January and February 2014 bookish activities

Late again – as usual!  What can I say – apart from I apologize?

Once again I am combining two months of reading, buying and other bookish/literary activities.  Admittedly January is usually pretty quiet – at least here in Accra – partly as people recover from Christmas/New Year, and set about new activities.

I read 11 books during these two months:  10 fiction, and one non-fiction, six male authors and five females, two African books, one Ghanaian, and the rest with a non-African focus.  Of the books I read, six were physical and five were electronic.

  1. Scientific progress goes “boink”, by Bill Watterson. [I am a Calvin and Hobbes addict.  I love them, and pity their poor parents!]
  2. NW, by Zadie Smith.  [The pull of a particular area on a group of Londoners as they grow up]
  3. The hunger games, by Suzanne Collins.  [Unusually I had watched part of the movie before reading the book, but on reflection found that the movie had actually adhered quite well to much of the story.  Now I do have to read the rest of the series before seeing those movies!]
  4. Afro SF – Science fiction by African writers, edited by Ivor Hartmann.  [Variable quality, but altogether a pretty good bunch.  I enjoyed the collection!  I wish there had been a Ghanaian writer among them though!]
  5. Inferno, by Dan Brown.  [I know this is light weight reading, but so what?  It read just like a movie script!]
  6. Gone girl, by Gillian Flynn.  [This did come well recommended, and even though I didn’t particularly “like” any of the characters, the story is very, very well told]
  7. The ocean at the end of the lane, by Neil Gaiman. [I love Neil Gaiman, and the way he captures the fears of children especially.  So this was definitely one of my favourites]
  8. Bad blood, by Linda Fairstein. [I had heard of this mystery writer, but never read any of her books.  It was entertaining, and the plot was quite intricate, but I didn’t get much of an impression about the central character]
  9. Death at the Voyager Hotel, by Kwei Quartey. [Light mystery, set in Accra]
  10. The ghost of Sani Abacha, by Chuma Nwokolo. [Short stories set in Nigeria, some I liked, some I didn’t]
  11. Dear life, by Alice Munro. [Short stories by the Nobel Prize winning author.  Read for Accra Book Club.  At first the lives depicted seem to be rather ordinary, but there are often twists in these tales.]

I treated myself to buying nine physical books, and 13 ebooks (thanks to Christmas gift cards!)

Not too many literary activities though.

There were two Accra Book Club gatherings.  For the first one, there were only two of us – a pity as the read was Enders game, by Orson Scott Card, which I had hoped to discuss with someone else, even if the person had only seen the movie, which I don’t think was shown here in Accra (though I could easily be wrong on that score!).  The other ABC discussion by contrast was well attended with six of us talking about Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest book.  The setting was suitable – a local restaurant called Buka (a local eating place in Nigeria) – and indeed there were many Nigerians also eating there.

I attended one book launch – at the University of Ghana Institute of African Studies – for the book Africa in contemporary perspective, edited by Takyiwaa Manuh and Esi Sutherland-Addy. Typically I couldn’t stay for the whole function, as I had a meeting to attend!

Bookish activities for December 2013

On the reading front, I read quite a lot – mainly because of the holidays and being off work from 20 December (well the evening thereof) – 12 books, with thee having a Ghana focus, and four an Africa one.

  1. The year of the flood, by Margaret Atwood [part 2 of her trilogy of a post-apocalyptic world. Pretty good, though I have to admit to not remembering much about part 1 – Oryx and Crake]
  2. The night gardener, by George Pelecanos [another crime story/mystery set in the totally non-glamorous part of Washington, DC. With many flawed characters; in fact all of them are, including the geographical location itself]
  3. Among others, by Jo Walton [somewhat disappointing in my view; I had thought there would be more SF/fantasy than there was]
  4. Defeating dictators: Fighting tyranny in Africa and around the world, by George B N Ayittey [passionate advocacy for citizen involvement in government]
  5. Waiting for the barbarians, by J M Coetzee [chosen as “speculative fiction” for  Goodreads “Great African Reads” group; I suspect it might grow on me. But I still wonder at how “African” it is – maybe because the author is South African? ]
  6. One day I will write about this place, by Binyavanga Wainaina [memoir of the Kenyan author. In parts not very chronological, which can be a bit confusing]
  7. The hangman’s daughter, by Oliver Potzsch [entertaining, historical mystery taking place in 17th century Bavaria]
  8. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [a love story, but also stories of being in the African diaspora in the US and UK]
  9. The deliverer, by Kwabena Ankomah-Kwakye [fictionalized account of the founder of the Asante nation]
  10. The library tree, by Deborah Cowley [inspirational story of the Kathy Knowles libraries and books]
  11. Hurt machine, by Reed Farrel Coleman [crime/mystery – fairly light stuff, set in New York]
  12. I speak of Ghana, by Nana Awere Damoah [commentaries on contemporary Ghanaian society]

Physical book-buying was minimal – I only bought one, but then I did somewhat overcompensate in stocking up on my Kindle [12 titles – mostly fairly lightweight, but well, who cares?]

Book related events – again fairly light on the ground:

I attended the book launch of Nana Awere Damoah’s book, I speak of Ghana. And there was an Accra Book Club gathering which didn’t work out. See my previous post .

So it wasn’t a bad month to round up the year.

