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10 books that Fast Company staff are giving for the holidays

From page-turning novels to biopics and tech books – our pick of the best new fiction and nonfiction.

[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

We believe books don’t have to be last-minute gifts for the holidays or an option when you are just plain stumped on what to get someone.

Although shopping for someone who loves to read can be tough, there’s always a book that suits anyone’s interests. They are, after all, the best way to give something meaningful and personal.

Here Fast Company Middle East staff shares their go-to books that make great holiday gifts. We hope, among these ten picks, you’ll easily find a match that will elicit gasps of “How did you know?!” from your loved ones.

 

Recommended by Karrishma Modhy, Managing Editor

Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda 

Trillion-dollar company Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world. And what makes it extra special is the beautiful design of every product ever launched. And it was Steve Jobs, who infused his magic to Apple. Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs talks about the creativity of Jobs and how he brought innovation, inspiration, collaboration, and, most importantly, finesse to almost everything at Apple. The writer talks about how a small group of people went to create something extraordinary, rather evolutionary, that has impacted millions of people today. 

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk is the real-life Tony Stark. An unusual gentleman of our generation, or rather, American history, Musk has started numerous companies, and some of the most groundbreaking work has been done at Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity. In this book, Musk talks about his childhood, his entry into the US, and his turbulent journey to be one of the most popular beings in the world. Additionally, he shares some mind-numbingly excellent insights into his companies and their future. If you’re a Musk fan, it is an amazing read. 

 

Recommended by Suparna Dutt D’Cunha, Editor

Wolf Hall trilogy by Hilary Mantel 

Hilary Mantel, who died this September, was one of the greatest novelists of our time. I admire her wit, creative ambition, and phenomenal historical insight. She won the Booker Prize twice for Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. The conclusion to her groundbreaking trilogy, The Mirror & the Light received huge critical acclaim and became an instant bestseller. The trilogy is a fictional account of the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, the powerful minister in the Tudor court of King Henry VIII. A blacksmith’s son, he rose to become Henry VIII’s right-hand man, and Mantel brings the Tudor court magnificently to life in this trilogy. No surprise then, to date, the Wolf Hall trilogy has sold more than five million copies worldwide and translated into over 40 languages. I’ve been a fan of giving books, occasion or not, and this year, as a tribute to this supremely talented writer (I read Bring Up the Bodies again after she passed), I am going to give my loved ones this trilogy wherein, in every book, she redefined what words can do, building unforgettable characters, with remarkable insight.

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis

This year we had plenty of new and interesting nonfiction titles, but I gravitated toward those more in touch with reality. And luckily for me, one of my favorite actresses, the legendary, subtly multidimensional Viola Davis (she was great even before she won an Oscar), shared her inspiring story, putting it elegantly in her own words. With all the odds stacked against her, living in a rat-filled house lacking heat and plumbing, it starts from her coming-of-age as a “competitive but shy” girl bullied in school, her anxiety causing bedwetting problems, but one who eventually went on to study at Juilliard to her award-winning acting career. In this blistering memoir, Davis celebrates finding herself, something most of us struggle with. This book is raw in its frankness but comes wonderfully alive as she pours passion into every page.

 

Recommended by Rachel Dawson, Correspondent 

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto 

I have never wanted to read a book as much as Jerry Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom. The reason was partly that I felt acquainted with the author, an inspiring visiting professor at Mumbai’s Sophia College, where I had completed my undergrad. I had attended every workshop he had held and found his outlook on life extremely compelling. So when he released his debut novel, I rushed to Kinokuniya in Dubai Mall and grabbed a copy. The narration is compelling and tells of the author’s experience with his mother’s manic depression. Even though it’s classified as a work of fiction, there are bits from the author’s real life. The characters in the book, Pinto’s parents, whom he calls Em and Big Hoom, are distinct and real, loving and delightful. But the star is Em,  a woman who loves literature, books, and the world of words.

