Karoo Books

Books Cuisine / Biography / Environmental / Jewish History / Healing Karoo herbs / Novels and stories / Photography / Tour guides / Town history / Legacy of Research



  • Olive Schreiner: the other side of the moon : Heather Parker Lewis, ihilihili Press, 2010 (link here for a review)

Karoo cuisine is becoming more celebrated (these make beautiful gifts!)

  • Family Favourites :
    Union Primary School, Graaff-Reinet, Karoo, 2007, obtainable from (049) 892 3848.
  • Karoo Kombuis/Kitchen : Sydda Esso, Publisher: Quivertree Publications, October 2012
  • Karoo Venison : Lynne Minnaar, Annatjie Reynolds and Albe Neethling, Sunbird, 2007.
  • Koekemakranka: Khoi-Khoin Kultuurgoed en Kom Kuier Kos : Renata Coetzee en Volker Miros, Lapa Uitgewers, 2009.
  • Prickly Pears & Pomegranates : Bernadette le Roux and Marianne Palmer Publisher: Quivertree Publications, October 2008 (Also published in Afrikaans as Marmelade & Moerkoffie) (link here for a review)
  • Tales of life, love and food in the Karoo : Lynn Bedford Hall, Fig Jam and Foxtrot, Struik Publishers, 2003
  • The Karoo Cookbook : Rose Willis, Struik Publishers (2008)

Several books describe and analyse Karoo flora, fauna, ecology, farm technology and pre-history

  • A Millimetre of Dust: Visiting Ancestral Sites :
    Julia Martin, Kwela Books, 2008
  • Bossieveld : Grazing plants of the Karoo and karoo-like areas : PM le Roux et al, CTP Boekdrukkers, Kaapstad, 1994
  • Global Deserts Outlook :
    Exequiel Ezcurra, United Nations Environmental Programme, 2006.
  • Karoo Rock Engravings: Follow the San … : John Parkington, David Morris and Neil Rusch, Creda Communications, 2008.
  • Namaqualand: Garden of the Gods : Freeman Patterson, Key Porter Books, Canada, 1984.
  • Prickly Pear: The Social History of a Plant in the Eastern Cape : William Beinart and Luvuyo Wotshela,Wits University Press, 2012
  • San Rock Engravings – Marking the Karoo Landscape : John Parkington, Struik Travel & Heritage, 2010 (link for a review)
  • The Karoo: Ecological Patterns and Processes :W. Richard J. Dean, Suzanne Milton ,Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (June 28, 1999) (link for more info)
  • The Story of Earth and Life: A Southern African perspective on a 4.6-bilion-year journey : Terence McCarthy and Bruce Rubidge, Kumba Resources/Struik, 2005.
  • Windpumps in South Africa : James Walton, Human and Rousseau, Cape Town, 1998.

Some Karoo botanical books focus primarily on the healing aspects of Karoo and its herbs

  • Koekemakranka: Khoi-Khoin Kultuurgoed en Kom Kuier Kos : Renata Coetzee en Volker Miros, Lapa Uitgewers, 2009.
  • Muthi and Myths, from the African Bush :  Heather Dugmore and Ben-Erik van Wyk, Marula Books, 2008.
  • Roer My: Die Antieke Helingskuns van die Karoo-veld : Antoinnette Pienaar, Kruidjie, Umuzi Publishers, Roggebaai, 2008
  • Stoep Zen : Antony Osler, Jacana Media, 2008 (link for more info)

Jewish histories of the Karoo

Several splendid volumes refer to the notable heritage of Jewish families in the Karoo, who were often the backbone of the local economy. The following books are of interest:

