There’s a broad range of topics: from politics to high finance; from state capture to Steinhoff; from Indian Pale Ale to plant-based diets; from FC Barcelona to the All Blacks; and from Thuli Madonsela to Michelle Obama.


World-renowned writers like Michael Lewis and Yuval Noah Harari are there, but so are some superb local writers like Melusi Tshabalala and Thandeka Gqubule.


Thanks to my colleagues for some excellent suggestions.


We would like to wish you all a safe and joyous holiday season (with some great books, of course) and a peaceful, prosperous and health 2019

There are four broad categories: South African; business and finance; current affairs, science and philosophy; and sport, health and food (and drink). However they aren’t prescriptive – some of the sports books could also be business books, while the South African books can fit into the other categories too.

Let’s kick off with the South African books:

  • Shadow State: The Politics of State Capture

    By Ivor Chipkin and Mark Swilling

    ‘State capture’ is now a well-worn phrase for what happened to SA’s state institutions during the Zuma years. This book not only pulls together a lot of the detail of what went on, but also argues that it was more than just a criminal programme of enrichment: it was also a political one, designed to sidestep the Constitution and create a ‘shadow state’.

  • Steinhoff: Inside South Africa’s Biggest Corporate Crash

    By James-Brent Styan

    A year ago the country’s attention was captivated by two unfolding stories: the ANC elective conference that would eventually lead to Cyril Ramaphosa becoming president; and the unravelling of the JSE-listed giant Steinhoff amid accusations of large scale fraud and corporate malfeasance. This book explains the key issues around the demise of the company and its leaders. Arguably though, with  the authorities still investigating the case, the definitive book on the Steinhoff disaster is still to be written.

  • Melusi’s Everyday Zulu

    By Melusi Tshabalala

    If you’re wondering whether there are any South African books that aren’t lamenting the state the country is in,  here’s a great antidote to the doom and gloom. The author, whose day job is a creative in the advertising industry, has already built up a significant following for his Facebook page that unpacks a Zulu (isiZulu?) word every day. This book consolidates his social media commentary, holding up a mirror to our diverse society, with all of its prejudices, foibles and misunderstandings. A great read, whether you speak the language or not.

  • Across Boundaries – A Life in The Media in a Time of Change

    By Ton Vosloo

    As investors we know Naspers as the local entry point for investing into the Chinese internet giant, Tencent. We tend to forget however, its rich and often chequered past as one of the country’s leading media houses, owning some of our most famous titles and, of course, as the holding company of Multichoice. Under apartheid, Naspers was often an apologist for the government, principally through its major Afrikaans newspapers. Ton Vosloo was a journalist, editor, CEO and then Naspers chairman, so he will have witnessed transition on many levels, both politically and within the business, which on its own makes this a compelling read.

  • No Longer Whispering to Power: The Story of Thuli Madonsela

    By Thandeka Gqubule

    Through the latter years of the Jacob Zuma era, one individual in particular stood out, namely Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, for her determined and methodical work in exposing and holding to account the perpetrators of state capture. The book has been out for a year and a half already, but it’s still a worthy insight into the work and life of a remarkable South African.

Business and finance are our lifeblood at Investec Wealth & Investment. Here's a selection of what our team have been reading on the subject.

  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution

    By Klaus Schwab

    The executive chairman of the World Economic Forum delves into a topic that should interest all of us: how artificial intelligence, 3D printing, DNA sequencing and other ‘smart’ technologies are going to transform our living and working lives. This book not only explains the major impact this will have, but also offers suggestions on how to harness this change for the betterment of all.

  • Mastering the Market Cycle

    By Howard Marks

    The co-founder of Oaktree Capital is well-known for his so-called ‘memos to Oaktree clients’. The memos not only give valuable insights into markets and investing, but have been praised for their engaging, easy-to-read and often entertaining style. His books, such as The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor, have drawn similar praise, so this latest edition should be a must-read for his fans. In it, he draws lessons from previous cycles and how we can profit from them in future.

  • Principles

    By Ray Dalio

    The founder of hedge fund Bridgewater spells out the principles that he believes have underpinned his success. These include being guided by what’s important to you, rather than what others want, and using psychological pain and harsh reality checks as ways to learn and progress. Dalio has also followed up this bestseller with Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises, a book recommended by the Financial Times as one of its business books of the year.

  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

    By Phil Knight

    In polling the Investec Wealth & Investment team for book ideas, this was a popular choice. Whether you’re coming at it from a business or sports angle, it’s an engaging read that stands out among so many business biographies that fall into the trap of a self-serving narrative. Knight gives credit to those who accompanied him on his journey and gives great insights for entrepreneurs, athletes and sports lovers alike. 

