What I’m Reading This Week

This week I’m reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a book I started many years ago but never finished but to which I’m returning because I made a resolution to declutter my reading lists this week.

The fiction book I’m reading this week is Blood and Bone by Ian Esselmont. Again this is a book I’ve been reading for the past three months and I’m like 80% through. Hope to finish it up this week.

Next week I’ll be finishing up Trevor Noah’s memoirs Born A Crime, which I picked up last year but never finished.

The review for Blink will be up on the weekend, perhaps so too the Born a Crime one. Both are enjoyable reads .

I’ve also been peeking on  Meditations by the emperor Marcus Aurelius, but I’ve already read that and it’s just for enjoyment’s sake.

What are you reading?

What Zimbabwe and the developing world can learn from China 

This post is an extended version of a Facebook post I wrote a few days ago. The original post also appears on Techzim.

For much of history China was one of the most powerful countries on earth; surpassing Europe and the rest of the world in almost everything, from industry and economics to technology and warfare. In the early 19th century China’s economy accounted for a third of global GDP.

The achievements of the Chinese before the 19th century are often understated yet, for example, the Chinese invented the three things that Francis Bacon said led to the scientific revolution – gunpowder, the magnetic compass and paper and printing.

China’s technological superiority allowed it to be a global leader but this began to change in the middle of the 19th century when the Western countries began rapidly industrializing, building on the back of scientific developments. Modern economies greatly depend on technological advancements for growth, even when other factors such as labour and natural resources are limited.

Why the slump in the China’s economy happened, and how China, since 1979 has started to regain its position as a leading economy is the subject of a book by Justin Yifu Lin, a Professor of Economics at Peking University and former Chief Economist and Vice President of the World Bank, called Demystifying the Chinese Economy.

After the Communists under Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 China made some serious strides, building a powerful army and even developing nuclear bombs. However institutional problems and other flaws of the regime meant China was still one of the poorest countries in the world in 1979, with a per capita income of $210. In comparison, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita was $736 in 1979 and $916 in 1980.

This changed in 1978 when Deng Xiaoping came to power after the death of Mao. In the Communist Party’s 3rd Plenary Session of the Central Committee held that year, the Chinese changed their fate by ushering in reforms. 

Deng in 1980 made a target, that by 2000 China should have quadrupled its 1980 GDP,  which required a growth rate of 7.2% every year,  a figure generally thought by economists to be impossible to achieve in the long term except after a war or natural disaster. 

It turns out Deng Xiaoping was modest in his demands, because China achieved an average annual growth rate of 9.9% from 1979 to 2009 (it has slowed down a bit since). By 2009 the Chinese GDP per capita stood at $3744 (Zimbabwe’s meanwhile had fallen to $594).

The Chinese, in 30 years, went from being broke and unable to feed themselves to making modern gadgets, (I use a Chinese made phone,  Xiaomi), having reserves in excess of $3 trillion and lifting an incredible 600 million people from poverty. 
I think this book contains important lessons for other developing countries like Zimbabwe. The first being that a leadership with vision is a prerequisite for development. We need our economic Deng.

A visionary leadership will allow for institutional reform because strong institutions are a necessary condition for economic development. This includes a tough approach to corruption, a respect for the rule of law and the crafting of laws that are friendly to economic development. That is why, for instance, the STEM initiative though a good idea, might not achieve its full potential, because of the lack of institutions and industries that utilize the graduates. 

Additionally, it shows how problematic the idea of “building a Silicon Valley” is, because a tech hub is not really physical, it starts from having the right attitude, from having laws that allow young innovators to import without ZIMRA bankrupting them and allows them to set up companies easily without the challenges of complicated and time consuming paperwork and a tax collector that is brutal.

Secondly developing countries can exploit what economists term “the latecomer advantage”, which allows developing countries to develop much faster than developed ones using importation, integration and imitation. This allows us to quickly develop technologically without spending as much on research and development (R&D) while also avoiding the mistakes done by the early implementers. For example you’d think we would go straight to optical fiber networks and skip ADSL in telecommunications. 

