Whittling my favourite reads down to five proved an exercise in futility. So I’ve chosen books I read recently and enjoyed immensely. What seemed like a cop-out at first has helped me realise that my interests have changed over time, and are more varied than ever before.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)
The centrepiece of comedian Trevor Noah’s autobiography is his story growing up as a mixed-race child during apartheid in South Africa, when it was illegal for races to mix – hence the title Born a Crime. What makes it so compelling is not just Noah’s dense and dramatic past, but how he weaves South Africa’s complex history and present into it. The book is in equal parts funny and sad, frank and insightful.
Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein (2009)
An entertaining, real-life account of an American journalist cutting his teeth as a crime reporter in Japan. Over the past 25 years, Jake Adelstein has come to be known as an authority on the yakuza – the organised crime syndicates that have flourished in the country since the Second World War. The book provides insight into how the yakuza operate and the manner in which journalists source their facts.
Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka (2010)
Two washed-up cricket enthusiasts are on a lookout for Pradeep Mathew – a spin bowler who, after being tipped to become the next big thing for Sri Lanka, gets disillusioned with the game and does a runner. It’s funny and full of interesting characters (Ari Byrd, the protagonist’s sidekick with withering humour, is my favourite). It’s also peppered with fun trivia on cricket and Sri Lanka.
Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World by Ali Wyne, Graham T Allison, and Robert Blackwill (2012)
Singapore’s first prime minister helped establish the model of a conservative democracy that politicians in many countries still try to replicate. He was also instrumental in bringing the United States and China closer in the 1970s. This book looks at how the US should manage its relations with China for the larger good. It is a must-read for Donald Trump.
Nehru: The Invention of India by Shashi Tharoor (2003)
Nehru was a secularist and a liberal whose vision of India is under threat as Indians become increasingly nationalistic and majoritarian in their outlook. It is what compelled me to read Shashi Tharoor’s book on India’s first prime minister. In it, Tharoor sheds light on the man – his influences, strengths and weaknesses. He paints Nehru as a heroic figure and gives his reasons why.
Chitrabhanu Kadalayil is assistant sports editor for The National
[ My favourite reads: Simon Wilgress-Pipe ]
[ My favourite reads: Kelsey Warner ]
[ My favourite reads: Chris Maxwell ]