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From biographies to journalistic accounts, there is plenty of informative and inspiring material in this year’s edition. Topics covered include the world of crypto, impact investing, pandemics, cybersecurity, corporate scandal and the pharmaceutical world. There are also biographies of South African legends Siya Kolisi and the late Johnny Clegg.

Once again we have four broad categories: South African; business and finance; current affairs, science, philosophy and psychology; and sport. Many of the books straddle two or three categories.

Where available, the ratings on are provided (or Amazon).

Thanks again to my colleagues for many of the suggestions in this year’s edition.

South African books

  • Scatterling of Africa: My Early Years

    By Johnny Clegg

    Clegg, who passed away in 2019, never finished the manuscript of this autobiography. Still, there is enough here to convey the inside story of a man who crossed the boundaries between different cultures during the apartheid era. Not just a musician who touched the lives of so many, he was also a formidable anthropologist, providing this book with an added perspective.

    Goodreads rating: 4.5 out of 5

  • Deep collusion: Bain and the capture of South Africa

    By Athol Williams

    Launched soon after the author left South Africa over concerns for his safety, this book expands on his testimony to the Zondo Commission earlier this year. Williams is a former business strategy adviser, author, and University of Cape Town ethics lecturer, who was also a state capture whistleblower.

    Goodreads rating: 4.75 out of 5

  • The End of Money: The Great Erosion of Trust in Banking, China’s Minsky Moment and the Fallacy of Cryptocurrency

    By David Buckham, Robyn Wilkinson, Christiaan Straeuli

    This book delves into some of the hot financial topics of today, including the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, the rise of China and the advent of cryptocurrencies. It’s a cautionary tale of where the modern financial system could be heading.

    Goodreads rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Imtiaz Sooliman and the Gift of the Givers: A Mercy to All

    By Shafiq Morton

    It was a meeting with a Sufi teacher in 1992 that would convince Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of the Gift of the Givers, to set out on what has become his life’s mission: to lend non-partisan humanitarian assistance to those who desperately need it, whether as a result of war, natural disaster, disease, famine or displacement. First published in 2014, this is an expanded edition that covers more recent events.

    Goodreads rating: 3.6 out of 5

Business and finance

  • Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change

    By Sir Ronald Cohen

    Cohen is considered a world leader on the topic of impact investing and this work spells out his thinking on how impact investing can make a real difference to the world around us. This is a useful read for investors, business people or those in the public sector or NGOs who want to find out more about how impact investing can transform the world for the better.

    Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5

  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

    By John Carreyrou

    Theranos, the “unicorn” start-up that promised to make blood testing simpler and more accessible, turned out to be one of the great corporate scandals of our times. With the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, its founder, currently under way, this provides an absorbing backdrop for anyone wanting to learn about the topic

    Goodreads rating: 4.4 out of 5

  • This is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race

    By Nicole Perlroth

    Voted the Financial Times / McKinsey Business Book of the Year, Perlroth’s work covers an important topic – the growing use of cyber-attacks to achieve political and economic goals. Perlroth argues that this is not just a threat that emanates from a small group of hackers but is often directed by nation states for geopolitical ends. Moreover, it’s one that companies and governments may be underestimating, at the peril of all of us.

    Goodreads rating: 4.4 out of 5

  • Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

    By Patrick Radden Keefe

    Stories of wealthy dynasties have always intrigued us, and this award-winning book should not disappoint on that front. It tells the story of the Sacklers and the two drugs upon which their business, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, would be built: Valium and OxyContin. While the latter would make billions for the family, it would also help usher in the US’s opioid epidemic.

    Goodreads rating: 4.6 out 5

Current affairs, science, philosophy and psychology

  • A Shot to Save the World: The Remarkable Race and Ground-Breaking Science Behind the Covid-19 Vaccines

    By Gregory Zuckerman

    It may be too early to start talking about the definitive book that explains the Covid-19 pandemic, but this book may fulfil and important part of it: the story of the people behind the fastest vaccine rollout in history and the science that made it happen.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5

  • Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

    By Laura Spinney

    This book was written in 2017, ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s quite interesting to read the author’s observations through our own lens of the pandemic of our times (for example, she uses the phrase ‘social distancing’ on a couple of occasions, a term most of us wouldn’t have known before 2020). The book blends local, very human stories of the pandemic from all over the world with easy-to-understand discussions of a virus we still know little about.

    Goodreads rating: 3.9 out of 5

  • Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad

    By Michela Wrong

    Rwanda and its leader, Paul Kagame, are often held up as poster children for Africa’s growth potential. Yet there’s another side to this apparent success story, according to the author, that of an authoritarian regime that is very different from the positive image portrayed in the West.

    Goodreads rating: 4.4 out of 5

  • Risk: A User’s Guide

    By Stanley McChrystal and Anna Butrico

    Drawing on his experience in combat, McChrystal, a former four-star general, discusses 10 “dimensions of control” that we can use in managing risk. By focusing on these, the authors argue, you can get better results than from trying to predict outcomes.

    Goodreads rating: 3.8 out of 5

  • There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century

    By Fiona Hill

    This memoir of a former White House adviser on Russia draws on her experience of growing up in a former mining town in England and on her knowledge of Russia and the US to warn of the dangers of populism and the social and economic forces that feed it.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5

  • Humankind: A Hopeful History

    By Rutger Bregman

    Bregman gives a hopeful and perhaps contrarian take on humanity, focusing on the altruistic side of our nature and sets out to prove that we are evolutionarily wired for cooperation rather than competition, and that our instinct to trust each other has a firm evolutionary basis.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5


  • Rise: My Truth. My Story. My Words

    By Siya Kolisi

    Played behind closed doors and marked by controversy, this year’s tour by British and Irish Lions was memorable for perhaps the wrong reasons. It’s a pity, because the teams were led by two great captains, with great stories to tell. This autobiography tells the story of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, and his journey from Zwide township to the pinnacle of his sport.

    Goodreads rating: 4.4 out of 5

  • Belonging

    By Alun Wyn Jones

    The second tells the story of the Wales and Lions captain, one of the most capped rugby players of all time, who similarly tells of his upbringing in Wales and the role of community in making him the player he is.

    Goodreads rating: 4.4 out of 5

  • Barça: The rise and fall of the club that built modern football

    By Simon Kuper

    A decade ago, FC Barcelona would have been the model for a modern club, combining transfer market clout with a development system that produced the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Now, beset by financial problems and unable to keep its best players, it finds itself at a low point. The author tells the story of a club that is both a symbol of Catalan nationalism and a global brand.

    Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Miracle at Medinah: Europe’s Amazing Ryder Cup Comeback

    By Oliver Holt

    This isn’t a new book, but it’s still a remarkable story of one of sport’s great comebacks, which took place at Medinah Country Club in Illinois in the Ryder Cup of 2012. The Europeans, up against a partisan home crowd and on a course that suited the US team, found themselves in what looked to be an unwinnable position after two days. This book gives a gripping account of that famous third day and how the Europeans pulled off that famous win.

    Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5

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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