This is crucial for the growth of technology, which Yifu Lin identifies as the most important factor of a modern nation’s development. When people make fun of cheap Chinese imitation phones they miss two profound points- that the people of China are firstly able in the first place to manufacture such phones cheaply, and secondly and more importantly, that such cheap phones enable a lot of Chinese people to go online and therefore participate in the new and ever growing online economy. This has a trickledown effect in other areas, such as online payment systems, mobile app development, software development, online service deliveries and so forth. All because the Chinese can copy and mass produce cheap devices.

But because each country is different solutions should not be imported wholesale, they must be tailored to suit that country’s unique social,  political and historical circumstances. 

Indeed,  Yifu Lin warns in the preface that, “… the opportunities and challenges facing  developed countries differ from those of developing countries,” hence “when attempting to adopt theories from developed countries to guide their policies,  developing countries may be at loss about which one to pick. Even if they select one, the theory may not suit their conditions.” 

The responsibility, then, is on the scholars and intellectuals of the developing countries who by their positions are uniquely situated to understand the history,  culture and realities of their countries and should use that knowledge to formulate a system capable of transforming their countries. 

Importantly, Yifu Lin says, the intellectuals of the developing world “should thus deepen the understanding of their countries in all aspects including in political, economic and other social dimensions.”  Only then can they create a practical economic framework that addresses the unique opportunities and challenges of modernizing their countries. 

Developing countries therefore need to start giving more space to intellectuals and technocrats in public policy making. Much of our policies lack any intellectual grounding or academic background, which is why we recklessly throw around numbers such as $15 billion, 2 million jobs and others, even though there are no reputable studies to substantiate them.

After that the key is advancing technologically. But this requires us to have in place laws that promote our creativity and innovators, and obviously financial institutions willing to invest money in our ideas, not councils that try to demolish the few places we set up for creatives- such as Moto Republik.

Book Review: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harrari


A couple of weeks ago a friend messaged me on WhatsApp. “Go on BBC World News right now,” he said, “there’s a guy named Yuval Harrari talking about his book called Sapiens. You will like it.”

Due to some pressing commitments I was unable to catch Mr Harrari’s interview, but later that day I did a bit of googling and decided that Sapiens was a book I really wanted to read. It is indeed a blessing to have friends who know your interests more than you do.

That is how I found myself reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

Sapiens traces the origins of humankind right from the beginning. Despite not being a big book, the time it covers is vast.

Harrari starts at the very beginning: 13.5 Billion years ago , matter, energy, time and space time came into being in what is known as the Big Bang. 300 000 years later atoms formed and almost 10 billion years after that, about 4 billion years ago, life began to form on earth. Organisms belonging to the species Homo Sapiens started forming cultures 70 000 years ago. This, Harrari says, is the beginning of history.

All of this is on the first page. Indeed Harrari wastes no time, a book covering 14 billion years cannot afford tardiness.

Harrari divides his book- and therefore history- into three important stages. These “revolutions” have shaped our history which began 70 000 years ago with the Cognitive Revolution, followed by the Agricultural Revolution of 12 000 years ago and then finally the “recent” Scientific Revolution.

According to Harrari 2 million years ago humans were like any other animal. There “was nothing special about them” and there were several human species, not only Homo Sapiens. Yet, compared to other mammals, humans had larger brains. Humans however paid dearly for having a large brain, a bigger brain consumes more energy. Thus humans spent more time searching for food and, secondly, their muscles got smaller and we got weaker. Indeed, without weapons, humans are very weak – imagine a human against a chimpanzee or gorilla.

These huge brains – and the fact that humans gradually walked upright thus freeing their hands- ensured that humans developed tools which began a short, brutal and disastrous ascent of the food chain. This, says Harrari, was hastened by the domestication of fire. Fire enabled humans to cook, killing germs and made food easier to digest. Fire also cemented humankind’s position at the top. With fire humans could torch entire forests .
The ancient Homo Sapiens, it appears, were also genocidal. Harrari suspects that we drove our ancient cousins to extinction.

For most of that period Homo Sapiens was living in Africa and the Eurasian landmass. However 45 000 years ago our ancestors managed to reach Australia where they quickly destroyed the majority of the animals of that island. The same happened when Sapiens reached the Americas. Our reputation as destroyers, it appears, is tens of thousands of years old.

This period of between 70 000 and 30 000 years ago is what Harrari calls the Cognitive period. Humans developed speech, and started to form societies. The development of language and complex methods of communicating further empowered humans and led to what Harrari calls “common myths”, perceived realities such as religions, Gods, justice, and more recently, corporations, money and credit. These things allowed our ancestors to work together and form even more complex and bigger societies.