In current affairs, science and philosophy, we feature some of the most talked-about authors of our time

  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

    By Yuval Noah Harari

    The title looks like clickbait and the fear is that, after his previous magisterial works, Sapiens and Homo Deus, Harari is just 'heating up last night’s leftovers' with this book. Fear not though: by all accounts it’s an excellent read. While he certainly goes over previous ground, he does so in an engaging way and introduces new concepts as well. Harari is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the human race.

  • Factfulness: 10 Reasons why we’re wrong about the World

    By Hans Rosling

    Rosling’s central thesis is that the world really is getting better – if only we would open our eyes to the facts and figures out there. He debunks the pessimism that persists in so much of our daily discourse, with evidence of progress that we often overlook. The book – along with Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker – is an excellent antidote to what the doomsayers kee[p telling us.

  • The Fifth Risk

    By Michael Lewis

    The prolific Michael Lewis explores the machinations of government in the US, including the many important functions that are unseen or taken for granted. Lewis argues that these functions are now at  risk, thanks to negligence or lack of interest on the part of the Trump administration, with serious implications for society and the environment.

  • Destined For War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?

    By Graham Allison

    Our previous Monthly View delved into Thucydides’s trap and what the US and China can do to avoid war. This book, by the man who coined the term, goes into more of the detail of how wars between established and emerging powers start and how they can be avoided.

  • Becoming

    By Michelle Obama

    It’s easy to be sceptical about celebrity memoirs, especially those by US First Ladies. The worry is that they often gloss over the controversial stuff and give a too positive view of the president and his policies. While the critics say this memoir does at times fall into this trap, the reviews have generally been positive for its authenticity and willingness to tackle the sometimes dirty aspects of US politics.

Finally, we look at books about sport, health and food (and drink!)

  • Game Changers: How a Team of Underdogs and Scientists Discovered What it takes to Win

    By João Medeiros

    Some of the most popular sports books are those that give insights into how we can be better in business and in our general lives. This book is no exception: it tells the story how a team of previously unheralded coaches and sports scientists transformed the fortunes of the UK’s Olympic teams in the 21st century. By tracking performance, conditioning and psychological states in more and more sophisticated ways, they changed the way sportspeople optimise performance.


  • The Barcelona Way: Unlocking the DNA of a Winning Culture

    By Damian Hughes

    Again, this is a book that will be popular even for those looking for insights beyond the sports field. Hughes analyses the culture that has helped to make FC Barcelona so successful, harnessing for example the power of a common cause (as exemplified by the club’s Catalan motto: més que un club [more than a club]) and authentic leadership, to achieve success. 

  • The Jersey: The Secrets Behind the World’s Most Successful Team

    By Peter Bills

    Many of the principles expounded in Hughes’s book on FC Barcelona can be applied to the New Zealand All Blacks, statistically the world’s most successful sports team. The author has interviewed many of the key role players in New Zealand rugby to explain how such a small country has managed to dominate a global sport like rugby.

  • Why We Sleep

    By Matthew Walker

    This is a scary book for the conclusion that it reaches: as a species we are doing ourselves a huge disservice by not getting enough sleep. Worse, through smartphones and other devices, we are making it harder to get the sleep we need, even when we have the time to do so. If what the author says is true about the health impact of poor sleeping patterns, then we really should make a good night’s sleep a priority in our lives (ironically, your intrepid reviewer is busy typing this up in the small hours of the morning as he attempts to beat a tight deadline).

  • Vegan Christmas: Over 70 Amazing Recipes for the Festive Season and Holidays

    By Gaz Oakley

    Vegetarianism, veganism, a plant-based diet – call them what you will, they’re concepts that are growing in popularity around the world. Adherents argue that avoiding meat and animal-based food isn’t just healthy for the individual, but it’s good for the planet as well. However it also means avoiding tasty holiday staples like a stuffed turkey or gammon. This book gives some delicious plant-based alternatives.

  • IPA: A Legend in Our Time

    By Roger Protz

    The rise of craft beers in recent years has opened up beer lovers’ palates to a world of drinks beyond simple lagers and pilsners.  One of craft beer’s success stories has been the Indian pale ale (IPA), a long-forgotten style of beer now enjoying a great revival. The author provides a history of IPA, along with taste notes on IPAs around the world.

About the author

Patrick Lawlor

Patrick Lawlor


Patrick writes and edits content for Investec Wealth & Investment, and Corporate and Institutional Banking, including editing the Daily View, Monthly View, and One Magazine - an online publication for Investec's Wealth clients. Patrick was a financial journalist for many years for publications such as Financial Mail, Finweek, and Business Report. He holds a BA and a PDM (Bus.Admin.) both from Wits University.

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