The Books We Enjoyed Reading in Twenty-nineteen
If there is one thing that gave me a clearer picture of the significance of Edward Snowden’s story, it is Gleen Greenwald’s book called "No Place to Hide". It’s a thrilling account of Snowden’s revelations with a deep dive into global illegal surveillance and intrusion by powerful governments (namely the U.S. and the U.K.) and how the events unfolded.
Greenwald’s passionate advocacy is contagious not just because he’s an acclaimed investigative journalist and a very influential political commentator whose background includes being a constitutional lawyer and civil right attorney; his original with the Unclaimed Territory blog, which he created back in 2005, portrays his firm commitment to taking action but to also educate. His description of Snowden’s story is telling, and it bears much more than what the subject of the young whistleblower represents. His book and advocacy shed light on why privacy matters.
And so I was super excited when Snowden’s memoir was announced.
Permanent Records is a revealing and fascinating read. It is his own attempt to tell his story. It covers Snowden's early-life and much of his views on mass surveillance and privacy. More than anything, it captures what it means to live in the modern world of the Internet and what it means to be ignorant of what happens behind our screens while in use, and our place in it.
Another notable memoir is Samantha Power’s The Education of an Idealist, published in September. Many know Power as the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. but she’s more than that. Her previous scholarly work around global war intervention contributed to understanding mass atrocities. I first encountered Power through her fierce reporting on Rwanda and her book, A Problem from Hell, which examined the failure of world leaders to stop genocides despite repeated vows to "Never Again." Her new book is extraordinarily becoming — a lesson of diplomatic history and moral judgement, an autobiography, and a handbook on how to breastfeed a child and handle stress from work at the same time.
Around the twenty-fifth commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, in April, several books were published. I particularly enjoyed diving into Untamed, of Celine Uwineza, and Charles Habonimana’s Moi, le dernier Tutsi. Celine’s book is a deeply personal tale of survival, overcoming years of trauma, and leading a new life. She was ten in Ninety-four when her mother, three siblings, and her grandparents — plus dozens of other relatives — were butchered. It is, essentially, a book of tribute to her beloved family and to those who have found (and continue to seek) peace and courage to live fully. But Charle’s book is rather fascinating in nature as it delivers horror with inexplicable detail and creativity. It’s written in fantastic prose (a French taste?) and demanding sense of navigation: readers are led into a mixture of creative storytelling and savagery; between danger, life, and death. I enjoyed reading both books. If you have to read something in April next year (or why not before or after?), please pick one of these.
Clement Uwajeneza read The Prosperity Paradox, a book by Christensen Clayton and Efosa Ojomo. It’s a “refreshing look at how market-creating innovation lifts nations out of poverty.” For entrepreneurs, he says, it's a reminder that massively successful businesses are those that seek out to create new markets where they didn't exist and by innovating around every challenge in the value chain.
He also read The Bitcoin Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich, which he calls the best account of the first days of Bitcoin and the people who spearheaded the movement:
You're left with a good understanding of the different personalities that were required to get the Bitcoin story where it is today. The most interesting is that it's told through the story of the famous Winklevoss twins, from whom Zuckerberg hypothetically stole the idea of Facebook.
Quite interestingly, Clement also read Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist. “It reminded me that pursuing your dream is a journey,” he notes. “Pursue that journey while enjoying every day of it. It’s okay to pause a little and enjoy the good things in your way. When your heart and the signs remind you that the journey still continues, do not be afraid to put at risk what you have secured, and move on.” Because it’s the journey that procures you the highest level of happiness, he says, it is your personal legend.
Dominique Uwase read Little Tales of Misogyny, by Patricia Highsmith, and has come to describe it as “pretty funny.” She also read Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou, the journalist who broke the story of how Elizabeth Holmes used her charm to scam Americans and build a nine-billion fake technology company. “It was an eye-opener for me as an entrepreneur,” Uwase confides.
[We will keep this post updated as more entries come in.]
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