So I have been slacking on that #2015ReadingChallenge. The fault is not entirely mine but is shared with a friend who shall remain nameless.
Hi Farai. The book I am currently reading, Willful Blindess by Margaret Hefferman is brilliant but one of those reads where you find yourself taking a chapter at a time and reflecting upon what you have just read.
It therefore seems it will take a while to get through as I meditate deeply upon the sagacity of Ms Hefferman. While we all wait for me to finish I thought I might share with you some of my favourite reads of all time.
I was asked recently what my 3 favourite books of all time were and I struggled to come up with a list. There a simply so many books to choose from. Instead of sharing 3 with you I’ve expanded my list to 10 and in no particular order here they are:
1. Anthills of the Savannah – Chinua Achebe
I read this book in high school and it is my favourite of the Achebe works I have read. Perhaps because the situation in Kangan was hauntingly familiar with my own Zimbabwe
Achebe managed to capture my attention from the first page. In the fictional West African state of Kangan the story of how the country led to ruin by “His Excellency” a military man turned President through a is narrated by three different protagonists.
One of my favourite quotes from the book is taken from the passage where Ikem is addressing students at a university and he tells them “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches!” when they ask him for solutions to the social and political problems he had raised!
(I think I’ll re-read this as part of the challenge and give it a full review)
2. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
I’ve read this book multiple times. At least once every other year since I first picked it up in 2005 sometimes twice a year. It is brilliant and filled with numerous quotables.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”
“If you start by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose your desire to work towards getting it.”
Those are but a few. Coelho really went to town sharing with us Santiago, shepherd turned voyager’s journey of discovery. This book is definitely identifiable and impressionable and contains some useful life lessons within it’s pages.
3. Decolonising the Mind (The Politics of Language in English Literature) – Ngugi wa Thiong’o
This should be mandated reading for EVERY African. The wisdom carried within those pages goes beyond the politics of African literature but concerns the politics of our continent as a whole. As Ngugi himself says in the book:
“The present predicaments of Africa are often not a matter of personal choice: they arise from a historical situation. Their solutions are not so much a matter of personal decision as that of a fundamental social transformation of the structures of our societies starting with a real break with imperialism and its internal ruling allies. Imperialism and its comprador alliances in Africa can never develop the continent.”
4. Nervous Conditions – Tsitsi Dangarembga
This is the first novel by a Zimbabwean author that I remember reading and it is brilliant.
“I was not sorry when my brother died”
The first line alone should get you to want to want to pick it up and guaranteed it will be difficult to put down. Dangarembga covers an assortment of issues including patriarchy, tradition and culture, gender, colonialism, education.
Tambu’s journey from rural life to a school run by missionaries and everything in between is filled with all sorts of drama and interest.
(I should probably look for the sequel The Book of Not and add it to the Challenge.)
5. Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
“Let’s go.” “We can’t.” “Why not?” “We’re waiting for Godot.”
Ever felt like you’re waiting for something but you don’t know what or when? You fall into a routine waiting and waiting and waiting hoping that one day your Godot will arrive?
Perhaps I like this play because as Zimabweans we like waiting as Philip Chiyangwa so candidly pointed out.
Beckett’s play is filled with humour but its themes are quite apt when applied to society.
“Vladimir: I don’t understand.
Estragon: Use your intelligence, can’t you?
Vladimir uses his intelligence.
Vladimir: (finally) I remain in the dark.”
How often do we remain in the dark after seemingly using our intelligence? Shame. Also It was voted “the most significant English language play of the 20th century”. So do pick it up.
6. A Child Called “It” – Dave Pelzer
This book broke my heart and made me cry. How a mother could be SO cruel to her OWN child is just unbelievable. Why have children then if you’re going to call him “it” and treat him like that?
As the author says “Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.”
Based on his own life this memoir really made me angry at the world and people who do such things. Children are innocent and should be taken care of not abused. Pelzer wrote two other books The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family and A Man Named Dave: A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness that I am yet to read. It is heartening that he managed to get out and find forgiveness.
7. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This for me is Adichie’s best book. I knew very little about the Biafran War and in Half of a Yellow Sun Adichie was able to paint a very vivid picture that piqued my interest in what when on in post-colonial Nigeria.
The novel is rich with imagery and exquisite storytelling that found me getting very attached to the characters. The ending actually had me bothered for a couple of weeks. In fact thinking about it now has me asking wondering about some of the characters. This is the kind of book that has you wondering whether your copy is missing pages at the end.
Another book that crosses numerous themes and should be read in schools around the world. It is brilliant.
8. The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
I have two people to thank for putting me on this book. The first is Simba Chitapi. He suggested it to me in Form 3 I think and I was meant to but never got round to reading it then. The second is Kudzanayi Dzvairo. I was going through his Goodreads list and remembered it had been on my to-read list for years. Special mention to Book Den Windhoek for having it on sale.
Another book packed with life lessons it follows the life of Peekay an English boy growing up in South Africa during the 1930s to 1950s. It deals with issues of race, relationships between the Boer and the English, World War but overall Peekay’s desire to be welterweight champion of the world.
“The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, ofen well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further, or box better.”
Like the other books on this list a great read. Must admit though I wasn’t that fond of the ending.
9. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
I seem to be fond of books that are melancholic and taxing on the emotions. The Kite Runner is certainly one such books. It deals with love, loyalty, betrayal, family, abandonment and forgiveness to name some of the themes.
Hosseini imagery is exquisite and he keeps the reader engrossed within the pages. I love books because they take you to far off places and this was the first book I had read by a Middle Eastern author.
The author writes that “some stories don’t need telling” but this one surely did. People avoid talking about difficult issues but here Hosseini tackles them head on looking at the effects of war and what they do to families and particularly children.
Add it to your list if you haven’t read it already as well as A Thousand Splendid Suns I have And the Mountains Echoed on my Challenge list.
10. His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman
They made a movie out of the first book, The Golden Compass. It was terrible, they botched it completely. One of my favourite trilogies, His Dark Materials comprises of Northern Lights (The Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass
Follow Lyra Belacqua as she navigates through parallel universes on a quest that started off with her looking for missing children to her looking for her father.
The books although fantasy deal with theological and philosophical issues challenging the authority of the institution of the Church. In some countries or places rather I do believe the books were banned because of their controversy. In fact in my high school library only 5th and 6th Form were allowed to borrow them.
According to Pullman,
“All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity.”
I wonder which led to the censorship of the book.
So that is my list I hope you do read all 10 or at least 1. Do let me know in the comments what you think of the list and also any recommendations are most welcome.
Honourable mentions that didn’t quite make it are:
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
An Elegy for Easterly – Petina Gappah
Marching Powder – Rusty Young
Ghana Must Go – Taiye Selasi
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde