Sunday Times books editor Tymon Smith reviews 10 of the best Nelson Mandela books
Sampson knew Mandela from the 1950s and was given complete access to his personal papers, to his friends and political associates, and to Mandela himself, to write the full story of Mandela's life. In addition to covering his years before and during his incarceration, the author assessed Mandela's impact as president on South Africa and the world. Sampson's stature as one of the foremost journalists of his era places this among the authoritative books on the man and his legacy.
Mandela's autobiography is required reading and helps illuminate what he went through to achieve what he did. The personal perspective is a nice complement to the more detached historical works.
Lodge, an acclaimed scholar who has written important studies of liberation movements in South Africa, takes a look at the sources of Mandela's mythic appeal and the extent to which Mandela participated in his own mythology. Drawing on a range of original sources, the book presents fresh insights into the shaping of Mandela's personality and public persona, from his childhood days and early activism, through his long years of imprisonment, to his becoming president of the new South Africa.
Undoubtedly the best of the photo-heavy books on Mandela. Colour photos make this a vivid portrait of South Africa - rural areas, poor locations and affluent city centres. Using a thousand images from past and present, the book moves from rural villages to the hectic metropolis, from District Six to Robben Island. It traces Mandela's footsteps through sites of public struggle and private development and illuminates many hidden places in the struggle against apartheid.
Magubane and Mandela. A great photographer's take on the great man. Man of the People documents the development of Mandela as a political leader, and also as a family man and friend. Magubane presents some of his most famous political photographs depicting Mandela as a leader through the various stages of the struggle. Through his relationship with Mandela, Magubane was given unparalleled access to his private life and his home.
This records a series of lectures presented at a seminar held at the University of the Witwatersrand providing intelligent insight into the meaning of Mandela as icon and leader. Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Wole Soyinka take turns reflecting on what Mandela means to them.
An important book in the Mandela canon if only because Benson went where no one else was willing to go in 1986 to provide this personal and sober assessment of Mandela's life and its relation to the ANC and the anti-apartheid movement overseas.
Also produced by the foundation, so not much critical perspective here, but the rare photos and interviews with everyone from Tony Blair and Bill Clinton to Stevie Wonder and well-written commentary by Mike Nicol make "Mandela: The Authorized Portrait" the most agreeable and lavishly illustrated of the coffee table celebration books.