Great African Reads discussion

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Books, Books, Books > What other books are you reading?

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message 1: by Muphyn (last edited Feb 08, 2009 10:58PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Hey everybody,

I thought this might be a good place to start some general discussion/exchange about "Africa books" outside the book club and to hear what members read besides "Africa books". :)

So, what other books are you currently reading/have just finished? Any recommendations?

I've recently started to read a bit more about Australian history (considering how little I know about a country I've been living in for almost ten years), e.g. Why Weren't We Told? by Henry Reynolds, which I found really fascinating and emotional in some parts (it's part memoir, part treatment of Australian history).

It's amazing how many parallels there are to the European colonisation of Africa. The big debate in Australia seems to be whether Australia was "settled" peacefully or through conquest/invasion of Aboriginal territory. Obviously the situation was different to many in Africa but still, it's surprising how similar the "settlement" was in some ways. And from what I've read, the situation in Oz has been compared/linked by a number of historians to the colonisation of Africa.


message 2: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i've been reading Arab and Jew Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land and just started Heavy Metal Islam Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam.

i don't know much about australian history either but would like to know more. recently i went to my dad's house to watch a movie about ending apartheid rule in south africa and afterward my dad recommendedThe Fatal Shore The Epic of Australia's Founding...i can't remember if our discussion about the movie led him to tell us about that book, or if we were talking about his recent six-week trek around australia and new zealand...


message 3: by Muphyn (last edited Feb 08, 2009 11:05PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments i was just about to ask you where/how you came across "Fatal shores" (saw it on profile)! :) Sounds very interesting although a dense read that can take a loooong time to finish (judging by the reviews on GR!).

Are you reading the other two books for work or outside of work for interest?



message 4: by Dana (last edited Feb 09, 2009 09:42AM) (new)

Dana | 25 comments In between Agotime and When Rain Clouds Gather, I read
Whatever You Do, Don't Run True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide,
Fodor's The Complete African Safari Planner, 1st Edition With Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa & Tanzania, and
The History of Love A Novel.
Right now I'm working on Sin Boldly A Field Guide for Grace which I think I picked up from one of Andrea's lists. Thanks Andrea. It's about how grace can be found everywhere and anywhere and that it's probably better to be noticing it than debating about it theologically.


Have you seen Rabbit Proof Fence Muphyn? Its interesting how "native" populations have been treated on various continents.


message 5: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments Like Dana, I've recently read "Whatever You Do Don't Run" and enjoyed it very much. I also read "The God of Small Things" which was I believe a '97 Booker Prize winner, but I didn't really love it. I'm currently reading "The Language of Baklava" which is a memoir about a girl born in the US to an American mother and Jordanian father. It's a very food-centric memoir w/ lots of recipes. The kind of book that makes you want to go eat whatever food they are talking about when you are done reading the book.


message 6: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I'm listening to Paul Theroux "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star" on my commute and it is Theroux at his cynical and verbose best. I like it, although I feel like I should take notes on all his references. I am also just starting an "Africa" book, "Something of Value" by Robert Ruark. It is a view of Kenya's Mau Mau period that today seems hysterical and outdated, but I thought it might give me some insight into the time period.


message 7: by Muphyn (last edited Feb 11, 2009 10:10PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Dana wrote: "Have you seen Rabbit Proof Fence Muphyn? Its interesting how "native" populations have been treated on various continents. ..."

Dana, you know what... I'm ashamed to say that I've owned "Rabbitproof fence" for at least six years and still haven't seen it! I think I might just try and do that this weekend! from what I remember about the debate when it first came out, it was very controversial (as anything that has to do with Aborigines in Oz).


message 8: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Wendy wrote: "Like Dana, I've recently read "Whatever You Do Don't Run" and enjoyed it very much. I also read "The God of Small Things" which was I believe a '97 Booker Prize winner, but I didn't really love it..."

Wendy, that memoir sounds great!! I love "yummy" books which make me want to eat the entire time while reading and try out new foods!! :)


message 9: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Andrea wrote: "I'm listening to Paul Theroux "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star" on my commute and it is Theroux at his cynical and verbose best. I like it, although I feel like I should take notes on all his refe..."

have you read any of Theroux' other books? I've only read Dark Star Safari, one of the first books I read on Africa and I found it incredibily depressing in parts. Took me months to read. Currently got Happy Isles of Oceania Paddling the Pacific from my local library and am hoping it's not going to take me quite as long. the one you're listening to at the moment sounds great too! is it by any chance read by Theroux himself? Bryson narrates some of his books himself and I just love it when authors read their own books.


message 10: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Muphyn wrote: "Andrea wrote: "I'm listening to Paul Theroux "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star" on my commute and it is Theroux at his cynical and verbose best. I like it, although I feel like I should take notes ..."

