Book recommendations: Ambassadors’ picks

Annahar asked ambassadors for book recommendations, and here are their top choices.
by Paula Naoufal

11 March 2019 | 16:22

Source: by Annahar

  • by Paula Naoufal
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 11 March 2019 | 16:22

The cover of Emma's War by Deborah Scroggins.

LONDON: Author Vera Nazarian once said: “Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” Given the importance and richness of reading, Annahar asked ambassadors for book recommendations, and here are their top choices:

Italian ambassador to Lebanon Massimo Marotti’s personal favorite is The Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which builds upon ideas from his previous works which include Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and The Bed of Procrustes. It’s part of Taleb’s five-volume philosophical treatise Incerto. “To me, this was the most inspiring book that I’ve read recently. The book consists of ideas that made me see things differently,” he told Annahar.

Some of Marotti’s other book recommendations include L’Amica Geniale by Elena Ferrante which, as he recalls, is a captivating story that generates many emotions and Le Rocher de Tanios by Amin Maalouf, which “remains unforgettable” to the ambassador.

Dutch ambassador to Lebanon Jan Walkmans recommended two personal favorites. The first book is Emma’s War by Deborah Scroggins, which talks about a young British woman who fell in love with a Sudanese militia leader. According to Walkmans, the book discusses complex relationships and several dilemmas, mainly falling in love with an authoritarian leader while being an activist.

The second book is The Africa House, which tells the story of a young rich British man who’s who wanted to build his dream house in the middle of nowhere in Zambia. The book portrays the challenges of moving from a western country to a rural area in Africa. “My wife and I even went and visited that house,” Walkmans told Annahar.  

Indian Ambassador to Lebanon Sanjiv Arora The Story of My Experiments with Truth – Gandhi’s picture Indian ambassador to Lebanon Sanjiv Arora’s personal favorite is The Story of My Experiments with Truth – Gandhi’s Autobiography covers the life of Mahatma Gandhi from early childhood until 1921. This book was named among the "100 Best Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by a committee of global spiritual and religious authorities.

The ambassador’s other two picks are The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel, which is a detailed biography of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan; and Cutting the Lion's Tail: Suez through Egyptian Eyes by Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, a friend and confidant to former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nassar. In his book, he talks about Egypt's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal and the international reactions and consequences that occurred due to this decision. 

Swiss ambassador to Lebanon Monika Schmutz Kirgöz’s favorite is Le Quatrième Mur by Sorj Chalandon. “I’ve read German translation: Die Vierte Wand. I can’t understand why this exceptional book is not translated into English yet. It’s a deep, sometimes cruel, but mostly human and incredibly differentiated book about Lebanon during the Civil War,” she told Annahar.

It’s about a young Frenchman who comes to Lebanon to fulfil the dream of his dying friend to set up the theater piece Antigone by Jean Anouilh during the Civil War. Another favorite of Kirgöz is The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf, which to her “is an incredible discovery.” It’s the graphic memoir of Riad, son of a French mother and a Syrian father, who grows up between Libya, France and Syria and tells us with love, humor and sociological brilliance about the cultural differences that reign inside the marriage of his parents.

“The challenges of a cross-cultural childhood are drawn with so much accuracy and love for every detail, that one feels starting to understand the root causes of the actual conflict in Syria,” Kirgöz added. 

Finally, Lebanese ambassador to the United Kingdom Rami Mortada’s favorite is The Prophet by Gibran Kahlil Gibran, which he believes is a magnificent timeless book. The prophet is a collection of inspirational, spiritual and philosophical poetic essays that deal with everyday aspects of life, ranging from love, prayer, laws, work, to freedom and much more.

The book has been translated to almost 20 languages and it has sold around nine million copies.          

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