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cartoon showing two walkers sitting down reading their books

With the end of the year comes the opportunity for many of us to catch up on our reading or to explore the latest works of our favourite authors. For many, reading is an escape from the complex world around us, while for others, it’s a chance to try to understand that world better through the in-depth analysis of leading writers.

It’s this latter category that we focus on with our Books for the Beach feature (though that reading might as easily take place in a mountain lodge, back porch or wherever we best like to spend our holidays).

Once more we have split the books into four broad categories: South African; business and finance; current affairs, science, philosophy and psychology; and sport. In some cases, the books could have fitted into more than one of the categories, with insights across disciplines and areas of interest.

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

  • The ANC Billionaires: Big Capital’s Gambit and the Rise of the Few

    By Pieter Du Toit

    With the Phala Phala affair and the ANC’s elective conference still dominating the headlines, this is a timely look at the relationship between the ruling party and those who have become wealthy through their political connections.

    Goodreads rating: 3.8 out of 5

  • Our poisoned land: Living in the Shadows of Zuma’s Keepers

    By Jacques Pauw

    This is a follow-up to Pauw’s previous book, The President’s Keepers, and delves into why, five years after Jacob Zuma was removed as President, so many of the problems caused by Zuma persist to this day.

    Goodreads rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Days of Zondo: The Fight For Freedom From Corruption

    By Ferial Haffajee, Ivor Chipkin

    This book takes us through the hearings of the famous Zondo Commission that was tasked with getting to the bottom of state capture, detailing the corruption and criminality that was exposed.

  • Whitey: The Rise and Rule of the Shoprite King

    By Niel Joubert

    The story of the rise of the Shoprite group is a remarkable one. It has grown from a small group of stores to one of the largest retailers in Africa (and the 35th largest in the world), so is a case study for anyone interested in the business of retail. This book delves into the story of the man who drove Shoprite’s growth.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5

Business and finance

  • The Price of Time: The Real Story of Interest

    By Edward Chancellor

    This is the first of two books on our list this year to tackle the topic of low-interest rates and their impact on the world. The Price of Time explores the history of interest with a common theme of how the ultra-low interest rate policies of the world’s leading central banks since the financial crisis of 2008 have helped create an “everything bubble”.

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Trillion Dollar Triage: How Jay Powell and the Fed Battled a President and a Pandemic - and Prevented Economic Disaster

    By Nick Timiraos

    Whereas Chancellor’s book deals with broad issues of interest rates (and low-interest rates in particular) Timiraos’s book is more of a case study of the extraordinary events of early 2020, when countries locked themselves down to slow the spread of Covid-19. The times required strong action by the monetary authorities as well, and this book gives a blow-by-blow account of the actions of the Fed, the impact of which we are feeling today.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5

  • Influence Empire: Inside the Story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition

    By Lulu Chen

    Thanks to Naspers (and later Prosus) South African investors will be familiar with the story of Tencent, one China’s internet giants alongside the likes of Alibaba and As such, the fortunes of many South African investors are closely tied to those of Tencent. This book – shortlisted for the Financial Times’s business book of the year – is a useful insight into anyone wanting to get a handle on this fascinating company.

    Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5

  • Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take

    By Paul Polman, Andrew Winston

    Growing shareholder value while meeting the world’s social and environmental challenges are no easy tasks for today’s business leaders. This is therefore a useful guide from Polman, a former CEO of Unilever, who has trodden the path in his former role. Co-author Winston is also a leading authority on corporate sustainability.

    Goodreads rating: 4 out 5

Current affairs, science, philosophy and psychology

  • The Story of Russia

    By Orlando Figes

    Figes is a renowned author on Russian history, so his latest work is a welcome release at a time when we are all trying to understand the country once described by Winston Churchill as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. Figes writes an authoritative back story that starts over a thousand years and finishes with the present war in Ukraine.

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence

    By Anna Lembke

    We spend a great deal of time in our lives seeking out pleasure, in the form of dopamine-releasing activities such as eating, shopping, texting and trawling through social media. Ironically though, argues Lembke, this constant pursuit of pleasure takes us away from true contentment, which comes from striking more of a balance.

    Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5

  • Principles For Dealing With the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail

    By Ray Dalio

    This book follows on from Dalio’s bestseller called Principles, tackling the subject of how great global powers rise and then fall. Dalio examines the economic, social and political forces that drive countries to the pinnacle of power and then break them down. The book is particularly interesting in light of the current standoff between the US and China.

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics

    By Michael Pollan

    For most of the 20th century, psychedelics were derided as dangerous and their use was largely prohibited by governments. But this prohibition has arguably held put back research into psychedelics by several decades. With prohibition being relaxed (at least in research), the therapeutic value of substances such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline and LSD is starting to come to light, and with it, the author argues, the learn more about how our brains work and to conquer our internal demons. (The subject is also covered in a Netflix series of the same name).

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know

    by Adam Grant

    Grant has become particularly popular in recent years for challenging some conventional ideas about decision-making. He highlights the benefits of self-doubt and being willing to change one’s mind, contrasting this with the “just go with your gut instinct” line of decision-making.

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape

    By Cal Flyn

    What would a world look like with no humans? This question is the pretext of this book by Flyn, a leading nature writer, who explores real situations where humans have abandoned places and left them to their fate. She discovers that their fate is not such a bad thing at all: from Chernobyl to the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, she finds areas that have quickly turned into havens of natural abundance and diversity. Perhaps these examples provide a clue for tackling the world’s environmental challenges.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5


  • Crickonomics: The Anatomy of Modern Cricket

    By Stefan Szymanski and Tim Wigmore

    There’s a bit of a cricket theme in this year’s sporting books, starting with this fascinating look at some of cricket’s most interesting questions, such as why India’s demographics shaped its rise to prominence in the sport, why women are important innovators in the sport, why South Africa battles to produce top quality black batters and what New Zealand has to teach us about running the game. The book has been longlisted for the Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year Award 2023.

    Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5

  • Faf: Through Fire

    By Faf du Plessis

    There are two famous South African sports stars called Faf, but it’s Faf du Plessis the cricketer who is the subject of this book (the other, rugby player Faf de Klerk, would make a fascinating subject of a biography too). This autobiography gives a frank and sometimes controversial insight into the former Protea captain’s life and those he played with and against, including some of the biggest names in the sport such as AB de Villiers, Graeme Smith and MS Dhoni. A must-read for fans of the sport.

    Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5

  • Making Decisions: Putting the Human Back in the Machine

    By Ed Smith

    The third cricket book could have easily been placed in the business section. Written by Ed Smith, a former test cricketer and prolific writer, it tells the story of his time as head of England’s test selectors. The key message is that, in a world of data and analysis, the purely human part of decision-making remains as important as ever, if not more so.

    Amazon rating: 4.2 out of 5

  • Expected Goals: The Story of How Data Conquered Football and Changed the Game Forever

    By Rory Smith

    Continuing the data theme, another Smith (Rory) this time, examines how the way we look at a sport like football (and many other sports too) has changed now that data analysis has become such a fundamental part of the sport. Terms like assists, successfully completed passes and expected goals are now part of the parlance of the sport, but even beyond this, there’s a world of analysis that has transformed the sport.

    Goodreads rating: 4.1 out of 5

  • The Master: The Long Run and Beautiful Game of Roger Federer

    By Christopher Clarey

    The recent retirement at the age of 41 of the winner of 20 Grand Slam titles is as good a reason as any to read this insightful book about one of the greats of tennis. Federer’s career stands out for its sheer longevity in a sport known for its young retirements. The author Clarey has followed Federer almost from the beginning of his long career, so has a courtside seat to the life of a sporting great.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5

  • All about Padel: The Complete Guide for Beginners

    By Kim Feldmann

    Pass by any sports club at almost any time of the day or night and you’ll see them playing this sport that looks a bit like tennis, a bit like squash and a bit like nothing you’ve ever seen. Padel is the fastest-growing sport in the world and if you’ve not played it but are considering giving it a try, this is a pretty decent book to help you get started.

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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