Woman reading book in a hammock view view of coastline

07 Dec 2023

Books for the Beach 2023

With the year in its final phase, it’s a good time for bookworms (or even occasional readers) to seek out reading material for those quiet weeks at the beach, in the bush or even at home (for those who enjoy a staycation).  

Man surfing the inside of a wave reading a book, woman on a inflatable on top of the wave

We have compiled a list of books that hopefully help us to make sense of our crazy world. As in previous years, we split them into four broad categories: South African; business and finance; current affairs, science, philosophy and psychology; and sport. The writings feature many well-known writers and experts, as well as a few new faces that will be worth following in the years ahead.

We have featured the ratings on Goodreads.com are provided, for reference.

Thanks once more to my colleagues at Investec Wealth & Investment for many of the suggestions in this year’s edition.


South African books

  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Scenarios for South Africa's Uncertain Future

    By Ray Hartley, Greg Mills and Mills Soko

    As the title suggests, this book maps out three possible scenarios for South Africa’s future, looking at the likely outcomes in the light of the country’s strengths (including our Constitution, dynamic financial and services sector, mineral wealth and entrepreneurial people) and weaknesses (including power and other infrastructure failure, corruption, unemployment and poor education outcomes).

    The book is a collaboration between the Brenthurst Foundation and the In Transformation Initiative.

    Goodreads rating: 3.5 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

  • The Plot to Save South Africa: The Week Mandela Averted Civil War and Forged a New Nation

    By Justice Malala

    Political writer Malala takes us back 30 years to the aftermath of the assassination of the ANC’s Chris Hani when the statesmanship of Nelson Mandela helped to keep South Africa on the path of reconciliation that paved the way for peaceful and democratic elections the following year.

    One of the dramatis personae was current President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the book is a reminder of how vision and leadership can prevent disaster.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

  • Winnie & Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage

    By Johnny Steinberg

    Perhaps South Africa’s most famous couple, Winnie Madikizela Mandela and Nelson Mandela each had powerful stories of their own to tell.

    Both had lives of hardship and adversity, and both had to draw on their powers of resilience and will to confront their challenges.

    Steinberg examines in detail two complex individuals who epitomised the struggle against apartheid and the South Africa that emerged after it.

    Goodreads rating: 4.6 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

  • A Country of Two Agricultures

    By Wandile Sihlobo

    Sihlobo is a respected agricultural economist who tackles the topic of an agricultural dynamic that has endured long after the demise of apartheid.

    On the one hand, South Africa has a large-scale commercial farming sector that is still predominantly white-run, and on the other, South Africa has a subsistence farming sector that is predominantly black.

    With an emphasis on the future, Sihlobo looks at solutions to tackle these disparities, while also ensuring food and agricultural sustainability.

    Goodreads rating: 3.7 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

Business and finance

  • Elon Musk

    By Walter Isaacson

    Steve Jobs, who was the subject of another of Isaacson’s previous biographies, once said of people who change things that “the only thing you can’t do is ignore them”. The description seems particularly apt for Musk, who features in this work.

    The book details the life of a man who certainly divides opinion, but is perhaps even more interesting because the Musk adventure remains to be completed.

    Goodreads rating: 4.4 out of 5

    Buy online from Takealot

  • Diary of a CEO: 33 Laws of Business and Life

    By Steven Bartlett

    Based on Bartlett’s podcast ‘Diary of a CEO’, the author channels his own lessons and those he’s gleaned from his guests, to create this succinct guide of the main factors that contribute to success.

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

    Buy online from Takealot

  • Right Kind of Wrong: Why Learning to Fail Can Teach Us to Thrive

    By Amy Edmondson

    Learning from failure is one of the key skills of any leader or investor. This book sets out a methodology for learning that minimises unproductive failure and helps us become better at risk-taking.

    The book was the winner of the Financial Times Business Book of the Year.

    Goodreads rating: 4.1 out of 5

    Buy online from Takealot

  • Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes

    By Morgan Housel

    Housel found fame with his first work ‘The Psychology of Money’ and in this book, he puts forward the view that when it comes to planning and predicting the future, we often spend too much time focusing on the unknown and not enough on identifying the things that don’t change over time.

