You are probably stuck in the house and wondering how to kill time. You have probably exhausted all the decent movies on Netflix and subscribing to ShowMax and Amazon has underwhelmed you.
Maybe, you like reading, but you don’t know what books to pick. And you have at least a month of free time and minimal work…
Here are some Cool suggestions to keep you busy during this time…We have nonfiction suggestions, as this a time of deep introspection.
Here are our picks.
Black Swan-Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2007)
What is a Black Swan? It is a question that Taleb answered superbly in his fantastic 2007 book that became a best-seller, especially after being so accurate about the 2008-09 Financial Crisis. A black swan is first, an outlier, that is, it lies outside the realm of regular expectations because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility, carries extreme impact and in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.
But the present pandemic is not a black swan. More like a Gray Rhino, which refers to ‘highly probable’ but neglected threats that have an enormous impact. This was coined by Michele Wucker, a policy analyst for the Greek Financial crisis, back in 2012, according to Fast Company.
For the Coronavirus crisis, she wrote recently, “given what we know about pandemics, and their increased likelihood, outbreaks are highly probable and high impact. I coined the term “gray rhino” for exactly such events: obvious, visible, coming right at you, with large potential impact and highly probable consequences.”
Indeed, several books, fiction and nonfiction, as well as movies have simulated a pandemic scenario, often with annoying accuracy. And the Coronavirus is not unprecedented, though the scale is astonishing by modern-day standards. Not since the 1918 Spanish flu, has a particular flu been this ravishing.
But still Black Swan is a great book to help you understand the consequences of events that can shape the economy like the pandemic is about to. Despite knowing the obvious, even advanced economies like USA have been caught pants down and are playing catch up to the bug.
Taleb is an intelligent writer and this book will open your mind in the literary, economic, finance and virtually every sphere of life. It is one of those books that you finish reading and you feel intelligent.
King Leopold’s Ghost-Adam Hochschild (1998)
King Leopold’s greed was unmatched, his capacity to instill terror was beyond heartless, and his megalomania is a subject of clinical studies, no one has cracked. Although ironically, he did try to rewrite history to portray himself as a humanitarian, he was an arsehole of monumental proportions. More than 10 million Congolese died under his watch, many amputated for the slightest of slights in the forced labour camps and the mess in the Democratic Republic of Congo has his name on it. To understand his exploits in great detail, this 1998 masterpiece from Hochschild, a great historian, will get you started on th journey to the heart of darkness. The book documents both the dark legacy of Leopold and the people who took him on.
3. China’s Second Continent-Howard French (2014)
The Coronavirus broke out in China and for a period Africans were losing their heads that China may bring the virus to Africa only for the first cases reported in Africa to come from the West, and the Middle East.
Globalization has shaped the world that a local epidemic can easily become a global pandemic. No continent is being shaped by China’s growing global dominance than Africa. May be this is a good time to know what China has been up to Africa.
Howard French’s 2014 treatise can serve as a useful primer of China and its future interaction with Africa. French has lived and worked in China as well as Africa, more importantly as a journalist. And who best to document history unraveling.
The book talks of the entrepreneurial Chinese immigrants setting up in Africa as well as the poor Chinese seeking a way out of their country. The book talks about China’s strategy for Africa and the consequences of the engagement of for the African continent and China.
Age of Surveillance Capitalism-Shoshana Zuboff(2019)
There has been talk about need to track those people who have been escape their self-quarantine. Or the need to use photo-recognition software to track down those who may have meet infected people with the Coronavirus. Of course, we know, post-corona, we will have to surrender some part of lives and civil liberties. And where will governments get systems and institutions to do the surveillance. Of course, that is why the tech giants exist.
In this 2019, magnum opus, Zuboff talks about the global architecture that the Silicon Valley has laid down that is about to alter how we live in the next 100 years. We are looking at the Orwellian big brother not only at work, but becoming exceedingly rich, where commerce trumps over our humanity, as we are about to be remote-controlled by automatons.
Surveillance will tamper with our democracy, freedom and human nature and a total overhaul our social order.
5. Guns, Germs & Steel-Jared Diamond (1997)
This is one of those mind-opening books for the extremely curious. Diamond argues convincingly how geographical and environmental factors shaped human civilization. This the book that attempts to explain why some societies are advanced than others, challenging the racial argument, and instead saying some societies got ahead because they had an head start in food production getting out of the hunting and gathering stage, escaping nasty germs and leading to the production of weaponry that started human conquest.
The book may not convince you 100 percent, but at least, it offers alternative explanations to the human predicament.