The third book group I belong to is quite different from the others. It is led by a real bookworm, who is a book reader and lover, a photographer and producer of several podcasts https://soundcloud.com/bookradioafrica related to books and reading. He also has an online business selling books though that website seems to be under reconstruction at the moment!
Members too are young and mostly Ghanaian. I think yours truly is the oldest member.
A theme is chosen each month and then Bookworm Man puts together a list of contemporary books, complete with blurbs and audio files. Members then vote for their choice, and sometimes even there is a second round!
Since mid-2017 we’ve read and talked about the following:
- Here comes the sun, by Nicole Dennis-Benn [set in contemporary Jamaica]
- Ginny Moon, by Benjamin Ludwig [main character is an autistic teen]
- Who will catch us when we fall? by Iman Verjee [takes place in Kenya]
- Born a crime, by Trevor Noah [autobiographical account of the South African comedian’s early life]
- The book of night women, by Marlon James [takes place in late 18th century Jamaica]
- Before I go, by Colleen Oakley – our March 2018 read
I probably wouldn’t have chosen some of these books if I had been browsing for myself, but then that is the great thing about a book group. You read what you like; and you read material that is different from your own “preferences” (whatever those might be).
I also belong the NAWA book group, which is made up of members of NAWA – a multinational group of women. This group is as a result restricted to NAWA members, but I still felt like sharing the titles of our reads.
For the first few months of 2018 this book group is reading the following:
- Hillbilly elegy, by J D Vance [this was our January read]
- The gift of rain, by Tan Twan Eng [I actually read this last year while on vacation; it was long but really good] – for February 2018
- The miraculous fever tree, by Fiametta Rocco – originally for March 2018 but cancelled
- Stay with me, by Ayobami Adebayo – now the March 2018 read
- Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid [I just finished reading this for Accra Book Club] – for April 2018
- Fever dream, by Samanta Schweblin
- Empire of the summer moon, by S C Gwynne
- A year of marvelous ways, by Sarah Winman
Unfortunately, I usually end up missing the discussions as they take place during the day, while yours truly is at work. Sigh…
But I still read the books.
Accra Book Club is one of the three book clubs/book groups I belong to.
Here are our reads – actual, and planned for 2018:
- The ministry of utmost happiness, by Arundhati Roy – January 2018 (actually discussed on 1 February. I don’t think any of us was overly enthused)
- Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid – February 2018 (we will probably combine this with number 3, but I do need to get started on it).
- The orphan master’s son, by Adam Johnson – March 2018
- Stay with me, by Ayobami Adebayo – April 2018
- Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders – May 2018
- Anything is possible, by Elizabeth Strout – June 2018
- Memoirs of a polar bear, by Yoko Tawada – August 2018
- The woman next door, by Yewande Omotoso – September 2018
- Confessions of the lioness, by Mia Couto – October 2018
- Under the Udala trees, by Chinelo Okparanta – November 2018
- The automobile club of Egypt, by Alaa al Aswany – December 2018
Quite a few African works in this batch – more than usual!
As usual I will probably read most of these on Kindle, but I do already five titles in hard copy.
Thanks to my colleague, Michael F. Quansah, for his blog/post/story on Medium about building a reading culture at Ashesi University College.
Interestingly when students asked for novels, some of the main requests were for the Harry Potter series, and the Game of Thrones series.
Usually sometime early in the year I look back on my reading for the previous year, and share the books on Ghana and Africa I read.
For Ghanaian fiction, I read three novels: two are diasporan authors, while one is based based here in Ghana (at least now)
- Glover, Boakyewaa – The justice
- Gyasi, Yaa – Homegoing [a January 2017 choice for two book clubs/groups I belong to!]
- Quartey, Kwei – Murder at Cape Three Points
For Ghanaian non-fiction, I count four works
- Addo-Kufuor, Kwame – Gold Coast boy [autobiography, by a brother of Ghana’s former President, a physician and politician]
- Ashun, Mary – Tuesday’s child [another autobiography, with an emphasis on the author’s childhood]
- Insaidoo, Kwame Afadzi – Ghana – An incomplete independence or a dysfunctional democracy?
- NAWA – No worries. 6th ed [I actually have all 6 editions of this guidebook to Accra!]
My African fiction category is a mixed bag, including some novels with locations in African settings, which I realize some people might not consider “real” African fiction.