  • A History of the Jews in South Africa, from the earliest times to 1895, South African Jewish Board of Deputies : Louis Herrman, Johannesburg, 1935
  • Aliwal : Adam Yamey, 2010 (It may be purchased as a paperback or downloadable file at: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/aliwal/12558619)
  • The Jews in South Africa: A History : Gustav Saron and Louis Hotz, Oxford University Press, 1955
  • The Jews in South Africa: An illustrated history : Richard Mendelsohn and Milton Shain, Johanthan Ball Publishers, Cape Town, 2008
  • Jewish Life in the South African Country Communities : The South African Friends of Beth Hatefutsoth, 2007 (museum@beyachad.co.za)
  • Vol 2: Boland, Busahmanland, Central Karoo, Fairest Cape, Griqualand West, Kalahari, Koup, Namaqualand, Swartland, West Coast
  • Vol 3: Camdeboo, Cape Midlands, Garden Route, Griqualand East and Transkei, Lankloof, Little Karoo, Norht Eastern Cape, Overberg, Settler Country.

Karoo novels and Stories, recently and in the more distant past

  • A Town Called Elders – Reminiscences of a Country Doctor : James Hugo, Copies, costing R65 each, including VAT and postage, are available from Wordsworth Books, P O Box 1687, Sun Valley, 7985.
  • Die Goue Kameelvoel en die verhaal van Klein Karoo : Sue van Waart, Klein Karoo Kooperasie, Oudtshoorn, 1995.
  • Haai Karoo : Etienne van Heerden, Tafelberg, 2012 (Click here for a review)
  • In die Middel van die Karoo : Eleanor Baker, Human and Rousseau, Kaapstad, 1991
  • Innie skylte vannie Jirre: Griewapsalms en ander gedigte (Griqua psalms) : Hans du Plessis, Lapa Uitgewers, 2001
  • Karoo and other stories : Athol Fugard, David Philip, 2005.
  • Karoo Boy: Troy Blacklaws, Published September 5th 2005 by Mariner Books (Click here for a review)
  • Karoo Ramblings, short stories and tall tales : David Biggs, Struik Publishers, 2004
  • Manna in the Desert
    : Alfred de Jager Jackson, originally published 1920, second edition 2006, Brevitas cc, Howick, KZN. (Click here for a review)
  • Secret Fire: The 1913-1914 South African Journal of Pauline Smith : Harold Scheub (ed), University of Natal Press, 1997.
  • The Housemaid’s daughter (Previously released as ‘Karoo Plainsong’) : Barbara Mutch, Headline Publishing Group, 2012 (Click here for a review) (Click for more info)
  • The Little Karoo : Pauline Smith, AA Balkema Publishers, 1925
  • The Secret City – A Tale of the Karoo : Joseph John Doke, 1913

Published works which offer beautiful photographs and evocative text about the Karoo

  • 101 Country Churches of South Africa :Philippe Menache, Darryl David, Booktown Richmond Press, is available from davidd­@ukzn.ac.za, at R200 plus postage.
  • Circling the Great Karoo : Nicholas Yell.
  • Karoo Keepsakes : Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit, MLM Publishers, 2009 (www.karoospace.co.za).
  • Karoo Moons: A Photographic Journey : Richard Mark Dobson and Ruben Mowszowski, Struik ublishers, 2004
  • Karoo Pastoral :Tom Burgers, Published by Cedar Rand Press, Cape Town, Karoo Pastoral is only available directly from Tom Burgers by calling 021 987 1366. The price is R750.00 mikada@telkomsa.net. (Click here for a review)
  • Karoo Tales and Images : Nicholas Yell, Published by Springbok Press.
  • Manna in the Desert: A Revelation of the Great Karoo : Alfred de Jager Jackson, originally published 1920, second edition 2006, Brevitas cc, Howick, KZN.
  • San Rock Engravings – Marking the Karoo Landscape : John Parkington, Struik Travel & Heritage, 2010 (Click here for a review)
  • Step Zen: A Zen Life in South Afria : Antony Osler, Jacana Media, 2008
  • The Garden Route and Little Karoo: Between the Desert and the Dep Blue Sea : Leon Nell, Struik Publishers, 2003.
  • The Great Karoo : Leon Nell, Struik 2008.
  • Timeless Karoo: Discover the Sunlit Interior : Jonathan Deal, Random House Struik, 2007

