Elnathan John reads in Accra

011Two book related events this past week: an Accra Book Club discussion and a visiting writer.

Accra Book Club was a rescheduled event, so there were only two of us – one of the other regulars having traveled! But we had a good talk about Anthony Doerr’s bestseller, All the light we cannot see, and other books and reading in general.

013The visiting writer was Elnathan John, who recently 015published his first novel, Born on a Tuesday. The readings were organized by the Writers Project of Ghana, and took place at Vidya Book Store in Osu. About 40 or so people came and all seemed pretty engaged. Elnathan John read excerpts from his novel, which was available for sale, and at a reasonable price, and spoke about writing, especially in the context of Northern Nigeria.  It was a very enjoyable way to spend a late Saturday afternoon!

I look forward to more of such events.

Accra Book Club discussed Harper Lee’s work

006The recent news of the death of Harper Lee brought to mind the Accra Book Club’s choice of Go set a watchman and To kill a mockingbird as our first reads for 2016.

I think all of us had read To kill a mockingbird in younger days (usually in secondary school/high school, so this was a while ago) and/or seen the award winning film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus.

So it was definitely re-reading a book from an earlier era, in the context of also reading a sequel (by when it takes place)/ prequel (when it was actually written).

We all agreed that To kill a mockingbird was definitely the better book, and still worth reading.  It really is a classic of the 20th century.

Launch of “The Ghana cookbook” in Accra

The end of January saw one of those typical Accra days when there seemed to be a multitude of events all happening on the same day.

Not unsurprisingly I chose to attend two book events – back to back: a long awaited cookbook launch and the first Accra Book Club gathering of the year.

007The first was the launch The Ghana cookbook, by Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baeta, at Flair Catering. I have followed the first author’s food blog, (Betumi Blog ) for several years, so I was aware that this cookbook has been in the making for quite some time.

The audience was mostly female (not too surprising) and many were not young (probably not too surprising either). Apart from some historical background provided by both the authors/cooks, I particularly enjoyed Elizabeth Ohene’s tribute, part of which is mentioned in the following article .

And to top off the occasion there were delicious Ghanaian small chops, including one or two which brought back memories of life in Kumasi in the not so easy 1980s.

I had already bought a copy of the cookbook, but at least I managed to get it specially autographed.

I am not a real foodie, as I don’t cook much, but I do like reading through cookbooks and recipes.   And indeed I do have a few shelves of them!

 

2015 reads slightly analysed

I did a fair amount of reading during 2015, though I didn’t meet my target of 75 books in the Goodreads challenge for 2015: I read 72 books which was 96% – not too bad!

I still tend to read more physical books than e-books – 60% for the physical. And still have four shelves+ of To Be Read titles!  And yes, there are TBR titles on my Kindle too!

I borrowed about 5% of the books read – mostly from where I work (an academic library).

My reading in 2015 was still dominated by fiction – about 60%, with women authors featuring in over 50% of the titles read.

As usual I read a fair number of crime, science fiction/fantasy and thriller books – covering more than a third of what I read.

These were some of my favourite 2015 books:

  • Midnight in the garden of good and evil, by John Berendt
  • The short and tragic life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
  • An untamed state, by Roxane Gay
  • Southern Reach trilogy, by Jeff Vandermeer
  • Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith
  • The passage, by Justin Cronin
  • Colour my English, by Caryl Phillips

Accra Book Club selections for 2016

I know that some people do come across Accra Book Club via this blog.

So here are Accra Book Club’s selections for 2016, though the first book was read in December 2015

  • The fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma – December 2015
  • Go set a watchman & To kill a mockingbird, by Harper Lee – January 2016
  • All the light we cannot see, by Anthony Doerr – February 2016
  • A spool of blue thread, by Anne Tyler – March 2016
  • A tale for the time being, by Ruth Ozeki – April 2016
  • Circling the sun, by Paula McLain – May 2016
  • Hiding in plain sight, by Nurrudin Farah – June 2016
  • The children’s crusade, by Ann Packer – August 2016
  • Everything I told you, by Pauline Ng – September 2016
  • The dinner, by Herman Koch – October 2016
  • The girl on the train, by Paula Hawkins – December 2016

I missed the discussion of the first book – work commitments prevented me from attending this gathering, much to my distress. [One of the disadvantages of working one and half hours out of Accra!]

I have read both the Harper Lee books, and am looking forward to this discussion, coming up at the end of January.

I have physical copies of three of the remaining nine books; the remaining ones I will probably read on my tablet.

Obviously, if someone is interested in joining this book club, please leave a comment, and I will send you further details.

