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This weeks great spring reads

Zero to One. Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. Peter Thiel

If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets.

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

Zephany. Two mothers. One daughter. Joanne Jowell

The kidnapping of baby Zephany Nurse from the cot beside her mother’s hospital bed made headline news. Desperate pleas from her parents to return her safely went unanswered. There was no trace of the baby. For seventeen years, on her birthday, the Nurses lit candles and hoped and prayed. Living not far away from the Nurses, 17-year-old Miché Solomon had just started Matric. She had a boyfriend. She had devoted parents. She was thinking about the upcoming school dance and the dress her mother was going to make for her. She had no idea that a new girl at her school, who bore an uncanny resemblance to her, and a DNA test would shake her world to its foundations. Miché is now 22. This is her story – for the first time in her own words. Told with astonishing maturity, honesty and compassion, it is also a story of what it means to love and be loved, and of claiming your identity.

Betrayal. The Secret Lives of Apartheid Spies. Jonathan Ancer

What does it take to deceive those closest to you? How do you lead a double life and not lose yourself? Is there ever a point of return? These are the themes – and more – that Jonathan Ancer explores as he tells the tales of some of South Africa’s most unusual and successful spies: from the navy superspy on the Russian payroll to the party girl who fell in love with Cuba, from the accidental mole in the heart of Pretoria’s war on the frontline states to the idealistic students used and abused in apartheid’s intelligence war. Their journeys into the shadow world of espionage raise questions about conscience, trust, forgiveness and the very notion of truth in a country that was at war with itself. From the author of ‘Spy: Uncovering Craig Williamson’, this new book gets under the skin of what it takes to betray those closest to you – and what it is means to be betrayed.

Identity Crisis. Ben Elton

Why are we all so hostile? So quick to take offence? Truly we are living in the age of outrage.

A series of apparently random murders draws amiable, old-school Detective Mick Matlock into a world of sex, politics, reality TV and a bewildering kaleidoscope of opposing identity groups. Lost in a blizzard of hashtags, his already complex investigation is further impeded by the fact that he simply doesn’t ‘get’ a single thing about anything anymore.

Meanwhile, each day another public figure confesses to having ‘misspoken’ and prostrates themselves before the judgement of Twitter. Begging for forgiveness, assuring the public “that is not who I am”.

But if nobody is who they are anymore – then who the f##k are we?

Ben Elton returns with a blistering satire of the world as it fractures around us. Get ready for a roller-coaster thriller, where nothing – and no one – is off limits.

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