2017 reads: Ghana and Africa

During 2017 I did a good bit of reading, and even managed to read over 80 books according to Goodreads.

This did include books on Ghana/by Ghanaian authors as well as books on Africa/by African authors.

For Ghana, I only read one fiction book:

From pasta to pigfoot, by Frances Mensah Williams [written by a diasporan Ghanaian, taking place in both the UK and Ghana]

Why only one fiction book from Ghana? Well, I do admit that I don’t have very many on my TBR shelves.

For non-fiction there were a few more:

  1. The President’s physician: Bumps on a smooth road, by Bettina Ama Boohene-Andah  [memoirs of President Kufuor’s physician]
  2. What’s up: Vocabulary for those new to America, by James Gyasi Boateng
  3. Ghana on the go – African mobility in the age of motor transportation, by Jennifer Hart
  4. Future of the tree – Towards growth and development of Kumasi, edited by Kwasi Kwafo Adarkwa
  5. Values, standards and practices in Ghanaian organisational life, by Samuel N Woode
  6. Crossing the color line: Race, sex and the contested politics of colonialism in Ghana, by Carina E Ray [included a chapter of several women married to Ghanaians]
  7. Reflections of an ordinary African woman, by Akua Djanie

I did read several books by African writers:

  1. Aya de Yopougon, vols 4-6, by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie [graphic novel, read in French!]
  2. Born on a Tuesday, by Elnathan John
  3. Blackass, by A Igoni Barrett [for Accra Book Club]
  4. Amie: An African adventure, by Lucinda E Clarke [gave this a low 2 star rating]
  5. Radiance of tomorrow, by Ishmael Beah [for Accra Book Club]
  6. The maestro, the magistrate and the mathematician, by Tendai Huchu [for
    Accra Book Club]
  7. Behold the dreamers, by Imbolu Mbue [for Accra Book Club]
  8. Who will catch us as we fall, by Iman Verjee [for GhanaMustRead book group]

For non-fiction on Africa, I read the following:

  1. We should all be feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. The bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu, by Joshua Hammer [for Accra Book Club]
  3. The house my father built, by Adewale Maja-Pearce [dealing with tenants in an inherited
    block of flats in Lagos!]
  4. The African city – a history, by Bill Freund
  5. Longthroat memoirs, by Yemisi Aribisala
  6. Born a crime, by Trevor Noah [for GhanaMustRead book group]

Part of my reading by Ghanaians/on Ghana depends on availability.  I do find there aren’t a lot of fiction books written by Ghanaians.  As for the books on Africa/African fiction, there is of course much more choice.

Advertisements

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

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.

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.

Ghana and Africa reads for 2014

Usually at the end of a year, or the very beginning of one, I look back and mention books which I categorize as my Ghana and Africa reads. These are either books written by Ghanaians or Africans, wherever they live and write. They can also be written by non-Ghanaians/non-Africans if the topics are either Ghanaian or African.

Ghana reads of 2014

Fiction
1. Death at the Voyager Hotel, by Kwei Quartey – an ebook, but not featuring Inspector Darko Dawson. Fun. I believe it has now been published here in Ghana?
2. Between sisters, by Adwoa Badoe – a girl who wasn’t that interested in school learns lessons while working for a family in Kumasi
3. Perfectly imperfect, by Ruby Yayra Goka – the 2013 Burt prize 1st place winner. Pretty good.
4. Ossie’s dream, by Nanayaa Amankwah – another Burt prize winner, 2nd place. A bit over the top, in my view.
5. The boy who spat in Sargrenti’s eye, by Manu Herbstein – the 3rd place Burt prize winner. Enjoyable, with wonderful illustrations.
6. No sweetness here and other stories, by Ama Ata Aidoo – a new edition, locally published. The stories still have punch, even after 40 years!

Non-fiction
1. Ethnicity and the making of history in Northern Ghana, by Carola Lentz – fascinating account of the Upper West Region especially.
2. Java Hill, by T P Manu Ulzen – a family account of a coastal family. I wish there were more of these.
3. History of West Africa and the Ga (Osu) people, by Narh Omaboe – rather poorly written and published, unfortunately!

I bought eight of my nine Ghana reads here in Ghana – either at book launches, or at local bookshops. The one exception was the lone e-book.   Interestingly four of the six  Ghanaian works of fiction are written for young adults.

 

Africa reads of 2014

Fiction
1. Afro SF – Science fiction by African writers, edited by Ivor W Hartmann – I love SF, so these were great.
2. The ghost of Sani Abacha, by Chuma Nwokolo – short stories of contemporary Nigeria.
3. Short stories [supporting Worldreader], by Chika Unigwe – many about diasporan Nigerians.
4. Arrows of rain, by Okey Ndibe – first novel, by now acclaimed author based in the US.
5. Akata witch, by Nnedi Okorafor – young adult novel, with a plucky albino heroine
6. The grass is singing, by Doris Lessing – classic, which I had never read before
7. The spider king’s daughter, by Chibundu Onuzo – a good debut. It doesn’t turn out quite as expected.
8. Distant view of a minaret, by Alifa Rifaat – poignant stories from a North African writers
9. We need new names, by NoViolet Bulawayo – prize winner novel of Zimbabwe and African diasporans in the US
10. Opening spaces – Contemporary African women’s writing, edited by Yvonne Vera – a wide ranging of short stories by African women.
11. Diaries of a dead African, by Chuma Nwokolo – three linked stories, tragic, but comic at the same time.
12. Secret son, by Laila Lalami – what makes a potential terrorist.
13. The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes – the setting is not African, though the author is. About a time-travelling serial killer

Non-fiction
1. Women leading Africa, edited Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah – illuminating collection.
2. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff – biography, yet fairly easy to read. Wish I remembered my “ancient” history better
3. The fastest billion: the story behind Africa’s economic revolution, by Charles Robertson and others – not sure I agree with his prognosis, but it is good to read a more optimistic view of Africa’s future

Out of the sixteen Africa reads, most were bought as physical books from local bookshops here in Accra. I did however buy six e-books (nos 1, 3, 6, 9, 12 and 13 of the Africa fiction list).

I still tend to read most of my books in physical format – about 64% overall for 2014 – though I think the percentage of e-books is probably increasing.

I ended the year having started, but not yet finished, the following:

  • Flight behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver. This is the Accra Book Club read for January 2015. [the only one in e-book format]
  • Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. The final part of the Hunger Games trilogy. I want to finish this before watching the movie!
  • Exodus, by Paul Collier. On migration.
  • Living in the shadow of the large dams: Long term responses of downstream and lakeside communities of Ghana’s Volta River Project, by Dzodzi Tsikata. Fairly heavily academic, so I dip into this.
  • Human mules, by Carol Larratt. On the kayayei [young female porters] in Accra.