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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Five local eBooks to read this March

Blood Money
Johan Raath

‘Shortly after we took off from the check point I saw an old Opel with young men trying to pass us… I remember the cracks of the AK-47 bullets when it came through our windscreen. Our driver drew his pistol and fired back with his right hand while trying to control the speeding vehicle with his left.’

Johan Raath and a security team were escorting American engineers to a power plant south of Baghdad when they were ambushed. He had first arrived in Iraq only two weeks before. This was a small taste of what was to come over the next 13 years he worked there as a private military contractor (PMC).

His mission? Not to wage war but to protect lives. Raath acted as a bodyguard for VIPs and, more often, engineers who were involved in construction projects to rebuild the country after the 2003 war. His physical and mental endurance was tested to the limit in his efforts to safeguard construction sites that were regularly subjected to mortar and suicide attacks. Key to his survival was his training as a Special Forces operator, or Recce.

Working in places called the Triangle of Death and driving on the ‘Hell Run’, Raath had numerous hair-raising experiences. As a trained combat medic he also helped to save people’s lives after two suicide bomb attacks on sites he then worked at.
 
Manage Your Money Like a F*cking Grownup
Sam Beckbessinger

‘We never get an instruction manual about how money works. We never have to pass a test to get our Money License before we can take a new credit card for a drive. Most of what we learn about money comes from advertising or from other people who know as little as we do.

No wonder we make such basic mistakes. No wonder we feel disempowered and scared. No wonder so many of us just decide to stick our heads in the damn sand and just never deal with it.

I wrote this book, because so many of the people I spoke to told me that they wished someone would.’

In this clear and engaging basic guide to managing your finances, Sam Beckbessinger covers topics from compound interest and inflation to “Your brain on money”, negotiating a raise, and particularly local South African phenomena like “black tax”.

The book includes exercises and “how-to’s”, doesn’t shy away from the psychology of money, and is empowering, humorous and helpful. The book you wish you’d had at 25, but is never too late to read.

Sam Beckbessinger is a writer, user-experience designer and entrepreneur who is on a quest to help the emerging middle class understand how to take charge of their finances. She is the cofounder of Phantom Design, a company that has helped to build bitcoin wallets, cryptocurrency exchanges, smart credit cards and more. She also lectures extensively on online culture, marketing and behavioural economics. Sam holds a BA Honours Degree from the University of Cape Town, studied Strategy Design at the Gordon Institute of Business Science and was a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow at Yale University.
 
The Expert Landlord
David Beattie

You have a residential investment property. Perhaps you are already renting it out. But are you doing it like a pro and do you know how to maximise your return from it? In this book, property management expert David Beattie distils two decades of experience into easy-to-implement steps and shows you how to manage your property like a professional landlord. His goal is to help you make more money in less time and with fewer hassles, by showing you how to run your property investment like a business; navigate and comply with South African rental laws with ease; attract, screen, place and keep high-quality tenants; ensure successful and consistent rent collection; and maintain your property with the least effort and money. The book also includes templates for all the documents the prospective landlord needs.

David Beattie is a well-known property expert in South Africa. He is the founder and director of Chorus Letting, a leading residential property rental agency managing 2000 properties across Cape Town and Johannesburg. More recently, David has turned his attention to the growing market of private landlords. He is also the founder of PocketLet, a tool for private landlords to effectively manage their own properties.
 
The Villager: How Africans Consume Brands
Feyi Olubodun

When Feyi Olubodun, CEO of one one of West Africa’s leading creative agencies, witnessed one too many cases of brands failing in the African marketplace he began to ask himself questions:

* Why did brands, both global and local, so often fail to connect with the African consumer?

* What was it about the African market that brand owners were not seeing?

He began to reflect on his own marketing experiences and out of this emerged the framework for The Villager.

In Feyi’s view, the African consumer begins his life’s journey by moving from the village, his rural dwelling, to the city, carrying with him not only his own dreams but also the dreams of his community. He is a highly aspirational consumer, motivated to succeed, and he becomes the economic portal for the rest of his community back home. But although he may be exposed to global influences and technology, his essential identity remains largely intact. This is why Feyi calls the African consumer a Villager. The Village is no longer a physical space; it is a psychological construct that defines him and the filter through which he engages with and consumes brands.

In developing his construct, Feyi posits that if you wish to engage successfully in a market you may not understand, you must have the right ‘lenses’ to view a people. He believes the secret lies in applying these lenses at the confluence of commerce, culture and consumer. Data is not enough to understand the vagaries of a particular market. Drawing on his wide experience and wealth of astute observations, he provides a highly readable and indispensable guide to the mindset of the African consumer today, yet it is true to say that his insights apply, albeit in a more nuanced way, to consumer behaviour across the globe.

The Villager is essential reading for brand owners wishing to conquer new markets.

Feyi Olubodun spent four years at medical school before changing to another course of study. He transferred his interest in humans from the anatomical to the psychological and graduated with a degree in psychology.

He worked as a Data Analyst and Marketer Researcher, at TNS-RMS for several years and later at Insight Publicis, where he was Strategy Director for before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Along the way Feyi got his Global Executive MBA from the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, and in 2016 he was appointed Managing Director/CEO of Insight Publicis Nigeria.
 
Like Sodium in Water
Hayden Eastwood

“Dad thinks lots of things are right-wing. He even thinks He-Man is right-wing. I ask Dad who we are and he says left-wing. Left is opposite to right. If right is bad, then we’re the opposite of that, which means we’re good.”

It’s post-independence Zimbabwe and an atmosphere of nostalgia hangs over much of Harare’s remaining white community. Hayden Eastwood grows up in a family that sets itself apart, distinguishing themselves from Rhodie-Rhodies through their politics: left is good; right is bad.

Within the family’s free and easy approach to life, Hayden and his younger brother, Dan, make a pact to never grow up, to play hide and seek and build forts forever, and to never, ever be interested in girls. But as Hayden and Dan develop as teenagers, and the chemicals of adolescence begin to stir, their childhood pact starts to unravel.

And with the arrival of Sarah into their lives, the two brothers find themselves embroiled in an unspoken love triangle. While Sarah and Hayden spend increasing amounts of time together, Dan is left to deal with feelings of rejection and the burden of hidden passion alone, and the demise of a silly promise brings with it a wave of destruction.

Laced with humour, anger and sadness, Like Sodium in Water is an account of a family in crisis and an exploration of how we only abandon the lies we tell ourselves when we have no other option.

When not informing people about the inadvisability of push-starting motorbikes in close proximity to rivers, Hayden Eastwood develops cryptocurrency trading bots as part of a high-risk low-return business venture portfolio. Non-transferable skills from a doctorate in computational physics have likewise ill-equipped him for gooseberry farming, vehicle maintenance and relationships with women. He lives in Harare.

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