The best books to thrillingly page-turn

Who am I?

I am an activist-politician, who’s been both militant anti-apartheid protestor and Cabinet Minister, someone who tries to convey sometimes complex issues in straightforward terms, impatient with taking refuge down academic rabbit holes, striving to see the wood-for-the-trees. With the exception of George Orwell, each of the books I have recommended is by an author I know personally. My new thriller, The Elephant Conspiracy, sequel to The Rhino Conspiracy, reflects dismay at the corrupt betrayal of Nelson Mandela’s freedom struggle and the values which inspired it, the main characters fighting to revive those values of social justice, liberty, equal opportunities, and integrity, as well as service to others not selfish enrichment. 


I wrote...

The Elephant Conspiracy

By Peter Hain,

Book cover of The Elephant Conspiracy

What is my book about?

Leading politician and anti-apartheid campaigner turns the spotlight on Elephant poaching in South Africa. Gripping and pacey this is an epic tale of corruption, collusion, and courage. Having thwarted murderous poachers in The Rhino Conspiracy, the Veteran, Thandi and Mkhize are back in a new fight – battling to save elephant herds from being callously killed for their ivory, whilst trying to block wholesale political corruption and money laundering in contemporary South Africa. Will the forces of good triumph over the vicious looters? Can the annual trillion-dollar money laundering trade be brought to heel by a brave whistleblower? Peter Hain’s gripping second thriller builds to a dramatic climax, the action switching from wildlife to politics, from bushveld to city, from high finance to poaching. 

The books I picked & why

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Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell,

Book cover of Homage to Catalonia

Why this book?

I recall reading it in my late teens, less as the classic it was on the barbarous Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, and more as a personal discovery by Orwell of how his democratic socialist instincts were sharpened and shaped by the buffeting swirl of ideological clashes and bitter sectarian struggles within the inspirational resistance to Franco’s fascism in Spain. As he witnessed the heroism and the horror, the passion and sometimes the ulterior purposes of these competing groups, Homage to Catalonia for me was a gripping narrative, climaxing in the internecine firefight in Barcelona where the left helped defeat itself, and thereby opened the door to Franco’s murderous victory and equally murderous rule. 

Like Orwell’s, the socialism that I had come to believe in during the first ten years of my life in Britain was instinctively ‘libertarian’ rather than ‘statist’, favouring democracy and liberty rather than central control and bureaucracy.  And like his, my politics were determinedly non-sectarian, committed to the broadest possible unity for practical action. His book helped define an enduring set of beliefs that were to guide me through more than fifty years of political life, both outside and inside government.

Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Homage to Catalonia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Homage to Catalonia remains one of the most famous accounts of the Spanish Civil War. With characteristic scrutiny, Orwell questions the actions and motives of all sides whilst retaining his firm beliefs in human courage and the need for radical social change.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is introduced by Helen Graham, a leading historian on the Spanish Civil War.

When George Orwell arrived in Spain in 1936, he…


Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

By Nelson Mandela,

Book cover of Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Why this book?

An extraordinary personal testimony to courage, steadfast resolve, principle, sacrifice, and strong leadership from the greatest, most iconic figure of the 20th century. From herd-boy to freedom fighter, from prisoner to President this is an inspiring story for our age by someone my parents knew from their campaigning against apartheid in Pretoria in the late 1950s/early 1960s; and I met after he was released from prison.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

By Nelson Mandela,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Long Walk to Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2018 is the centenary of Nelson Mandela's birth

'The authentic voice of Mandela shines through this book . . . humane, dignified and magnificently unembittered' The Times

The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, A Long Walk to Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela's destiny. Emotive, compelling and uplifting, A Long Walk to Freedom is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.

'Burns with the luminosity of faith in…


The Foot Soldiers: A Times Thriller of the Month

By Gerald Seymour,

Book cover of The Foot Soldiers: A Times Thriller of the Month

Why this book?

A master thriller writer, his characters are invariably fascinating – the ‘good’ ones complex with frailties yet often quietly heroic, the ‘bad’ ones, not just villains but people. His plots take you on a page-turning journey in credible geo-contemporary theatres, combining gripping tensions and insights. I first met him in 1969-70 when he was a television reporter covering the anti-apartheid struggle in Britain.

The Foot Soldiers: A Times Thriller of the Month

By Gerald Seymour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'[A] masterly novel' - The Sunday Times

'Strong echoes of George Smiley' - Financial Times

'A novel of real quality. Top brass' - The Times Thriller of the Month

*****

Beware of Russians bearing gifts.

Defectors are not always welcome.

Is the information they bring worth the cost of protecting them for the rest of their lives? Is it even genuine? Might they be double agents?

These are some of the questions facing MI6 when a Russian agent hands himself in to them in Denmark.

As a team begins to assess his value, his former employers in the Kremlin develop…


To Kill a Man

By Sam Bourne,

Book cover of To Kill a Man

Why this book?

Another journalist whom I have met in real life the award-winning British journalist and broadcaster who writes for The Guardian, Sam Bourne is the literary pseudonym of Jonathan Freedland. To Kill A Man is a classic thriller with a climactic twist, a gripping tour de force through American feminism up against violent misogyny, ambition and struggle, politics, and crime. He writes with both simplicity and complexity, insight, and pacy readability.   

To Kill a Man

By Sam Bourne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Kill a Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A cat-and-mouse thriller of rare intelligence, To Kill a Man is the latest from number-one bestseller Sam Bourne -- a twisting, timely story of power, justice and revenge.

A woman is brutally assaulted in her own home by an intruder. She defends herself -- leaving her attacker dead.

But this is no ordinary woman. She's Natasha Winthrop, tipped as a future president of the United States.

When inconsistencies emerge in Winthrop's story, political troubleshooter Maggie Costello is drafted in to save Natasha's career. At first, Winthrop is hailed as a #MeToo heroine: the woman who fought back. But Maggie is…


Lucy: Ultimate Survivor

By Elizabeth Haywood,

Book cover of Lucy: Ultimate Survivor

Why this book?

I enjoyed commenting on early drafts of this dramatic Georgian historical fiction written by my wife Elizabeth about her great-great-great-grandmother: painstakingly researched and vividly portrayed, it’s about love, betrayal, and survival. Lucy, strong-willed daughter of English landed gentry, born in the late 18th century, married Sam Lord, a plantation owner and fortune hunter from Barbados, at a time when women were their husband’s chattels with no rights even over the children. Abused and imprisoned by him in Barbados, she escaped with the help of enslaved people after giving birth at sea, braving disease and cruelty, and witnessing the abject misery of slavery in her descent from a life of pampered luxury to a struggle for survival in a far-off land.  

Lucy: Ultimate Survivor

By Elizabeth Haywood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A dramatic and intriguing true Georgian tale of love, betrayal and survival. Lucy, a strong-willed girl from a wealthy family, was brought up on the English–Welsh border and married a Caribbean plantation owner, Sam Lord, for love, meanwhile he married her for her fortune, at a time when a woman was a chattel and everything she had, including her children, became her husband’s. Abused and imprisoned in Barbados, she escaped with the help of enslaved people. A vibrant intimate description of early 19th-century life – giving birth at sea, braving disease and cruelty, and witnessing the abject misery of slavery…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Spanish Civil War, King George III, and intelligence services?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Spanish Civil War, King George III, and intelligence services.

The Spanish Civil War Explore 46 books about the Spanish Civil War
King George III Explore 12 books about King George III
Intelligence Services Explore 26 books about intelligence services

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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