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Alec Russell's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Alec Russell recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Alec Russell's favorite book recommendations of all time.

The inside story of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, told through the experiences of its unsung hero

The struggle in South Africa to destroy apartheid was one of the great moral crusades of the last century, and Mac Maharaj played a pivotal role in the liberation movement for nearly four decades. A South African of Indian descent, Maharaj suffered brutal tortures and twelve years of imprisonment on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. It was Maharaj who smuggled out the manuscript of Mandela's autobiography, and he later served in his government. Based on extensive...
Recommended by Alec Russell, and 1 others.

Alec RussellWell that is one of the amazing books that have been written. It’s had less attention than some of the others. It’s an extraordinary account focusing on one member of the ANC, a man called Mac Maharaj a man I found particularly interesting because at the end of the apartheid era he had a spell in all three distinct strands of the anti-apartheid movement. (Source)

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After the Party is the explosive story of the power struggles dominating South African politics and a crucial analysis of the ANC’s record in power. Andrew Feinstein, a former ANC member of parliament, recounts how Mandela’s successor Thabo Mbeki repressed debate within the party, imposed his AIDS denialism on government, refused to criticize Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe and stopped an investigation of a multi-billion-dollar arms deal that was tainted by allegations of high-level graft. Feinstein shows how this infamous deal epitomises all that is rotten at the heart of the ANC.... more
Recommended by Alec Russell, and 1 others.

Alec RussellYes, it’s a poignant story, Andrew Feinstein’s book, it’s very, very powerful. It’s the story of a young, idealistic Jewish South African who is a member of the anti-apartheid movement soon after the end of white rule and an MP for the ANC. He’s imbued with the idealistic visions of how the ANC is going to build a progressive society and how its ministers won’t drive around in Mercedes, but just... (Source)

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Thabo Mbeki

The Dream Deferred

This title is a story about home and exile. It is a story, too, of political intrigue; of a revolutionary movement struggling first to defeat and then to seduce a powerful and callous enemy, of the battle between unity and discord, and the dogged rise to power of a quiet, clever, diligent but unpopular man who seemed to take little joy in power but have much need for it. By the time he retires in 2009, Thabo Mbeki will have ruled South Africa, in effect, for the full fifteen years of its post-apartheid democracy: the first five as Nelson Mandela's 'prime minister' and the next ten as... more
Recommended by Alec Russell, and 1 others.

Alec RussellNo, he certainly doesn’t seem to have those people skills. I have to say that I knew him in the mid-nineties and I was hugely impressed by him. It was perfectly clear then that he didn’t have those skills but I think he felt that he didn’t need them – that Mandela’s touchy-feely image was all very well but it was time for a different style of leader. And that he would be that new, different... (Source)

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A thrilling, inspiring account of one of the greatest charm offensives in history--Nelson Mandela's decade-long campaign to unite his country, beginning in his jail cell and ending with a rugby tournament.

In 1985, Nelson Mandela, then in prison for twenty-three years, set about winning over the fiercest proponents of apartheid, from his jailers to the head of South Africa's military. First he earned his freedom and then he won the presidency in the nation's first free election in 1994. But he knew that South Africa was still dangerously divided by almost fifty years of...
Recommended by Alec Russell, and 1 others.

Alec RussellJohn Carlin’s book focuses on this extraordinary sporting event, the Rugby World Cup final in 1995. Rugby was, in South Africa, a game primarily for whites. Some black South Africans played, but it was very much a game dominated by the Afrikaners. (Source)

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The complexities of South Africa are illuminated upon in this acclaimed work that takes a close, clear look at the strange realities within that country. less
Recommended by John Carlin, Alec Russell, and 2 others.

John CarlinThat’s certainly one important point to make. I think Move Your Shadow was actually the first book on South Africa that I ever read. I moved to the country in 1989 as a correspondent from Central America, where I had spent the previous six years. I really knew very little about South Africa. It wasn’t a place I had any prior interest in but the foreign editor of The Independent, in his wisdom,... (Source)

Alec RussellIt was an astonishing achievement. Of course there were other factors – it was the end of the Cold War, so the white minority’s great fear of a Communist takeover was diminished. In 1990 when Mandela was released it was a time of great hope throughout the world and everything seemed to be changing. (Source)

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The late 1980s were a dismal time inside South Africa. Mandela's African National Congress was banned. Thousands of ANC supporters were jailed without charge. Government hit squads assassinated and terrorized opponents of white rule. Ordinary South Africans, black and white, lived in a perpetual state of dread. Journalist Patti Waldmeir evokes this era of uncertainty in Anatomy of a Miracle, her comprehensive new book about the stunning and-historically speaking-swift tranformation of South Africa from white minority oligarchy to black-ruled democracy. Much that Waldmeir documents in this... more
Recommended by Alec Russell, and 1 others.

Alec RussellI think that now that we’re fifteen years into the post-apartheid era and the ANC, which has been in power since the end of white rule, is somewhat fallen away from its high ideals, I think it’s easy to forget how amazing the transition was. (Source)

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White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent
from 1876 to 1912
Recommended by Alec Russell, Sam Kiley, and 2 others.

Alec RussellI first went to South Africa in an extraordinary, tumultuous time, just before the end of apartheid. It was May 1993, and no one was quite sure what way the country was headed. So my first year there was spent covering the very traumatic final year of white rule and the rise to power of the ANC, and then I stayed on for another four years covering Mandela’s presidency as a foreign correspondent. (Source)

Sam KileyYou can’t understand anything about contemporary Africa without reading that book. (Source)

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