5 non-fiction novels you should be reading

The right book can be like the big sister you never asked for who can dispense really good advice with no judgment. The books we read can definitely shape and influence us, whether you’re looking for professional tips or just reading for the giggles.

Roald Dahl said it best, ‘If you’re going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books‘. Here are my 5 picks for books that will leave you crying, laughing and inspired.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling


…write your own part. It is the only way I’ve gotten anywhere. It is much harder work, but sometimes you have to take destiny into your own hands. It forces you to think about what your strengths really are, and once you find them, you can showcase them, and no one can stop you.

For the Motherland Mogul who isn’t shy to speak up, has a wicked sense of humour and does not believe in following the traditional path. Mindy Kaling is witty, entertaining and more importantly, an example of how you can be your own heroine.

The experiences detailed in her book are a great way to feel motivated into taking your career path into your hands. When the mould isn’t set for you, you can say screw it and make your own path.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes


“Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.”

For the Motherland Mogul who needs to get out of her comfort zone. We all know Shonda Rhimes is the goddess of television, how can she not be? As the titan behind  the TGIT shows (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and the Catch), she has revolutionized television.

Her shows have sparked interesting conversations and given young women bad ass female characters who inspire us in various waysYear of Yes dares you to work hard, step out of you comfort zone and love yourself. So whether you need to ask for that raise or have been feeling like you are in a rut, you can definitely be inspired by this book to step up your game and challenge yourself to live a more fulfilling life.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


“Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be … a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

For the Motherland Mogul who needs a reminder of how awesome being a woman is. Now we all know a book list would not be complete without our soul sister Chimamanda. This book is based off her inspirational TED talk which also featured as part of Beyonce’s **Flawless** gaining her worldwide acclaim and attention.

This book is ideal to gain an understanding of feminism from an African point of view. It may also be a great read for those who don’t truly understand what feminism is and how important it is in today’s modern society.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly


“Their dark skin, their gender, their economic status–none of those were acceptable excuses for not giving the fullest rein to their imaginations and ambitions.”

For the Motherland Mogul who needs some inspiration. If you have not watched Hidden Figures, you are doing yourself the greatest disservice ever. Reading the book? Just as necessary. The biography details the discrimination faced by the three mathematicians who worked as human computers at NASA.

Dealing with racism and sexism, it highlights how intersectional oppression is an experience faced by black women in the workplace. It’s a great read for when you feel unappreciated in the workplace or when you face challenges like racism and sexism. This story can definitely motivate you to persist beyond the challenges that can suppress your talents and skills.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah


“I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”

For the Motherland Mogul whose past is key to defining her future. Reading this book felt like reading a love letter to Trevor Noah’s mom, his respect and adoration for her are clear. The description of his upbringing as a mixed race child during the Apartheid era showed her resilience and strength that motivated him to become the man he is today.

Very often we take our experiences for granted, yet they can shape our career and personal choices. Life is about pushing through the hard times, finding pride in who we are and taking that leap no matter how scary.

Kgauhelo Dube: The European framing of public discourse is disturbing

Kgauhelo Dube
2015 Mbokodo Women in Arts nominee @kgauzagp shares why she moved to the arts sector Click To Tweet

Kgauhelo Dube incorporates her knowledge and experience in traditional advertising into the work she does within the arts, culture and heritage field. She combines these on an eclectic mix of projects, including her own brainchild, #longstorySHORT.

#longstorySHORT was launched in March 2015 to promote African literature through interactive events. These events feature the work of African writers, discussions about important topics affecting literacy in Africa and the sale of books.

Kgauhelo continues to be part of a wide array of projects from festival management, content production for TV to acting as a strategic consultant to various artists, cultural foundations and corporations.

She was 2015 nominee for Mbokodo Women in Arts award in the category of “Promotion of Arts and Culture in the Media”.

You worked as a brand strategist for a firm. Why did you make the move to literature?

I didn’t move from brand strategy environment to literature. I’d say I moved to the arts, culture and heritage sector. I made the move because I believe there’s a big role that the arts, culture and heritage sector play in social change, especially in South Africa, a country with a huge identity crisis.

The European framing of public discourse is disturbing. Popularising and normalising versus romanticising African ideas, identities, philosophy, languages are instrumental to unlocking the various economic, moral and societal crises we are currently facing.

The arts can play a huge role in social change, especially in South Africa @kgauzagp Click To Tweet

#longstorySHORT has been well received since its inception in March last year. What is the ‘short’ story behind the name, and how was the idea born?

Popular culture has in one way or another succeeded amplifying (whether tastefully or not) very important issues, and so we felt that we could tap into those same strategies and platforms to normalise the culture of reading.

#longstorySHORT hosts a podcast in Setswana. Do you see any financial benefits to publishing in African languages? Is there a growing market for such books for young Africans writers to tap into?

It’s difficult to focus on creating a business model around a culture that has been demonised over centuries. So, whilst there’s an opportunity in getting more Africans to read in indigenous languages, the first port of call would be for us as Africans to love ourselves enough to understand the potential transformative value of the wisdom that’s locked up in our languages.

Being African shouldn’t be about wearing “costumes” on our independence days and during Africa month. There’s no point in pouring a lot of resources in creating African content and selling it to people who mostly associate upward mobility and sophistication with European brands, languages, lifestyles and frame of reference.

