Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in Review

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Once again, the year has come to an end and bookish individuals will be taking stock of what transpired within the 365 days we had. But before we can conclude on whether this year has been successful, we must, as a matter of importance, relate our goals at the beginning of the year to what actually happened: Projections vs Actuals, as most Monitoring and Evaluation Officers do. However, I will first review my readings the month of December.

December in review
I read three books and suspended one in December. The objective for November was to play catch-up by reading enough books on my Top 100 Books Reading Challenge. It started well with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird: a novel about race relations in America's south told from the point of view of the nine-year old Jean Louise Finch, daughter of a lawyer appointed to defend a black man - Tom Robinson - in an alleged rape case, which people know to be fault but are not prepared to pronounce one of their own guilty, which if done would be to put the slave above the master, no matter how weak the master's case is. The next book was DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little. This is a story about reality TV, teen murder, materialism, and our sense of justice. After this, I picked Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner and for more than two weeks I crawled slowly, trying to grasp Faulkner's delivery, attempting to crack it open. And still finding the doors tightly shut. At 150 pages I suspended the read and promised to pick it up in the new year. I don't easily give up on books and I have never abandoned a book so this will not be the first. The problem I had with the book is the preternaturally long sentences and the repetition of events. I picked the novella So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. This epistolary story tells the life of a recently widowed woman, Ramatoulaye, who was rejected by his husband after about twenty-five years of marriage. In this letter to her friend, she informs her of the various problems she has gone through, pitching custom against modernity.

Projections made for 2011
In my 2011 Welcome Note, I tagged this year The Year of Reading and entreated those who are not reading-friendly as some of us are to take three books they have heard of which tickles their interest and go through them slowly. If anyone took this unasked for advice, they would have read three books this year. 

At ImageNations, though not stated, I decided to read five books per month - sixty by December 31. I also widened my reading coverage and promised to read more books from different countries in Africa through the Africa Reading Challenge. Catching up on the Top 100 Books was also mentioned.

What happened in 2011 regarding my goals
I was four short of the total number of books - I read 56 instead of 60, not counting single stories that are not part of an anthology such as the Caine Prize Shortlists. However, I am upping my determination again this year with Kinna of Kinna Reads (more of this in my 2012 Outlook). However, I read 12 single stories, making a total of 68.

The Africa Reading Challenge was very helpful. In fact I read a total of 20 books from 13 different countries including: Cote d'Ivoire (Veronique Tadjo), Kenya (Ngugi wa Thiong'o), Angola (Pepetela and Jose Eduardo Agualusa), Egypt (Alifa Rifaat), Malawi (Jack Mapanje) and Mozambique (Mia Couto and Lilia Momple). Other countries include Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Uganda, Cameroon, Namibia, Senegal and Gabon. According to geographic coordinates there were three from East Africa, one from North Africa, five from South Africa (not the country), two from Central Africa, one from South Eastern Africa and two from West Africa.

Regarding the Top 100 Books Reading Challenge, prior to 2011 I had read a total of fourteen (14) books out of the projected 100. Though the remainder is still high and would require extraordinary effort to go through them, I read a total of 15 books this year. Another reason is that about 63 percent of the books on this challenge list are books authored by non-Africans.

Details of my readings
I am using the meme I used in 2010 to summarise my readings in 2011; changes will be made where necessary to fit the year under review.

How many books did you read in 2011?
I read a total of fifty-six (56) - twenty-six more than last year - and twelve (12) single stories. Including double counting (a non-fiction could be a work of translation) the following are the categories according to the genres (in addition to the single stories): Short Story Anthologies: 4; Non-Fiction: (10); Novels - pages greater than 150: 28; Novellas - 150 pages or less: 8; Translations: 10; Plays: 2; Children Stories: 1.

How many did you review?
I reviewed all the books I read in 2011 except Weep not Child, which I've reviewed one of its theme before I read it for the third time and So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba, which I'll be reviewing in the new year.

