March was a not-so-good month. Unlike last year, I have been falling behind in my reading targets very early in the year. At the end of March, I was two books behind and have read 13 books instead of 15 towards the target of 60 for the year. Though I am improving on my reading speed, I am slacking on consistency. It is likely that April will not be different.
I read the only book I projected to read in March and three others. The dwindling numbers of unread books on my shelf means that I am not motivated enough to pick a book. Most of the unread books are those I have passed by on several occasions, not that they are not good but I do not have the urge to read them. This reduced degrees of freedom is impacting badly on my vision to read more African books. Thus, any African book that comes into my possession is given priority. Two of the four books I read were African books. Of the four, one was a poetry anthology, two were collections of short stories, and one was a novel. The slump from February to March was too steep. I read a total of 1,225 pages (or 39.5 pages per day), which is woefully below the previous month's 58 pages per day. The following are the books read:
- How to Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories Vol. One by Chuma Nwokolo. Chuma has published two collections of short stories to celebrate the centenary celebrations of the formation of Nigeria as a single country. The first volume of 50 short stories was published in 2013 and the second is likely to be out any moment from now (or might already have been published). It was always going to be difficult putting 50 short stories together. Not that they were below what Chuma has done in The Ghost of Sani Abacha. No. This was also as interesting and as varied as the TGSA. However, the stories are of varied lengths and a few are more of observations than actual stories. There were some that one felt the author could have fleshed up just a bit. But overall, Chuma's humour, his keen insight into life, shine through.
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I always thought this was a novel until I opened it to read. I was very much surprised. The manner in which Sherlock Holmes made everything easy was rather interesting. Though one knew he would solve it, one's expectation is more in the 'how?' than in the 'can he?'. However, I felt that this was just a bit below my expectations of the widely acclaimed character. Perhaps I should read more of Holmes. It also reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith's The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency.
- Testament of the Seasons by Mawuli Adzei. This is the first poetry anthology I have read in the year. It was a selection of the Book and Discussion Club of the Writers Project of Ghana for the month of March. The author was present at the discussion and it was an interesting evening. The anthology covers a wide range of issues and as the title suggests, it is a testament of the seasons we have been through, or more specifically the poet has been through. It covers issues from the Cold War to the Arab Springs. As the blurb states, the collection covers a thirty-year period. Issues of life and death and identity - tribal, racial, etc. - are also addressed. Its volume (at 151 pages) speaks less of what it contains. The writing is marvellous and Mawuli's choice and the rhythm of his words are fantastic.
- Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. This is one of the books I have skipped several times. It was the oldest unread books on my shelf, having purchased it in August 2010, because I was put off by the author's James Bond novel Devil May Care. However, I kept finding it listed in a number of 'best books...' so I decided to give it a go. And, my god!, I was not disappointed. This is a stupendous novel and because I have read both books it has been compared with - The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway - it resonated well with me. Besides, because I have been looking for World War I books (though those with African characters - fiction or non-fiction) to celebrate the centenary of the beginning of that senseless war, I was very much fulfilled by this. Faulks patiently shows the absurdity and stupidity of war. How man descended into the lowest pits of his wickedness and became like an animal; how the conscience and nerves of millions of soldiers were destroyed; how civilisation is just a thin layer of reason and could be crossed at any time in that rabid search for supremacy. In this novel, Faulks paints a picture of war different from the showboating we see on the screens, the ignorance of the young and the old who clamour for war and yet are ignorant of what it actually involves only to have their disillusion broken into illusion and insanity and end up in mad-houses for the rest of their lives. If a novel can end the quest and zeal and love for senselessness and war, Birdsong can. But unfortunately, no novel can. Man is such an animal.
April: Note that a full review of all these books would be posted here on this blog in the coming months. Currently, I am reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. In addition to this, I hope to read the Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and 1984 by George Orwell. The latter is the book for the month of April and should I read it would be my second reading in three years (first read in 2011).