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Mon 27 Apr 2020 08:50 AM

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Lockdown reads: Books featuring pandemics, a tech giant and a rugby hero all make the list

Here are the stories we recommend to keep you (mildly) sane during self-isolation chosen by the Arabian Business team

Lockdown reads: Books featuring pandemics, a tech giant and a rugby hero all make the list

The Deals That Made the World by Jacques Peretti

If like me you’ve dreamt about delving into the settings of the most powerful business deals signed in secret high up in a boardroom, on a golf course or over a drink at the bar, Jacques Peretti will take you as close as you can probably get.

And who better than an award-winning investigative journalist to take you on a whirlwind adventure of the hidden truths of business; yes, it’s that juicy. From drug cartels bailing out banks to pharmaceuticals selling medicine to healthy people, Peretti provides a different perspective that will change the way you view the world forever.

I can’t think of a better time than now, when our lives have been turned upside down. This book may help you gain some perspective. At the very least, it is bound to entertain you. 

Lubna Hamdan, Editor at Arabian Business

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry

They say that history repeats itself, and given everything that’s going on in the world today, I couldn’t think of a more apt book to read while on Covid-19 lockdown. In this sweeping – and eerily familiar – account of a pandemic, the author vividly paints a picture of how a disease swept across the world, overwhelming healthcare systems and killing over 50 million.

Importantly, the book delves into the culture of fear that was created throughout society, how the response of some governments (particularly America’s) left much to be desired, and how dedicated researchers and healthcare workers came to the rescue. Sound familiar? ‘The Great Influenza’ is a depressing and difficult read, but it’s one that should be required for everyone – like this journalist – who is trying to understand the Covid-19 pandemic on a  day-to-day basis.

Bernd Debusmann Jr, Deputy Editor at Arabian Business

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Who amongst us hasn’t secretly wished that we could work from home, answer emails in our pyjamas and adopt a sleeping schedule akin to that of a hibernating bear? And now, look, the fates are mocking us as our collective fantasy of laziness is enforced upon us.

Moshfegh’s narrator, a wealthy young Columbia graduate, actively pursues a year of isolation, alienation and sleep, drawing us in with a deliciously dark and twisty voice  to answer a question we may feel recently more equipped to answer: what if we were also to ‘hibernate’ from the world for an extended period of time?

Jola Chudy, contributor at Arabian Business and Editor-in-Chief of CEO Middle East.

My Name’5 Doddie, The Autobiography of Doddie Weir

It’s not just that he lives 25 minutes away from my home town, or that he was one of my rugby heroes when I was growing up. I’ve heard him speak at dinners and as an entertaining and informative, hugely likeable, pundit on the television. But all this was before he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

The stories he shares about his rugby days smack of self-deprecation, where the giant of a man would rather light up a room rather than shine the light on a career that took him to the very top, 61 caps for Scotland and a tour of South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 1997, among the myriad of highlights.

He was once described by commentator Bill McLaren as being "On the charge like a mad giraffe", but since 2017 he has had a different game to win. The way he describes his fight against MND is done so with his trademark humour, but there is no denying the battling spirit he showed so many times on the rugby pitch. This book will make you laugh mostly, but also cry, and teach you no matter who the opponent is, to never give up.

Gavin Gibbon, Chief Reporter at Arabian Business and CEO Middle East

Our Women On The Ground by Zahra Hankir

This collection of essays by Arab women reporting from the Arab world makes our quarantine in Dubai look like a vacation. The introduction alone will have you in tears, and how can it not when it tells the accounts of female journalists risking their lives on the front lines of war? But it’s not just another book about wars. It’s so much more than that.

From sexual harassment to motherhood, it describes so elegantly both the beauty and tragedy of being a woman in our part of the world. No other book has dived so deeply into a niche, but often forgotten and underrated, section of our society. Brace yourself, this is no easy read. It’s a raw, real read. It’ll leave you feeling a little more sorrowful, a little more courageous and a lot more human. Lubna Hamdan

Business Adventures by John Brooks

A favourite of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, this entertaining read provides 12 classic tales from the world of Wall Street in companies ranging from General Electric to Texas Gulf Sulphur. Although now over 40 years old, prominent business people such as Gates have repeatedly noted that the examples within remain extremely relevant – even familiar – to those working in the corporate world.

Each of the examples given provides a window on how business and human nature collide. Hint: people can be counted on to be both wildly irrational and constantly self-serving. Unfortunately, the book isn’t all that easy to find – so if you manage to get your hands on a copy, hold onto it! I know I will. Bernd Debusmann Jr

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton

We spend most of our waking hours at work, but rarely stop to question or analyse just how much our jobs influence our lives. Except now, when we are all trying to work remotely during a pandemic, and a little distance invites the opportunity for reflection and perspective. It’s probably a good time to take stock of what our office lives mean to us – how our talents and interests, as well as our need to earn money, drive our careers, but also how modern office culture fails to satisfy in other areas.

Readers familiar with Alain de Botton will appreciate the philosopher’s accessible writing style, gently and humorously exploring complex modern issues with sensitivity and a very human insight. His book of essays delves deeply into the worlds of various everyday occupations  – perhaps his thoughtful words will help you decipher just why you’re missing annoying Susan from accounts so much during these ‘unprecedented times’. Jola Chudy

Facebook: The Inside Story by Steven Levy

In the blockbuster film The Social Network, viewers are given an insight into Facebook, how four college graduates collaborated to create what was to become what is now world’s largest companies. At its infancy, Facebook was social network for a college campus. Fast-forward 16 years, it’s a social media giant used by 3 billion all over the world that has had an influence far beyond those halcyon days.

Neil Halligan, Editor at Arabian Business

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