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!

13th Ghana International Book Fair

I did go to the 13th GIBF (Ghana International Book Fair) but I admit it was on the last day – Saturday 7 November.  So if I sound a bit disappointed, maybe that is the reason.  Several of the stands had no one there so I guess the companies/organizations felt it wasn’t worth their while to be there on a Saturday.  I did notice several representatives of mostly Indian printing companies which was quite interesting.

The other issue which slightly bothered me was the fact that there was going to be a launch of a book about Ghana’s President in the late 1970s/early 1980s, Dr Hilla Limann, which I hadn’t heard about!  So I had to make do with online reviews.  And eventually I will see, and probably buy,  a copy of the actual book.

I admit I had originally thought I would be able to attend earlier in the week, but that didn’t work out.

This is not to say that I didn’t buy anything; I did.  A couple of children’s books as gifts and a couple of adult books for work – all from Sub-Saharan Publishers who I am always happy to support, plus I usually find they have something which interests me.

Caine prize 2015 front cover 500I am looking forward to seeing and buying a copy of the latest Caine Prize collection of short stories which Sub-Saharan are co-publishing with New Internationalist, and other publishers on the African continent.

I always wonder how many people go to these Ghana International Book Fairs…

Library and bookish activities in late October/early November 2015

It’s a long time since I posted on this blog, but it has been on my mind recently,especially as I anticipate a very busy bookish week coming up.

Last week there were various celebrations connected with the 3rd Library and Information Week here in Ghana, including the official launch in Koforidua (Eastern Region), with Ghana’s Second Lady as the Guest of Honour.

Looking forward the annual Ghana International Book Fair will be taking place here in Accra, from Tuesday 3 to Saturday 7 November. There are a lot of workshops and seminars, which bring together those involved in the book chain here in Ghana.

For yours truly though I have to admit that what I really like about the book fair is the chance to stroll around the stands, and see whether there are any titles which strike my fancy.  I know I really don’t need to buy any more books, but I find it very, very difficult to resist, despite overfull TBR shelves.

And in the middle of the Book Fair week, the Ghana Library Association is having its AGM and Seminar, which should be fun, as I have managed to miss several GLA activities over the last year or so.

Accra Book Club reads for 2014 and looking forward to 2015

A recap of the books Accra Book Club read and discussed during 2014

  • Ender’s game, by Orson Scott Card. I know this was on the list, but I can’t remember the discussion. I did eventually watch the film on DSTV, and thought it was pretty well done.  I used to have a physical copy of this book, but somewhere along the line, it disappeared.  So I had to buy a e-copy!
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a good discussion. I suspect that a different group would have a very different perspective.  I actually read a Nigerian edition!
  • Dear life, by Alice Munro – brrr, the Canadian climate does permeate these rather bleak stories
  • Kindred, by Octavia Butler – I really like Octavia Butler’s work, and wonder why it took me so long to read them!
  • The Burgess boys, by Elizabeth Strout – a disfunctional family, with locations in New York and Maine. Moving though.
  • The invention of wings, by Sue Monk Kidd – based on historical figures, involved in the abolition of the slave trade
  • The housekeeper and the professor, by Yoko Ogama – I didn’t attend this discussion, but I enjoyed the book which was very different from most of the work I read during this year
  • The lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri – moving account of two brothers and their families in India and the US.  Another physical copy
  • The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes – upon reflection, I found the discussion of this book helped me to understand this book better
  • We need new names, by NoViolet Bulawayo – I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this book that much; I also wasn’t that sure about having the two different settings of Zimbabwe and the US.  Ironically I bought the e-book, and then discovered that EPP books had loads of physical copies, and for a very, very reasonable price!
  • Euphoria, by Lily King – a love story told from different points of view. A good read.

And because I am aware that some people may be wondering what we are going to read and talk about in 2015, here is our current list of books:

  • Flight behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Memory of love, by Aminatta Forna
  • How to get filthy rich in rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid
  • The woman upstairs, by Claire Messud
  • Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Foreign gods, by Okey Ndibe
  • Don’t let me go, by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • The short and tragic life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
  • Ade, by Rebecca Walker

If anyone wants to know more about Accra Book Club, do comment or send an email to accrabookclub [at] gmail [dot] com.