50 Books UJ’s Professor Tshilidzi Marwala recommends for leaders

We cannot underestimate how critical strong leadership is in all aspects of our lives. In Leadership Lessons From Books I Have Read’, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala adopts the thesis that the source of good leadership is knowledge, and the source of knowledge is experience. If leadership is derived from knowledge and knowledge is derived from experience, the ‘experience’ in this book is from 50 books that Professor Marwala has read. 

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Divided into four sections, Professor Marwala shares his leadership lessons in the areas of Africa and the diaspora; the search for the ideal polity; science, technology and society; and the leadership of nations.

Section A: Africa and the diaspora

  1. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: A novella by Polish-English novelist Joseph Conrad about a narrated voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State in the Heart of Africa.
  2. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: The debut novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, first published in 1958. It depicts pre-colonial life in the southeastern part of Nigeria and the arrival of Europeans during the late 19th century.
  3. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is the debut novel by Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah. It was published in 1968 by Houghton Mifflin, and then republished in the influential Heinemann African Writers Series in 1969. The novel tells the story of a nameless man who struggles to reconcile himself with the reality of post-independence Ghana.
  4. Decolonising the Mind by Ng?g? wa Thiong’o: Kenyan novelist and post-colonial theorist Ng?g? wa Thiong’o, is a collection of essays about language and its constructive role in national culture, history, and identity.
  5. Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara: “There is no true social revolution without the liberation of women,” explains the leader of the 1983-87 revolution in Burkina Faso. Workers and peasants in that West African country established a popular revolutionary government and began to combat the hunger, illiteracy, and economic backwardness imposed by imperialist domination.
  6. Beloved by Toni Morrison: A 1987 novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War, it tells the story of a family of former slaves whose Cincinnati home is haunted by a malevolent spirit.
  7. A Handbook of the Venda Language by Ziervogel, Wentzel and Makuya
  8. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela: An autobiography written by South African President Nelson Mandela, and first published in 1994 by Little Brown & Co. The book profiles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison.
  9. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Purple Hibiscus is set in postcolonial Nigeria, a country beset by political instability and economic difficulties.
  10. Unbowed by Wangari Maathai: Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage.
  11. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Americanah tells the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who immigrated to the United States to attend university.
  12. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo: A story about a young girl’s journey out of Zimbabwe and to America.
  13. The Backroom Boy by Mandla Mathebula: The Backroom Boy opens dramatically in China, 1962. Andrew Mlangeni is one of a small select group undergoing military training there.
  14. This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga: Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare. For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher.
  15. Africa’s Business Revolution by Leke, Chironga and Desvaux
  16. The Perfect Nine by Ng?g? wa Thiong’o: Longlisted for the 2021 International Booker PrizeA dazzling, genre-defying novel in verse from the author Delia Owens says “tackles the absurdities, injustices, and corruption of a continent”

Section B: Searching for the ideal polity

  1. The Republic by Plato: 
  2. Politics by Aristotle
  3. How to Win an Election by Quintus Tullius Cicero
  4. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
  5. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  6. The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
  7. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  8. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte by Karl Marx
  9. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
  10. The Twelve Who Ruled by R.R. Palmer
  11. The Open Society and its Enemies by Karl Popper
  12. 1984 by George Orwell
  13. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt
  14. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Section C: On science, technology and society

  1. The Soul of the White Ant by Eugène Marais
  2. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
  3. Irrational Exuberance by Robert Shiller
  4. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  5. Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
  6. Deep Fakes by Nina Schick
  7. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  8. Homo Deus by Yuval Harari
  9. The Amazon Way on IoT by John Rossman
  10. Deep Medicine by Eric Topol
  11. Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom
  12. Profiles in Corruption by Peter Schweizer
  13. Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb
  14. The Economic Singularity by Calum Chace
  15. Range by David Epstein
  16. COVID-19 by Michael Mosley

Section D: On leading nations

  1. Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra Vogel: A 2011 biography about Deng Xiaoping written by Ezra Vogel and published by The Belknap Press/Harvard University Press.
  2. The Governance of China by Xi Jinping: A three-volume collection of speeches and writings by Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and current paramount leader of China.
  3. Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin: The New York Times bestselling book about the early development, growth, and exercise of leadership
  4. A Promised Land by Barack Obama: A memoir by Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017.

About the Author

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala is the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg (UJ). He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (magna cum laude) from Case Western Reserve University (USA), a PhD specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Engineering from the University of Cambridge, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College (London). Professor Marwala also completed the Advanced Management Program (AMP) at Columbia University Business School.

Professor Marwala has published 23 books on AI (one was translated into Chinese) and was a visiting scholar at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge and Nanjing Tech University. He has received more than 45 awards, including the Order of Mapungubwe, and is a board member of Nedbank, a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Deputy Chair of the Presidential Commission on the 4IR. His latest book is ‘Leadership Lessons From Books I Have Read’ from 50 books that Professor Marwala has read.