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.

August and September book-related activities

I haven’t talked about my reading, book buying, or bookish events for a while, so rather than wait till the end of this month, I will look back on August and September, which weren’t horribly busy.

During these two months, I completed nine books – two fiction (only!) and seven non-fiction – the proportions being quite unusual for me, as I tend usually to read more fiction than non-fiction. Three books had a Ghana focus, four were on Africa/by African writers, and two were by non-Africans and neither on Ghana or Africa.

I bought eight physical books – including two cookbooks – plus four e-books.

So, to the books I completed:

  • Snowdrops, by A D Miller (a thriller set in a wintry Moscow; nothing is really what it seems)
  • Gulp, by Mary Roach (an entertaining non-fiction book on the gut)
  • The boy who harnessed the wind, by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer (very inspiring book book about a young Malawian inventor)
  • Bright lights, no city, by Max Alexander (story of Burro, a social enterprise in Ghana)
  • Interventions: a life in war and peace, by Kofi Annan with Nader Mousavizadeh (entertaining and illuminating autobiography by the former UN Secretary-General)
  • Birds of our land, by Virginia W Dike (children’s guide to bird of southern Nigeria)
  • Lose your mother, by Saidiya Hartman (aspects of the slave trade and its heritage, with emphasis in Ghana)
  • There was a country – A personal history of Biafra, by Chinua Achebe (a very personal view of some of the events of the Biafran war)
  • No time like the present, by Nadine Gordimer (read for Accra Book Club; on contemporary South Africa)

As for bookish events, I missed a couple of the August events – a reading by Nii Ayikwei Parkes and the launch of Boakyewaa Glover’s latest book – due to car issues.  Needless to say, I was not pleased.

There was a gathering of the Accra Book Club, the first for a while, due to the “summer”/vacation period. Those of us who had read The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared (by Jonas Jonasson) found it very entertaining, and a good read. Only a couple of us had read Canada, by Richard Ford, so there wasn’t much of a discussion on that novel.

I also attended Nigerian writer Sefi Atta’s reading at the Goethe Institut at the end of September, part of the Ghana Voices series organized by the Writers Project of Ghana.

And also at the end of September, I took part in the launch of the 5th edition of NAWA (North American Women’s Association)’s guide to living in Accra, No Worries. Interestingly I actually have all five editions! 5 editions of No Worries

Book matters during January 2013

I completed five books: four fiction and one non-fiction, only one female author though, which is definitely unusual for me. One of the books was by a diasporan African, and another was by an African-American

  • The Sisters brothers, by Patric DeWitt [shorlisted for the Booker prize in 2011; a rather unusual Western with two killers as the main characters!]
  • Open city, by Teju Cole [read for Accra Book Club. I don’t think anyone present at the discussion liked the main character, and several of us found the lack of a resolution rather irritating, though we did like the actual writing
  • The omnivore’s dilemma, by Michael Pollan [I love reading about food, and this book definitely fit the bill]
  • The amateur spy, by Dan Fesperman [light reading, though I did wonder whether the main character was indeed an amateur]
  • The complete short stories, by Zora Neale Hurston [a new author for me. I found some of the language quite difficult at times]

I did buy six physical books – from Vidya Bookstore, and EPP at Legon: two non-fiction and four fiction. I also got two autographed books as presents from my daughter, plus four on my Kindle from my sister.  Nothing like a few books to liven up the New Year

I only wish that my reading would keep up with my buying.

Only one book event during the month, which I have already talked about – and yes, eventually I did get a copy of Kofi Annan’s book, Interventions.

November – librarians’ meeting and readings

When I initially started thinking about this post I thought November hadn’t been a particular busy month, but on reflection, maybe that was not quite the case.

