Books of the Year

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The New Statesman Book of the Year column has the following from Michela Wrong:

Poisoned Wells by Nicholas Shaxson (Palgrave Macmillan)
Brazzaville Charms by Cassie Knight (Frances Lincoln)
The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier (Oxford University Press)

I believe in painless self-education, so it's satisfying to log a number of highly readable non-fiction books about Africa. Two that caught my attention this year were Poisoned Wells by Nicholas Shaxson (Palgrave Macmillan) and Brazzaville Charms by Cassie Knight (Frances Lincoln). The first is a lively exploration of Africa's oil industry, set to grow in global importance as other petroleum sources dry up. Knight's book tells the story of a country most people don't even know exists: the Congo that wasn't led by Mobutu and didn't feature in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. But Congo-Brazzaville is just as weird and wacky place as its bigger brother and Knight has penned an affectionate account of a state which encapsulates many of Africa's problems.

Finally, Paul Collier's bracing The Bottom Billion (Oxford University Press) is a must-read for anyone who has tired of the emotionalism of the Geldof-Bono aid brigade or who suspects that the simplistic mantra of "More, more, more", chanted by the likes of Jeffrey Sachs, cannot be an adequate response to world poverty.

I've read the first and last - and work with Nick Shaxson.

I can thoroughly recommend Nick's book. It is intensely readable and well informed.

A also recommend Paul Collier - but don't agree with him on all issues by some way. He ignores tax too often, and has got his economics seriously wrong on occasions e.g. he believes far too strongly in the merits of export processing zones. But it's a book about which you need an opinion.

I guess I should get the second!