach party. While one returns two weeks later, carrying the weight of memories she can’t recall, the whereabouts and fate of the other remains a disturbing mystery.

Donlea masterfully weaves a tale of suspense, past traumas and the lengths we go to uncover the truth. Mzansi readers gave this book a good read rating of 4.20/5.

Elon Musk” by Walter Isaacson (Biography)

Get an in-depth look at the visionary yet controversial entrepreneur Elon Musk. Isaacson, who shadowed Musk for two years, delves into Musk’s journey from his early days in South Africa to his ambitious ventures into space travel with SpaceX, electric cars with Tesla, and beyond.

The biography offers unparalleled insights into the challenges and triumphs of one of the 21st century’s most audacious business magnates. Rating: 4.47/5

Iron Widow” by Xiran Jay Zhao (Science Fiction/Fantasy)

“Iron Widow” is set in the nation of Huaxia, a futuristic reinterpretation of Medieval China. It’s a world where men pilot giant mechas and female co-pilots serve as concubines and sacrifice their lives for the fight.

The book’s heroine, Zetian (a reimagining of the Chinese Empress Wu Zetian), decides to change the narrative.

Challenging the deep-seated patriarchal norms of her world, she rises in power, leading a revolt and redefining her destiny. Rating: 4.10/5

The Girl in the Eagle’s Talons” by Karin Smirnoff (Thriller)

Well-known protagonist Lisbeth Salander returns in this title, set in a Swedish village,d Gasskas, spilling over with shadows of the past. Lisbeth has been named guardian of her teenage niece, Svala, a gifted girl who’s in danger.

The story follows a tumultuous landscape of politics, dark secrets and complex family relationships.

With every twist and turn, Smirnoff reveals layers of a society holding onto its traditions amid modern challenges. Rating: 3.43/5

The Valley of Horses” by Jean M Auel (Historical Fiction)

The second book in Auel’s Earth’s Children series, “The Valley of Horses”, explores prehistoric Europe through the eyes of Ayla, now a courageous young woman.

With remarkable attention to detail, Auel paints a vivid picture of ancient cultures, survival tactics and the indomitable human spirit, capturing the heartaches and triumphs of our earliest ancestors. Rating: 4.02/5

Mess” by Dudu Busani-Dube (Romance)

Home-grown South African author Dudu Busani-Dube has made waves with The Hlomu series, which was also transformed into a popular TV show, available for streaming on Showmax.

“Mess” is the fifth book and is known to be the most emotional of them all. It spotlights Lahliwe and Mqoqi as they try to salvage their relationship.

It revolves around themes of family, love and mental health – a tear-jerker you won’t be able to put down. Rating: 4.25/5

Autopsy” by Patricia Cornwell (Crime Fiction)

Join Dr Kay Scarpetta, a seasoned forensic pathologist and chief medical examiner, once again as she confronts a series of baffling cases in Virginia.

From a grotesquely displayed body by railroad tracks to a mysterious catastrophe in a space lab, Scarpetta’s quest for the truth draws her into a vortex of crimes that edge too close to home.

Prepare for some heart-pounding twists. Rating: 3.84/5

Double Indemnity” by James M. Cain (Crime Fiction)

Step into a world where love, greed and betrayal intertwine. Insurance salesman Walter Huff is lured into a sinister plot by the enchanting Phyllis Nirdlinger.

As their plans escalate, Cain delves deep into the psychology of obsession, offering a masterclass in suspense and roman noir storytelling.

This is a true classic for any reader who enjoys a great crime thriller guaranteed to keep them up at night. Rating: 4.06/5

The Embroidered Book” by Kate Heartfield (Historical Fantasy)

Witness the enthralling lives of the Habsburg sisters, Charlotte and Antoine, as they navigate 18th-century European courts.

Amid treacherous politics and sweeping societal changes, they secretly wield a powerful book of spells.

While the spells are powerful, each one requires a sacrifice. Rating: 3.70/5

Airborn” by Kenneth Oppel (Young Adult Fantasy)

Adventure awaits with Matt Cruse, a cabin boy, aboard the majestic airship Aurora. In a world where the skies are as vast and mysterious as the oceans, Matt encounters ethereal creatures, sky pirates and hidden treasures. Oppel crafts a fantastical tale of wonder, danger and the timeless quest for discovery. Rating: 4.18/5

As the year winds down and holiday plans are set in motion, ensure your reading list is as exciting as your travel itinerary.

Whether you’re relaxing poolside while on safari or waiting for your flight, there’s a book on this list that’s sure to stimulate your imagination and complement your holiday experience.