What are we reading this holiday? | Fin24
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What are we reading this holiday?

Dec 18 2019 13:57
finweek team

Undercover with Mandela’s Spies: The Story of the Boy who Crossed the Square by Bradley D Steyn and Mark Fine

I was on the lookout for Paper Tiger, an account of Independent Newspapers’ downfall, but got swayed by tempting words. 

Mandela. Spies. 

Not easy to resist such a title. At the centre of this engaging true-life South African tale of spying and switching sides, is Bradley Steyn who, as a 17-year-old, gets caught up in the Strijdom Square Massacre of 1988. 

A horrific experience that traumatises him and forever changes his life. 

This is a chronicle of his work for the apartheid Security Branch and his recruitment by the ANC’s MK spy team to infiltrate the sinister Third Force that was hell-bent on a race war. 

It is proving a riveting and involving read. Paper Tiger will have to wait.

Glenda Williams

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk 

Every once in a while, you have the privilege of picking up a book that you know, from the opening line, is going to be good. 

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, is written unlike any book I have recently read. 

Set in a remote Polish village and centred around a wonderfully eccentric female protagonist, this deeply intense book uses a crime story as a backdrop for investigating society, questioning humanity and weaving together a rich, humanist narrative. 

To summarise the plot would be to reduce it to a singular genre or commit the writer to a specific style, which simply can’t be done – and is probably one of the many reasons why Tokarczuk’s body of work earned her the 2018 Nobel Prize for literature. 

This holiday season I’m finding a copy of her book Flights. 

Jana Jacobs  

Churchill & Smuts: The friendship
by Richard Steyn 

As the Second World War ravaged the planet, two formidable statesmen – once adversaries in the Anglo-Boer War – put the interests of peoples across the earth at the pinnacle.

Sir Winston Churchill and General Jan Smuts forged an enduring alliance against the scourge of Nazism. 

And they succeeded. 

This book has been staring at me from my bookshelf for two years. 

This festive season I want to dive into an example of what people, once bitter enemies, can achieve when they have a common goal which they believe in. 

I’d like to see whether there are any lessons for South Africa’s contemporary leaders.

Jaco Visser

Mindf*ck: Inside Cambridge Analytica’s Plot to Break the World by Christopher Wylie

Mindf*ck by data consultant Christopher Wylie encapsulates the prognosis that the next world war will not be fought with guns, but with information. 

He takes us behind political warfare operations not any different to Stratcom or Bell Pottinger: same dog (disinformation and propaganda), different tricks (social media).

Wylie helped set up and then take down Cambridge Analytica (CA), a political consulting firm that harvested the personal data of millions of peoples' Facebook profiles without their consent, and used it for political advertising purposes. 

He recounts the psychological manipulation that transpired behind the election of US President Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, among some of CA’s biggest projects. 

If ever you were wondering where slogans such as ‘build the wall’ emanated from, look no further.

Reads like a harrowing thriller film — except that it's not a movie, it's real life. 

Timothy Rangongo

Reimagining Our Tomorrows: Making Sure Your Future Doesn’t Suck by Joe Tankersley 

The future does not exist, according to Joe Tankersley, author of Reimagining Our Tomorrows: Making Sure Your Future Doesn’t Suck. 

But it is something we have agency over. 

“Once we begin to realise that someone has to create it, I think that’s when we begin to think of the story in different ways and it becomes about our journey and how we want to craft that journey to the future,” he said in a podcast interview with Kory French on BreakThru Radio.

The book, discussed by senior futurist at the Institute of Futures Research, Doris Viljoen, at USB-ED and finweek’s We Read For You event in Cape Town earlier this year, is a collection of short stories set about 20 years into the future.

Tankersley, a writer, futurist, and former Disney imagineer, combines his broad experience as storyteller with a deep knowledge of strategic foresight to help organisations create compelling visions for better tomorrows.

Common elements touched on throughout the stories include the belief that the future will value individual empowerment and support equity, and demonstrates what is possible when individuals use digital tools to collaborate and build community, said Viljoen. 

The book also touches on the need for humans to live in harmony with the planet to secure a prosperous future.

“What Tankersley tried to do was to really help us with vivid images of reimagined tomorrows,” said Viljoen.

Each chapter consists of two parts. 

The first is a short story of sorts, while the second takes on the form of Archibald’s apology. 

In the book, Archibald represents the super-rich – the top 1% of earners. 

Archibald is both defensive and remorseful in recounting the poor decisions and values made by the 1% that triggered crises of the past.

For example, in the chapter Saying Goodbye to the Past, the character Archibald T Patterson III – one of the 1% – records his legacy on his 99th birthday. 

“The world I worked so hard to build is destined to disappear. I hope you will learn at least one lesson from my observations. The power to create the future comes with great responsibility. You must use it wisely,” the chapter reads. 

finweek is the USB-ED’s media partner in its We Read For You series.

This article originally appeared in the 12 December edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

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