I recently sent out an SOS to the booksellers in Abbey’s — I wanted a recommendation for a good non-fiction book, as a change from fiction. I received prompt replies and am now looking forward to some interesting reading. Siân suggested a book from a Russian writer who was famously popular in the Twenties and Thirties and whose work has recently been re-published and is popular again. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi relates her adventures as she escaped from Moscow after the revolution. Published by the New York Review of Books. There are plenty of notes and a list of Further Reading for those interested in the reactions of ordinary people during the Revolution, although when I say this I must also say that Teffi was not an ordinary person!
In January 2009, experienced Australian journalist John Lyons arrived in Israel as the foreign correspondent for the Australian newspaper, together with his wife Sylvie le Clezio, a photo journalist, and his eight-year-old son Jack. They stayed until January 2015. He has now published Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir describing these fascinating years. This book will disappoint supporters of Israel. In Israel, there is much to admire, but the treatment of Palestinians living in Israel and the expansion of the Jewish Settlements on the West Bank is very troubling.
Lyons finds he can write as much criticism as he likes in Israel, but when such criticism is published overseas, there is an immediate reaction from supporters of Israel. The reasoning behind this is that readers of the Israeli local press are committed to the idea of Israel and accept that certain things do indeed happen, but such criticism in overseas media harms the image of a successful Jewish state. There are plenty of people ready and willing to obstruct such reports. There is no doubt that Israel wins the media battle. The latter parts of the book are really useful in trying to make sense of the Middle East - about the struggle between Sunni and Shia, about how Hamas works and the aims of the Netanyahu government, as well as a bit of history. His most alarming conclusion is that before too long the Jewish population in Israel will be a minority.
If you’re feeling a little unhappy about the state of the world, I recommend you read Live Lead Learn: My Stories of Life and Leadership by Gail Kelly, former CEO of St George Bank and Westpac. She now has numerous other roles, including a continuing member of the G30 and the Global Board of Advisors to the US Council on Foreign Relations, director of Woolworth Holdings in South Africa, director of the Country Road Group and David Jones in Australia, Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment for Care Australia and Adjunct Professor at the University of NSW. With seven pages of interesting photographs, this book is full of heartfelt advice for anyone who leads a group, from a true leader. It is really unusual to find someone so consistently thoughtful and kind. You’ll feel better about the world when you read this memoir of a generous-hearted businesswoman.
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