I actually really liked Dark Star Safari because I felt he confronted the problems so clearly and was politically astute about it. While he tends to be a cynical guy, he treats the people he meets as responsible adults, and I like that about his African writing, as some travellers to Africa are very condescending. The audio is not read by Theroux.



message 11: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments One more note. I finished "Something of Value" last night, and found not only nothing of value, but a really vile book. I'll write a full review soon.


message 12: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Oooo! I look forward to that review, andrea!


message 13: by Richard (new)

Richard | 21 comments I just read and reviewed Damon Galgut's The Impostor, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope to get stuck into his earlier work sometime soon.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34...


message 14: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments Richard wrote: "I just read and reviewed Damon Galgut's The Impostor, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope to get stuck into his earlier work sometime soon.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34..."


Hi Richard, I am glad you liked it. I bought a copy during a reading and interview he did in my town's International Writers' Fest. I was quite intrigued by his different approach to dealing with the issues of post-apartheid S.Africa...




message 15: by Richard (new)

Richard | 21 comments I forgot to get my copy signed when we met.

What exactly was the nature of his "different approach"? I'm intrigued to know.


message 16: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments My review of "Something of Value" is on my profile, if you are in the mood for reading an angry rant. Probably went overboard, but it felt good.


message 17: by Friederike (last edited Feb 16, 2009 06:36AM) (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments Richard wrote: "I forgot to get my copy signed when we met.

What exactly was the nature of his "different approach"? I'm intrigued to know."


I should have completed my thought, sorry! I meant in comparison to other SA writers such as Nadine Gordimer, Coetzee, and even Zakes Mda to name a few examples. One reason, of course, is that he represents a younger, post-apartheid generation. Even in the discussion at the event I attended, he was reserved and noncommittal about the SA reality as it comes across his novel.

His offhanded approach was especially noticeable in the discussion that also had a Canadian author (of his generation) as well as Amitav Ghosh on the panel. Joseph Boyden, the Canadian author, and whose Three Day Road I can only recommend highly, was the exact opposite to Galgut.

Well, I didn't get my copy signed either - had to rush off.




message 18: by Richard (new)

Richard | 21 comments Aha, crystal clear. Interviewers, especially abroad, are inclined to draw South African authors into discussions about realities past and present. Often this detracts from the literary aspects of their work and forces them to reveal personal (political) opinions that may be wholly irrelevant to the book. I have experienced this personally and found it rather frustrating. As if you're forced to choose which side of a carefully crafted painting you prefer. As if the intricacy and complexity of your perspective, as expressed in your book, can be boiled down to a simple soundbite.


message 19: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments I would tend to agree with you - and I am usually careful not to get into this trap. Recalling the panel again, I remember that I found it odd how disinterested Galgut appeared, not connecting with the audience at all as if it were a chore he had to do. And maybe that's the way he felt about it... Whatever, I will read his book and see. Probably read an earlier one as well.


message 20: by Richard (last edited Feb 16, 2009 09:36AM) (new)

Richard | 21 comments Well, I expect lengthy book tours could become a bit of a chore eventually, especially if you have to answer the same questions over and over again. Our discussion in Antwerp revolved mostly around the extent to which the (threat of) violence in our books reflected latter-day realities in South Africa. Quite an interesting discussion all in all. (The third author on the panel was Gawie Keyser.)




message 21: by Nina (new)

Nina Chachu | 205 comments Unusually for me, I am not reading any fiction at the moment. "The city of falling angels" by John Berendt is for a book club here in Accra. Plus "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell [I enjoy his style, even if I don't agree with everything he says:]. "Saltwater slavery" by Stephanie Smallwood I am reading partly because the stories of the slaves and the slave ships are from Ghana, at least at the points of embarkation. I believe this book did win a prize too. And last but not least is Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria's "The post-American world" which to me seems already slightly dated as he was writing before the present world financial crisis. I probably should also read some fiction, of which I have several unread volumes on my shelves!




message 22: by Melanie (last edited Feb 23, 2009 08:32PM) (new)

Melanie | 171 comments I just finished The House on Sugar Beach - Helene Cooper's memoir about living in (and leaving) Liberia. I found the background and history of Liberia to be the more interesting part of the book. I look forward to reaching this country in our book discussions.

