6 January 2013

Nigeria: Five Carry Over Books Recommended for 2013

The year 2012 flew past and was noted for unspeakable tragedies. Within the literary world however there were growth and richness. Characters came off the pages with such aplomb that we fell in love with them without much of an effort. There were villains whom we adored and good men who fell by the way side.

There was also a large cache of formidable non-fiction books including the biographer who turned lover in the United States scandal of General Petraeus. There were also miserable memoirs and books of betrayal. While these did well for the first quarter of their lives, the books that had staying power continued to be books that were well written, well researched and resonated with the reader. Today I present to you some of the books that I am still holding onto that were riveting, well written and well researched. These are books that I will certainly return to. These are books that I have learnt many things from and should be read by everyone. Happy New Year to you all.

1. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

This book was so well written that it went on to win the man-booker prize. A slim book which escaped being a novella, it's about the reminiscences of an old man who plays back his life in high school with such nostalgia that we all join him in his remembrances. Everything seems so real that not only does every reader immerse themselves in the book but also journey back to their own school days inspired by him. The writer of eleven books and repeatedly nominated for the man-booker prize over the years finally clinches it with this awesome book. A great read.

2. There was a Country by Chinua Achebe

One of Africa's most Illustrious literary sons dips his feet in controversy in this book that has generated more discourse in his home country than any of his other books. This I can say. As always the craft is impeccable. Written with the flair of a master craftsman, every word put on the page is timed, the language is elegant and haunting. A master class on how to be elegant in non-fiction. Unfortunately the book has been mired in controversy owing to the very sensitive nature of its subject matter. I have chosen not to comment on the content which has thrown up so much dust with a lot of people accusing the sage of not doing enough research. Let others put pen to paper, let the rest of us read and decipher.

3. 1001 books you must read before you die

A striking book which called me at a bookshop because of its crazy title and its bold cover. A gem of a book written by, you did not guess, as many writers as the titles of books featured and edited by Peter Boxall. From classics to biographies dating back to books written in c.850 and a host of contemporary books. The book divides the books featured by periods. In the sixties category two of Achebe's books made it including of course Things fall Apart. In contemporary Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun made it. Nigerians are featured in this historic book that is as elegant as it is exciting. There is something to say about Nigerian literature on the International scene. Let us keep writing.1001 Books you must read before you die is a fat book of 960 pages. Other Africans in this seminal book include East African literary maestro Ngugi wa Thiong'o with The River Between and South African Nobel prize winner J.M Coetzee with two books, Dusklands and Disgrace Other Africans who feature are South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer with Burger's daughter and Mariama Ba with her ultra-famous novel, So Long a Letter If you are a book aficionado like I am, there is excitement in going through the book as you search to see how many of the books you have already read and which ones you have stocked. It is also a validation of the hard work and incredible craft of those listed. An excellent reference book and an inspiration for all readers and writers.

4. House of silk; the new Sherlock Holmes novel by Anthony Horowitz

The world's private consulting detective returns to solve another crime. Anthony Horowitz writes a book that will remain in our consciousness forever and adds to the ever growing Holmesenian canon. Horowitz known famously for his children's books and screenplays has written a classic that everyone should read. Great work.

5. The Dust Diaries by Owen Sheers

Welsh writer and poet, Sheers, takes us to Zimbabwe in the days when it was colonised and known as Rhodesia. We follow him through the journeys of his missionary uncle who worked and died in Zimbabwe. It took him three years of research to get the book published. In those three years he travelled back and forth to Zimbabwe to check facts and feel his uncle's presence and the paths he walked. He tells us in the introduction to the book that the book was triggered by his father's letters to his uncle which he found in his father's prized possessions. He also tells us that the book is part fiction part imagination. Written in poetic prose, it's a book that should interest historians and literary buffs alike. A missionary tale told like a novel. Beautiful.

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