    Goodreads rating: 4.2 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

  • How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Science Behind Every Successful Project

    By Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner

    Fail to plan, plan to fail, as the old saying goes. But as anyone managing a project on a big scale knows, there’s more to it than a glib saying.

    Examining the world’s most famous project successes (and fiascos), the authors come up with a practical set of principles to guide planners.

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

  • Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall

    By Zeke Faux

    After seeming to make it big in 2021, cryptocurrency has had a tough couple of years, culminating in the conviction for fraud of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

    Faux details the remarkable story of crypto over the last two years and looks at what this means for the future of this asset class.

    Goodreads rating: 4.4 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

Current affairs, science, philosophy and psychology

  • The Earth Transformed: An Untold History

    By Peter Frankopan

    This is a detailed and ambitious work that looks to chronicle humankind’s relationship with the environment and how, time and again, civilisations’ fortunes have been shaped by nature.

    What’s changed, however, is that humanity is now having an impact on nature, which has major implications for our collective future.

    A book for those who enjoy writing that intersects history and science.

    Goodreads rating: 3.9 out of 5

    Buy online from Takealot

  • Material World: A Substantial Story of Our Past and Future

    By Ed Conway

    There’s been a lot of coverage of the extent to which we have extracted fossil fuels from the earth to meet our energy requirements. But fossil fuels are just one group of the key minerals that have helped to shape the world we know.

    Conway looks at six of them – sand, salt, iron, copper, oil and lithium – and how much we owe in our lives to these minerals.

    Goodreads rating: 4.6 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

  • Beijing Rules: China’s Quest for Global Influence

    By Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

    China’s rise over the last two decades has been remarkable. What has become clearer in more recent years has been China’s quest to wield more economic and geopolitical power in a world where the centre of gravity has been in the West and where Western values have predominated.

    Allen looks at how this is changing to suit a more Chinese view of the world.

    Goodreads rating: 4.1 out of 5

    Buy online from Takealot

  • Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity

    By Peter Attia

    “You and I are gonna live forever,” sang Oasis in the 1990s. The rock ‘n roll lifestyles of the Gallagher brothers are unlikely to be the model of longevity Peter Attia has in mind though.

    Attia looks less at the so-called “biohacks” and more at the things that make a difference over the long term, like exercise and emotional health, to ensure a long and full life.

    Goodreads rating: 4.4 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

  • The World in 2050: How to Think About the Future

    By Hamish McRae

    Looking at issues such as the environment, demographics and technology, McRae sets out how the world might look in 2050, looking at the impact of these factors on different countries and societies.

    Goodreads rating: 3.6 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books


  • Concussed: Sport’s Uncomfortable Truth

    by Sam Peters

    There’s been an increase in the scrutiny of head injuries in sport, most particularly contact sports like rugby and boxing.

    Prominent cases of former sports stars suffering from dementia has led scientists to look for possible connections between sports concussions and these and other brain conditions.

    Peters paints a picture of what this could mean for the future of some of our favourite sports.

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

    Read more about this book

  • The Race to Be Myself: A Memoir

    By Caster Semenya

    Semenya’s story is a sad one. Her success on the track was often overshadowed by controversy, unjustly so since her supposedly unfair advantage was never the result of conscious, unethical actions on her part.

    A worthwhile read about how Semenya has had to summon her own strong will and the power of her family and community to deal with her predicament.

    Goodreads rating: 4.3 out of 5

    Buy online from Takealot

  • Rassie: Stories of Life and Rugby

    By Rassie Erasmus

    Even as a player, Erasmus was an innovator, looking for fresh ways to solve on-field problems. He carried this approach into his coaching career, and while controversy has often accompanied him (notably his infamous video released during the 2021 Lions tour), there’s no doubting his role in South Africa’s lifting of the Rugby World Cup twice in a row.

    An essential read for those looking to draw lessons from sports.

    Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5

    Buy online from Takealot

  • A Woman's Game: The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Women's Soccer

    By Suzanne Wrack

    One of the biggest sports stories of the last few years has been the rise in popularity of women’s football, rugby and cricket.

    Record attendance and television ratings for events such as this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup however hide the struggles of females in sports like football in getting to this point.

    Wrack details the prejudices that women have had to deal with over the years as well as the challenges they still face.

    Goodreads rating: 4.1 out of 5

    Buy online from Exclusive Books

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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