Just started Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh.


message 23: by Friederike (last edited Feb 24, 2009 04:45AM) (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments It doesn't seem that you were that taken by the story itself, correct? It has been on my wishlist for a while. In the meantime, staying with Liberia (to a large degree) I read Russell Bank's The Darling A Novel with great interest. Do you know it?


message 24: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I read "House at Sugar Beach" awhile back. I really liked it but I agree that the first part, when she covers her family history and that of the country, is more interesting than the later part, which seems to me to be trying to sound honest while holding back some information. It's really more about adjusting to life in the U.S. I really didn't like "The Darling." I read it quite a long time ago, but I had trouble sympathizing with the protagonist. She seemed so uncomprehending of her own situation. She was supposed to be perceptive and sensitive, and the husband was brutal. I had to feel sorry for her, but I felt almost like Banks was playing on racial stereotypes. Surely a mother could have some influence over the emotional development of her own children. The way in which she becomes alienated from her sons and they get drawn into the corrupt system should have been heartbreaking, but I didn't think Banks did a good job of making it believable. I hope you all aren't beginning to see me as a curmudgeon!


message 25: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments I appreciate your reaction to Banks. I read The Darling only recently and had not read anything else by him. While I agree with you that the protagonist was not somebody to like, I found the character study of her intriguing and thought that Banks did provide a realistic portrait of a certain kind of African bureaucrat at that time. I did some research into the events he covers as well as the personalities of the political leaders at the time, and apparently he was very close to the realities of the day.


message 26: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I just finished "Reading the Ceiling" by Dayo Forster. It's set in Gambia, where Forster grew up. It begins with an eighteen year old girl who is trying to decide who she is, via losing her virginity. The book splits into parts that follow what her life would be like if she made each of three different choices. I recommend it.


message 27: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Thanks for the recommendation, Andrea! Had a look on the book page and sounds good! I'll see if I can get hold of it somehow.


message 28: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Andrea wrote: "I read "House at Sugar Beach" awhile back. I really liked it but I agree that the first part, when she covers her family history and that of the country, is more interesting than the later part, w..."
i happen to have a soft spot for curmudgeons!



message 29: by Coalbanks (new)

Coalbanks | 4 comments Brideshead Revisited - Africa as the place where the dissolute & deviant can go to get their thrills cheap & with less interferance from family/friends than in England. Michener revisited the continent 20 years later & used it in much the same way. Africa as the dumping ground of the Empire?


message 30: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I'm really enjoying "Swimming in the Congo" which might have been suggested by someone here. It has a similar premise to "Poisonwood Bible" but it is more of a memoir, understated but vivid.


message 31: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
andrea, i'm jealous of the amount you've been reading! i feel very behind. however, somehow i have been managing to read a little bit of "something to tell you" by hanif kureishi which is pretty funny.


message 32: by Melanie (last edited Mar 25, 2009 08:50PM) (new)

Melanie | 171 comments Just finished Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Roméo Dallaire who was the commander of the UN Assistance in Rwanda. I would feel weird saying that I "enjoyed" reading it because the content is heartbreaking and extremely frustrating (particularly the political aspects). However, I am very glad I read it - I learned quite a bit that I didn't know.

I am currently reading a thriller-esqe book, Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell - I needed something light and fluffy.


message 33: by Melanie (last edited Apr 11, 2009 09:28PM) (new)

Melanie | 171 comments Well, I just finished Little Bee by Chris Cleave. Essentially a British woman and young Nigerian girl meet on a beach one day in Nigeria and things happen...the story picks up two years later in present day England. Though sad at times, I enjoyed this one.

Am just starting A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz about a young man and his father's escapades in Australia.


message 34: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i finally read a book! :D
unbelievable how busy i've been...anyway, i just finished "the reluctant fundamentalist" which i meant to read a long time ago.
i'm also reading "first comes love, then comes malaria" and hope to have the author discussing here soon...i'll post separately about that.
unfortunately i've misplaced the book i'm reading for our burundi selection(s)!!! hopefully i'll locate it within the next day or so since i really want to get back to it.


message 35: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Melanie wrote: "Well, I just finished Little Bee by Chris Cleave. Essentially a British woman and young Nigerian..."

that sounds interesting, Melanie, though, as you say, very sad. will try and get my hands on it but may have to leave reading it for a "non-sad" mood.


message 36: by Melanie (last edited Apr 21, 2009 07:50PM) (new)

Melanie | 171 comments I understand, I am currently reading Out of Exile: Narratives from the Abducted and Displaced People of Sudan by Valentino Achak Deng. Will definitely need a break after this one.


