In 2022, I tried to read as many books as practically possible. As it happens to any avid reader, some books are impossible to complete for various reasons.
This year, I received many gifts in the form of books and I sincerely thank friends and relatives for gifting me nourishment for my brain.
I read about 31 books this year, and only a dozen or so I couldn’t complete them. Those unfinished may appear on the 2023 list, Insha Allah.
Ten of those I managed to finish are my 2023 recommendations for those who haven’t read them:
The Magic of Saida by M. G. Vassanji
The list has two fictions which were really beautiful to read. The Magic of Saida, set in the historical town of Kilwa, is a love story full of the history of the East African Coast.
M.G. Vassanji’s style of writing is riveting and this work of art travels the identity tensions in our society as Kamal, the main character, is the son of a Tanzanian mother and an Indian father.
Through this novel, you can learn the history of the Maji Maji uprising as part of the struggle for liberation from colonialism.
It was my first book to read during the year and it is a top recommendation.
We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan
We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan was another piece of fiction I really enjoyed.
As with the former book, it is mainly about identity tension and follows two stories set across different times.
Its setting is England and Uganda, and full of stories of the 1970s expulsion of Ugandan Asians and how their children come back to a new Uganda after years of civil wars and political turmoil.
Indian Summer and The Bhutto Dynasty
I have previously read, while in school and subsequently during my work as a politician, about the partition of India into India and Pakistan, a bloody partition based on religion.
This was followed later by the partition of Pakistan into Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Indian Summer, by Alex von Tunzelmann, is a well-researched work that tells it as it is on the role of the British elites in the partition during the end of the British Empire over India.
The book also talks about the role of Hindu and Muslim politicians in the decision-making leading to the bloody partitioning.
Similarly, The Bhutto Dynasty, by Owen Bennett-Jones, gives a historical background to the power struggle in Pakistan which led to the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan.
The latter takes us all the way to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and internal power struggles within the Bhutto family, and between the Pakistan deep state and political leaders.
Both of the books are sad most of the time, but also have very compelling narratives of that side of the world. Lots of lessons for Africa as well.
Final Reckoning by Romen Bose
In 2018, UMNO, the Malaysia ruling party of 60 years, was voted out of power.
Mr Romen Bose was an insider during the campaign and his book Final Reckoning: An Insider’s View of The Fall of Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional Government tells the story of what really happened.
In summary, the corruption and arrogance of the ruling class led to the downfall of UMNO. Final Reckoning is a wake-up call to many African ruling parties, as well as a lesson for African opposition leaders.
It is one of the books every CCM and opposition politician in Tanzania should read, as the Malaysian context is not very different from the Tanzanian context.
Corruption, arrogance and incompetence are an elixir for losing power by the ruling class.
The Chancellor by Kati Marton
This book is about the life of the former leader of Germany, Angela Merkel, and charts her remarkable rise to power as a leader of the G8 nation.
It took her just 15 years from joining a political party to holding the most powerful office in her country. It tells a lot about her style of leadership and diplomacy.
In The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel, you will learn more about the Ukraine crisis before the ongoing war; life in the eastern part of Germany before and after unification; and some of the real differences between female and male leaders.
This deeply researched account of Merkel helped me to understand Vladimir Putin better and even the kind of actions he takes.
Her ‘No Drama’ approach is something to try to learn.
Njinga of Angola by Linda M. Heywood
Our history in general, and African liberation history in particular, is full of patriarchal constructions and symbols. Most of the liberation fighters, we were told, were men.
Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen tells the story of Queen Njinga who fought the Portuguese invaders and defeated them in a number of battles and which tries to demystify this dominant narrative.
This book tells the story of the 17th-century African ruler who some people say ‘rivalled Queen Elizabeth I in political cunning and military prowess.’
Linda M. Heywood from Harvard University has done marvellous scholarly work on this book.
Young African girls and boys have someone to look up to amid the male dominance of our history. It is a book which provides a lot of anthropological understanding of us, Africans, too.
This book about Queen Anne Njinga (some pronounce it Nzinga) is a recommended reading for any lover of African history. You will not be disappointed.
The Prime Ministers We Never Had by Steve Richards
I know someone right now who is writing a book titled The Presidents We Never Had in Tanzania.
I am sure the author was influenced by the fascinating book The Prime Ministers We Never Had: Success and Failure from Butler to Corbyn by Steve Richards.
It is a superb book about UK politics and, as the book has been described, “a landmark history of the political titans who never quite made it to the top.”
This book is a brilliant work of political research and points out a lot of lessons for upcoming politicians.
While reading this book and stories of successes and failures of a number of British politicians one thought remained – which bridges have you burnt and what impressions have you left as you grow up in leadership?
On reading about Barbara Castle, a labour politician who never became party leader, I underlined a sentence: Leaders need to be on the winning side most of the time or keep well clear of the deadly arguments until they have secured the crown.
This is one of the books I just smile seeing on my shelf. One of the leaders described in the book is my friend Jeremy Corbyn.
I have read the chapter about him a dozen times and reminded myself of the burden of leadership, especially for reluctant leaders like him.
This is one of the books you get all you need from it. Just grab it.
The World For Sale by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy
I studied economics at the university and even pursued international trade, investments and taxation in my graduate studies.
However, I couldn’t learn the wealth of information contained in this one book The World For Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources.
We speak about the oil crisis of the 1970s just at face value, but after reading this book you will realize how the world economy was manipulated by a few traders and people in power.
It is a book about multinationals and commodities traded in the world, and how capitalism was used to exploit the world during the cold war.
It is a page-turner, engrossing and really fascinating work by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy.
38 Reflections on Mwalimu Nyerere by Prof Mark Mwandosya
38 Reflections on Mwalimu Nyerere edited by Prof Mark Mwandosya and Ambassador Juma Mwapachu is undeniably my Book of The Year for 2022.
This is a collection of interviews with some key individuals in our country about our Founding President of the United Republic of Tanzania Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
A total of 38 individuals were selected including former Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers, family members, Ambassadors, friends, journalists and personal assistants.
The information contained in this book are revelations you would never read anywhere else, and the book is not just praises, but criticisms as well.
Not everything these individuals recorded is a fact but it is easier to verify from within the book.
Mzee Mwandosya and Mzee Mwapachu have done a great service to our republic by publishing this book. It is a portrayal of Mwalimu Nyerere not just as a leader but as a human being too.
And it is a Buy One, Get 38 For Free Book because in it you get autobiographical information about many of our leaders who held various positions of power in our country as well as other people with different professions who were interviewed.
I enjoyed reading this book and I still do as it is on my bedside table, ready to turn pages every time I remember something.
I hope you have found my list interesting and if it inspires you to read any of the books listed here then you can consider this article a success.
Should you have any book that you’d recommend to me, please write it down in the comments section and I’ll consider it or find me on social media and let’s talk about it.
Zitto Kabwe is the ACT-Wazalendo party leader and former Member of Parliament. He’s available on Twitter at @zittokabwe. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.