2015 Ghana and Africa reads

I know I haven’t done much posting over the last year, and I guess one of my New Year’s resolutions for this year is to do more in this area. Focus is the key though.

I didn’t do much reading of fiction from Ghana, as seen by the following:

  • Adonoo, Elikem: The teleport conspiracy [lent to me by the author]
  • Attah, Ayesha Harruna: Saturday’s shadows [author is definitely maturing]
  • Goka, Ruby Yayra: The lost royal treasure [young adult]

although I do have to admit to reading some Ghanaian flash fiction, but those I didn’t record!

Non-fiction on Ghana did much better:

  • Akpabli, Kofi: Harmattan – a cultural profile of Northern Ghana
  • Coe, Cati: The scattered family – Parenting, African migrants and global inequality [doubly relevant as a lot of the families were from Akuapim South District in Ghana, where I work]
  • Dagadu, Kati Torda (ed): Ghana: Where the bead speaks
  • Larratt, Carol: Human mules – The kayayo girls [not really sure whether this was creative non-fiction, but fascinating nonetheless]
  • Tonah, Steve: Fulani in Ghana: Migration history, integration and resistance
  • Tsikata, Dzodzi: In the shadow of the large dams [having worked near Nigeria’s first hydroelectric dam, I am still fascinated by the impact of these large projects]
  • Owusu, Mary A Seiwaa: Prempeh II and the making of modern Asante 

I did read a fair amount of African fiction, with a tendency towards Nigerian writers/writers of Nigerian descent:

  • The Gonjon pin and other stories: the Caine Prize for African fiction 2014 [even though I often download the shortlisted stories, I still like buying the published collections]
  • To see the mountain and other stories: The Caine Prize for African writing 2011
  • Barrett, A Igoni: Love is power, or something like that
  • Ndibe, Okey: Foreign Gods, Inc. [for Accra Book Club]
  • de Hernandez, Jennifer et al: African women writing resistance [a mixture of fiction and non-fiction]
  • Forna, Aminatta: The memory of love [for Accra Book Club]
  • Hamilton, Masha: The camel bookmobile [not sure this really counts, though the setting is mostly Kenya]
  • Imaseun, Eghosa: To Saint Patrick [I had downloaded this before attending a WPG reading by this author.  A Nigerian detective story!]
  • Laye, Camara: The dark child [rather amazing that I hadn’t read this before!]
  • Obioma, Chigozie: The fishermen [for Accra Book Club]
  • Okorafor, Nnedi: Lagoon [author is of Nigerian descent]
  • Omotoso, Yewande: Bom boy
  • Oparanta, Chinelo: Happiness, like water [definitely an author to watch]
  • Oyeyemi, Helen: Boy, Snow, Bird [the setting is the US, though the author is of Nigerian descent] [for Accra Book Club]
  • Wanner, Zukiswa: London Cape Town Joburg [Inspired partly by Caine Prize presentation]

Followed up by a few non-fiction books with an African emphasis:

  • Fuller, Alexandra: Cocktail hour under the tree of forgetfulness [even though the main characters aren’t particularly nice, the author writes well and sympathetically]
  • Ngugi Wa Thiongo: Decolonising the mind 
  • Saro-Wiwa, Noo: Looking for Transwonderland 

I guess the above will sort of qualify for the 2015 Africa Reading Challenge.  Although sometimes I feel it is not much of a challenge really, as I tend to read a fair number of books by Ghanaians/about Ghana and also by Africans/about Africa anyway – approximately 30% of my reading.

Why did someone attend a presentation on ebooks?

I attended a presentation by an international supplier – Mallory International Ltd –  and their local partner – Sytris – this week, on electronic books or ebooks.  I have known that this platform was being worked on and trialed for quite some time, and it is of course relevant to the work I do at Ashesi‘s library.  In fact I am often asked about ebooks by visitors, and colleagues, so I am always on the lookout for a platform that actually works in our environment.  So the “outdooring” as it were of Baobab ebooks was definitely welcome.

But this post is not really to talk about ebooks – maybe I will do that another time?  but rather to mention a comment made by one of the attendees.  This person is a librarian, and works in a private university college here in Accra and she mentioned that she did not have any working computers in her library, nor was the library connected to the internet!  I couldn’t help myself and asked why she bothered to attend the presentation.  Her response was “for her self-development”.  I didn’t say anything more.

It is pretty sad though that there are institutions here in Ghana which have been accredited by the National Accreditation Board and consequently allowed to operate, and be mentored by public universities which do not have the most basic of 21st century facilities.  How do their students learn to look for information?

Upon reflection this is not just sad; it is actually a downright shame!