Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2013 in Books - ImageNations

December in Review: Before I proceed to review the year in books, let me first review the month of December. By the way, Happy New Year to you all. Bonne Année. To complete the challenge of reading 60 books, I projected to read four books in December. However, I exceeded this target by three books which was expected since the average for the last two months - October and November - had been 8 books. In all I read a total of 1,573 pages, which gives an average of 51 pages a day. There was a dip in December if compared to the last two months but it was not a bad month for reading. I read my first science fiction of the year; my second ever Graphic 'Novel'; and my first ever Zambian novel. I also read three short story anthologies, including Delta of Venus - that famous book. The following were the books read:
  1. Delta of Venus by Anais Nin. This is a collection of short stories bothering on different sexual desires, cravings, perversions and more. It is both repulsive and enticing. The genesis of its development speaks of what it entails.
  2. African Short Stories edited by Chinua Achebe and C. L. Innes. This collection traverses the continent and presents to the reader stories rich in diversity as the continent is in cultures. From Ama Ata Aidoo to Nadine Gordimer; from Ngugi wa Thiong'o to Alifa Rifaat; they are all there.
  3. A Cowrie of Hope by Binwell Sinyangwe. This is my first novel (novella) by a Zambian. Previously, I had read only short stories and non-fiction treatise. The story is about a woman's quest for education for her daughter.
  4. No Sweetness Here by Ama Ata Aidoo. This is, for me, what established Aidoo as a chronicler of social, cultural, and economic changes. This is a quintessential Aidoo book, with all the stories steeped in realism.
  5. That's Doctor Sinatra, You Little Bimbo! by G. B. Trudeau. This is a graphic novel that satirises some of the ironical situations existing in the United States such as the requirement of passes by domestic workers in Palm Springs. And you would have thought that it was only in South Africa where people required passes.
  6. Dune by Frank Herbert. This is the great story of imagination. It is set at a period in time where intergalactic travel was possible and some of the planets have fallen into ruin. It is the highest-selling science fiction since its publication in 1965.
  7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was the daughter of that famous feminist. In Frankenstein she talks of man's desire to create and the possible consequences of men playing god.
2013 in REVIEW
I will not project the books I will read in 2014 now. My intentions will unfold as the year unfolds. I will want to do more writing in 2014 and so might not be reading that many books. In view of that there will be the need to develop new strategies to create content for the blog. I will come out with all that I plan doing in the course of time. However, this is an overview of what occurred in 2013, bookwise.

Target: At the beginning of the year, I set out several reading challenges. Notable among them were the 60 Books Reading Challenge and 100 Shots of Shorts*. I also sought to read several Russian literature since that part of the world remained closed to me in spite of the great men of literary repute it has produced and read other authors of great repute. I also sought to read non-fiction books on these topics:
  • Development, Culture and the Human Mind;
  • Thought and Language;
  • Philosophical, Political, and Economic writings about nation states and humanity.
Achievement: By December 30, 2013 I had read a total of 63, three more than the target set. Though the absolute number of books was less than last year (72 books) by 9, the books I read this year were on the average bigger than they were last year (2012: 257; 2013: 302). This meant that on the average I read an average of 52 pages a day and 1,585 pages a month. 

The 100 Shots of Shorts turned out not to be a challenge for by the end of the first month of the year I had completed it. A particular book I read, The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes was a collection of 70 interlinked short stories. By December 30, 2013, I had read 234 short stories, almost all of them in anthologies. 

On my Russo-Literature Challenge I did do well, however because there was no particular measurable target extent of achievement cannot be determined. However, from March to July I read one Russian book per month. I read Nikolai Gogol (The Government Inspector), Fyodor Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment and The Karamazov Brothers), and Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace and Anna Karenina). However, on the other authors - the likes of Umberto Eco, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kobe Abe Mario Vargas, and Alain Mabanckou, I failed miserably.

I also failed to read a single non-fiction that borders on my interests above. With the exception of Dambisa Moyo's Dead Aid, Nassim Taleb's Antifragile, and Credo Mutwa's Indaba, My Children, the rest of the non-fiction works I read were memoirs. A lot more is required and this year I hope to do differently. What hampered the achievement of this interest-readings is the unavailability of books.

I read only 8 books towards my Top 100 Books to be read in Five-Years, which thought is in its fourth year has hardly I have hardly reached half the target (48 percent completion rate). For the Commonwealth Writers Winners Prize for Africa Region Reading Challenge, I read a single book.

