History’s victors top draw for leaders’ summer reads

Joseph Muscat picks Alistair Campbell's 'Winners', Simon Busuttil chooses tale of brave leadership in Antarctic, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca opts for book on billionaire philantropists 

The Knights of Malta et al: Bishop Charles J. Scicluna will be leafing through Ernle Bradford’s 'The Great Siege Malta 1565'
The Knights of Malta et al: Bishop Charles J. Scicluna will be leafing through Ernle Bradford’s 'The Great Siege Malta 1565'

Don’t judge books by their cover, but by their reader… and with summer underway and the White House making Barack Obama’s reading list a matter of protocol (together with his Spotify list – that’s his music playlist, baby-boomers), MaltaToday dropped a quick line to the country’s leaders to find out which tomes they will be leafing their fingers through, and where they will be taking their summer break.

Joining hundreds of other Maltese on the sister island, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is spending his August break in Gozo – one can never be too far away from the seat of power – taking with him some sage advice from the feared Blair enforcer and spin-meister, Alastair Campbell, whose Winners: And How They Succeed explores what it takes to be successful and how to get to the top.

Muscat’s reading choice (no doubt personally signed by Campbell himself) happens to be also this summer’s pick for Andy Burnham, the former UK health secretary who is now running for the Labour leadership. Sadly, the contender is unable to overtake frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn, whom we doubt will be tapping into Campbell’s advice any time soon.

But Muscat won’t be switching off completely, having taken with him the site selection report for the American University of Malta (how many pages can it possibly be…?) and, more time-consuming, the Budget 2016 preparation reports.

Equally telling of our leaders’ aspirations is Simon Busuttil’s choice of book, Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell. While opting for a more cosmopolitan getaway in Barcelona, the leader of the opposition will be reading how Sir Ernest led 27 men in 1914 in a fight for their lives after they became stranded on an ice floe. Every man survived, ascribing it to Shackleton’s superb leadership. The book draws on anecdotes and interviews to illustrate Shackleton’s tactics, making it a great guide on management strategies.

President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, who hardly takes a break but will be seeking the company of her family, has been dubbed as “a book lover” by her communications office. “She describes reading time as her only space where she can truly find time to get inspired.  By her bedside table lies a pile of various books, eagerly to be read,” her spokesperson said.

At the moment the President is reading Philantrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green. The book looks into how today’s billionaire philanthropists – one example is Bill Gates – view helping charity as a business: social investors using big-business-style strategies and expecting results and accountability to match.

Coleiro Preca is also reading Konvinzjoni u Esperjenza, the autobiography of President Emeritus Ugo Mifsud Bonnici.

After presiding the festive liturgy at the Mdina Cathderal and at Mosta, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna will be enjoying what’s left of the Santa Marija weekend at St Paul’s Bay, accompanied by Ernle Bradford’s The Great Siege Malta 1565.

A widely-published academic, the University of Malta’s professor in comparative literature, and also Alternattiva Demokratika’s chairperson Arnold Cassola, boasts the longest and most interesting of reads for these holidays.

First up, scratch the European getaway: the professor is slapping on the Nivea on a one-kilometre stretch of beach on a small island in Thailand, packing with him no fewer than four books… in four different languages. “To get away from the political mess I read about daily in the newspapers, such as Electrogas loans and the whole list of lawyers and consultants who have had Mr Gaffarena as their client, beach reading is strictly limited to detective stories: James Ellroy’s Sei Pezzi da Mille set around the JF Kennedy murder, Patricia Highsmith’s Le Meurtrier (French version of The Blunderer) and Jo Nesbo’s The Son (translated from Norwegian),” Cassola said.

“I hope to start Rigu Bovingdon’s new book on Franco-Algerian-Maltese poet Laurent Ropà, on my long waits at different airports on the way back.”