With humour and some frank admissions of ignorance of why some things happened Harrari rushes though the millenias. Humans hunted and made tools for thousands more years until they domesticated wheat.

Or rather, as Harrari says, wheat domesticated us. This second revolution, the Agricultural revolution, resulted in cities as men tended their crops. Yet Harrari says we were duped. The discovery of wheat he says with some wit, was “history’s greatest fraud”. We worked for wheat, we removed stones so wheat could thrive.

In exchange for food we got arthritis, slipped discs and hernia. The Agricultural Revolution if Harrari is to be believed was a trap. Our ancestors worked harder, got more ailments and had less time to relax. This of course is quite contentious.

Despite all the advances humans made they remained separated into relatively small groups minding their own businesses. However three “universal orders” would change all this. These were money, religion and empires.

The author writes about how these forces bound humanity closer to one another from Hernan Cortez in South America to the Arabs bringing the good news of Muhammad to non-believers all over the Middle East and Africa.

Harrari writes that at some point humans discovered ignorance. They realised that they did not know answers to the most important questions. This discovery was actually the discovery of knowledge. It launched, Harrari claims, the Scientific Revolution 500 years ago.

Prior to that philosophers and religious authorities claimed to have all the answers. Where they did not have any answers they reasoned that therefore man was not supposed to know such things. With the admission of ignorance came the scientific method, experimentation and observation with no (or little) preconceived notions.

This knowledge led to even more knowledge, and exploration of distant lands in search of both knowledge and wealth. Even then the search for scientific knowledge remained in the clutches of those who funded it, politicians, religious authorities and businesspeople. In other words scientific enquiry generally proceeded because some people wanted to get political, economic or religious advantages.
By the end of the 19th century humans had another religion: Capitalism. According to Harrari Capitalism succeeded because of yet another imagined reality- credit. This has been important in the spread of capitalism, industry and consumerism across the world.

With renewed flourish Harrari arrives at the present. He argues that we are not much happier than our ancestors and makes a case against  the mistreatment of animals and the increasing environmental damage being done by industrialisation.

Yet it’s not all gloomy, he concedes. He notes that war is now less likely and more people live in peace than at any point in history. This he ascribes to the now astronomical costs of war. In ancient times war meant territories and profits, now it means ruin and losses.

With the verve of a marathon runner approaching the finishing line Harrari concludes by predicting the end of Homo Sapiens. Homo Sapiens will either be destroyed by its environmental mismanagement or it will change itself through bioengineering to something that is not Homo Sapiens. Already, he says, there are projects that aim to make humans “amortal”, whereby in the absence of accidents or violence humans can potentially live forever in the next couple of decades.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is, despite the title, not a brief book. As expected from a book of such ambition and scope, there are areas where it shines and others where it feels underwhelming. Additionally there is the authors frequent , “frankly, we don’t know”, which while quite a welcome change from the usual cocky know-it-all attitude of intellectuals, also leaves some of the inferences made less convincing.

There are many insightful parts and Harrari, who is a professor of history, shows that he is a masterful storyteller particularly in the beginning and near the end. Even the slow parts are laced with wit, clear writing and original humour.

This is not like other history books. Don’t expect to see tales of alexander the Great or Hitler. Even Obama, the world’s most powerful man, only makes a pictorial appearance, and even then only as an example of how modern men dress. I guess when you walk through millennia of history you can’t concern yourself much with petty individual humans

This book is modelled along the same lines as Jared Diamonds Guns, Germs and Steel and Professor Diamond’s influence shows throughout the whole book. Those who liked Diamond’s book will find this one a good read, though less scientifically rigorous.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a riveting read which will linger in your mind long after the last page. You may find yourself reconsidering whether to eat meat or deciding to do more to prevent the environment. There are places where it will fall short, where the evidence will seem contrived and others where you will disagree with the author but I think that’s to be expected for a book of such scope.

This book, in my opinion, is one of those truly great books which deserve a permanent place in any library.

On ‘Game of Thrones’, Piracy and Fantasy Books

Kal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen
                                                   Kal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen

 

Before this week I had never seen  a torrent with over 100 000 seeders (i.e 100 000 people connected to the internet sharing the same file ). Yet at one point the finale of season 5 of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones‘, the wildly popular TV adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series, had over 200 000 seeders on KickAss torrents.

