I have had this list in my mind for a long time, and I am finally publishing it here. The books in this list are not the best I have ever read; instead, they are books that have influenced me the most in one way or another. The fact that it has not been too difficult to pick them out means they really do stand out to me. I have not put the bible in the list, even thought it is the outright Number One. The books are not in any particular order.
1. Oliver Twist [Charles Dickens]
I first read this book when I was maybe eleven or twelve, and then again when I was fourteen. I do not remember much of it now, but it is the book that made me love to read. I am not too fond of fiction now, but that is where I started. And Oliver Twist is the piece of art that really got me started. I credit this book for making me love to read.
2. Julius Caesar [Unknown]
I do not remember the author of this book. It was probably a kid’s book too, because I must have read it when I was ten or so. That is when I first learned about the concept of being great. Since the time I read that book, and initially because of that book, I have always aspired to be great. In fact, because of that book, greatness has always felt more like a destiny than a wish since I was young. I am still holding on to that feeling.
3. Physics Book [Unknown]
I am sure not too many people expected to see a physics book in this list. Do not be too troubled because it was not all numbers and formulas. I discovered this coverless physics book at home when I was about fourteen. That is when I became crazy about science – and physics in particular. I learned about how binoculars and car gear boxes work, how heat is transferred and what radiation is. Since then, I have always been interested in science, and engineering in particular. And that is why I am an engineer today.
4. I Write What I Like [Steve Biko]
Having grown up with an underlying racial inferiority complex, I was absolutely stunned by this book. I nearly shed tears of emancipation when I first read it at age twenty. Really. Here was a black intellectual who took the evil that was apartheid head on without fear. Through the astounding depth of his thought, and the power of his words, he wrote what he liked beautifully, in the most powerful act of defiance against apartheid. They killed him. But his book has given me a powerful consciousness, as he intended.
5. Capitalism Hits the Fan [Richard D. Wolff]
Growing up (this thing of growing up!!!), I was indoctrinated in socialism and communism. In college, I was indoctrinated in capitalism. When I therefore read this book that dismantled all three systems, I was quite surprised and impressed. But mostly, this book made me understand the very core of laissez-faire capitalism, and how most of its ills are systemic, rather than mere products of unfortunate events. Another thing that I appreciated about this book is that, unlike most other works, it urges the reader to study on his/her own to arrive at the given conclusions. I can say that I now understand how many things work in the modern economy, thanks to this book.
Okay, those are my Top 5 picks. Here are a few more that just missed the list:
Confessions of An Economic Hit Man [John Perkins]
Reading this book is the closest I have come to becoming a conspiracy theorist. It contains wild tales of how evil businessmen headquartered in the grandest corporate corridors of the ‘free world’ orchestrate economic turmoil and conflict in the ‘third world’ to create the most favorable conditions for maximizing profit (or ripping the locals off). If it is only half true, then greed runs this world. I have seen it with my own eyes, though. Not with the West, but with the East here in Zimbabwe. And that is a great revelation.
The Bitter Harvest [Ian Smith]
This is the swan song of the bitter and now late former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith. Not only was this book a valuable historical piece about my country, but it was also a great revelation about historical distortion. The book itself contained a lot of distortion, of writing the wrongs of the past with the stroke of a pen. And from this I have learned to be more critical of non-fictional material. And with it I now understand that history is seldom an objective matter.
I think I will stop here! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books, and do let me know what your Top 5 looks like. Oh, here’s another thing…