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!

February 2013 book/information related activities and reads

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]

Fastest billion at AshesiBook 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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. No Worries 4th editionThe 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…
  4. 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.

February 2013 light-off at LapazAgain, 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]

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?