It became the most pirated series in history, breaking a record set by its previous season. I spent a few minutes on popular torrent sites just looking at the unbelievable numbers of seeders and marveling at the impact of technology. You see, I’m a proper geek.

The popularity of Game of Thrones and the extremely high levels of piracy also show how technology has changed our lives, both in positive and negative ways. The benefits of the internet can hardly be argued, instant access to information, sharing of data and social media are just a few examples. Without the internet many people who watched Game of Thrones would have had to wait for DVDs. In this part of the world that would have meant a really really long wait.

Of course the makers of the series will see things differently. They will, quite rightly, argue that those who download the series are criminals who should be arrested. After all, they are in the business for profits and the millions who watch the series without paying for it are defrauding HBO of millions of dollars.

So yeah, if you downloaded GOT you basically committed a crime. I’m not too sure about getting it from friends who illegally obtained it, or buying those fake DVDs in the streets. Not that you have much to worry about here anyway. Is piracy even a crime here?

Oh, and the reactions on Twitter were priceless. People seemingly haven’t come to terms with Martin’s highly unpredictable writing and his penchant for killing (or appearing to kill) well loved characters while letting wretches like Cersei Lannister live. There was outrage over the “death” of Jon Snow, Arya’s blindness, and the death of Stannis. In the books I don’t think Snow dies, he’s stabbed but it’s not explicitly stated, Arya’s sight returns and Stannis was alive in the last book (and the early chapters of the yet-to-be released Winds of Winter ).

I haven’t watched any of the seasons yet but I still think the books are better. In addition to giving you the characters’ thoughts and feelings you also get a deeper and more comprehensive view of Westeros, the East and the history of that world. And I’m told some details from the books are left out- for example I’ve heard there is no Strong Belwas in the TV version. What can be worse than that?

Whether one watches the series, reads the books or does both I think Martin’s mastery cannot be disputed. He wrote one of the finest fantasy series ever, and his gritty, dark and unpredictable style has become a template for modern fantasy writers who are changing from the traditional sword and sorcery, boy comes to age and villager to hero world saver story lines such as my favourite of all- The Wheel of Time. My only problem with him is the pace- it’s been four years since book five and no one knows when the book six is coming out.

If you like the series and want to read similar works, or just want suggestions of good fantasy series then I recommend Glen Cook’s Black Company, Anthony Ryan’s “Blood Song”, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle, anything by Joe Abercombie, Brian Staveley’s Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne and if you really want to read complex stuff try the Malazan series (about 15 books in total)

For the record, I did not download Game of Thrones- I’ve read the books and I don’t watch the TV series (yet).

Book Review: Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

Let me begin by saying Sh*t my Dad Says is the funniest book I’ve read in a long time.

Sh*t my Dad Says grew out of a Twitter account created by Justin Halpern as a way of sharing the rather acidic statements made by his Dad. The Twitter account quickly grew to over a million followers. At which point Mr Halpern decided to write a book.

In the book’s introduction, Halpern explains the background of the story: Halpern lived in Los Angeles where he worked as a writer while his girlfriend lived in San Diego, also Halpern’s hometown. So when Halpern was told that he could write (he wrote for some website) from anywhere in the world he naturally decided to move to San Diego to be with his girlfriend. The sad thing is he was promptly dumped.

Which was how he found himself living with his mom and dad (a retired scientist with a sharp tongue).

The book itself is short. Just the right size for a lazy weekend day’s reading. It really leaves you wanting more.

Written in blunt, conversational style it traces, in brief chapters, Halpern’s life from when he was around five, recalling his father’s acerbic statements. Each chapter begins with a one-liner from Mr Samuel Halpern (the star of the book), delivering nuggets of wisdom laced with uncouth language and serious lack of propriety.

The chapters also end with his dad’s views on a variety of topics, for example:
On my first day of kindergarten
“You thought it was hard? If Kindergarten is busting your ass, I got some bad news for you about the rest of your life”

and

On- Bring Your-Dad-to-School Day
“Who are all these fucking parents who can take a day off? If I’m taking a day off, I ain’t gonna spend it sitting at some tiny desk with a bunch of eleven year olds”

And after Justin faked the results of an experiment:
”You’ve shamed the entire scientific community. Fucking Einstein, everybody”

Sh*t my Dad Says is a great book that’ll give you a couple of laughs or more. Good to have if you’re gonna be on a boring three hour bus ride.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think I’ll be checking out more of Mr Halpern’s work

Rating 4.5 Stars.