- Abouet, Marguerite & Oubrerie, Clement – Aya de Yopougon 1-3 [a series of graphic novels with Ivoirian characters]
- Banda-Aaku, Ellen – Sula and Ja [story for young adults/teens by prize-winning Zambian author]
- Boyd, William – Solo [anoatther James Bond novel, partially set in Nigeria]
- Camus, Albert – The stranger [this was a re-read of the classic]
- Davids, Nadia – An imperfect blessing
- Farah, Nuruddin – Hiding in plain sight [read for Accra Book Club]
- Guillaume, Laurent – White leopard [thriller, with a Malian location]
- Jemisin, N K – The fifth season [prize-winning science fiction/fantasy novel which takes place in what had once been Africa’s tropical regions]
- Jonasson, Jonas – The girl who saved the King of Sweden [another comic book from this Swedish author;the main character is South African]
- Lotz, Sarah – The three [author is South African, and part of the novel is set there]
- Mahlangu, Songeziwe – Penumbra
- McCain, Paula – Circling the sun [read for Accra Book Club, set in colonial Kenya]
- Orford, Margie – Like clockwork [thriller set in South Africa]
- Singh, Astha – Congo journey [mostly on the Indian community]
- Walker, Rebecca – Ade – a love story [set mostly in Tanzania]
African non-fiction was a bit sparse last year, with only three books
- Agyeman-Duah, Ivor – Africa – a miner’s canary into the 21st century
- Beckman, Bjorn & Gbemisola, Adeoti – Intellectuals and African development
- Kpomassie, Tete-Michel – An African in Greenland [quite touching in parts]
I do admit that, apart from book clubs/groups, I don’t really plan my reading. I do have a lot of TBR books which fill one medium bookcase, and always feel I should concentrate a bit more on these books, but somehow it doesn’t always work out!
Some of my Ghanaian and African reads for the first six months of 2016 include
Ghana reads include books by Ghanaian authors, Ghanaians in the diaspora, on Ghana, or with a Ghanaian setting:
- Quartey, Kwei: Murder at Cape Three Points (mystery/crime with Inspector Darko Dawson)
- Agyeman-Duah, Ivor: Africa – a miner’s canary into the 21st century (a collection of essays on African countries)
- Insaidoo, Kwame Afadzi: Ghana – An incomplete independence or a dysfunctional democracy (political analysis)
Africa reads include books by African authors, Africans in the diaspora, on African countries, or with an African setting:
- Singh, Astha: Congo – a journey (fictional account of an Indian family in DRC)
- Guillaume, Laurent: White leopard (thriller set in Mali)
- Mahlangu, Songeziwe: Penumbra (prize-winning South African novel with the main character having a mental breakdown)
- Camus, Albert: The stranger (this was a re-read of the classic which I originally read in French)
- Orford, Margie: Like clockwork (crime/thriller set in South Africa)
- McCain, Paula: Circling the sun (fictional account of early part of Beryl Markham’s life, mostly set in colonial Kenya) [read for Accra Book Club]
- Davids, Nadia: An imperfect blessing (a family saga set in the Cape Town of 1993-94)
- Farah, Nuruddin: Hiding in plain sight (a diasporan Somali family adapts to loss of a member to a terrorist attack) [read for Accra Book Club]
- Banda-Aaku, Ellen: Sula and Ja (a young adult novel about two teens discovering more about each other, set in Zambia)
Plus a special mention of three cookbooks with African/Ghanaian connections:
- Sloley, Patti Gyapomaa: A date with plantain (I admit that ripe plantain is one of my absolutely favourite foods)
- Osseo-Asare, Fran and Baeta, Barbara: The Ghana cookbook (comprehensive, and great if you are a non-Ghanaian or not living in Ghana)
- Timothy, Duval and others: The groundnut cookbook (lots of West African recipes adapted to more Western/UK tastes)
As today is the beginning of July, that means that already six months of 2016 has passed, so we are now in the second half of the year. How time flies!
So I thought I would look at my reading so far – or rather the books which I have finished reading, because I do have to admit that I usually have several books on the go at any one time. For instance at the moment, I have one which I read in the bathroom, another in bed (alternating with some library magazines/journals), one for the bus going to and from work, plus a novel to read while eating, and another via Kindle apps. And as I wrote the last sentence I realized that actually I had forgotten to mention two others which I dip into occasionally. So I think that adds up to about seven – at least as of the time of writing!
I don’t usually insert tables or charts into posts, but in this case, I wondered whether a chart would show some trends in my reading – at least for the first six months of the last three years.
I have to admit that I am not sure there are any real trends that I can detect. I still tend to read more physical books than e-books, and even though I do read some books from my work library, they aren’t that many.
Fiction continues to predominate, and some years I have read more women writers. I continue to read works by/on Ghana and Africa but by no means exclusively so.
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
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.
My fellow blogger, KinnaReads, is once again hosting the Africa Reading Challenge, which of course I can’t ignore!
I have not yet chosen the books I will read, though I am very sure that I will read more than five “African” books this year.
And if someone wants more details about this great challenge, the best place to go is http://kinnareads.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/2014-africa-reading-challenge/