By Andrew Donaldson for The Times
Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude
For this, the last BookMarks column of the year, your correspondent has been instructed by the culture sheriffs at The Times to take care of government and politi-cians’ holiday reading.
Given the hoo-ha down in the Free State, they’re going to need something rather special to help relax by the end of the week. So, without further ado:
I came under some pressure to stuff Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s Christmas stocking with Steven R Covey’s landmark 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the self-helper’s self-helper that has sold upwards of 15million copies around the world.
Can there really be that many highly effective people out there? But, in the end, I opted not to get her anything. She’s been rather bad this year and should experience what it’s like not to get any books.
The Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, gets Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao’s Great Famine.
If he really wants to be an unhinged ideologue, then he should be happy with this groundbreaking account of how Mao’s vaunted Great Leap Forward led to the deaths of an estimated 36 million Chinese between 1958 and 1961 by starvation and physical abuse.
When he’s done with it, Nzimande should pass it on to fellow jargonauts such as SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Ideally, they should get their own copies, but we’re on a bit of a budget here.
Poor Julius Malema. The expelled ANC Youth League leader was a difficult customer.
Colin Eden-Eadon’s bestselling Woodwork: A Step-by-Step Photographic Guide was a consideration, but we opted for Tim Cohen’s A Piece of the Pie: The Battle Over Nationalisation. We’ve thoughtfully included a dictionary to help with the bigger words.
The DA’s Helen Zille, I thought, would appreciate Edna O’Brien’s wonderful autobiography, Country Girl. Briefly, it’s about an intelligent woman in a world filled with less intelligent men.
Trevor Manuel, the Minister in the Presidency, gets Susan Cain’s entertaining Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It is, in its own under-stated way, an important work that suggests that, rather than sitting back and asking people to speak up, bosses would probably benefit by leaning forward and just listening to what people really have to say.
The Presidency’s spin doctor, Mac Maharaj, gets Jon Ronson’s rather witty The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. ‘Nuff said.
And last, what of the president?
I thought long and hard about Jacob Zuma, and was strongly tempted to give him David Nasaw’s acclaimed biography, The Patriarch: The Remarkable and Turbulent Times of Joseph P Kennedy. Here is everything that the King of Nkandla could identify with: naked ambition, infidelity, epically bad public service and wholesale devotion to his near-delinquent children.
In the end, though, I opted for the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
I don’t think he’s read it.
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