Book Review: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

I just finished reading The Providence of Fire, Brian Staveley’s second book in his gripping and epic debut fantasy series The Unhewn Throne.

The Providence of Fire picks up where the first book, The Emperor’s Blades left. The Emperor, Sanlitun, is still dead and his three very different children are suddenly each thrust into vast struggles where their training hardly proves adequate.

Kaden, heir to the throne, and a pupil in a mountain monastery saw the monastery – his home for eight years – destroyed and the monks killed. The murderers of his father seem intent on destroying his whole line.

Together with a monk named Rampuran Tan, who is far more than he seems, he sets out to find the answers and on the way meets even stranger people. Unable to physically fight like Valyn his younger brother and without any allies and lacking the political shrewdness of his sister, Adare, Kaden turns to his training in the mountains for the solution. If he cannot save the empire, he will break it.

Then there’s Valyn, the Emperor’s youngest son and a highly trained warrior, part of the famed Kettral- a warrior unit which rides huge birds. Risking banishment and labeled a traitor for saving his brother, Valyn finds himself in hostile lands where a barbarian host is massing and travelling towards the empire. Valyn is a skilled warrior and able leader but he soon realises that the training at the Kettral island is inadequate to fully understand the world of politics and betrayal in which he finds himself.

Adare is the oldest of the emperor’s children, and the one most familiar with the political processes of the empire. After discovering that her father’s killer is her lover and the general of the empire, she flees the capital to raise her own army.

Staveley also offers a fourth viewpoint, that of the Kettral demolitions expert, Gwenna, a tough young woman who gives a new and interesting perspective.

In The Providence of Fire Staveley improves his character development, particulary Adare, who we see more of and whose shrewdness gives the story unexpected twists and turns.

The Providence of Fire also expands the world of the Annurian Empire, historical titbits are revealed and the geography of the world is covered more broadly as the characters travel unlike the first book which focused on Kaden at the monastery, Valyn at the Kettral island and Adare at the Palace.

A bigger picture also starts to emerge with new players who cast doubts on what the reader may have deduced or guessed. Il Tornja, who murdered the Emperor, is shown to have many sides and nothing is ever what it seems.

The book also introduces new powerful characters with their own agendas and offers glimpses into the working and thinking of the mysterious non-human Csestriim .

One of the problems I had with Staveley was that he seemed to reveal his secrets a little too early. While he does this still in The Providence of Fire, Staveley has the ability to weave a complex tale and the revelations will only reveal to the reader how little has been reduced. The complexity of his characters, particularly Adare, make them unpredictable and nothing in the book is ever what it seems.

The Providence of Fire is a great book one which I found hard to put down. It is arguably better than the first and a more compete read though it ends with a lot of questions unanswered and leaves the reader desperately waiting for the next volume. In The Providence of Fire Staveley cements his place amongst epic fantasy’s new greats such as Anthony Ryan, Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercombie.

A must read.

Rating: 5 stars

On my 23rd: 23 Books You Absolutely Have to Read

I will soon turn 23. Yeah, I was born on the 11th of September. The infamous 9/11. I also happen to share a birthday with the Syrian politician Assad, and 11 September is also the day when Pinochet overthrew Allende.

So as you can see, it’s a pretty famous day. Unfortunately (very alikely, fortunately) I happen not be famous but that can be changed by a leaked sex tape or two ehhh?

But enough of history and fame comrades and friends and on to more important issues. And what can be more important than books, good books? Well women, for one thing, or beer or having lots of money, or owning a big bank, a nice farm and a mine if you’re a Zimbabwean politician.

Yeah, yeah, all that. But let’s pretend that books are important….because they are. A friend recently said those who say money doesn’t buy happiness have obviously never been to a bookstore with money. I agree wholly with him.

Which is why, on the occasion of my 23rd birthday I will list 23 good books (more like 23 authors really) which you should pick up and read, if you haven’t already done so. The list will also hopefully inform you of my tastes, so you can give me a welcome present, lol.

