At the moment I am involved with two book clubs/ book groups here in Accra. Here are the reading choices for 2017 – at least what I know of, as of the time of writing.
Accra Book Club (contact via accrabookclub [at] gmail [dot] com). Meets monthly except July (and even that is flexible).
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi – January 2017 Do not say we have nothing, by Madelein Thien – February 2017 The underground railroad, by Colson Whitehead – March 2017 Blackass, by Igoni Barrett – April 2017 The bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu, by Joshua Hammer – May 2017 Wonder, by R J Palacio – June 2017 The sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen – August 2017 13 ways of looking at a fat girl, by Mona Awad – September 2017 Radiance of tomorrow, by Ishmael Beah – October 2017 The woman who breathed two worlds, by Selina Sian Chin Yoke – November 2017? The maestro, the magician and the mathematician, by Tendai Huchu – December 2017? Behold the dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue – January 2018?
NAWA book group (nb: one has to be a member of NAWA in order to take part, but I still thought I should share the list):
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi – January 2017 A man called Ove, by Fredrick Backman – February 2017 Longbourn, by Jo Baker – March 2017 Dead wake, by Erik Larson – April 2017 Caliph’s house, by Tahir Shah – May 2017 The Wright brothers, by David McCullough – June 2017
Of course, all the above titles are available via Kindle (and I presume Nook). And Vidya Book Store in Osu does stock some titles.
Two 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.
The visiting writer was Elnathan John, who recently published 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 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.
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.
A very belated report on my February book/information related activities and reads
I only finished reading four books during February – interestingly all written by males, an even split between
fiction and non-fiction, with three having an African/ African diasporan/ Ghanaian focus.
Chicago, by Alaa al Aswamy [this was on my list for the 2012 Africa Reading Challenge! Stories of the Egyptian diaspora, mostly. Not as good as The Yacoubian building, in my opinion]
Pilgrims of the night – Development challenges and opportunities in Africa, edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah [essays on Africa, loosely connected with an environmental focus]
Yes, Chef , by Marcus Samuelsson [memoir by the famous Ethiopian/Swedish chef. Being a enthusiast of books about food, I enjoyed this! So how can I actually visit his restaurant?]
A life apart, by Neel Mukherjee [prize-winning book which has been on my TBR shelf for a long time. A story split between India and the UK, the present and the beginning of the 20th century]
Book buying, which of course followed physical visits to bookshops, as opposed to visits to online book sites,
was OK. I bought four non-fiction books (three with an African focus), two novels, two Tintin books (to add to the family collection) and one collection of Calvin & Hobbes comic strips.
As for book events/activities I could count probably four – though the last one doesn’t strictly have to do with books, though it did involve librarians.
The author of The fastest billion, Charles Robertson, came to Ashesi for a presentation (essentially taken from the book), and of course there were copies of the book for sale, so how could I resist? Plus sales from the book are benefiting Ashesi, so how could I resist?
There was also the monthly gathering of the Accra Book Club – rather sparse in attendance this month, I do admit – with a discussion of Of Africa, by Wole Soyinka. Not the easiest of reads, controversial (naturally), and I have to admit that I have yet to finish this book, though I am not giving up.
The other bookish activity is a little different. I am a member of NAWA which raises money for projects through sale of its guide to Accra, No Worries. The first edition came out in 1997, and the most recent edition – the 4th – in 2010. As this is beginning to be out of date, despite several changes on the companion website, it is time to put out a new edition, especially as there are an increasing number of non-Ghanaians coming to live in Accra, who want to know what’s available in this city. At the moment there are a group of NAWA members working on the new edition, checking and updating entries, adding new ones, selling ads, and so on. I am just a little cog, working with colleagues on a few sections, but it is pretty satisfying. And then there is a role in updating the website…
Bookish matters have blended more into information and electronic ones, and the last activity I wanted to mention pertained to CARLIGH – Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana. Periodically CARLIGH organizes workshops for those working in member institutions (of which there are now nearly 30), and at the end of February there was a two-day event on “Searching e-resources”, which I helped to co-facilitate with a colleague from the University of Ghana, Legon. Fun, because one always learns something new, and it is very relevant to what many librarians do nowadays.
Again, my month was busier than I thought, though I still wish I could finish reading more books than I did. But then there is the ever-present “light-off” phenomenon which has meant that we have only six days in February when the electricity stayed on for a full day! [the red writing indicates light-off]