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Reads to Take You on a Journey

Reads to Take You on a Journey

Power players, influential men and soldiering on through historical conflicts, these reads will take you on an enthralling journey.

Elon MuskBook of the month: Elon Musk

Elon Musk, one of the richest and most talked about entrepreneurs in the world, was born in Pretoria and attended Pretoria Boys’ High in the eighties. At the age of seventeen Musk moved to Canada where he completed his studies.

From an early age he was fascinated by computers and his career is nothing short of meteoric. Shortly after graduating from Stanford University he launched one of the first online Yellow Pages, Zip2. Musk, now 44, juggles three empires – Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity.

The portrait that emerges in this book is of a man with great visionary intellect, ferociously ambitious but cold and calculated; a man who uses people for his own gain. “Many of us worked tirelessly for him for years and were tossed to the curb like a piece of litter,” a former employee is quoted. Musk’s (many) detractors are quick to point out he’s merely piggy-backing on existing technologies, not inventing them. Before Tesla, there were electric cars, before SpaceX there were rockets, and solar panels long before SolarCity. As true as this is, it misses the point of what Musk is doing – disruptive innovation is the point of every one of his ventures. He has made disruption his business plan and it’s working to shape our future.

  • Author: Ashlee Vance
  • Publisher: Penguin Random House & Virgin Books
  • Reviewer: Danie Olivier
  • Price: R315
  • ISBN: 978-0-75355-563-7 

The Great Boer Escape Cover FrontThe Great Boer Escape

These are the memoirs of Willie Steyn, a Free Stater soldier who was shipped to Ceylon as a POW during the Anglo-Boer War. With a burning desire to escape, fuelled by a strong sense of duty to rejoin his commando, he and four others jumped ship when they reached Colombo harbour. They were individually picked up by the same Russian ship at anchor there.

Steyn’s memoirs were written in Dutch and recently translated by one of his granddaughters, but I found the title slightly misleading as the greater part of this book centres around the travels and experiences Steyn had on board this Russian ship during the year it took before he rejoined the Boer forces. Eventually, under an assumed name and sailing on a German ship, he reached Lüderitz Bay, trekked through the desert, and crossed the Orange River into South Africa where he joined up with commandos during the guerrilla phase of the war.

A compelling account for history buffs and for those who like a good, true story.

  • Author: Willie Steyn
  • Publisher: Cape Rebel
  • Reviewer: Hans Dewet
  • ISBN: 978-0-99220-152-4
  • Price: R250 

Freshwater_Life-Cover_1mbFreshwater Life

This is the first illustrated book on Southern Africa’s inland water systems that includes a wide range of life forms, starting with the most conspicuous mammals and ending with microscopic bacteria. The authors’ focus is on the most frequently encountered species within 29 animal and plant groups.

Excellent photographs and clear descriptions reveal how complex and diverse freshwater systems are. But more than being a field guide, it is a reminder of how precious fresh water is. As such, the information-packed introduction is perhaps more important than the species list, as it underscores the incalculable value of properly functioning aquatic ecosystems and emphasises the urgent need to conserve them.

One sobering fact that will resonate with us all in this time of drought is: ‘There is simply no such thing as a water surplus anywhere in Southern Africa.’ It’s therefore a book about life on Earth.

  • Authors: Charles Griffiths, Jenny Day, Mike Picker
  • Publisher: Struik Nature
  • Reviewer: Andrea Abbott
  • ISBN: 978-1-77584-102-9
  • Price: R329 

Recce_EnglishRecce

An outstanding book written by a brave and brilliant soldier. Recce adds to the growing collection of books covering the Southern African conflicts of the 70s and 80s, and provides a unique and intimate look at the lives and operations of these courageous and highly skilled soldiers. It details their training, tactics and exploits, and Stadler relates how, often with just one team member, he undertook missions hundreds of kilometres inside Angola and other countries to gather information on enemy bases and to blow up trains and enemy fighter jets.

The book includes fascinating and never-before-related insights into his service with the Reconnaissance Wing of the famous 31 Bushmen Battalion, which particularly resonated with me as I was privileged, as a SADF colonel, to command that battalion for three years during the early 80s.

  • Author: Koos Stadler
  • Publisher: Tafelberg
  • Reviewer: Brian Adams
  • ISBN: 978-1-77010-427-3
  • Price: R225 

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