q Book Reviews: Not A Fan Of Wimps, Or Making Africa Japanese - Bruce Dennill

Book Reviews: Not A Fan Of Wimps, Or Making Africa Japanese

February 5, 2019

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Not A Fan Daily Devotional by Kyle Idleman

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down By Jeff Kinney

Making Africa Work: A Handbook For Economic Success by Greg Mills, Olusegun Obasanjo, Jeffrey Herbst and Dickie Davis

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende


Kyle Idleman’s excellent book Not A Fan dealt with the Christian struggle to move beyond simply liking who God is and what He is able to do to an understanding of what is needed to really understand Him and what is required to maintain and grow within a relationship with Him. This spin-off project develops that idea while also breaking the philosophy into daily bite-size essays, along with short Bible readings and exercises to help readers engage with the text and make it meaningful in their individual contexts. It’s a small, neat volume, easy to pack in a bag if you’re travelling and want to continue your study. And it’s only a 25-day study, not the lengthy page-per-day-for-a-year thing that can, if it’s not structured properly, become boring and burdensome, and likely to be abandoned somewhere along the way. Idleman’s direct tone, common sense and solid wisdom make this a friendly, accessible and useful study tool. – BD


I liked the story in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down By Jeff Kinney – it had some interesting bits. The bit that I didn’t like was all the horror movies in it because it gave Greg (the character) nightmares, and me as well! I think it would be better for teenagers rather than younger kids. I’m not going to give a 10 star rating on this one. – Bethany Dennill


Greg Mills has, for decades, been a respected commentator on political economy. Joining forces with Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, Jeffrey Herbst, a former professor of politics at Princeton University and president  of several other universities in the United States of America and Dickie Davis, an engineer and former senior officer in the British Army stationed in Afghanistan, he has now brought out this formidable book, Making Africa Work.  It should be read by every literate person in Africa. The reason is that we are now at the stage where the evidence has overtaken ideological positioning when it comes to doing what is required in order to develop economies and bring everyone out of poverty. The authors present a vast amount of data about which there can be no debate. John Maynard Keynes, the economist whose influence is still so keenly felt around the world, liked to say that it required no outstanding intellect to have a good grasp of economics: all that is needed is common sense, a facility with mathematics, a willingness to read widely, absorbing much of the detail  and a disposition of mind that wants to improve the lives of ordinary people. There is no reason to be intimidated by the subject matter of this book. Almost everyone is familiar with the story of how, since the mid-1980s, China built itself up from an economic failure into the second largest economy in the world – and by some estimates, in terms of purchasing power parity, a country that is even richer than the USA. Most readers are, by now, familiar with the fact that in the early 1960s, South Korea and Singapore were as poor as most African countries, but are now vastly richer. Many people know that a favourite examination question for students of economics at the best universities in the world is: ‘Why, in terms of economic development, did Argentina not become a Spanish-speaking Australia?’ These authors give us a wealth of vital further information. A delightful story, for example, is how, within 20 years, a cottage industry in Kenya selling freshly cut flowers to Europe, now employs thousands of people, generating billions of rand for that economy. The caricature that economics is divided between those who either believe in a ‘socialist’ model or  one of  ‘government-as-nightwatchman’  is debunked. There is plenty of scope for government to play a positive role in the economy. An intriguing aspect is infrastructure in cheap, rapid transportation systems. It is transformative for the poor beyond all expectations. Then there is rail transportation – the most economically efficient means to transport heavy freight across land. There is the need for investment in utilities such as water and electricity, roads, education, health and policing. A well-educated, well-paid, well-motivated and honest public service is indispensable for economic progress. A vital ingredient for and common denominator in all successful economies is a pro-growth, business-friendly environment. It is the sine qua non. This does not entail that business must call all the shots, but it does require that it is not seen as ‘the enemy’; that real heed is paid to its arguments on tax and regulation. This must apply everywhere: in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, services and the development of new technologies. Business needs support, not hostility or indifference. It is a false dichotomy that one has to chose between being ‘pro-poor’ or ‘pro-business’. In the short-term there may be certain tensions between the working class and the unemployed on the one hand and business, on the other. But even in the short-term and certainly in the long term, there is a mutuality of interest. The more jobs there are and the better they are paid in an expanding economy, the better it is for us all. Wide discretionary powers for public officials should be avoided. Therein lies the gateway to corruption. Independent courts, dedicated to the rule of law, matter very much indeed. The rule of law requires reliability, predictability and expedition from the courts. In international politics and diplomacy,  racial and religious and even historical antagonisms must be avoided. Unless extreme circumstances require otherwise, the doors of trade and friendship should be open to all nations. Above all, every citizen needs to become aware of the miracle of compound interest: relatively small, continuous improvements, compounded over time,  produce huge changes for the better over 10, 20 or 30 years. Conversely, negative developments produce a downward spiral into abject misery much more quickly than our intuition suggests. We need to have faith in the benefits that will accrue by following the policies that have brought about extraordinary success in so many different parts of the world. Our gaze must be away from immediacy or ‘short-term’ political results. We, in South Africa, are fortunate that so much of this wisdom is to be found in our National Development Plan. All of us can contribute to making the dream a reality. – NW


It feels a bit like cheating when one has the opportunity to gain insight into a previously unknown aspect of history purely as a side effect of being engrossed in a beautiful novel. Wonderfully and lyrically written, Allende’s characters have layers that cause some kind of time warp as it becomes harder to return to reality when closing the covers. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes the love component of the story so compelling, except that the hope that manifests through a flame that flickers and bends but doesn’t go out is particularly potent. Countless words, pages and books have been written around the Second World War and all it’s ripples and ramifications but The Japanese Lover delivers a different, inspiring and provoking take that challenges and enchants. – KD[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]