The best books exposing corporate, political, and personal corruption

Shane Joseph Author Of Empire in the Sand
By Shane Joseph

Who am I?

I have been a writer for more than twenty years and have favored pursuing “truth in fiction” rather than “money in formula.” I also spent over thirty years in the corporate world and was exposed to many situations reminiscent of those described in my fiction and in these recommended books. While I support enterprise, “enlightened capitalism” is preferable to the bare-knuckle type we have today, and which seems to resurface whenever regulation weakens. I also find writing novels closer to my lived experience connects me intimately with readers who are looking for socio-political, realist literature.


I wrote...

Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

Book cover of Empire in the Sand

What is my book about?

A tale that combines corporate cover-ups, political fraud, and family breakdown into a perfect storm that prompts protagonist Avery Mann (Everyman), a former pharmaceuticals executive forced into retirement by unscrupulous bosses, to come out of the shadows of irrelevance and fight for what he believes is right. 

Set during the robocalls scandal-plagued Canadian Federal Election of 2011, and combined with the burgeoning generics drugs industry at the time that pitted rigorous testing needs against speed-to-market imperatives, Joseph spins a cautionary tale of corporate, political, and personal greed, endemic of our times.

The books I picked & why

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David Golder

By Irene Nemirovsky,

Book cover of David Golder

Why this book?

David Golder embodies the classic “rags to riches” story fueled by insecurity and greed. He is the breadwinner of a morally bankrupt family that spends and cheats openly on him, and whose members blame him when he is unable to bring home the bacon anymore. A tightly-woven plot, with business deals that take place offstage but which impinge strongly on everyone, especially Golder—who is heroic in business, yet tragic in life. You might find his Russian negotiation tactics, replete with temper tantrums, of particular interestthey are still in use today. Written in short chapters and with cutting dialogue, this book carried Némirovsky to international fame in 1929; however, being an assimilated French Jew, prominence attracted Nazi persecution, culminating in her death at Auschwitz. 

David Golder

By Irene Nemirovsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked David Golder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Readers everywhere were introduced to the work of Irene Nemirovsky through the publication of her long-lost masterpiece, Suite Francaise. But Suite Francaise was only a coda to the brief yet remarkably prolific career of this nearly forgotten, yet hugely talented novelist, who fled Russia for Paris after the Revolution and died at Auschwitz at the age of 39. Here in one volume are four of Nemirovsky's other novels - all of them newly translated by the award-winning Sandra Smith, and all, except David Golder, available in English for the first time.

David Golder is the book that established Nemirovsky's reputation…


The Back of the Turtle

By Thomas King,

Book cover of The Back of the Turtle

Why this book?

A scientist discovers that his invention, a defoliant, has contributed to exterminating an entire native reserve in British Columbia, causing the birds and turtles to leave. The battle is on between nature and science to restore the balance. But all is not well in the corporation, for the scientist’s boss has become a shopaholic to compensate for his lonely life and wonders why his wife wants to divorce him. The characters are enjoyable, the action circular, and our current political considerations are tackled in a non-didactic fashion. And the human spirit triumphs despite the chemical overload! Throughout the novel, King makes searing one-liners about unbridled capitalism: “capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.”

The Back of the Turtle

By Thomas King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Back of the Turtle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2014 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction!

This is Thomas King's first literary novel in 15 years and follows on the success of the award-winning and best-selling The Inconvenient Indian and his beloved Green Grass, Running Water and Truth and Bright Water, both of which continue to be taught in Canadian schools and universities. Green Grass, Running Water is widely considered a contemporary Canadian classic.

In The Back of the Turtle, Gabriel returns to Smoke River, the reserve where his mother grew up and to which she returned with Gabriel's sister. The reserve is deserted after an…


The Dream of the Celt

By Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman (translator),

Book cover of The Dream of the Celt

Why this book?

Although a fictionalized autobiography of Sir Roger Casement, martyr of the Irish Revolution, two periods of his life, embedded in this tale, shed light on the evils of capitalism in colonial empires: King Leopold of Belgium’s abuse of the locals in the Congo to profit from their rubber crops, and a similar one in the Peruvian Amazon with a rubber company incorporated in Britain. Casement’s investigations and revelations on these cases lead to his knighthood. However, his belief that colonial nations can only be free if they resist their occupiers with violence, leads him to align with Germany in Ireland’s bid for independence in 1916, following 800 years of colonization. Unfortunately, his secret sexual past is exploited by enemies, and Ireland is liberated in 1922 without its beloved knight. 

The Dream of the Celt

By Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dream of the Celt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As The Dream of the Celt opens, it is the summer of 1916 and Roger Casement awaits the hangman in London's Pentonville Prison. Dublin lies in ruins after the disastrous Easter Rising led by his comrades of the Irish Volunteers. He has been caught after landing from a German submarine. For the past year he has attempted to raise an Irish brigade from prisoners of war to fight alongside the Germans against the British Empire that awarded him a knighthood only a few years before. And now his petition for clemency is threatened by the leaking of his private diary…


The Jungle

By Upton Sinclair,

Book cover of The Jungle

Why this book?

Sinclair’s exposé on the meat packing industry, published in 1905, reads more like a manifesto than a work of fiction, and may have blown the lid off the exploitation of workers in America, giving birth to the trade union movement. In the fictional plant, survival of the fittest applies; you work faster and faster until you drop; then someone replaces you. One understands the fascination with socialism that arose from these conditions, until capitalism returned with a vengeance in the 1980’s, and the financial collapse of 2008 set workers rights back to those years of The Jungle. Humanity moves in 100-year cycles, and this book is essential reading for our time. We hope the pandemic (another repetition from a hundred years ago) will restore some balance to current labor exploitation.

The Jungle

By Upton Sinclair,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Jungle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First serialized in a newspaper in 1905, The Jungle is a classic of American literature that led to the creation of food-safety standards.

While investigating the meatpacking industry in Chicago, author and novelist Upton Sinclair discovered the brutal conditions that immigrant families faced. While his original intention was to bring this to the attention of the American public, his book was instead hailed for bringing food safety to the forefront of people's consciousness.

With its inspired plot and vivid descriptions, Upton Sinclair's classic tale of immigrant woe is now available as an elegantly designed clothbound edition with an elastic closure…


Storm and Conquest: The Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809

By Stephen Taylor,

Book cover of Storm and Conquest: The Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809

Why this book?

The battle for Mauritius (Isle de France) is the central conflict in this history, pitting Nelson’s navy against Napoleon’s. At stake is the trade route between Britain and India via the Cape of Good Hope, and the spoils will accrue to whoever gains control of this conduit. A good primer on the behavior of different social classes crammed in proximity over 9-month voyages; on the sea battles involving giant East Indiamen sailing ships and smaller man o’ war frigates: their tactics, the damages suffered, and the fates of the poor sailors whether for insubordination or bravery. Today’s corporate battles do not shed blood, but the imperatives of first mover advantage, competitive might, and greed are still there—colonial business legacieseven if demonstrated now only in a boardroom. 

Storm and Conquest: The Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809

By Stephen Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Storm and Conquest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Indian Ocean was the final battleground for Nelson's navy and France. At stake was Britain's commercial lifeline to India-and its strategic capacity to wage war in Europe. In one fatal season, the natural order of maritime power since Trafalgar was destroyed. In bringing home Bengali saltpeter for the Peninsular campaign with military and civilian passengers, Britain lost fourteen of her great Indiamen, either sunk or taken by enemy frigates. Many hundreds of lives were lost, and the East India Company was shaken to its foundations. The focus of these disasters, military and meteorological, was a tiny French outpost in…


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