Where to read next?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I have been craving some African literature lately. For no special reason than just because. It has been a long time since I read anything in Africa - the last ones were probably Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Some of the stories in that book moved me but the collection itself did not make a huge impact on me), The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin and The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu (both of which I loved).

I have watched quite a few movies, set in some of the African countries (Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, Libya, Nigeria, to name a few), mostly war or revolution-themed, and those movies have left a lasting impression, enough to make me want to watch or read more. So now is probably a good time than any. There are anywhere between 52 and 61 countries in Africa, depending on your source, but according to this site, 55 is the number of them that are recognized. That is a lot of countries to choose from and I was hoping to choose three works to read. After much browsing through literature works, I narrowed down my list to these five.


Obviously, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun tops my list. I have her Purple Hibiscus also sitting on my desk and may choose to read that one first, but I'm all open to reading anything by her. I have been saying for a few years now that I need to read something by her soon.

But other than that obvious choice, the other four books are also looking very tempting to me. The lone nonfiction on my list, A Long Way Gone is the memoir of a boy soldier, of his days with the government army in Sierra Leone and discovering that he can do some very terrible things. We Need New Names, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is the story of a young girl's journey from Zimbabwe to America. Agaat is set in apartheid South Africa, a history I know a lot about but have read zilch books about. The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born, by Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, has been compared to Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

I'm not sure which one I'll read soon after the Adichie book. A Long Way Gone and We Need New Names sound particularly exciting to me, especially the former one, which is likely to give me plenty to think about. Have you read any of these?

This post is part of my Armchair reading project.

13 comments:

Shannon @ River City Reading said...

I haven't read any of these, though I did read Adiche's Americanah and adored it. I'm glad you pointed me toward Agaat...it sounds fantastic.

readingtheend said...

I'm going to vote very hard for Half of a Yellow Sun. I read it for book club and expected to find it unbearable to read because war; and it was difficult to read in parts, but it was just a lovely book. I loved all the characters immediately, and it was hard and sad to see bad things happen to them.

bermudaonion(Kathy) said...

I haven't read any of them, but I love books like A Long Way Home even though I find them very disturbing.

Athira / Aths said...

I am very excited about Agaat! It sounds like the South African counterpart to The Help and The Invention of Wings.

Athira / Aths said...

That's pretty much what I hear all the time about that book. It sounds very beautiful - difficult but worth it. I will most probably be starting with that, unless I do not get my hands on a copy soon.

Athira / Aths said...

I know what you mean! It is very hard to read books like that and because of that it keeps staying on the TBR but after you read it, you wonder why you waited so long!

Sam_TinyLibrary said...

Yay, Adichie! I've read all of her books - Half of a Yellow Sun is technically the best but Purple Hibiscus is my personal favourite, as I had more emotional connection with the characters.
I bought We Need New Names this weekend, I'm looking forward to it too.

Grace said...

Half of a Yellow Sun is one of the best books I've read. I read it as part of an "Around the World" book challenge 5 years ago. I still think about it, which is my definition of an excellent book; it stays in your mind long after reading it. I've also read We Need New Names, which I liked, particularly in the Zimbabwe section of the book.

Debbie Rodgers said...

I've read and A Long Way Gone and highly recommend them both. Your heart will ache for Ishmael!

Leeswammes said...

Good idea. I have the feeling we are all reading many more books from Asia than Africa. I know I so. I started Agaat a few years ago but it didn't hold my interest so i never got very far. Half of a Yellow Sun is very good (but you suspected that already).

Aarti said...

I have heard great things about We Need New Names. Have you read Ghana Must Go? I thought the ending was a bit too pat, but the writing was beautiful.

Sue said...

I would like to recommend one more book for your Armchair Reading project. This one is set in Somalia: The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed . One of the best books I have read in a long while! Well written and one to savor. I have read 3 of Adichie's books:
Purple Hibiscus, Americanah and the The Thing Around Your Neck. All good reads although I did find Americanah a bit rambling in some parts. The short story collection was great, I don't typically read short stories so that says alot coming from me. Will be definitely be checking out Agaat . I have read some South African fiction, don't know why I haven't run into it before.

Nishita said...

I read We Need New Names early this year and while it has its flaws I still recommend it highly. I love the language and the "voice" of the protagonist.