We soon realize this is where Pinto’s natural flair for the literary world comes from. There’s a full spectrum of emotions that a reader will experience – joy, heartbreak, and grief – through the story. The raw bits where Pinto doesn’t hide from describing embarrassing bits are what hits hard; it showcases that the author is unwilling to conceal the ugly parts of his story. The book gives you a better understanding of the human experience and the sensitivity of knowing how mental illness can alter a person’s life and the lives of everyone around them. 

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I love books that remind us about the wonder of being a child and teach us to look at the world with simplistic curiosity. A book that encapsulates this wonder is Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by French aviator-author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944). Written at the height of World War II, the story is an autobiographical adventure, an anti-fascist story, and an interstellar journey. I revisited the book during the pandemic when I was going through a challenging period, mentally and emotionally. The Little Prince’s fascinating journey served as a mental balm. It enabled me to look at the world with a renewed perspective when everything reached a standstill. I tried to nourish a rose much like the Little Prince and focused on the little things in life. Lockdown then became one of the fascinating periods for me. Available in more than 500 languages and dialects, it’s the most widely translated book in print after the Bible. This timeless classic is definitely on my gifting list, as it’s a must-have in printed form. 

 

Recommended by Shweta Nair, Associate Editor

Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi

Bitter Orange Tree follows Zuhur, an Omani student at a British university torn between the past and the present. As she tries to make friends and fit in in Britain, she focuses on the connections that have been important in her life. Her strongest link is with Bint Amir, a lady she has always considered her grandma, who died shortly after Zuhur left the Arabian Peninsula. Bint Amir was not linked to Zuhur by blood but by far greater emotional bond.

The plot offers a fascinating examination of social standing, money, desire, and female agency. It paints a mosaic image of a young woman’s quest to grasp the roots she has grown from and to imagine adulthood in which her power and happiness can find the freedom necessary to flourish and bloom.

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

Seeking inspiration from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Glory is set in the animal kingdom of Jidada and was shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. 

After a 40-year reign, the “Old Horse” and his unpopular wife, a donkey named Marvellous, are overthrown in a coup. There is initially considerable joy and hope for change under a new governing horse, Tuvius Delight Shasha (the former vice-president turned rival of Old Horse). But, soon, all hope fades away when a young goat named Destiny returns from exile to give testimony to a nation rife with riches, corruption, and false prophets.

Bulawayo, without holding back, has spun a plot line that is humorous and, at the same time, mocks an autocratic regime by demonstrating the absurdity and surreal aspect of a police state.

 

Recommended by Hemanshi Tewari, Senior Correspondent

The Vision Code by Oleg Konovalov

What’s the single most valuable tool for any business organization? It is the “vision”. It is the power to design the destiny of a business. But is vision a sensation, a gift, the outcome of hard labor, or both? Oleg Konovalov’s The Vision Code guides you through in-depth interviews with 19 exceptional global visionaries representing various businesses and organizations. These leaders provide insight into the necessity of a vision and how to develop, communicate, and live by one. 

This fascinating book provides instructions for turning the idea of vision into reality. It gives the details required to create a convincing and clear vision, contains a clear guide to a crucial skill, and includes conversations with WD-40 Company Chairman and CEO Garry Ridge, leadership thinker Marshall Goldsmith, branding expert Martin Lindstrom, and many others. From self-assessment form to viability test, the book offers practical steps to set up your company’s vision, which is perfect for new leaders just starting their journey to the top of the business world.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

“Between life and death, there is a library. And within that library, shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.” The Midnight Library reads like a painful beauty of ordinary life. With his beautiful word palette, Matt Haig makes you imagine having the opportunity to see how things might have turned out if you had chosen differently. What would you have done differently if you had the chance to change your past mistakes?

The narrative centers on Nora Seed, who finds herself in The Midnight Library, a place between life and death, where she experiences countless variants of her existence. Nora asks how to appreciate life as she journeys through several alternate realities of what may have been in her life and learns that her potential is infinite.

This book delves deeply into topics such as despair, the nature of happiness and unhappiness, the burden of regret, and realizing the possibilities your life has to give. The best thing about this book is that it will have different meanings for every reader, and still it will fit. 

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