Readers' Top Ten - Ndeye Sene Mbaye (of Under the Neem Tree)

Book blogging has introduced me to several individuals I would not otherwise have met, either in person or in this virtual world. One of these individuals is Ndeye Sene Mbaye who blogs at Under the Neem Tree. As a bilingualist, Ndeye's blog has several interesting reviews including books which have not yet been translated from French.

About Ndeye: Ndeye Sene Mbaye is a Senegalese banker, blogger, fashion-lover, a fanatic of economics & development, politics, global affairs and whatever pertains to black people in general. She lives and works in the bilingual city of Montreal, Canada. Follow her on Twitter: @ndeyesene  and  follow her blog about African Literature @undertheneemtre

Below is Ndeye's selection of books. Note that I have linked the titles and authors to posts within ImageNations, where available. My views and his might not be the same and so beware when reading and judging them.
Choosing 10 books, out of the hundreds I have read so far, turned out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. Since I love numbers my first thought was  that I should do this by scientific methods. But then, I decided on a much more easy way. I  stayed in front of my bookshelf (yes I purchase almost all my books ) and list the first ten books that came to my mind. The thinking behind this is quite simple, if I remember a book quickly enough it means it must have been very good. Simple, right? 

That is how I came up with my top ten books,  which is a mix of new and old, French and English. I love biographies very much, but I  have decided not to include them this time to keep things simpler.

I could write pages and pages of why I love this book. If I had to choose one thing though, I would say, Odenigbo the revolutionary, not as a person but his ideas. See, everyone is talking about pan Africanism and  unity, but he has a very interesting point of view on that question. He said he is not Nigerian but very much Igbo, and that, it was the British Empire who created Nigeria. Why  should he deny his tribal identity to satisfy a country that was not created by him? Also, Ms Adichie's storytelling talent is undeniable. I love all her books but this one is my favorite. My second best would be  Americanah.

Mariama Ba manages to capture in less than 200 pages, the dysfunctions of Senegalese society without frills and unnecessary drama. She did it in the 1970s while living in a very traditional society. She is not only very courageous, but she manages to do something even more important. Her book is the one of  the rare novel which achieves continent-wide reach. Indeed, it is fair to say that every pupil - who went to school in Africa - has read this book, sometimes in secondary school. It’s very unfortunate that she is not here today to witness her extraordinary achievement.

I love all the three books of the African Trilogy but No Longer at Ease have a special place in my heart. Obi’s story is much closer to my reality and time than the first two protagonists. I could relate to him on so many levels. Indeed as a member of the diaspora, I am very much sensible to the idea of going back to my country to save it. I call this feeling the “guilt syndrome”. We all left our countries, for the white man’s country, to earn an education and  we plan to go back at the slightest opportunity. Meanwhile, we see everyday on TV very disheartening things about Africa, which make us think that we should be there and not here.

Another trilogy that is absolutely amazing but quite voluminous (1300 pages in Total). I haven’t read a lot of Arab authors, but this one has definitely captured my imagination

Crossbones (series)   by Nuruddin Farah
Mr Farah is my favorite Somali author. His entire trilogy is awesome. But my preference goes to Crossbones the last novel of the trilogy (Links and Maps are the first two).  This trilogy summarizes very well Somalia’s stories for the last thirty years. Unfortunately, Somalia’s recent history is filled with war, civil unrest and terrorism. But it is really a great book especially if you want to understand the country’s political set up.

Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou
I call this  novel an "experience". It is quite different from anything I have ever come across. Have you ever read an entire book without a single period? Well, Broken Glass doesn't have a single one. It is a very great story about immigration, life in a poor neighborhood and politics, told with great humor. You don’t read Broken Glass, you experience it!

Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye
I love the stories of these three Senegalese women because I could recognize every one of them.  The only minor issue is the literary style. If you can handle it, then this is definitely a great read. 

Half Blood Blues By Esi Edugyan
I read this book in late 2012. This author has created quite a stir in Canada. Even today as I write this post, I can’t find a word strong enough to describe how I felt afterward. This novel is the story of Jazz and German-born black people. Yes, you heard right Jazz and black people in Germany? Do read this great book, I loved it very much.

Daughters who Walk this Path by Yejide Kilanko
First of all, one of the characters is albino. Albinism is such a big issue in Africa, so just for that inclusion I loved this book very much. Also, it is a great novel about sexual abuse in Nigeria (both by a member of the family as well as an outsider). It is clearly shown in this novel that what is important for the victims are their family’s support. That’s why I recommend it highly; the end of the book is very optimistic. And we need all the optimism we can get.

We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo
The author has managed to capture in less than 300 pages many of the contemporary issues faced by immigrants as well as those who stayed back in Africa. A lot of authors don’t include that aspect of the equation in their stories. The usual storyline is that the protagonist leaves his God-forsaken country for more green pasture. Except that once he reached his destination, reality catches up fast with him. Ms Bulawayo however, went the extra mile and touched on the relationship between the immigrants and their friends back in Africa.


  1. I love your compilation Ndeye,I think most of us have Mariama Ba, Adichie and Achebe in our top 10. Interesting. I have added Half Blood Blues in my TBR.

  2. lol, I realized that as well. It's a good thing that we agree on those.

  3. I really want to red NoViolet's book. It seems the reviews I'm reading on it are rather mixed.


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