July round-up – books etc

Although it wasn’t that long ago since I posted about my reading, buying and events, this was about May and June, so rather than delaying things, I thought I should get my act together reasonably early this time.

So this covers activities in July.

I completed six books during the period: five fiction and one non-fiction. There were four male authors and two females, and only one Ghanaian author! Plus two were read on Kindle, and the rest in physical form.

Here,  in the order that I finished them, are my July reads:

  1. Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, by Robin Sloan [read for Accra Book Club; I preferred the first part of this novel, and didn’t really like the way it ended. Maybe I need to re-read it?]
  2. Late rain, by Lynn Kostoff [I guess you could call this a crime story, maybe Florida noir?]
  3. The kill artist, by Daniel Silva [pure escapism, but a good story nonetheless. I do like Silva’s hero!]
  4. Ghana must go, by Taiye Selasi [family saga or drama; very poignant and moving. I really liked it.  I think this is one of my favourite books of the year.]
  5. Holes, by Louis Sachar [I had seen the movie, and then came across the book. Not sure which one I preferred!]
  6. Taste – the story of Britain through its cooking, by Kate Colquhoun [I do like cookery and food books, and this one was pretty interesting]

The buying front was also pretty busy – and somewhat self-indulgent. I managed to acquire seven titles on my Kindle (or rather, to be read via a Kindle app on my new tablet) – including four freebies (yeah!) plus nine physical books. That definitely means that I will have to try to restrain myself a little in August.

I attended four book related events in July (previously discussed, so I won’t go into much detail) – and they were concentrated in the last couple of weeks. Two involved Taiye Selasi, who read excerpts from her first novel, Ghana must go,  to a packed audience at the Villa Monticello, followed the evening after by a discussion about how she finally made the decision to write her novel. Then Nigerian writer Chibundu Onuzo joined Martin Egblewogbe at an all too brief reading hosted by Nii Ayikwei Parkes at Sytris. And finally there was a reading by chick-lit/romance writer Nana Malone who gave a reading at the Goethe Institut. It was interesting to hear how she got into full-time writing, and that the self-publishing e-book route had served her well.

I am not sure what my plans are for August; I tend to decide on my reading on a rather ad hoc basis.   But I have plenty of works to choose from!

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Book buying in July 2011

My book buying in July was relatively mild – compared to some months…

Mainly because they were available, and pretty cheap, I bought four Tintin books, all by Herge:
1. Tintin in America
2. The broken ear
3. The secret of the Unicorn
4. Red Rackham’s treasure

I’ve read them all before – several times – but I know others will enjoy them!

As mentioned previously there were a couple of book launches during the month, one I did not attend, and the
other one I did. Two more books then

5. A place of beautiful nonsense, by Alba Sumprim [non fiction, satire about Ghana] (I bought my copy at Silverbird  bookstore though one could contact the author
6. The chicken thief, by Fiona Leonard [mild mannered thriller set in Southern Africa]
I am actually reading both of these as I write, and enjoying them, in totally different ways.

And just before the end of the month:
7. Heartstone, by C J Sansom (one of the Shardlake Tudor mysteries)
8. Crocodile bread, by Kathy Knowles (a picture book) [available in Ghana at various local bookshops – I bought my copy at Vidyas –  and through Osu Childrens Library Fund

And lest I forget – because it still isn’t my primary means of reading – I “bought” five books to be read on
my Kindle, though I must honestly say that four of them did not cost anything 🙂 Bargains are not to be
missed, even in the electronic world!

9. Les miserables, by Victor Hugo [classic, which I have never read]
10. Fairy tales every child should know, by Hamilton Wright Mabie [time to revisit childhood?]
11. A cold day for murder, by Dana Stabenow [easy reading]
12. Back on murder, by J Mark bertrand [easy reading]
13. State of wonder, by Ann Patchett [literary, with good reviews]

So 60+% on physical books, and a little less than 40% on e-books.  I bought the physical books at Kingdom, Silverbird, Goethe Institut (book launch) and Vidya’s – all in Accra; the e-books were downloaded from Amazon.

I wonder how this compares to others?

Some comments on holiday reading

Earlier this year I travelled outside Ghana, and considered myself quite careful in my choice of accompanying reading material: two books, plus a Kindle, were what I carried with me. I figured that I wasn’t likely to be doing too much reading, because of what was going to happen to my eyes, but at least there would be something to read on the plane trips and at other times.

So what did I chose? The first was an Accra Book Club choice: Geraldine Brooks, People of the book, which I thought I should read first since I was the one who suggested it in the first place, and I had chosen to “lead” or “facilitate” the discussion on this novel in June. Normally such a book would have taken me a week or less to read, but dealing with adjustments in eyes and reading glasses meant it took longer.

The second book was Farida Bedwei’s semi-autobiographical novel, Definition of a miracle, which I had ordered through Amazon, after hearing it was published but not having seen any copies here in Ghana. Yet another case of jumping the gun, as of course it is now available here in Accra! Oh well, no harm done. The author should benefit – hopefully. An additional reason for reading this book was that Bedwei’s story was on a list for consideration as an Ashesi-wide read. I admit I enjoyed it, and found her portrayal of a girl with a handicap amusing and touching. Her handicaps were accepted as part of her life, yet the main character did lots of reading, and had friends.

I was very glad I took my Kindle. I had bought it in 2010, and had downloaded a few items onto it, but hadn’t really, really used it. I am not sure why, but I suspect partly because I had/have so many physical books to read, that I didn’t really feel the need. But somehow for travelling having the Kindle was very appropriate.

