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.

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.