Once we’ve dealt with the mind-shift, yes, then there are great opportunities for publishers, writers and content creators to disseminate exciting books, films, learning software in our languages! Think about it, Setswana is not only spoken in Botswana. SA has a huge population of Setswana speakers as well. Remember, we didn’t create the borders so there’s linguistic spill over in countries that border each other.

#longstorySHORT has celebrities endorsing African literature as its marketing strategy. Click To Tweet

It’s understandable for writers to participate in the reading events organised by #longstorySHORT. But no one expects a celebrity to participate in them. Why was it important to get them involved?

This is where we use the tactics employed by the marketing industry. It is a classic case of celebrity endorsement.

Instead of endorsing a beverage, the participating celebrity is endorsing African literature.

With 92% of local libraries closed in South Africa and the rise of ebooks, are print publishers in Africa staring at a bleak future?

The going statistic is that 92% of predominantly black schools don’t have functional libraries.

However, there’s been a surge in local libraries being built in these areas post-apartheid, which is why a lot of #longstorySHORT readings happen there.

How does #longstorySHORT engage with those who, for whatever reason, can’t attend readings and don’t have access to the internet?

#longstorySHORT is one of many literacy/ literature promotion campaigns. The scope for the change that needs to happen is not only going to be achieved by us.

There’s an exciting growth in literary entrepreneurship with many great young thinkers tackling the illiteracy conundrum in many different ways. There are festivals, online book clubs, bloggers, road-shows, master-classes and a host of other exciting things happening at the same time. It’s a special time for African writers.

According @kgauzagp to there’s an exciting growth in literary entrepreneurship Click To Tweet

In addition to the work #longstorySHORT is doing, what else can be done to help Africans publishers thrive and encourage bookstores to stock more African literature?

Since a nation’s literacy rate has a direct link to its GDP, more official interventions need to happen. There’s lots of policy around eradicating illiteracy, but there’s very little enforcement, monitoring and evaluation.

Governments have to have a more urgent, creative and spirited approach to these problems. It’ll never be enough to highlight these challenges within the contexts of calendar days such as World Book Day and World Mother Tongue Day. Consistent intervention is key.

What does the future hold for African literature, and more specifically for #longstorySHORT in the coming year?

From a promotional perspective, we believe the brand #longstorySHORT has high equity. Now the challenge is maintaining the frequency of readings and reaching remote audiences all over the continent.

That requires some brave brand managers and philanthropists pledging their marketing budgets and collaborating with us.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Five essential books on leadership

One of the best ways to become a leader is by soaking up advice from those who got there before you. A plethora of leadership books exist and it can be daunting to decide where to start.

You may want to go with popular books like “The 48 Laws of Power” or you may consider this list which spices things up by choosing books with a specific kind of woman in mind.

Whether you’re the woman whose family and friends dismiss her anxiety because “Africans don’t deal with that” or you’re struggling to find a balance between being a wife, mother, daughter, aunty, bff and/or businesswoman, we’ve got a book on leadership for you.

“#Girlboss” by Sophia Amoruso:

For the woman who doesn’t have time for the haters

Sophia Amoruso is the founder of Nasty Gal, an online fashion retailer worth over $250 million. When she was 22 years old, she was broke and had spent most of her teens on the road and shoplifting. “#Girlboss” is a book for the a typical CEO, it charts Amoruso’s ascendance into success offering practical life and career advice.

This one is for the women who walk the unbeaten path and have to listen to people asking them why they are setting up a puff-puff business when they haven’t yet married. In “#Girlboss” Amoruso reminds us to be loyal to our passions and remain nonconforming.

“Flying Without a Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success” by Thomas J. DeLong:

For the anxious #MotherlandMogul

“Flying Without a Net” is a useful guide to anxious professionals. Fear of the unknown is very real for some of us. It holds us back from new challenges and dims our brightness by making us vulnerable.

In this book, Thomas J. DeLong, Harvard Business School professor, teaches how to deal with fears and to turn vulnerability into strength. “Flying Without a Net” is essential learning on how to confront fears and improve on your courage.

essential books on leadership

“The First-Time Manager” by Loren B. Belker, Jim McCormick and Gary S. Topchik:

For the newbie just starting out

Called the “ultimate guide for anyone starting his or her career in management”, “The First-Time Manager” is effectively a beginner’s guide. This book is great for newbies venturing into the worlds of management and entrepreneurship.

It offers easy advice on diverse topics from discovering your management style and hiring and keeping your staff motivated to dealing with bosses and leading meetings.

“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” by Lois P. Frankel:

For the good girl ready to go bad

Apparently nice girls carry last. You may be making huge mistakes in your career by being overly likeable. “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” is a must-have for business women.

It shows that being a nice girl may not be the best way to take charge of your career.  Lois Frankel coaches us on getting rid of unconscious mistakes such as multi-tasking and not negotiating.

“The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius:

For the multitasking woman

This list won’t be complete without one from history. Marcus Aurelius ruled Rome from 161 to 180 A.D, he was also a legislator, a parent, a military officer, a political leader and a spouse. No wonder, Aurelius is considered to be one of the most powerful and respectable leaders in history.

And where better to learn than from a leader whose name is remembered thousands of years after his death? “The Emperor’s Handbook” brings timeless lesson from a Roman emperor to readers of today. It is a translation of Aurelius’s private personal notes on life, leadership and everyday advice.

What kind of leadership books is for a woman like you? Share them with us.