Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 March 2019

What executives from the UAE and beyond are reading this summer

With some much-needed time off to take in the coming weeks, the region’s executives have the chance to kick back and enjoy a little light reading. See what their literary choices are.
Illustration by Alvaro Sanmarti / The National
Illustration by Alvaro Sanmarti / The National

The summer reading list for the region’s corporate and economic leaders features several business books, as one would expect. But this is also a time for people to widen their perspectives with something off the beaten path, whether it be about testosterone, the nature of time or surviving on Mars.

Today, in the last of a two-part summer series (yesterday’s instalment provided a glimpse into businesspeople’s holiday plans), our informal panel shares its reading selections for the hot months.

Mishal Kanoo, deputy chairman of Kanoo Group conglomerate

I’ll be reading whatever I pick up [while on holiday] in the UK, but without wishing to sound pretentious my taste is for history, biography or philosophy. And the Beano or Dandy for the kids.

Richard Soundardjee, Société Générale chief executive, Middle East

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg: This has helped me manage my impatience and put my Emotional Intelligence (the title of another important book – by Daniel Goleman – that has informed my work for the past 15 years) into practice.

John Stevens, managing director for the property company Asteco in Dubai

How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Although written in 1936 it was passed to me by a friend and well worth reading by anyone who deals with customers and teaches success comes from communication and valuing others. The Martian by Andy Weir: not directly beneficial to work but a good piece of escapism that drew me in, allowing a disconnection from the day’s activities. The Once & Future King by TH White: bedtime reading with my son.

Ahmed Salem, General Electric’s regional manager for oil and gas.

The book I am reading right now is called The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, a book by Robin Sharma that is helping people to live great lives. This book reveals astounding insights on reclaiming our personal power, being true to yourself and fearlessly living your dream.

Owain Johnson, managing director of Dubai Mercantile Exchange

I’ve just finished reading John Coates’ The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, which is a fascinating study of how biological factors such as testosterone drive trading styles and can even move markets. I’ve been saving a book about regional political history – The Tribes Triumphant by Charles Glass – for my holidays. I saw the author speak as part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature earlier this year and he had some fascinating stories to tell.

John Sfakianakis, based in Riyadh as Middle East director with Ashmore Group

The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, by Daniel Bell. The book is making the case that Chinese-style meritocracy is a better system of governance than western liberal democracy. The book posits an idealised “China Model” in which the most able people in society are chosen to run the country on the basis of examinations. Their performance is then measured over many years in a variety of jobs, starting at the provincial level. His analysis of the problems facing modern China – rising inequality, elitism, the role of money in politics – also seemed strangely familiar.

Mohammed Hussein, general manager for the dairy company Hyproca Nutrition Middle East in Dubai

I do not get to indulge in reading as often as I used to, but recently I dug into Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by the Wall Street technology leader Caroline Arnold. I gained some good tips on self-motivation, boosting willpower, getting more organised and even sticking to New Year’s resolutions. I thought this was a good book when it came to self-development with its advice from leaders of different and diversified business sectors, and it helped me further refine my abilities as a general manager.

Cécile Chamaret, assistant professor at Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and supervisor of its luxury research programme

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. Nowadays the main issue with data is not how to store and deal with them but what to do with the huge amount we collect every hours and how to transform data into information. This book provides insights on new applications big data enable and underlines the new legal challenges we might face in the future.

Roberto De Diego Arozamena, chief executive of Dubai-based Abdul Latif Jameel Energy

This summer I will be reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I also like to read historical novels, especially of the Spanish and British navies, either in English or Spanish. I also enjoy reading books related to management.

Alexandre Mussallam, chief executive of Dubai-based Enova (formerly MAF Dalkia)

The last book I have read was 10 Tips for Leading in the Middle East by Tommy Weir, which I really recommend to anyone, even for people like us who are living in the Middle East for many years.

Jo Rowbotham, chief executive of Te Whiti, a Bahrain-based consultancy on sustainable growth

I am reading two books at the moment: Science, Society and the Environment: Applying Anthropology and Physics to Sustainability by Michael Dove and Daniel Kammen, and the summer edition of [the literary magazine] Tin House – so a mix of reading for work and leisure. Science, Society and the Environment marries anthropology with science and is giving me some interesting ideas in regard to energy efficiency policies for example where progress can be made on behavioural initiatives (in combination with automation and technology improvements, etc). Always helps to hear about different approaches and some of the pitfalls or unexpected positive upsides. Tin House just provides an escape as it is a mix of short stories and poems but they do say right brain activity promotes left brain.

Emma Howell, head of marketing for the Middle East at Seatrade

Sensible reading is a book recommended at a training course I attended recently called Everybody Writes: Your Go-to Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley. I’ve started it, but now need to digest it. I’ll probably read around seven books so my Kindle will be well stocked with a healthy mix of humorous books from the likes of Nick Spalding [whose comedies include Life on a High and Fat Chance] and I’ve been wanting to read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins for some time.

Marina Zbinden and Markus Zbinden, founders and owners of Avantcha, Dubai-based purveyor of luxury tea

The books we read at the moment are all about tea. Tea Classified by Jane Pettigrew, The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura and All The Tea in China by Wang Jian. The tea world is very complex and reading authors from different cultures gives a good prospective on how tea is perceived by various societies.

Omer Ghani, chief executive of Qmega, a solar-energy company based in Dubai

I don’t have much time to read because of my work commitments but do enjoy playing squash a few times during the week and on Friday (my day off) I always watch a movie and have a meal at some nice eatery in Dubai.

Umej Bhatia, Singapore ambassador to the UAE

I am going to try and take another stab at reading Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace over summer in the classic Inner Sanctum edition. This is a rare 1942 edition which I found and includes a reader’s guide on key characters and maps as a compass to this sprawling work of fiction that tries to sum up the human condition.

I’m more of a visual guy than a man of words, therefore instead of reading in my spare time I tend to cook or paint. It brings more value to the business and also provides the ideal escapism after a busy day.

Avi Bhojani, chief executive of Bates Pan Gulf communications group

My reading will be the usual – news and business affairs on a screen. But as it’s holiday time I might throw in some “management fiction” too. Business books are mainly fiction these days. I find.

* Compiled by LeAnne Graves, Michael Fahy, Frank Kane, Sananda Sahoo, Andrew Scott, Anthony McAuley, Mahmoud Kassem and Rob McKenzie

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Updated: June 30, 2015 04:00 AM



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