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Nelson Mandela: Reading Maketh a Man

Books that helped to shape a great man.

I am ashamed to admit that I have declared many a soul my mortal enemy for far less crimes than imprisonment. Yet after 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela was able to forgive his imprisoners. By his own admission he was a changed man after all that time - less aggressive and arrogant on his release. He attributed much of this change to the time he spent reading, not just the works of great authors, but also the biography of John Vorster and the works of CJ Langenhoven, so he could better understand and empathise with his oppressors. This collection contains the books he loved, books by people who admired him (gifts), and a few that give us insight into the life of this great man.

Books he read on Robben Island

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (a.k.a. The Robben Island Bible)

Book / ByWilliam Shakespeare
The Robben Island Bible was a concealed copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare . Former prisoner, Sonny Venkatrathnam kept it in his cell and covered it with Diwali cards to prevent seizure by the guards.

The Grapes of Wrath

Book / ByJohn Steinbeck

"When I closed that book, I was a different man. It enriched my powers of thinking and discipline, and my relationships. I left prison more informed than when I went in. And the more informed you are, the less arrogant and aggressive you are." - Nelson Mandela. This quote is an excerpt from an interview with Oprah Winfrey .

Julius Caesar

Book / ByWilliam Shakespeare
Nelson Mandela's chosen passage from Julius Caesar:
Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
You can read more about Mandela's fascination with this book in the article Nelson Mandela and the greatest book our species has produced by Daniel Hannan.

War and Peace

Book / ByLeo Tolstoy
"What do we care about buildings? What is important is to save the Russian army until winter comes. That will be the right moment for us to attack...If Napolean can take Moscow and then I'm assured of being able to crush him - that is what is important." - Nelson Mandela on War and Peace. Listen to more in this interview.

Books inscribed to Nelson Mandela

Into the Past: A Memoir

Book / ByPhillip Valentine Tobias

"For dear revered Nelson Mandela.
A little autobiographical token on the occasion of your 89th birthday!
With my felicitations and blessings.
And best wishes for strength and tolerable health in your 90th year.
And with my profound admiration. - Phillip V. Tobias (your fellow - 'Old Boy of Olivedale')"

Burger's Daughter

Book / ByNadine Gordimer

"Dear Madiba, This book, banned then in our country was smuggled to you on Robben Island, where I knew you read it because George brought me a message from you which gave me great reward - you found my story did justice to the truth of our time. You most likely didn't bring the book back with you when you returned to us, and lived magnificently, untiringly leading the struggle, so I thought I'd like to replace the 'imprisoned' copy. In homage and with much love - Nadine"


Book / ByDavid Rockefeller
"For Nelson Mandela. Whose moral leadership has been an inspiration throughout the world...David Rockefeller" I suspect that David Rockefeller was not famed for his beautifully legible handwriting, as I was unable to decipher the entire inscription .

The books about Nelson Mandela

Long Walk To Freedom

Book / ByNelson Mandela

This is Nelson Mandela's autobiography. Much of the book was written in secret when he was still in prison on Robben Island. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand him, and his path to becoming a leader.

Long Walk to Freedom [Illustrated]

Book / ByNelson Mandela, Chris Van Wyk, Paddy Bouma

This abridged and illustrated version of his autobiography is a great way to introduce children to the life of Nelson Mandela. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my copy...

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales

Book / ByNelson Mandela
The stories in the book where selected by Nelson Mandela. The audio version was the winner of Audiobook of the Year at the 2010 American BookExpo for its humanitarianism, overall quality and wide appeal. The readings are by international celebrities including; Matt Damon, Alan Rickman and Archbishop Tutu while the music is by South African legends, Vusi Mahlasela and Johnny Clegg .

Ukutya Kwasekhaya: Tastes from Nelson Mandela's Kitchen

Book / ByXoliswa Ndoyiya, Anna Trapido

What did Nelson Mandela enjoy eating? Like most people he favoured the food he ate as a boy. This is a collection of Nelson Mandela’s favourite recipes by his personal chef, Xoliswa Ndoyiya. He enjoyed South African staples; umngqusho (samp and beans) and tshaklaka (a spicy relish essential at braais), but also more conventional dishes like butternut soup and paella. While he encouraged his grandchildren to enjoy fruit for dessert, he was partial to pudding topped with ice cream or custard.

I am the founder of I love reading personal development books and try very hard to implement the stuff that resonates with me. For the most part I am paralysed by fear and indulge in the fine art of proscrastination. So it's small changes for me.

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