And because my eyes were in transition, I really loved being able to increase the font size to compensate for my uneven eyes! And then to change it to whatever felt comfortable to me! The other great thing was being able to download books directly to the Kindle without the intermediary of my laptop. In Ghana I usually end up downloading books to my pc, and then push them to the Kindle – none of which is particularly arduous, I do admit!

Am I a total convert to e-reading?  No.  Am I a fan?  Definitely.   Will I continue to read electronically and in physical formats?  Oh yes.

Kindles in book clubs in February 2011

A couple of busy bookish weeks for me at the end of February – not that I haven’t been reading during the previous weeks, but somehow, the end of the month seems to have a greater intensity than earlier on.

Mid February was a discussion from the second book club/group I belong to here in Accra.  The group doesn’t seem to have a name, which for my filing is a little awkward.  Should I call it Accra Book Club 2? or Book Club 2? or Other Book Club?  Maybe I need to discuss with the person who has been coordinating things for this group?

Anyway this month the choice was mine, and I thought it might be interesting to discuss John Boyne’s The boy in the striped pajamas which I read in 2010, but then revisited by watching the film with the same name over the Christmas holidays.  I have to admit I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch the film, because I knew that the ending was not going to be happy, but I found it quite well done on the whole.   Definitely one of the better film adaptations of a book, in my opinion.

What particularly marked this particular gathering/discussion was the fact that this was the first time I had read, or in this case re-read, a book on my Kindle for a book club.  For some reason I have always been able to get physical books to discuss.   But this time, someone had taken my physical copy to school, so there was no choice left but to go the ebook way!  Not a hardship, I admit.

But a sign of things to come?

I

Reading resolutions for 2011

I am not really into making New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I tend to find that I tend to neither remember them, nor bother to do anything about them!

But maybe that is because I didn’t chose an area over which I really had some kind of control, and my reading is certainly one of those areas.

I am not in school, nor am I studying anything, so I can more or less chose what I want to read – within some constraints, naturally.

To Be Read (TBR) pile/shelves:  I have more than a hundred unread books on my shelves, and I feel I really should apply myself to lessening this number.  They are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, with a mixture of non-African and African authors and locales.

There are a good number of crime/mysteries/thrillers as that is a fiction genre which I have always enjoyed – including the award winning Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith, and Malla Nunn’s Let the dead die, which takes place in apartheid South Africa.

Great African Reads:  I do need to read some more African writing, and will try to keep up to date with the books chosen by the Great African Reads group at Goodreads.  Supply is definitely a challenge here, though I suspect it will be less so for some countries.  I already have Uwen Akpan’s collection, Say you’re one of them, and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s The book of not (the sequel to Dangerous conditions), waiting for me.

Book purchases:  I suppose I should try to restrain my buying of books, but again the environment seems to work against this.  I feel if I see something I would like to read – at some point – I should buy it, as it won’t necessarily be available the next time I look.   As I have mentioned before, there aren’t that many bookshops here in Accra, nor are there as many libraries as there once were.

Kindle:  I do have a Kindle, and I am very much still at the experimental stage with this new “toy”.  So this is definitely something I need to work on, especially if I can really get my downloading done effectively.  So far, I’ve had some success, but not via Wifi, but rather via my laptop, though one book just doesn’t come, no matter when I try to download it.

More consistent posting:  And last but not least, I am going to try and post a bit more regularly, and not succumb to a whole host of excuses!

iPad or Kindle? Items for a real “wish” list

For the last few weeks there has been a small conversation going on about what some of us would really like as our latest gadget.  The iPad and the Kindle were the ones which came up among this small group of women based here in Accra.  Yet none of us has really interacted with either of these new items, but we still want them.  And two of us are young, and yours truly is not so young.  So I don’t think it is totally a generational thing.

Maybe I should go and look in the Apple store in the Accra Mall, and ask whether they have an iPad – just to look at, and maybe touch?  Of course, realistically it is probably not a good idea to get one here in Ghana just yet, as there are issues about accessing all sorts of stuff from here, but then if iPhones work and their apps work here, why not?  Another key factor to consider is cost, as the iPad is not cheap, and here in Ghana it would be even more expensive.  There is also a matter of dust to be considered, and hard concrete floors. And to be frank, what would I really, really, really do with one?  Apart from showing off, that is?

Now a Kindle is something else:  not so flashy, and pretty discrete looking, and it has been on my wish list for more than a few months.  And I keep going to the Amazon website and seeing the horribly depressing message “We are not able to ship this item to your default shipping address” but then there is another one on the same page – well, with a little following of some links, which says “We are excited to now ship Kindle to Ghana. Customers in Ghana will enjoy:..’  and it goes on.   So what should I believe?

I wish I trusted Ghana Post a bit more, and then I might take the risk and try to buy one and send it to myself. I suspect however that I will take the more precautionary approach, and see if I can buy it in the US, and bring it back with me.   After all, I gather there are oodles of freebies just waiting to be downloaded, even if it is not quite the one-step process it is in the US!

Am I being a bit conservative?  Yes, probably.  But why not?

And after all, I hear there is a project which is testing the use of Kindles in Ghanaian schools, and one of the people involved even came by where I work.

Now, what would be nice is a project using Kindles in higher education in an African setting… but maybe that is too much wishful thinking?