message 37: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
if anyone wants to read something funny about africa, i really really recommend "first comes love, then comes malaria" by eve brown-waite. it was just published...i'm not sure about non-US editions though...
the author is a new member of this group and she'll be happy to discuss the book with us. shortly i'll set up a discussion thread dedicated to our group authors. i am dying to read manu's and richard's books as well...


message 38: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I read "First Comes Love" also, and thought it was funny but also addressed some serious issues of culture shock. A very worthwhile book.


message 39: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Andrea wrote: "I read "First Comes Love" also, and thought it was funny but also addressed some serious issues of culture shock. A very worthwhile book. "

and reverse culture shock!


message 40: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)


message 41: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I'm reading "Cruelest Journey" by Kira Salak, which is travel narrative of her journey, in an inflatable kayak, to retrace Mungo Park's explorations of the Niger River. It's a fun read, although, as with all travel lit. she's somewhat cagey about how and why she ended up on this journey and what preparations and support she is using.


message 42: by Melanie (last edited Feb 27, 2010 07:23PM) (new)

Melanie | 171 comments Just started The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (by William Kamkwamba), which is the true story of a boy in Malawi that decides to bring his family electricity and running water by building a windmill out of scrap metal and "junk". I saw an interview with him on The Daily Show awhile back and it peaked my interest.


message 43: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Melanie wrote: "Just started The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (by William Kamkwamba), which is the true story of a boy in Malawi that decides to bring his fa..."

Wow, that sounds interesting!! Let me/us know what you think of it when you're finished. Have to see if I can get hold of a copy somewhere.


message 44: by Alex (new)

Alex I just finished The Communist Manifesto as part of a kick to read some of the important works I've missed. I was surprised to find that Marx is a really good writer; the Manifesto is really easy to read.


message 45: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I'm going to cheat a little bit. I noticed a book on my TBR list that is related to Congo, although I'm not going to get to it until summer, when I have more undisturbed reading time, so I'm listing it in case someone else is interestedLanguage and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo 1880-1938. Any ambitious people can give me an overview to help me get started?


message 46: by Alex (last edited Mar 23, 2010 06:50AM) (new)

Alex Whoa. Yikes. That topic is fascinating, Andrea, and not something that's covered really at all in any of the books I've read. But I gotta say, the description of that book includes this phrase: "a shared communicative praxis providing common ground on which unilateral claims could be imposed." If he writes like that all the way through the book...whew. Good luck with that.

I hope you read it and then just explain it to the rest of us in English.

I'm currently reading Civilization: A New History of the Western World by Roger Osborne. I'm usually suspicious of sweeping surveys of huge periods of time, but this got real good reviews from the Times and my boy Jason, so I'm giving it a shot. So far, pretty cool. If you've got an e-reader, download the sample; he ties practically everything that's ever happened together in a way that I don't know yet if I agree with, but it certainly gave me lots to think about.


message 47: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments What, Alex, you have something against praxis? I love them, use them every day. LOL.


message 48: by Alex (new)

Alex Praxis kicked my dog!


message 49: by Ruthmarie (new)

Ruthmarie | 92 comments Thanks to Marieke for cluing me in on Dave Eggers' appearance at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, next week. I went to Georgetown's website and learned that other great writers will also take part--Chris Abani, among others. And one of the best new talents around, Uwem Akpan. If you haven't yet read the collection of short stories entitled Say You're One of Them, run to your nearest bookstore.


message 50: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Ruthmarie wrote: "Thanks to Marieke for cluing me in on Dave Eggers' appearance at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, next week. I went to Georgetown's website and learned that other great writers will also t..."
yes, indeed! lots of authors and thinkers will be there. i wish everyone in this group lived in DC! :D
this will be my shameful confession moment...i am unfamiliar with Chris Abani and a couple of others who will be at the symposium. i do indeed have Uwem Akpan's book, however, i have yet to read it! i was so excited when it came out i bought it right away, but then i never managed to read it. it's horrible of me, isn't it? he spoke at georgetown (georgetown is a jesuit school and he is a jesuit priest) when the book was released, but i wasn't able to attend that event and i was crushed not to be there. i'm very excited about this "second chance" and also excited about pretty much everything at this event! i'll be posting thoughts about the symposium and i'm hoping that i'll be able to tell everyone that it was recorded and will be webcast, but at the moment i'm not sure if that is the case.
anyway, as soon as i'm done with devlin's book, i will be devouring uwem's book! i'm sure i'll have it read by wednesday.


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