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

May and June 2013 reading

It is more than slightly belated, for a variety of reasons – including holidays 🙂 – but here are my bookish activities for the months of May and June 2013.

I completed eight books during these two months – with six male authors and two female (that’s a bit unusual for me).  All except one were fiction, two with an African focus, the rest from all over the world.  I did read half of the books on my Kindle – mainly because I was on holiday.

So here is a list of completed works:

  1. Chocolate nations – Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa, by Orla Ryan.  [Fascinating story behind Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire’s main agricultural crop]
  2. A whispered name, by William Brodrick.  [A fictional investigation of a historical incident in World War I]
  3. Broken glass, by Alain Mabanckou. [set in Congo Brazzaville; not the easiest of reads. Lack of full stops/periods meant this reader really had to concentrate!]
  4. Clea’s moon, by Edward Wright.  [Thriller set in post World War II Los Angeles]
  5. The magicians, by Lev Grossman.  [Fantasy, partly set in a magical college!]
  6. Canada, by Richard Ford.  [Story of a family broken up when the parents rob a bank; an Accra Book Club read]
  7. Haiti noir, edited by Edwidge Danticat.  [Crime/thriller short stories set mostly in Haiti; some of them were very spooky]
  8. Osama, by Lavie Tidhar.  [Fantasy/alternative reality which has eerie echoes of the last fifteen years]

I did buy a lot of books during these two months.  May was very busy – with visits to EPP (opposite Legon), Vidya’s, Wild Gecko (I couldn’t resist a Ghanaian cookbook on display in this gift shop), and University of Ghana, Legon, bookshop.  I also bought one book from someone who went to Nigeria, and others at Yari Yari Ntoaso.  June I bought books in several Barnes & Noble bookstores and also from a couple of independent bookstores.  Plus I did buy a couple of novels for Accra Book Club on my Kindle.

I attended only two events during the period – the inaugural  address by the new Ghana Library Association president, and the four day conference on literature by women of African descent, Yari Yari Ntoaso.  The last was especially exciting, even though regrettably I couldn’t attend all the sessions.

July is already looking to be another busy month, which I will report on at another time.

March bookish activities

March bookish activities

I did a fair bit of reading in March, but not much buying. Yet there were a lot of books and information related activities I was involved in.

I finished reading the following novels – no non-fiction during this month!

  • The particular sadness of lemon cake, by Aimee Bender [great title, but I have to admit I didn’t feel the content quite lived up to it]
  • The night circus, by Erin Morgenstern [really enjoyable, even though there were lots of questions unanswered at the end]
  • Skellig, by David Almond [classic teen story; a bit of a tearjerker perhaps]
  • The library of shadows, by Mikkel Birkegaard [another mystery/thriller which started off better than it ended]
  • Nairobi heat, by Mukoma wa Ngugi [detective story set in both the US and East Africa; not sure the ending was the right one, but well…]
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert [classic science fiction story, read for Accra Book Club. Remarkably prescient? I think I first read this more than 40 years ago!]

I didn’t buy much: two books at literary events, plus one visit to Vidya Bookstore which netted three books for me, and two Accra Book Club reads on my Kindle!

As for events related to themes dear to my heart, there were quite a few:,

  • A book slam, organized by AWDF (African Women’s Development Fund) and Alliance Francaise, with several well known African and Ghanaian writers reading excerpts from either their prose works or poetry. A great way to spend the evening of International Women’s Day!
  • Ghanaian author, Alex Agyei-Agyiri, read excerpts from one of his novels at the March Writers Project of Ghana event at Goethe Institut. I did buy one of his books, but I have to admit that I was not impressed by his actual reading – rather sad, as many authors are pretty good at reading their own work.
  • Earlier in the last week I gave a talk/presentation on “Literacy and me” for the Rotary Club of Ring Road Central. Basically I talked about reading, bookish events, and some of my work in information.  There was also a brief discussion  of Rotimi Babatunde’s Caine Prize winning short story “Bombay’s Republic”.
  • And last but not least, there was a work related meeting of CARLIGH –  a consortium of libraries here in Ghana, to which Ashesi belongs, followed at the end of the month with a gathering of academic librarians from all over Africa, brought together by the AAU to discuss progress on institutional and digital repositories.

I am not sure what April will be like… I rather tend to go with the flow…

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]

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?

October books and reading – belatedly posted

I thought I had posted this, but obviously I hadn’t!  Ooops…

So better late than never?

I finished reading five books in October – though I do admit that at the end of the month I was reading quite a few more!

  • The cry of Winnie Mandela, by Njabulo Ndebele [a colleague recommended this; part of my Africa Reading Challenge]
  • In pursuit of my destiny – Memoirs of a parliamentarian, by Kosi Kedem [a librarian by professional training; this is autobiographical, and quite illuminating]
  • A free man of color, by Barbara Hambly [for Accra Book Club]
  • The manual of detection, by Jedediah Berry [on my TBR shelves for a while; pretty good]
  • African violet and other stories: the Caine prize for African writing 2012 [I had read the shortlisted stories already, but this was the full 2012 collection]

Two had African backgrounds and one was about a Ghanaian; more males than female authors, and one collection of short stories. I read one book on Kindle; the rest were physical books.

I bought five books – several that I had been on my wish lists for a while, plus I got one book for free!

Only two book related events though, in contrast to the extremely busy September:

  • A regular gathering of the Accra Book Club, where we talked about A free man of color by Barbara Hambly. Also the situation of New Orleans in the transition period after the French had left, and Americans were moving in.
  • The last Ghana Voices event hosted by the Writers Project of Ghana at the Goethe Institut: Mamle Wolo read excerpts from her prize-winning work for young adults/teens – The kaya-girl, which I have mentioned before as it won the first prize for the 2011 Burt Award

November will definitely be a bit busier, as I am looking forward to the Ghana Library Association’s 50th Anniversary Biennial Congress and AGM, as well as the usual reading.