Specialised tour guides

  • Brakdak: Flatroofs in the Karoo : (architecture during the 1960s and 1970s), Gabriel Fagan, Breestraat Publikasies, Cape Town, 2008.
  • Getaway Guide to Karoo, Namaqualand nad Kalahari: Out and About in the Northern Cape : Brent Naude-Moseley and Steve Moseley, Sunbird Publishers, 2008
  • Getaway Guide to Route 62 & Overberg; including Little Karoo & Langkloof :  Steve Moseley & Brent Naudé-Moseley, Sunbird publishers, 2009.
  • Getaway Guide to Garden Route : Steve Moseley & Brent Naudé-Moseley, Sunbird publishers, 2010.
  • Outward-bound from Prince Albert :Dick Metcalf, (It is available from the Fransie Pienaar Museum) Tel No 023-541-1172
  • Journey through the living deserts of South Africa: CM Dean, Dean and Associates, England, DeanAssocsLtd@aol.com
  • On Route in South Africa : BPJ (Rassie) Erasmus, Jonathan Ball Publishers, 1995
  • The Garden Route and Little Karoo:  Leon Nell, Struik, 2003.

Karoo Town history

  • A Journey Through the Owl House : Anne Emslie, Penguin Books, 2003 and 2009.
  • A Most Awful Excitement: The Boer War Diary of Gerrit Sem of Philippolis : Doreen Atkinson, Sun Media, Bloemfontein, 2012
  • Aberdeen of the Cape: A retreat of the future : Wendy van Schalkwyk, Westby-Nunn Publishers, 2007
  • Footprints in the Karoo: A story of farming life : Joan Southey, Jonathan Ball Publishers,1990
  • From Sea to SALT (on Sutherland) : Wolfgang Lange, Lupus Press, 2007.
  • Graaff-Reinet: An illustrated Historical Guide to the town including Aberdeen and Nieu-Bethesda : Westby Nunn, 2004, Elephant Head Publishers
  • Klipplaat and Waterford : Westby Nunn, Jansenville, 2010, Westby Nunn Publishers, tonynunn@iafrica.com, in partnership with the Ikwezi Municipality
  • Karoo Morning: An Autobiography 1918-1935 (in Cradock) : Guy Butler, David Philip Publishers, 1977 and 1981
  • Knysna – A Visitor’s Guide to South Africa’s most popular Coastal Town :  Leon Nell, Struik, 2005.
  • Koos Malgas, Sculptor of the Owl House (on New Bethesda) : Julia Magas and Jeni Couzyn: Firelizard, New Bethesda, 2008.
  • Murraysburg 150 Jaar : Izak Malherbe, Charl Conradie and Alida Pienaar ,2011, Costs R250 (Plus postage). It can be ordered from Alida Pienaar, 34 Spioenkop Road, Hartebos, 6520 Cel: 082 599 0366
  • Oudtshoorn – A Visitor’s Guide to the Ostrich Capital of the World : Leon Nell, Struik, 2005.
  • Prince Albert : Landmark events, colourful characters and the lifestyle of an historic Karoo town, Formsxpress Publishers, Cape Town 2005
  • Traveller’s Joy: A journey into the Eastern Karoo : Bartle Logie, 2001, Bluecliff Publishers
  • Water in the Wilderness: A journey down the Great Fish River : Bartle Logie, 2006, Bluecliff Publishers, Port Elizabeth

The Legacy of Socio-economic Research in the Karoo

  • Roots and Routes: Karretjie People of the Great Karoo: Michael de Jongh,Unisa Press. 2012 (link for more info)
  • Baviaanskloof – A World Apart : Liesl Hatting -The book can be ordered from Anina at bokloof@telkomsa.net. Tel : 044 923 2192(link for more info)
  • Prickly Pear: The Social History of a Plant in the Eastern Cape : William Beinart and Luvuyo Wotshela,Wits University Press, 2012
  • Sonic Spaces of the Karoo : Marie Jorritsma, Published by Temple University Press 2006 (link for more info)

