Summer, summer, summer time! And by that, I’m not just referencing Will Smith’s Summertime. No, no, no. Where I come from, summer time means leisure reading and resuming my certified bookworm status. Woot, woot! Anyway, I figured it would be nice to share on what my 2013 summer reads and also to see if any of you have recommendations on what else to check out. I’m hoping to read 10 books at the very minimum and so far, only have 7, so there are 3 spots open for your recommendations. I’m also looking at doing some book reviews, and I’ve already gotten requests on reviewing Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, so that’s set, but let me know which others to review! Bon, on to my summer reading list and why I selected them :)
1. Manuscript Found in Accra – Paulo Coelho
Why? This one’s easy. First, Paulo Coelho is one of my favorite authors. I draw on him for inspiration – both as a writer and as a reader. Second, the manuscript was found in Accra. It might not be Ghana’s Accra, but it’s an Accra nevertheless (14th century, outside Egyptian territory apparently). If you’ve read any Paulo Coelho books, you’ll consider this an omen ;) Third, Coelho’s books always come to me at the right time. They always add some value to my life. I like value. Fourth, from excerpts on his blog, the book follows the format of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet (another timeless, great piece of writing). I love The Prophet, hence, I’ll most likely like Manuscript Found in Accra, obvious biases aside.
2. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Why? Considering I’ve had the title “Americanah” applied to me in more than one instance, I figured I should find out what exactly it means, LOL. Seriously though, it’s Chimamanda Adichie! (Duh!) If I’ve learned anything from this master story weaver, it’s that you never quite know what to expect, but always leave pleasantly surprised. I had Americanah on my Amazon wish list once I realized it was coming out in May, and guess what, my wish came true. I got the book as graduation gift from some friends so now, it’s anchors away, as I dip into the story of Ifemelu and Obinze. I’ve just finished part one of the book and I have to say that Americanah has already overtaken “Half of a Yellow Sun” as my favorite Adichie book. She is such a phenomenal story teller, and what’s more, this book is about contemporary Africa. No single story here!
3. Ghana Must Go – Taiye Selasi
Why? It seems the “love-hate” relationship between Ghana and Nigeria finally made it to the books! The title of Taiye Selasi’s book is in reference to the great exodus (or sacking, depends who you ask) of Ghanaians from Nigeria in the 1980s, when the all-too famous striped jute bags made quite an appearance and were later referred to as “Ghana Must Go”. As a Ghanaian who was born in Nigeria I’m always clamouring for stories which explore the fascinating relationship between two of my favourite West African countries and if the reviews are any indication, there’ll be plenty of that in Ghana Must Go. What’s more, Selasi herself is right in the nexus of the GH-Naija “rivalry”. My initial impression of the book is that it addresses contemporary African issues like immigration as told by the Sai family (lead characters) and hence, it’s bound to be real. Finally, I like the book cover, it’s got spunk. Yes, I totally judged the book by its cover.
4. Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
Why? When one book can illicit so many debates and strong views on an issue, curious minds (like mine) want to know. Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” seems to have reignited discussions regarding the work-life balance many women face today, the inequalities that are prevalent in the workplace, and how highly successful women have navigated their course. Simply put, it’s a must-have – not just for women, but also for young girls who aspire and for men who want to get a sense of what exactly goes on in the head and lives of women today. The fact that Sandberg is Facebook’s chief operating officer (ha!) and that many other influential women have joined the “Lean In” movement to share their stories is icing on the cake. With this book, I hope to absorb all I can about staying balanced in today’s world of numerous competing roles. Highly recommended.
5. And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini
I’ll admit it, I’ve Googled Khaled Hosseini many times in the past couple of years to see if he has any new books coming out. And he finally did! Hosseini has left quite an impression on me since I read his book A Thousand Splendid Suns, and then The Kite Runner. His stories are poignant, yet simple. What’s more, they give a peek into the realities of life in the Arab world, which I think is not adequately captured by mainstream media. I also enjoy seeing familiar Arabic words or references to Islam, and now that I’m an (ahem) intermediate Arabic speaker, I’m looking forward to exploring more of Arab language and culture. And the Mountains Echoed is a story about family and siblings in Afghanistan. A journey of struggle, loss, and relationships, it is already getting great reviews, including one from the Guardian which states:
And the Mountains Echoed charges its readers for the emotional particles they are, giving them what they want with a narrative facility as great as any blockbusting author alive. Perhaps there is some hokey emotional chemistry at work here, but, in the process, Hosseini is communicating to millions of people a supple, conflicted and complex picture of his origin country, Afghanistan.
Needless to say, I’m sold.
6. Inferno – Dan Brown
Why? Dan Brown is such a conspirator, but he does it well. Remember the Da Vinci Code? Angels and Demons? I’ve read each of his books thus far and with every one, I learned something new and questioned many things. I also love the fact that he employs so much symbolism in his work. I must say that it was through “The Lost Symbol” that I took a tour of Washington, DC’s historic sites before I actually ever visited them in person. His latest book Inferno features Mr. Robert Langdon – the smart Harvard professor of symbology – who follows a riddle into secret passageways, history, mystery and conspiracy. The backdrop? Florence, Italy, which coincidentally is the one city on my “to visit” list that I didn’t get to while studying in Bologna. Alora, it seems I’m up for yet another tour. The icing on the cake? Dan Brown draws on Dante for his latest. Mystery, symbolism, suspense, architecture, curiosity? I’ve have a double serving of that please, Mr. Langdon! Check out the Washington Post’s review of Inferno.
7. Winner Take All – Dambisa Moyo
Why? Dambisa. Moyo impressed me. She recently spoke at SAIS and here I was, ready to question her about her about why exactly she is so “pro-China”. Until she broke it all down. It’s not really about China, it’s about us Africans and what we’re letting happen. Unless we take charge of the reins in our dealings with China, there’ll be nobody to blame but us. Besides the fact that she brought home some real truths at the event, her presentation was very well delivered! (I felt so proud!) Plus, she mentioned some very compelling evidence and statistics in her book. So that’s how I became an owner of Dambisa Moyo’s latest book “Winner Take All – China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World.” The fact that I got the last autographed copy at the event is another plus :) Winner Take All might not exactly be leisure reading, but like Dead Aid, I suspect Ms. Moyo will keep things very real. Besides, it’s about time we Africans learn about China, no be so? Alora, this is going to be my one “heavy, but essential” read of the summer.
So there you have it! My summer reading list!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.