I completed five books during the period:

  1. The kaya-girl, by Mamle Wolo [First prize Winner of the 2011 Burt Award]. A fun read for teens/young adults.
  2. Florida heatwave, edited by Michael Lister. [A collection of thriller short stories set in Florida; some definitely better than others]
  3. My first coup d’etat: Memories from the lost decades of Africa, by John Dramani Mahama [Written when the now President of Ghana was Vice-President; some interesting anecdotes from a contemporary politician.  We felt we had to read and discuss this book before Ghana’s Election Day on 7 December 2012]
  4. It happened in Ghana – A historical romance 1824-1971, by Noel Smith [not sure how to describe this book, which mentioned various events in Ghana’s history; I didn’t think it was that great]
  5. A discovery of witches, by Deborah Harkness [all right, I haven’t read the whole Twilight series, but this vampire/witch/daemon story has its entertaining bits!]

There was a preponderance of books on Ghana, with more fiction (as usual), but more male authors than female.  And I did read two of the books on my Kindle, definitely a bit more than usual!

I bought four books during the period – all from Vidya Bookstore  so as usual my TBR shelves continue to grow

  1. Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie
  2. The casual vacancy, by J K Rowling
  3. American dervish, by Ayad Akhtar [actually on one of my wish lists for a while]
  4. Amateur spy, by Dan Fespermann

My bookish/library activities during the month of November were three:

  • Ghana Library Association‘s biennial congress & AGM – took place in the first week in November.  Alternately interesting and a bit irritating.  Great to see professional colleagues.  Election results were pretty interesting – a much younger group elected!
  • Accra Book Club’s discussion of My first coup d’etat, by John Dramani Mahama.  We all agreed that it was great that a Ghanaian politician should put pen to paper, and wished that more would do so.  Reactions from those of us who had spent some time in Ghana did differ a bit from those who hadn’t.  But generally we liked it.
  • Readings by Chuma Nwokolo, author of The ghost of Sani Abacha and Diaries of a dead African, at his visit to Ashesi.   Very entertaining and amusing.  I think all the students and others present enjoyed it.

Maybe readers should be the judge as to whether November was a busy or quiet month?

A belated look at September 2012 book related activities

During September, I read – or more appropriately – finished reading six books:

  1. King Peggy – An American secretary, her royal destiny and the inspiring story of how she changed an African village, by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman [quite apt as it was about Ekumfi Otuam, the “hometown” of the late President of Ghana, Prof John Atta Mills]
  2. The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives, by Lola Shoneyin [a polygamous marriage has many secrets]
  3. Half-blood blues, by Esi Edugyan [read for Accra Book Club]
  4. Speechless – World history without words, by Polyp [graphic non-fiction; I confess I wasn’t always clear what was being depicted]
  5. Death and pain – Rawlings’ Ghana, the inside story, by Mike Adjei [aspects of Ghana’s history during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s]
  6. The bean trees, by Barbara Kingsolver [moving early novel by the well-known American author]

As is obvious by the titles above, there were more books with African/Ghanaian flavours/origins. Unusually for me there was an even mix between fiction and non-fiction.

In terms of bookish activities, it was a busy month, or rather the last ten days were very full. I had mentioned anticipating several activities in a previous post, and indeed I did go to all.

GAWBOFEST – Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival – did take place, and I did go. 21 September was a public holiday here in Ghana (Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday). But I didn’t stay long, bought a few books, and left, mainly because I wasn’t feeling very well, even though I had heard that the President, John Mahama, was coming to read from his recently published book, My first coup d’etat. I was very sorry to have missed that reading, but I was very happy that it took place in what was a relatively informal and non-political forum.

The next week, 25 – 29 September, was the 11th Ghana International Book Fair, held this year at the National Theatre. I went round the stands on a couple of days, and didn’t buy much, mainly because I had seen what I wanted at GAWBOFEST. But I was glad to attend the formal book launch of the Burt award 2011 books, and did buy the pack of three books:

  1. The kaya girl, by Mamle Wolo
  2. The lost royal treasure, by Ruby Yayra Goka
  3. Akosua & Osman, by Manu Herbstein

For an interesting and challenging perspective on the Book Fair and writing for children here in Ghana, see Mikelle on Education’s post.

Another entertaining reading took place at the Goethe Institut, where Nigerian author Chuma Nwokolo read excerpts from two of his books, as part of the Writers Project of Ghana Ghana Voices series:

  1. The ghost of Sani Abacha
  2. Diaries of a dead African

Nwokolo was entertaining and amusing, and the audience obliged with lots of questions and laughter, and of course we bought his books!

The rest of the week involved a regular monthly gathering of the Accra Book Club, plus a meeting of CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana)…

And not too surprisingly I did buy a few books: one gift, three books for work, and nine for myself! The TBR shelves continue to grow!

August reads, buys and events

August was a pretty good books month for me. As usual I read, I bought and attended a few bookish events. Not much blogging on these though…

I finished five books – definitely a mixed group: three fiction and two non-fiction, two with African authors and settings, one YA book and one for Accra Book Club. Four were physical copies, and one was on my Kindle.

Titles were in order of completion:

  • Nudge, by Richard Thaler & Cass R Sunstein [some parts were interesting; others a bit heavy]
  • The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot [for Accra Book Club; a really interesting non-fiction read]
  • The mystery of the haunted house, by Ruby Yayra Goka [written by a Ghanaian dentist; did win one of the Burt awards]
  • Ancestor stones, by Aminatta Forna [very moving novel/set of linked stories; thanks to KinnaReads for the strong recommendation]
  • Death comes to Pemberley, by P D James [rather light and enjoyable for this Jane Austen fan]

I think I must have been over-reacting to a feeling of restraint on the book buying side, so I kind of splurged in August. No Kindle books though, but eighteen other books, including four from Ghanaian authors [which is really great], and five cookery books!

There were three bookish events on my August calendar

  • I missed the actual launch of Martin Egblewogbe’s Mr Happy and the hammer of God, and other stories because I had another commitment, but at least I showed my face – belatedly – and met and congratulated the author, and the publisher, Nana Ayebia Clarke.
  • I also heard Ruby Goka reading at the Goethe Institut from two of her adult books, In the middle of nowhere and Disfigured, at the monthly programme organized by Writers Project of Ghana
  • And of course there was a monthly gathering of the Accra Book Club – which is always a pleasure to attend.

And finally I end on a great article about different types of readers… Do read it, and see whether any of them resonate with you. I certainly felt it did.

May 2012 bookish activities

My “bookish” month of May definitely had an African/Ghanaian orientation to it, especially for reading and buying of physical books.

Of the six books I completed, five were either by African/Ghanaian authors or took place in Africa/Ghana, and these are not necessarily books I had planned to include in the Africa Reading Challenge . So this is what I read this past month:

  1. Patchwork, by Ellen Banda Aaku [won the Penguin prize for African fiction in 2010. Has won other prizes for children’s books.]
  2. Foods and food related practices of cultural groups in southern Ghana, by Faustina Amoako-Kwakye. [talks about traditional foods and ways of preparing them. Some recipes.  Not totally a cookbook, which is why I included it]
  3. Indigo, by Catherine McKinley [read for Accra Book Club. More a story of the author’s obsession with the cloth indigo, and her experiences in Ghana, and elsewhere in West Africa]
  4. Tickling the Ghanaian, by Kofi Akpabli [entertaining essays about contemporary Ghanaian culture]
  5. Snow crash, by Neal Stephenson [pretty seminal science fiction novel; I kept having having to remember that it was written in 1993! My favourite read of the month.]
  6. Zoo city, by Lauren Beukes [fantasy thriller, set in South Africa; not the easiest of reads, mainly because of its innovative language]

On the “books” acquired front, it was a pretty quiet month.

I bought two physical books for myself:

  1. Ancestor stones, by Aminatta Forna [I really should read this author’s books – I now have three on my TBR shelves]
  2. Crossroads, by Mike Adjei [I bought it partly because of the cover!]

