Sheep Noir’s ultimate and definitive list of the most useful books ever

Sometimes in mid –conversation I refer to information I read in a specific book and I then thank the literary gods for allowing that particular book to be published.

People who know me know which books I continuously refer to regardless if I am talking to a rapper at Juliep off Long Street or to a UCT Professor. These books are just that crucially informative that they are of use to me long after I have read them. Of course I am not saying that they are just precious conversation pieces but they are more than that, they are bursting mines of information.

So here below please find Sheep Noir’s ultimate and definitive list of the most useful books ever (of course this is not definitive as I know as I grow and get exposed to more knowledge it will be amended soon enough).

Sheep Noir’s ultimate and definitive list (in no particular order):

    • Outliers
    • Middlesex
    • The Heart of Redness
    • Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work
  • The Wretched of the Earth


By Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers is full of useful information. I was at a dinner recently and I was more than comfortable to share Gladwell’s theory of Hierarchical culture when discussing the San Francisco air crash.

There has been robust debate as to whether it is fair to apply his theory to the crash or not or whether it is kind of prejudiced to. I know that if I had not read this book which explains many phenomena we encounter I would have been lost in this conversation. Click here to read the controversy caused by people linking Gladwell’s theory to the crash.

Most Useful learning
: Gladwell attempts to map out the components that lead to success. You can also find his famous 10 000 hours theory in this remarkable work.

“It is not the brightest who succeed …Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”


Jeffery Eugenides

This is easily one of my favourite books but aside from being a well written coming of age story it also sheds light on the intersexed community and the hardships they encounter.

Reading this book really prepared me for any ignorant jokes made about hermaphrodites and intersexed people. I was not fully aware of this community’s existence or the traumas they experienced until I read Middlesex.

Not only does it explore the politics of gender but it also explores the identity of the migrant as well as American racial politics.

Most Useful learning: Middlesex delicately illustrates the experiences of the intersexed communities through the title’s main protagonist, Cal Stephanides.

“Gender was like a native tongue; it didn’t exist before birth but was imprinted in the brain during childhood, never disappearing. Children learn to speak Male or Female the way they learn to speak English or French”. (pg411).

The Heart of Redness

Zakes Mda

I feel it is useless to read million of books but to still remain ignorant of the history and present of those who live close to you. I believe all South Africans have to read at least two of the amazingly talented Zakes Mda’s works. The Heart of Redness is certainly a must read that has to be treated carefully and understood. I like this book particularly as it keeps teaching me so much about the history of the amaXhosa.

See, not to display my age, but at school we were not taught this history – we focussed on Shaka and the Voortrekkers. I had never encountered the tale of Nongqawuse before. It is such an interesting story, I have no idea why such histories are not shared with us in high school. This story also taught me about Makana, how such mythical historical characters are not highlighted more amazes me.

Most Useful learning: How a young girl, Nongqawuse, was able to convince a whole nation to listen to her.

“I am interested in the culture of the amaXhosa as they live it today, not yesterday. The amaXhosa people are not a museum piece. Like all cultures their culture is dynamic”. (pg286)

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work

Paul Babiak and Robert Hare

Have you ever met someone who was insanely horrible and you were not sure if you were just sensitive or if they were just psychopaths?

Then read this book and it will tell you the tell tale signs so you can stop beating yourself up over things you are not responsible for. This book has really been helpful for me as I am surrounded by one or two arseholes as I have written before. And it is so good to know that I am not the crazy one. This book is incredibly interesting and the authors have credentials to back the theory with and you will no doubt learn a thing or four from this book.

Most Useful learning: Crazy people do manage to get jobs and this book provides you with tips on how to deal with them. Here is a chilling sentence from the book:

“You probably know one. You could work for, work with, or be married to someone with a psychopathic personality and not know that there is a formal psychological term for the individual who causes you so much pain and distress.” (pg20)

The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon

No essential list of useful books is complete without the mention of Fanon. This is the book that helped me understand the malaise behind African politics. Fanon really breaks down the impact colonisation has on Africa and her leaders. If I had to read only one book on African politics it would be this. It maps out the past and shows the future. This is Fanon so it is not an easy read but who said it would always be easy?

Most Useful learning:
This work shows how how the leaders of the liberation party, after the colonialists have been expelled from power, inevitably turn into petite bourgeoisie, ineffectual and unable to bring about any meaningful change.

This whole exercise is wholly subjective and probably changes with the times and moods. It sometimes feels like I am writing to myself here so would appreciate if you could share what books you find truly useful.

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