How many of the books read were on the Top 100?
I read a total of fifteen books on my Top 100 Books reading challenge. This is about two times the number read for the combined years of 2009 and 2010.

How many fiction and non-fiction?
As already stated, my non-fiction books (10) forms 15% of the total number of books read.

Male-Female Ratio
The year began very good on this. It was almost 50-50 at a point in time. However, it has skewed again, though better than last year. Thirty-five percent (or 24 books) of all my reads (including single stories) were authored by women and sixty-three percent (or 43 books) were authored by men. One percent (1) was mixed - an anthology of both sexes.

Favourite book of 2011
I have already discussed this here.

Least favourite
Not exactly a book but some of the Caine Prize shortlists, which were in the category of single stories, did not interest me. Their subject matter were predictable and the narrator is almost always a young individual as if the recipe for a good story has just been discovered in from an Einstein-like mathematical experiments.

Any that you simply couldn't finish and why?
Perhaps Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom will fit here, though I plan to pick it up in the new year, after all it is on my list of 100 books to be read and they must all be read. The reasons for its apparent abandonment has just been given.

Oldest Novel
The oldest (in terms of publication date) was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813), this is followed by Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure (1895).

Newest Novel
I read four books that were published in 2011: Accra! Accra! More Poems about Modern Africans by Papa Kobina Ulzen; A Sense of Savannah: Tales of a Friendly Walk through Northern Ghana by Kofi Akpabli; Look Where You Have Gone to Sit edited by Martin Egblewogbe and Laban Carrick Hill; and Tickling the Ghanaian: Encounters with Contemporary Ghanaian Culture by Kofi Akpabli. However, if the months are taken into account the latter will be the newest.

Longest and shortest title?
Longest: Tickling the Ghanaian: Encounters with Contemporary Ghanian Culture by Kofi Akpabli.
Shortest: 1984 by George Orwell and Mema by Daniel Mengara.

Longest and shortest books?
The biggest book in terms of pages was Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (639) and the least paged book is Accra! Accra! More Poems about Modern Africans by Papa Kobina Ulzen at only 28 pages.

Most read author of the year and how many books by the read was read?
The most read author was Ngugi wa Thiong'o. I read three of his books: The River Between; A Grain of Wheat; and Weep not Child.

Any re-reads?
Yes. I read Weep not Child for the third time.

Favourite character of the year?
Though I have favourite character in my spreadsheet for every story read comparing them is a problem. It means I have to be able to recollect why each character is loved and this means I have to recall all their characteristics and actions. A difficult job. However, I will randomly select Stephen Kumalo in Cry, the Beloved Country for African books and Sethe and Denver in Beloved for non-African authored books. The least favourite characters were all in one novel: Heathcliff, Mrs Catherine Earnshaw and Mrs Dean all in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Which countries did you go to through the pages in your reading?
I went to Kenya, Angola, Egypt, Malawi, Cote d'Ivoire, Mozambique, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Uganda, Zululand, Cameroon, Namibia, Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa, Britain, America, Cuba, Gabon, Kangan (fictional), and Senegal.

Which book wouldn't you have read without someone's recommendation?
Geosi of Geosi reads encouraged me to take up Benjamin Kwakye's books of which I read two this year: The Clothes of Nakedness and The Other Crucifix.

Which author was new to you in 2011 that you now want to read the entire works of?
Lewis Nkosi. His Underground People jumped onto my all-time favourite list.

Which books are you annoyed you didn't read?
A lot of them but will shift them to 2012.

Did you read any book you have always been meaning to read?

26 comments:

  1. You had a great year of reading. I really love your blog as it introduces me to new African writers. Have a wonderful bookish New Year!!

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  2. Thanks DL. I'm glad I've helped in that direction.

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  3. I owe a lot from you, though i have not read more than you, i appreciate for showing me a way. For me, I have read Four books since i knew you. For 2012, i hope i will maintain my goal of one book per month. Thanks Brother

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  4. You certainly had a great year in books! I think we all get annoyed that we didn't have time for certain books. At least you have next year to tackle them!