So here goes:

1. The Holy Bible- Moses and the rest of the Gang

Well, coz it’s the Bible

2 Nervous Conditions- Tsitsi Dangarembga

“I was not sorry when my brother died.”- Opener, Nervous Conditions

Now what can be more epic than that? Without a doubt Zimbabwe’s greatest novel.

3. Wretched of the Earth- Frantz Fanon

Great book, one of my five favourite books. Fanon talks decolonisation, and the development of newly liberated states.

4. The Story of My Life- Joshua Nkomo

Written by Zimbabwe’s foremost statesman during the war for liberation. An essential for any self-respecting Zimbabwean.

5. The Autobiography of Malcolm X- Alex Hailey and Malcolm X

The greatest speaker during the civil rights movement. Malcolm combined sharp wit and a commanding voice, dazzling audiences and winning enemies and admirers alike. This is his life.

6. The Meditations of Emperor Marcus Aurelius- Marcus Aurelius

Possibly the most thought provoking book I’ve ever read. Timeless wisdom from a man who was the most powerful man of his time, yet one who always remained human. And strong.

7. Long Walk to Freedom- Nelson Rolinhlahla Mandela

It’s Mandela. Read it.

8. Things Fall Apart- Chinua Achebe

“Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements.”- Opener, Things Fall Apart

The most famous African novel. Its fame rests on solid achievement.

9. Devil on the Cross- Ngugi wa Thiongo

Ngugi at his best. And he might win the Nobel prize for Literature this year. So you will look cool if you’ve read him.

“Certain people in Ilmorog, our Ilmorog, told me that this story was too disgraceful, too shameful, that it should be concealed in the depths of everlasting darkness.”- Opener, Devil on the Cross

10. I write what I Like- Steve Bantu Biko

It’s Biko. He was the brightest of South Africa’s anti-apartheid activists.

11. House of Hunger- Dambudzo Marechera

“I got my things and left. The sun was coming up. I couldn’t think where to go”- Opener, House of Hunger

Brilliant. Mad. Brilliant.

12. The Lord of The Rings- J.R.R Tolkien

The king, the god, of fantasy. If you think Game of thrones is awesome and detailed, then what of Tolkien who revolutionised high fantasy. Nothing beats Tolkien.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

13. Dreams from My Father- Barack Obama

The most powerful man on earth, in his own words. Granted, he’s been tainted by power, but he’s still great.

14. The Prophet – Khalil Gibran

Gibran’s work has more wisdom per page than any other on this list.

15. Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness after the Digital Explosion- Hal Abelson, Ken Leeden and Harry Lewis

This book discusses the consequences of using the internet, the future and the privacy issues. An essential.

16. The Wheel of Time Series (14 Books)- Robert Jordan (with Brandon Sanderson for the last two)

If Tolkien was god, then Jordan was an angel. The epic (and very very long) Wheel of Time Series has no equal in fantasy when it comes to detail, depth, intrigue or richness.

“What cannot be changed, must be endured.”

17. The Black Man’s Medicine- Muzi Kuzwayo

“The black man’s medicine is the white man”.

Are blacks truly incapable of doing anything without whites?

18. A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

The most famous fantasy writer at the moment. He gave us the Taegereyns, John Snow, Sir Barristan the Bold and others. Read him to impress those who only watch the movies.

‘”A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Read all five

19. The Art of War- Sun Tzu

Two thousand and more years old. Still relevant as ever. To many quotes, just too many brilliant ones:

“To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.”

and

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles s not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

20. Animal Farm – George Orwell

The greatest political satire ever. Animal Farm is Orwell at his best- or perhaps his second best? There is also 1984, just as brilliant. read it if you wonder where “Big Brother” came from.

21. The Road Less Travelled- M. Scot Peck

“Life is difficult.” – Opener, The Road Less Travelled

It changed my life

22. The Importance of Living- Lin Yutang

My favourite Chinese. The greatest of them.

23. How to Win Friends and Influence People- Dale Carnegie

The world would be a much easier place to live if we all read this one.

[Disclaimer:

  1. This list is not the list of the greatest 23 books ever written, but it comes close.
  2. The list excludes some more political, Africa oriented books, which I list here
  3. This is a list of English works, or works, which are in English. There are other great books in Shona, which I may list at another time. ]