GIFT Reads — May 2019

One of the pillars of GIFT's unique learning methodology is Knowledge (alongside Communication and Empathy). To encourage this in our participants, we regularly recommend articles, books and other resources through our daily bulletins in Module One.

These provide a different perspective on business, economics, politics and history than one would typically get from a traditional business education or from the mainstream media. We also try to emphasize books with a focus on Asia, or books from Asian authors.

Our participants, both during and after our programmes, say that they greatly value these recommendations. In many cases, they encouraged the beginning or renewal of a personal reading habit, and some have even been inspired to start reading libraries within their offices and teams.

In our view, an essential aspect of effective leadership is a broad awareness of the world and how it is changing.

In GIFT Reads, we suggest a few books that may not feature in your usual book review sections but which we believe will enrich your understanding of the world and the Asia region.

These books will cover a vast array of topics, many of which are integral parts of our core curriculum during our leadership programmes. Many will focus on Asia, be it the region's history, governments, economies or cultures. Some may focus on individual people and places. Others might make grand sweeping statements. We hope that they will inspire you to further challenge yourself to go beyond conventional thinking and deepen your understanding of the wider world.

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

By Ruby Lal
W. W. Norton & Company


Empress discusses the story of Nur Jahan, co-ruler of the Mughal Empire alongside her husband, the Emperor Jahangir. Jahangir allowed Nur Jahan to govern the Empire, first alongside him, then in his stead when he was unavailable due to illness, capture, or distraction. Nur Jahan was a political, diplomatic and military leader, matching the skills of other strong female leaders in what were normally patriarchal societies.

Empress is a reminder that stories of historical female empowerment are not limited to the West. The book is a counterpoint against those who only look for stories of female power in Western histories, and against those who dismiss the Islamic world as perpetually biased against women.

Hicky's Bengal Gazette: The Untold Story of India's First Newspaper

By Andrew Otis
Westland


Hicky’s Bengal Gazette discusses the history behind the first newspaper in India. James Augustus Hicky, a visitor from Ireland, decides to launch a gazette in Calcutta (now Kolkata), which immediately investigates the misdeeds of colonial and East India Company authorities. The newspaper was shocking for its time: discussing taboo topics and taking an anti-war and anti-colonial attitude. The gazette lasted two years before it was suppressed by an embarrassed Governor and East India Company.

Hicky’s Bengal Gazette is a lively read about one of the first instances of the press in Asia, and an inspiration for later efforts by Indians — a precursor to the vibrant and brash media landscape we see in today’s India.

No Third Person: Rewriting the Hong Kong Story

By Christine Loh and Richard Cullen
Abbreviated Press


No Third Person is an attempt to present a new narrative about Hong Kong and its future. This new narrative recognises that Hong Kong must discuss its value, and the value of its autonomy, as part of China, rather than see its future as wholly separate. It is a call for a balanced view between preserving Hong Kong’s autonomy and promoting its value to China’s society and economy.

No Third Person is a succinct read — short enough to be read on a day’s commute — but presents a novel perspective on Hong Kong and its future. Discussion about Hong Kong’s future tend to flit between two extremes: complete separation or complete sublimation. No Third Person provides an alternate path.

The China Questions: Critical Insights into a Rising Power

Edited By Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi
Harvard University Press


The China Questions is a collection of essays, each framed around an important question about the world’s second-largest economy. Some of these are basic, yet important questions: Will China lead Asia? Can China’s high growth continue? Can China address air pollution and climate change? Others are more subtle, yet try to grasp at important insights about how China operates: What does longevity mean for leadership in China? Why do intellectuals matter to Chinese politics? How do China’s new rich give back?

The China Questions provides a broad view of China, and acts as a good introduction to the broad spectrum of issues facing this massive country.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

By Anand Giridharadas
Knopf

This book (and its author) have made a splash in the media scene over the past year, but despite that, it is still one of the most important works released in the past year. As the problems with our current economic and governance model come to the fore, many business leaders have styled themselves as philanthropists, arguing that their business savvy allows them to more effectively "give back" to society. Giridharadas examines, investigates and critiques these efforts, noting how they sustain, rather than diminish, the underlying factors that cause these inequalities.

Winners Take All is an important book: one that every person interested in how we should tackle social problems should read.