And one on my Kindle: Little hands clapping, by Dan Rhodes [slightly macabre novel, for Accra Book Club]

And received the following as gifts:

  1. Engaging ideas, by John C Bean [actually this is for work!]
  2. The night circus, by Erin Morgenstern [has been on my wish list for a while]
  3. Death comes to Pemberley, by P D James [the combination of the author plus Jane Austen characters proved irresistable]
  4. Quiet, by Susan Cain [all about introverts]

Not a bad month, but a little quiet, in my opinion.

February 2012 reading, and book buying

Several book-blogging colleagues (Kinna Reads, ImageNations and Reading Pleasure ) have written about their February reading and plans for March.  Naturally as a book lover and reader, I am always happy to see what others have been reading, and also what their To Be Read “bookshelves” look like.

On the reading front, I only finished four books – three fiction and one non-fiction, three male authors and one woman, two with Ghanaian settings:

  1. The uncommon reader, by Alan Bennett [which was actually a re-read, for Accra Book Club.  A satirical, comic view of the British Queen, and the effects of reading.  A short novella, but definitely for book lovers!]
  2. Room, by Emma Donoghue  [Really good novel about a young woman imprisoned for several years, and the life she make for herself and her son born in captivity.  Harrowing on the emotions at times]
  3. A sense of savanna … tales of a friendly walk through Northern Ghana, by Kofi Akpabli [Enjoyable travelogue. Some locations I have been to; others I would love to visit]
  4. Tales from different tails, by Nana Awere Damoah [Stories mostly about relationships, often with setting in Ghanaian tertiary institutions]

Books 3 and 4 could count towards the Africa Reading Challenge .

On the book-buying side, not much activity.  I did buy eight books – split between fiction and non-fiction  – a sort of belated Christmas cum New Year present to myself! But I haven’t started reading any of them yet.  And during February I didn’t buy or download any e-books either!

Do I have plans for March? Not really – apart from finishing a few of the books I am reading now. But who knows how I will feel as the month moves on?

And if there is a lot of load-shedding from Electricity Company of Ghana, I may not be able to do much reading in the evenings anyway!

Bookish activities in September 2011

When I started writing this, I thought September hadn’t been a particular active month for me on the books side.  But then upon reviewing it I realized it wasn’t as quiet as I had originally thought!

I bought nine books at local bookshops here in Accra:

  • 2 cookery books – I just can’t resist buying these, though I don’t always cook from them!
  • 1 novel – one of Boris Akunin’s books, The winter queen, which I had heard of on BBC World Book Club podcast
  • 2 art books
  • 2 pamphlets for visitors/tourists:  one on Twi and the other on Old Accra
  • 2 copies of Ama Ataa Aidoo’s The days, to be given to children as gifts

And then there were two freebies downloaded to my Kindle.

I only completed two books – which for me is unusual:

  • Flat earth news, by Nick Davies:  non-fiction on the media andvery relevant in the days of scandals from the Murdoch empire
  • The historian, by Elizabeth Kostova:   probably the main reason why I didn’t finish many books, as this is over 700 pages long!  An entertaining vampire story

The last couple of weeks of the month was busy.

I went to GAWBOFEST – briefly, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  Like others, I look forward to more of such events, though I know there is a lot of effort involved in organizing them.

Next was one of the Writers Project of Ghana events at the Goethe Institut with Camynta Baezie reading from his novel The African agenda.  I had bought the book a couple of years ago, and quite enjoyed it – an international thriller with African characters!  A pity though that there weren’t more people attending.  I know Goethe Institut puts information onto its website, and sends out emails, and Writers Project also sends out information via Twitter, but maybe these means are still not enough to bring people in?  I guess it also depends on how much publicity the authors themselves do.

And there was a gathering for Accra Book Club, after a gap of couple of months, to discuss Diane Setterfield’s The thirteenth tale. .  The book is a contemporary “gothic” with tales within tales, but with lots of references to reading, writing and books. That was fun.  And we planned our readings for the next six months or so, which was good.

So that was my September on the personal literary side.