Looking forward: well, I think a little more reading is definitely on the cards, and I do need to visit some of our local bookshops – maybe this weekend!

October and November bookish activities

At the beginning of the last few months, I have felt rather guilty about not writing about my reading, and now
I have no excuse whatsoever for getting my act together, as I am off work for almost two weeks for the
holidays! So plenty of time to read (yeah!) and write (a bit of discipline and focus needed), as well as just
generally relaxing at home.

Over the two months I completed twelve books – which seems about average for me – though once again I admit that I am often reading more than one book at a time. For example I find that when I am going to sleep, I need something interesting, but not too exciting, so that often means non-fiction. Ditto bathroom reading, often in small chunks!

So a few stats on the books read:

  • eight male authors, and four women – a little unusual I admit, as I think I read quite a few women authors
  • seven fiction, and five non-fiction – though in October, I read mostly non-fiction
  • three with a Ghana focus (either authors or location), two with an Africa focus, and seven non-African books

And these are the titles:

  1. Every day is for the thief, by Teju Cole – a diary like account of a Nigerian expat’s visit to Lagos. I did like this
  2. No worries, 5th ed, by NAWA – a great guide to Accra. I have all five editions!
  3. Memoirs of an imaginary friend, by Matthew Dicks – an Accra Book Club read, which I enjoyed. Gives an insight to a young boy who is on the autistic spectrum
  4. High on the hog, by Jessica Harris – on African American food
  5. The complete Maus, by Art Spiegelman – moving graphic story of the author’s parents in Poland – using figures of mice. Moving.
  6. Burnt shadows, by Kamila Shamsie – a family saga that ranges from Japan to India, Pakistan and the US.
  7. The beautiful tree, by James Tooley – illuminating story of private education at the so-called bottom of the pyramid – with Indian, Ghanaian, Nigerian, Kenyan and Chinese examples. Was recommended by a colleague at work, and I finally got around to reading it.
  8. Ender’s game, by Orson Scott Card – an Accra Book Club read. I definitely used to have a physical copy, but it seems to have developed wings, so I had to re-read this on my Kindle. I enjoyed it, and actually look forward to seeing the movie.
  9. Consider the fork, by Bee Wilson – on selected kitchen appliances and implements over the years. I love this kind of book.
  10. The night gardener, by George Pelecanos – a couple of mysteries are solved, and crimes investigated, but none of the characters in this book are perfect. I liked the Washington DC area setting, so different from what one sees on the news or TV.
  11. Among others, by Jo Walton – I am not really sure what I expected when I bought this book; I think more fantasy/SF. Instead it was basically a teen growing up story, with lots of SF titles mentioned. A little disappointing.
  12. Defeating dictators: Fighting tyranny in Africa and around the world, by George B N Ayittey – not really academic, but fun to read. I do love the author’s passion, and belief in the possibilities of change in Africa.
  13. Waiting for the barbarians, by J M Coetzee – I suspect that this is a book which might grow on me as I reflect on it.

The book-buying front was relatively quiet – I bought four physical books, including three with a Ghanaian focus, plus four on my Kindle (including more freebies).

There wasn’t much happening in October – only a small gathering of the Accra Book Club, but November was pretty busy, as I mentioned in a previous post .

December is of course more than half done, but there are still quite a few reading days left!

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!

April 2013 bookish activities

Looking back on April 2013 books, information and library activities

To begin with as usual, a small review of my April completed reads: I read six books (listed below), ironically more non-fiction than fiction, and also more male writers than female. There was one Ghanaian author, two non-Ghanaian African authors, and three non-Africans.

  1. This child will be great, by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf [I found the first part much more interesting than the second, which was more political]
  2. The library at night, by Alberto Manguel [And of course, I dipped in and out of this book just before going to sleep!]
  3. Cod, by Mark Kurlansky [interesting, but not as fascinating as some of his other books]
  4. The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson [one of the books suggested for Accra Book Club. Very funny. And one keeps wondering what the main character will get up to next!]
  5. Mr Happy and the hammer of God and other stories, by Martin Egblewogbe [some very intriguing stories in this collection, which is focussed more on the thoughts of the characters, rather than the external African/Ghanaian environments]
  6. Of Africa, by Wole Soyinka [one of the recommendations for Accra Book Club, which I did not finish before the discussion. Very, very dense.]

Book buying was definitely on the meager side (which means I definitely have to make up in subsequent months): I only bought two books – one at a local bookshop (Sytris) and the other from a colleague who got it from the author.

Activities were as usual fairly varied:

  • Accra Book Club had one of its gatherings – with a discussion of Dune, by Frank Herbert (see post). As I may have mentioned, I really enjoyed re-reading this classic science fiction novel.
  • I joined a group of colleagues for a presentation on eLibraryUSA at the US Embassy Information Resource Center. I enjoyed it, and appreciated using some of the new resources later in the month.
  • Writers Project of Ghana held its March Ghana Voices programme, with Martin Egblewogbe reading some of his poetry, and excerpts from his book, Mr Happy and the hammer of God and other stories, mentioned above.
  • And finally, just before listening to various cultural gurus hosted by Adventurers in the Diaspora , I spoke to a visiting Danish postgraduate student studying literacy/books/reading/libraries in Ghana. I hope he got something out of the interview.

So what about May? lots coming up, including Yari Yari Ntoaso which I am really looking forward to!