Reading has become a part of me, through dedication and perseverance. I am not one of those whose home overflowed with books. There was none, almost. Not that my parents were illiterates. They weren't. My mother retired as a Principal Nursing Officer. No problem. But that was the days nurses were almost paid in coins and so there were more important things to think about than filling-up a bookshelf with fiction. First, there was school, good but affordable school, to consider. If you thought my father who described himself as a farmer, with no commercial farm, was an illiterate you should see his signature; his handwriting is a thing to envy, the best in the family. He thought us how to read. My reading book - the school-text - was defaced and plastered all over such that even with a microscope you cannot identify the colour nor the text on the cover. If books could cry, that 'Here is Aku' book could have wept gallons.
Hang on, I am not reviewing my family. I am reviewing my reading for the month. Though I do say that reading has become a part of me, July and August haven't been faithful months. I have struggled through them. They nearly ditched me like that girl who ditched me after ten years of dating. Yes, it's true. I intend to be unconventional in this post. Don't worry, I'm not drunk. August saw me read, almost, six books. Though this might seem impressive, it is not. As they say, the devil is in the details.
First, I am just over a third through the sixth book, which happens to be the most voluminous of the six; besides I lost one of the books on the plane from Entebbe to Nairobi. I was half-way through that book but have counted it as read. So there it is! I have cheated.
The failure wasn't only on the numbers read but also on the pages read. Most of the books read were less than the average book size (354 pages) I've read this year. To repeat, the biggest I've read this month, which I am only a third through is 374 pages and this is a large-font cum illustration ridden - at the beginning of every chapter - copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. On the average I read 46 pages a day. Impressive? Try deducting the lost and incompletely read books. All the same, the following are the books read for the month:
- A Heart's Quest by Elikplim Akorli [198 p.] This is a collection of poems. I interviewed the author on the poems.
- The Spider King's Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo [288 p.] Anyone who has read this know how fast-paced it is and the socioeconomic dimensions it covers. It's both funny and sad. Chibundu's descriptions of that duality that has come to define our economic situation is all too palpable. A great first book. This is a book you could read in one sitting and feel satisfied.
- Farad by Emmanuel Iduma [207 p.] This is the book I lost on the plane. I couldn't stop blaming myself. You know that feeling you get when you know something will happen and it happens? Yes, that's the feeling I got when I lost this book. I put the book in the front-seat pocket just when we were approaching JKIA and it crossed my mind that I might forget it. Lo and behold I did. However, the few stories I read in this book had promise. One of the stories, first read in the African Roar 2011 Anthology as Out of Memory, was expanded in this one. Emmanuel's writing is like peeling onions, every sentence reveals something different. He sometimes repeats words, sentences, but they go ahead to reveal something, like Faulkner did in Absalom Absalom; however, they did distract at times. Yet, one cannot but appreciate the author's keen sense of observation.
- Taboo by Mawuli Adzei [248 p.] Again, like Chibundu's book, don't be fooled by the page numbers. The fonts are sparse and make for a fast-read. What a book! What more can I say? This book mixes the clash of religions with the serial killing of women [remember the serial killing of women that gripped the country in 1999 prior to elections? Yes, that very one]. The recipe of such ingredients is this page-turner of a book, written in codes - literally, that would keep you guessing and missing till the last line. Yes, it is literary! And yes, it has detective elements. And yes, it involves Catholic Priests. If you're not enticed to read this book after these snippets of information, then you're either not alive or you're dead, which is the same thing.
- Kongi's Harvest by Wole Soyinka [96 p.] This is a play about the struggle of power between a traditional authority and a democratically elected leader. The question is who wields the most power? Are they different? Could both be trusted? Kongi wants to be the first person to eat the first yams and he wants Danlola to be the one to present the yams to him. In so doing Danlola, the traditional head, would have relinquished power absolutely to Kongi, the president. Kongi is also thinking of his Five-Year Development Plan, which emphasises harmony. How does he achieve harmony whilst ensuring that the unyielding Danlola succumb to his quest?
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain [374 p.] If you thought Amos Tutuola wrote English in 'some way', read this book. I don't think the year it was published, 1884, had anything to do with the way it was written. However, once you familiarise yourself with its 'irregular' grammar, you're through. What more can I say about a book I am currently reading but pretending to have already read?
On the literary events front, Nii Ayikwei Parkes was the reader for the month at the Ghana Voices Series organised by the Writers Project of Ghana in partnership with the Goethe Institute. He read from his very old, recently old, and upcoming works. As usual there was the question and answer session.
Next month [September] we will host the Nigerian writer Sefi Atta, author of Everything Good will Come, News from Home among others. It will help if you mark the last Wednesday of September on your calendars. The time remains 7 pm.
September: I really don't have that many unread books and I have no intention of reading those unread ones on my shelf, save one or two of them. Thus, September is also going to be a fascinating one.
However, I am sure to read A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, a selection of the Writers Project of Ghana's Book and Discussion Club for the month of September. If you're interested, you can follow us on @WritersPG and use the hashtag #wpghbookclub to follow our twitter discussion, which is held on the last Thursday [usually] of every month before the actual 'in-person' discussion at Legon.
I will also read a, as yet untitled, collection of poems. Hopefully, I will share it with you.
These are my two likely readings. However, if my enthusiasm picks up then I will add either one of Ayn Rand's tomes: Atlas Shrugged or Fountainhead.