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  5. Concerning Absalom! Absalom!, one of my favorite books by a favorite author: The first few times that I read Faulkner, it was tedious going. I read most of his books for the first or second time in a grad. level Faulkner seminar; without the prof's guidance, I would have missed basic elements of the story. Now familiar but unmastered, they are not difficult reads.Each time they grow and improve. On a personal note: A! A! was one of the books that saved my sanity when I worked on a factory line. To overcome the noise, dirt, and mind-deadening monotony, I tried to retell (to myself, in my mind only) the story of Rosa Coldfield, et al. in a chronological manner. This was enough challenge to keep me focused for some time.
    I think that you are smart to put the book away for awhile, but I hope someday that you will return:)

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  6. @Indeje, I'm glad to have motivated you to read more. That's the vision of the blog.

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  7. @Anna, yes. It's the hope of getting another year that waters down the hurt of not completing certain books.

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  8. @altheakale: When I'm reading it moves so smooth and I'm able to get my head around some of the things but my concentration span, in this season, has been greatly affected thus hampering my appreciation and enjoyment of the novel. I will pick it up definitely in the first month of the new year and move with it.

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  9. Love your stats and a wonderful collection of books within them. best wishes for 2012 & may you keep on, keeping on.

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  10. Wow! This is a pretty impressive list what with all the stats and all the impressions! I hope that 2012 is a great reading year for you as well, and that you are just as pleased with your reading in the upcoming year.

    Happy New Year!!

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  11. @PL, thanks. I hope 2012 will be better.

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  12. @Zibilee, I projected to do more than this but at least I did better than last year, which is an improvement. I can only hope for the best in 2012.

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  13. I haven't read A!A! or anything by Faulkner either, but it's one of those things you know you must do, and want to do, sooner or later. Too bad it is hard to understand, but now I'm curious to know if I can crack him! A professor lectured us on Faulkner a few months ago and I was excited by the themes that somehow appealed to me.

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  14. @Stefania, my shortcoming has to do with going into such a book with a novice reader's background, having not formally applied myself to literary studies. To you it might be easy and enjoyable, but this is not to say that I did not enjoy it. My concentration span was short for the longer sentences.

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  15. hey it's the survey i did! what a great year in reading you had. of course i know this anyway cause i read your awesome blog :-)

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  16. Yes Marie. I borrowed it and used it last year and I repeated it this year. It's helpful in giving a an overview of ones reading.

    Thanks for visiting and reading my blog.

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  17. great year Nana thanks for introducing me to so many great African books this year ,all the best to you for the coming year stu

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  18. Here's wishing you the best of wishes for the coming year.

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  19. Oh but you had a great year of reading. Let's hope for more this year! Also, aren't you just glad you read Beloved? Hmm...

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  20. @Kinna,you know I enjoyed reading that book. I have Sula and Her Bluest Eye. Might read them this year.

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  21. You must be so pleased at having read so many more books than you squeezed in last year: congratulations! I've never managed to finish a Faulkner novel yet, either, but I'm still (in a vague way) planning to. I've not yet read one of Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's novels/works either, but I've collected a couple because I attended an interview with him last spring and was definitely intrigued; the fact that you've read that one three times has further piqued my interest, though it's not one of the ones on my shelves just yet.

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  22. @BIP, I was happy to have read that many books though I thought I could reach a round figure of 60. I'm planning to pick that Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom!) up again. I hate it if I don't finish a book. Weep Not child is Ngugi's first novel. My recent read was for my book club. A Grain of Wheat is his more popular and acclaimed book, though the recently published Wizard of the Crow (which I've not read) has been touted as a masterpiece.

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  23. I loved reading your wrap-up! Congratulations on a really fantastic reading year. You're doing fantastic with your 100 books challenge. Good luck in 2012!

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