Thursday, January 31, 2008


My office is a mess. I'm not sure that making the photograph of the books by my desk look like a painting makes for a good picture, but at least it provides some distance from the stark reality of my slovenly ways.

I like books. A friend who reads more books in a month than I read in a year never has more than the five or six books she's reading at a time in her apartment. I keep books around because I don't remember the words, and need to refer to them. My memory tends towards paraphrase, and I know from experience that my paraphrasing often seriously distorts the meanings. So I read books and then keep them around so I can spend sometime figuring out what the books said. You might say I'm a slow reader and don't get around to reading as many books as I should.

I love reading on the Internet. There's some truly wonderful writing. The Web is a great place to search for information, but books are uniquely capable for orienting oneself to subjects.

I want to know more about Africa. My heart is heavy about the violence in Kenya in the aftermath of the presidential elections. I'm very grateful to the bloggers who are writing about it. And I will continue to read. But the more I read the more I understand that I need a better context for understanding and reading some books may be just what I need.

Chris Blattman has a post up African Reading List which has some good suggestions. Blattman recommends John Reader's Africa: A Biography of the Continent and I'll second that recommendation.

Dave at Siphoning Off a Few Thoughts has issued and African Reading Challenge. He's encouraging people over 2008 to read:
six books that either were written by African writers, take place in Africa, or deal significantly with Africans and African issues.
The great thing is he's making a carnival of it and encouraging people to write a post on their blog with the books they intend to read, and those are linked at his blog post. Then as readers offer reviews those will be linked to as well. There are already 14 participants signed up, so it's a great way to find lots of books to choose from. I'm winding my way through the posts. I particularly like Nyssaneala list at Book Haven.

I'm going to have to travel to my library to see what books they have available. I bet it's going to be slim pickins. It will be very discouraging if I'm not able to find six books meeting the criteria in the library! I may end up having to finally get around to reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

I was writing on a thread at a social network tonight. Crossed Crocodiles posted on a recent speech on African democracy delivered by Jerry John Rawlings at the 5th Annual Trust Dialog. I was impressed by the address, but went to Koranteng's Toli thinking of a particular post. I know that not everyone is as fond as I am of going back to the books I've already read. But I'm fond of doing that, and for the same reasons I'm fond of going back to read Koranteng's posts. He surely is one of the most brilliant writers on the Internet. Surfing around old posts, I realize there's no lack of suggestions of books to read there.

I haven't officially signed on to the African Book Challenge, but it's a good plan and I'm going to try to do it. Maybe once I get a couple of books under my belt I'll sign on. At least I'm going to make a list. I hope if others are so inclined they'll join in and link to their writing at the African Reading Challenge.


Nyssaneala said...

I'm glad you liked my Africa Reading Challenge list! I'm adding another book to my challenge list, as I just received an ARC of The Translator by Daoud Hari, his memoir of his time serving as a translator in Darfur (he is now a refugee living in America). It's going to be published in March.

Pingting said...

i'm happy to see you blogging here again~
and i love this picture/painting which has
a Pieter Bruegel feeling about it

: )