#UAEReads: Minister of State Noura Al Kaabi on reading and her five favourite books

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Minister of State Noura Al Kaabi tells Haneen Dajani how society is responsible for advocating reading:

“I believe reading defines a society and its progress,” says Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs and chairwoman of the Media Zone Authority – Abu Dhabi and twofour54.

She kicks off our special series, in support of the nationwide initiative the Year of Reading and its associated hashtag #UAEReads, which The National has launched in conjunction with the country's influencers, entrepreneurs and creatives about their love of the written word. Each instalment will include their "book handprint", a selection of five titles that helped to shape them.

“This is a culture or a habit that should start from home and in early age. Parents are the force to define it and our society is responsible to advocate for it,” says Al Kaabi, 34, who has been a member of the Federal National Council since 2011.

“It widens your knowledge horizon and also shapes your personal and professional life…,” she says, adding: “You are what you read.”

Al Kaabi is on the board of Image Nation, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the Chamber of Commerce. She is also on the advisory board of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Tawteen.

She was an honouree of the Young Global Leaders Class of 2014, and was the first Emirati to be ranked among the top 100 global thinkers list in Foreign Policy magazine in 2013.

The same year, she was named as one of 50 individuals who contribute to changing the world in the French weekly news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, and was one of Forbes Middle East's 30 Most Influential Arab Women in Government.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from UAE University, and completed a leadership programme from the London Business School.

The following are her top five books:

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I am a total believer in research and statistics when it comes to predicting certain trends or understanding events in life, but this book helped in how not to get fixed and to order and widen your horizons when it comes to the possibilities of certain events. It redefined thinking outside of the box.

After the Prophet

Lesley Hazleton

I am always fascinated by the way Hazleton takes us back in time and delivers the story with a rich context, which makes you understand certain historical events in a different perspective, which wasn’t entertained while I was a student. This book gives you a background of the rivalry between Sunni and Shia but what is most important, it makes you respect both.

The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell

A very informative and quick read. Malcolm is a master when it comes to grand social changes and the roots of change and how it is analysed. The main take is how he emphasises the idea “stickiness” and how it can spread from a small to a big group of people, and what that can lead to.

The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain

Maria Rosa Menocal

From the title you can see how much we aspire to be the future ornament of the world here in the UAE. Tolerance is one of our main values but it’s also important to understand historically how Muslims did pioneer tolerance, and especially, this should be talked about in our present time.

Think Like a Freak

Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

Sometimes it helps to know how the world works and how this can inspire you in your daily personal or professional life. Both writers shed some light that helps to enrich some conversations in life.