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These are my favorites books from childhood (the African Writers Series was a staple in Zambian schools):
  • Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams
    My favorite book from childhood is about a "colored" miner in Apartheid-era South Africa.  On the surface, very light and funny, but it also carries a deeper message about the injustices of racism.

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
    Achebe is the father of African literature and has the distinction of writing book #1 in the African Writers Series.  I would guess that 90% of literate Africans have read this wonderful book.

  • Tongue of the Dumb by Dominic Mulaisho
    An engrossing story about a young boy who has been cursed with the inability to talk.  Set in rural Zambia.

Recent books I've enjoyed:

  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
    Set in 1960s Congo, the book tells the story of a missionary's family using the voices of the mother and their four daughters.  Wonderfully telling of history during an extremely turbulent period for a country (and continent) that has never recovered from the plague of imperialism.

  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur S. Golden
    Written so well, it's amazing to find that this is a work of fiction by an American author!  The first two thirds of this book is probably the best writing I've ever read but the story does finish weakly.  Definitely a book you shouldn't skip.

  • A Little Yellow Dog by Walter Mosley
    The only book I own signed by the author.  I'm a big fan of the Easy Rawlins Mystery series (you may have seen the Denzel Washington movie Devil in a Blue Dress).  Every book in the series is enjoyable although you may have to excuse Mosley for his occasional gratuitous violence and sex.

  • Seconds Out by Jay Mwamba
    I've known Jay almost all my life and remember when he was a sports reporter for the Zambia Daily Mail covering Zambian boxing greats like Lottie Mwale and Charm Chiteule.  Jay has an intimate understanding of the sport of boxing and his knowledge pays wonderful dividends in this riveting thriller about the budding career of Sonny Green.  Your heart pulse will race as Jay takes you in the ring and Sonny has to use all his skills, strength, and perseverance to vanquish his opponent.  I highly recommend this book!

The following books are for enlightenment and self-improvement (I used to be cynical about this kind of literature but I find it enjoyable and I think it can be good for you!):

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    Actually, I took this class when I was a fresh-out-of-college engineer working at Hewlett-Packard.  Ostensibly about becoming a more effective employee, this subject is really about becoming a better person and getting more out of life.

  • The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
    While I was bemoaning a love lost, Ka Li Loh recommended this book as a way to really understand what love is.  I found the book thought-provoking and it changed my views on what makes hearts "ache".

  • How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
    Paul English recommended this book when I was frustrated with getting co-workers to see things my way.  This book helped me see that when I fail to persuade a group to see things my way, and time proves me right, that's nothing to be smug about.  It just highlights my ineffectiveness at communicating ideas.  The good news is that influencing people is a skill which we can all improve if we work on it.

  • Good to Great by Jim Collins
    Pankaj Shukla bought me my copy of this fantastic book which has given me fresh insight into what makes companies work well and how to be a more effective leader.

  • Negotiating Rationally by Bazerman and Neale
    Pam Seitz lent me this book also in the context of dealing with work place frustrations (do you see a theme here?).  It made me realize how often in life we negotiate but how we tend to not negotiate rationally.

By the way...

I haven't read Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia : Two Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Class Authority and Leadership by E. Digby Baltzell but Ben Hyde introduced me to the subject matter.  What is rather fascinating is the idea that humans are either Puritan or Quaker in their societal outlook.  He showed me this wonderful table which compares the cultural consequences of Puritan and Quaker ethics.