I didnt read as many books as I would have liked to this year so making a list of my books of the year is actually easy, rather unfortunately perhaps as I have no idea what I missed out on.
Nevertheless, here goes.
The Book That Ticks The ‘Fiction’ Box
I really really struggle to read fiction. But I try to read at least one a year. ‘Technically’ this is fiction…I think.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin was a joy to read. Jesus Christ had a decent number of women around him as we know so the question is – why didn’t any of these women tell their stories? ‘Patriarchy is old’ as a friend of mine put it. There really is no reason why we don’t have a female perspective of the gospels other than the fact that men were the ones in charge.
This is what this book tries to rectify. And it’s really good. It simply tells the story of Jesus from the point of view of a mother who is dealing with an ‘unruly’ child. Like any mother, she’s worried he will get himself killed…which is exactly what happened.
It will only take you a couple of hours to read but it’s definitely worth it.
The Book Aganga Should Read
Perhaps if the Honourable Minister were to read The New Industrial Revolution he would calm down a bit with gra gra policy making.
The first thing that hit me after going through the book was fear. I tend to read stuff like this with Nigeria at the back of my mind so it made me really scared wondering how much we need to do to connect into an increasingly complex global economy beyond just selling natural resources and goods with no value added. But then it also made me aware of the huge opportunities that abound in today’s world. The more complexity, the more new people are able to enter the game. It is chock full of interesting facts by an author who travelled the world to write the book.
An example – The BMW plant in Oxford here in the UK where the Mini is produced manufactures 200,000 in a year. Of that number, in a given year, only about 8 will be exactly the same, if at all. Pause and think about that.
If you like detail like that about the global economy, you’ll like this. Incidentally, Nigeria has an Industrial Revolution Plan but to the best of my knowledge, just like the auto policy, it remains a secret document
The Book About Government
I thoroughly enjoyed Mallam Nasir El-Rufai’s The Accidental Public Servant. It is only one side of the story, his side, but it’s a good version of events. The man obviously took notes while he was in government and was always going to tell his story.
I keep saying it, but the best part of the book for me was towards the end as his career in government came to end and his description of the transition to private citizen. The system we have built ensures that, for those who are made of weaker stuff, the bulk of their time in government is spent ‘thinking’ about their time out of office i.e. stealing to ensure they don’t suffer later. Or ‘existential hysteria’ as the novelist Teju Cole recently described it. And we Nigerians are as guilty in this regard as our politicians are with the way we lavish ludicrous praise and ‘loyalty’ on them while in office and then turn around to dump them once they are out of.
It is not only politicians who are simply in it for themselves. We the people are too.
This book remains a worthy addition to the discussion on how government works or more accurately, doesn’t work in Nigeria. Here’s a piece I wrote based on something I read in the book.
The Book That Is A Shifter Of Paradigms
By a country mile, Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works was my book of the year. What an absolute firecracker. The author is not a nice guy and doesn’t suffer fools gladly (you will notice this in interviews he grants to the press) so not a single prisoner was taken in the writing of the book.
The most important thing that this book taught me is that for a leader who wants to take his country to the next level in development, it is important to absolutely hate poverty. You must dislike it to the core of your being and then use everything at your disposal to fight it. Another lesson is that the greatest gift the successful Asian countries had was a gift for copying and copying well. They would send people around the world to find ideas and then synthesize everything into what they found to be the most workable.
I wrote a review here earlier in the year. Dont sleep on this book. So many things I took for granted in terms of development were thoroughly challenged and defeated by the evidence I found here.
The Book That Answered A Lot of Questions
If like me, you’ve always hated statistics or had stat teachers who you never liked, help is at hand in Michael Mauboussin’s The Success Equation. This was one of my most enjoyable books ever and completely changed the way I feel about statistics. I will definitely read it again.
More to the point, this book opened my eyes to a lot of things I have taken for granted. What is luck and what is hard work? You’ll be surprised at how much of a role luck plays in most success stories. But luck isn’t something to feel bad about or hate others for. You almost certainly wont get lucky just by sitting at home…you need to be out there to get lucky.
Looking through my Kindle, I realise this is the book in which I made the most notes. Chock full of wisdom from an author who knows his subject matter very well
The Book That Makes You Realise You Only Know Half The Story
When it comes to slavery and colonialism, most minds are already made up. But what I found in John Darwin’s Unfinished Empire was a thorough account of how the whole thing went down. Mr Darwin is no slouch and he is as even-handed as it’s possible to be on this subject matter – not defending the British, simply presenting the case as it happened.
There are of course lots of interesting stories in there featuring Nigeria including how when the British first landed in Lagos, they were kept at bay on their ship for weeks to the point of starvation till the Nigerians (or whatever you choose to call them) had pity on them and sent them food. As you can imagine, the story didn’t quite end that way.
If you are looking for how the story of slavery and then colonialism happened from a global point of view and not just Nigeria’s, you should read this. It’s an education. Or perhaps a re-education. But leave it alone if your mind is already made up.
The Book I Want To Keep To Myself
I only came across this book a couple of days ago while strolling across twitter. Checked it out and the premise looked good so I bought it. The word that comes to mind about The Business Solution To Poverty is ‘refreshing’. If you are tired of the whole story of ‘Poverty in Afreekahhh..please donate £5 to make a child’s life better‘, this is the book for you.
Unlike Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid which did a great job of criticising the whole aid model, this one criticises in a gentler way but then, recommends very practical solutions for businesses to make the lives of poor people better. No seriously, it actually tells you how to set up a business, what kind of business, to serve the world’s poorest in ways that can transform their lives. And no, you are not being asked to do it from the goodness of your heart – these are businesses that will make you money targeting the 2.7billion people who live on $2/day.
The authors – Paul Polak and Mal Warwick – are people who have actually done this type of thing. So this is not some unmarried hustler giving you the lowdown of how to find marriage in 3 easy steps.
2014 is the year when I want to put a lot of plans into place in terms of taking charge of my own destiny business wise so this book came at the perfect time. I really don’t want you to read it because it might give you the same ideas it gave me.
That’s it. I must do better in 2014 and fight the disease that is Tsundoku in my life.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year. Afterall, dead men don’t read books.