Favourite Books
African Books: I read some excellent African books and some not too good ones in 2013. The great books I read in 2013 would include Ngugi's Wizard of the Crow - which doubles as the most voluminous African book with 768 pages - Mongo Beti's The Poor Christ of Bomba, Chuma's anthology The Ghost of Sani Abacha, Bessie Head's When Rain Clouds Gather and Tales of Tenderness and Power, Soyinka's Kongi's Harvest, Mawuli Adzei's Taboo and Ama Ata Aidoo's No Sweetness Here. Let me chip in Credo Mutwa's Indaba, My Children. I will also add Manu Herbstein's Ama and Dambisa Moyo's Dead Aid.

Non-African Books: Here one can talk about Dostoevsky's duo: Crime and Punishment and The Karamazov Brothers; Tolstoy's duo: Anna Karenina and War and Peace; Elias Canetti's Auto da Fe; Nassim Nichola Taleb's Antifragile; Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People; Orwell's Animal Farm; and William Tennessee's A Streetcar Named Desire. Also to be included are: Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Frank Herbert's Dune.

Overall, with the exception of one or two books every story I read this year was fantastic. Sometimes it is only by reflecting does one realise how enjoyable life has been.

Origin: Thirty-six (of the 63 books; or 57 percent) of all the books I read were by Africans. Though this is better than last year's figure, it represents a decreasing trend since I began blogging in 2009. I discovered that the Heinemann African Writers Series from which I draw my African books (more than 90 percent of the African books available were published by them) are running out of copies I have not read. Unless previously, I visit bookshops and return with fewer African titles. This bespeak of the need for publishers of African literature to expand distribution. It is sad that African books are easily accessed outside the continent. If Africa is the future, to which the Chinese are running and into which the Europeans and the North Americans are digging deeper, then such entrepreneurs should realise that book sales move in tandem with economic development. As I see it, in 2014 I might end up reading more non-African books since they are the ones I have on my shelf. What then would become of my attempt (read that. It's just an attempt so those authors who write to insult me kindly stop) of promoting African literature.

Authors: The author I read the most was Bessie Head with 3 books. This was followed by Ahmadou Kourouma, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o, each with 2 books.

Rereads: There was only one re-read. I reread George Orwell's Animal Farm. I first read this book in 1996 and thought it was time for a reread.

Gender: Fifteen or (23%) of the books and single stories I read were by female authors (a decline from the 2012 figure of 33 (38%)) and 5 (8%) were of mixed-sex authorship, mostly anthologies (an increase from the 2012 figure of 4 (5%)) . The remaining 44 (69%) were by male authors.

Genre: I read one Single Story (an uncollected short story - not part of an anthology, usually in a magazine); 10 Short Story anthology; 9 Non-Fiction; 3 Poetry Anthology; 33 Novels, 1 Novella (< 150 pages); 17 Translations; and 6 Plays. This will include double counting as a translation could also fall into any of the other categories.

Pages: I read some pretty big books. The biggest was Tolstoy's War and Peace with 1,392 pages. The smallest book I read was Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (The single story The Lump in Her Throat by Aba Amissah Asibon was 10 pages, though that is not a book). The average number of pages per book was 302 (257 in 2012), surpassing the 2009 record of 279 pages per book. Eleven of the books I read were at least 450 pages, out of which nine were at least 500 pages. In all I read a total of 19,021 pages.

Year of Publication: The oldest book I read was Oedipus Rex by published in around 500 BC and the newest was published in 2013 (Breaking Silence, The Lump in Her Throat, African Roar 2013, and A Bit of Difference).
  • Pre 1800: 1 (1.6%) 
  • 1800 - 1899: 9 (14.3%)
  • 1900 - 1999: 26 (41.3%)
  • 2000 & Beyond: 27 (42.9%)
New Countries:  Austria: The Confusions of Young Torless by Robert Musil; Norway: An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen; Russia: (see above); and Bulgaria: Auto da Fe by Elias Canetti. The countries I read most from was Ghana (9). This is followed by Nigeria (8), United States (6), Russia (5), and Britain (4).


  1. Congratulation! We hope to continue reading together.

  2. Jeez this is some hardcore reading!

  3. This is serious. Not only do you read a lot but you are meticulous in your tracking of your reading. Great job.

    1. Thanks. It's easy to do it, once you have created your template.


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