In the Karoo, the bulk of socio-economic research was done in the 1970s, when several key reports and theses on socio-economic issues were completed. Significantly, this research involved the University of the Free State and Rhodes University, and it is only apt that a new partnership is created on these foundations. These reports include the 5-volume Midlands-Karoo (“Mid-Kar”) study, done by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Rhodes University)

  • Gillian Cook, Towns of the Cape Midlands and Eastern Karoo (1971)
  • ML Truu, Human Resources in the Karoo (1971)
  • JB McI Daniel, A Geographic Analysis of Farming (1975)
  • JJ Badenhorst, A Geographical Study (1971)
  • Jesmond Blumenfeld, The Economic Structure of the Cape Midlands and Karroo Region: A sectoral and spatial survey (n.d.).

In addition, several theses were completed under the auspices of the University of the Free State:

  • W.A. Ferreira, Makro-ekonomiese Struktuurveranderings in die Sentraal-Karoo (1972, MSC Agric)
  • C.S. Blignaut, Die Plaasprobleem, met besondere verwysing na die Sentraal-Karoo (1972, PhD, Agriculture)
  • W.J.H. Vrey, ‘n Demografiese Sosiologiese Studie van die Blanke Bevolking in die Sentraal-Karoo (Instituut vir Sosiale en Ekonomiese Navorsing, UFS, 1974).
  • C.F. Le Clus, Dienssentrums in die Sentraal-Karoo (Instituut vir Sosiale en Ekonomiese Navorsing, UFS, 1974).

A further study, under the auspices of the University of Stellenbosch, was done by P.J. Eloff, Sentraleplekverval in die Sentraal en Westelike Karoo (MAGeography, 1978).

These studies provide valuable baseline information to assist in longitudinal studies of changes in the Karoo. Given the strong role played by Rhodes University and the University of the Free State in the past, this programme proposal envisages a partnership between them in future. Other than these studies, the knowledge base on the Karoo and surrounding arid areas remains patchy.

There have been several studies of specific towns. The most recent is Saul Debow’s study of 17th Century Graaff-Reinet (“Land, Labour and Merchant Capital”, UCT, 1982). Another scholarly study of Graaff-Reinet was done by Kenneth Wyndham Smith (From Frontier to Midlands, ISER, Rhodes, 1976). Other town-based histories have been written on Philipstown (1963), Edenburg (1963), Jansenville (1956), Steytlerville (2003), Philippolis (2005), Victoria West (1959), Bethulie (1963), Cradock (1964), Griekwastad (1981), Koffiefontein (1991), and Sutherland (1986). These studies provide a valuable record of local history, but they tend to be anecdotal.

In addition, there have been numerous church histories. Examples are Bethulie (1963), Fraserburg (1951), Reddersburg (1985), Fauresmith (1998), Philippolis (1962), Steynsburg (1976), Laingsburg (1982), Douglas (1997), and Trompsburg (1998).

In addition to these historical studies, there are four other notable categories of historical works. Firstly, there was the 1932 Carnegie study on the “Poor White Question” (which also included some valuable information on rural black communities). Secondly, there have been several works about the Griqua community, including the NP Government’s Presidential Council report on Griqua land claims (1983). Thirdly, there have been several early studies on Karoo agriculture, notably H.D. Leppan’s The Agricultural Development of Arid and Semi-Arid Regions, with Special Reference to South Africa (1928). Fourth, there are numerous histories of notable Karoo farming families.

This progress on the ecological research front urgently calls for socio-economic, demographic and political research to be done, so that genuinely interdisciplinary research findings can be generated. Such research will be critically important for municipalities, provincial governments and other development bodies in the region.

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