At the start of the year, I made a New Year resolution to read a book a week. Yes, very tall order, and predictably, I didn’t achieve that – due to a combination of factors such as time and the distraction of social media. Thankfully, I more than compensated for that by reading an average of 10 articles daily. My Pocket app has grown by close to 200 articles this year alone.
But we are still talking about books, so let me do a sort of review of the books I read this year:
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hossein
This book opened my 2015 reading account – rated as one of the best debut novels ever, it did not fail to disappoint. The book by Afghan-American writer is set in Afghanistan and the Afghan community in the United States and tells the story of love, friendship and betrayal, and it made me laugh and almost cry in turns. It was also nice to read about another perspective of Afghanistan more than the tales of war and Taliban that they have been famous for over the past decade.
There is a movie based on the book, but I am yet to see it.
Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracle – Ruchir Sharma
This book written in 2012 by Ruchir Sharma, Head of Emerging Markets and Global Macro at Morgan Stanley Investment Management analyzes emerging markets across the world and his travel through them. He writes with the experience of someone who has visited them and not an armchair analyst. It was a wonderful read going through the decisions that countries around the world make that shape their economic futures, whether it is Turkey investing in infrastructure during their period of economic boom or Brazil spending theirs on social programs.
Of course, Nigeria featured well, with Sharma giving former President Goodluck Jonathan, calling him ‘an accidental but effective leader’ – a bit ironic as I read the book just before the elections which Jonathan lost. He rightly commended him for setting up the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and also identifies numerous low-hanging fruits the Nigerian government can pluck to grow the economy.
Prey – Michael Crichton
I am a huge, huge fan of Michael Crichton, ever since I read ‘NEXT’ in 2012. It is just so sad that I discovered his books after he had died – he died in 2008. The way he writes his own blend of science fiction or better put, biological thrillers is just amazing.
In Prey, published in 2002, he writes about nanoparticles, intertwined with a story of family, corporate politics and infidelity. It is worth reading.
Airframe – Michael Crichton
Right after I finished Prey, I moved on to another Crichton novel, Airframe. Here, he delves into the field of airplane manufacturing with an intriguing story of corporate politics, conspiracy and cover-ups. Although the book was written long, long ago in 1996 (yeah, that long ago), it was still so much fun to read.
The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa’s Wealth – Tom Burgis
This book, published in March 2015 by Financial Times Correspondent Tom Burgis details how Africa’s wealth in the form of mineral resources is carted away by a network of warlords and smugglers in concert often with the politicians in these countries. It is the kind of book that makes you sigh heavily and almost give up on the continent.
Of course, Nigeria featured heavily in it, two whole chapters, and names you are familiar with were thrown about, such as a former governor, a serving senator and a prominent Northern businessman (no, not the one you first thought of).
One name that featured in almost every chapter of the book was the Chinese businessman, Sam Pa, who was recently arrested in the current crackdown on corruption by President Xi Jinping. This man has his hands in every pie across the continent in a way that is scary.
I Do Not Come To You By Chance – Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
One of my desires of late has been to increase my reading of Nigerian literature, and this is one book I have had my mind on since it was published in 2009. When I saw it in a bookshop, I didn’t hesitate to buy it and it was worth it so, so much.
The story is set in Eastern Nigeria about a young man who after years of searching for work and seeing his family’s economic fortunes deteriorate decides to join his uncle in the advanced fee fraud business (419, Yahoo-Yahoo), and hits it big. She writes so well about the business that you will be forgiven for thinking she has experience in it.
Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
After reading all her other books, I finally come to the debut novel of Nigeria’s most popular novelist today and a personal heroine. Set in Eastern Nigeria, it is the story of a family with a rich, devoutly Catholic and strict yet abusive father who continually abuses his wife. At some point, she can’t take it anymore and she poisons him to death while the son takes the fall for it.
It is easy to see why this book, the shortest of her three novels, won three awards and a nomination for the Booker Prize 2014. It is also an early glimpse into Adichie’s feminist mindset, which is one of the things I love the most about her.
God Help the Child – Toni Morrison
I do not know why I have a certain bias against American literature -maybe it is because I feel too familiar with the culture, no thanks to Hollywood. But it didn’t hold me back from reading the 11th novel written by Toni Morrison who in 1993 became the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I realize what I had been missing
The book writes about a black girl who was born dark-skinned to light-skinned parents, which caused the rift between the parents and robbed her of maternal care and love. The girl, Bride, goes on to be the head of a successful cosmetics line, and then goes in search of a man she called her boyfriend who walked out on her, not necessarily because she loved him but because of her indignation at him leaving her. There is also the matter of her trying to make amends for a lie she told as a child, which did not go well.
Love, remorse and seeking healing from hurts are themes that run through the book.
Sector IV – Abigail Anaba
Another excellent debut novel. It is a love story set during the Nigerian Civil War and deftly avoids the politics of the Civil War, a topic that till date is controversial and has left a lot of open wounds. The story has twists that are unexpected and describes a scene of love-making in a rather poetic way that made it even more romantic.
Really good work for a book written under a month, as she says.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything – Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt
Like the title says, it is quite an unusual economics book or better yet, a collection of their articles as they explain mundane events and situations such as how incentives influence teachers cheating in a public education system, the economics of drug dealing, and most interestingly, how legalized abortion contributed to a decline in crime.
This book proves that with the right methods and tools, almost every phenomenon can be explained using economics, pretty much what this website does with Nigerian situations.
Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Infidel is an autobiography by Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, described as one of Europe’s most controversial politicians, in which she details the patriarchal nature of the Somalian culture while issuing a scathing rebuke of Islam which is used to justify the patriarchy. She also talks about how she moved from Somalia to Saudi Arabia, and then to Ethiopia and Kenya as her family followed her dad who was a political exile from Somalian dictator Mohamed Siad Barre; and how she eventually moved to the Netherlands and sought asylum on the run from a marriage she was forced into, eventually becoming a politician and a Member of Parliament there.
This book has brought threats to her life forcing her to now move to the United States while a short film she made with Theo Van Gogh on Islam’s treatment of its women cost her partner his life. Really sad.
However, it was nice to read on a different, new culture and to read of the tale of the bravery of this woman. It is the kind of book I will read again and again.
Born On A Tuesday – Elnathan John
This was the last book I read this year by lawyer, writer and satirist, Elnathan John. For me, it did not read so much like a fiction but like a story I had lived through or observed based on the fact that it was set in the same contemporary Northern Nigeria I was born and bred in, with stories I could relate to.
The story of Dantala, the book’s main character transition from a Quranic school pupil (or almajiri) to becoming the right-hand man of an influential sheikh and the radicalization of an Islamic sect and the eventual clashes between rival sects and then the army is all too reminiscent of how Boko Haram started in my hometown, Maiduguri.
It is a book that is really fun to read, especially as it offers a glimpse into life in Northern Nigeria, a region which needs to produce more mainstream writers and stories for the rest of the nation and the world.
So…what to read in 2016?
For next year, I am going to be more realistic in the goals I set for reading: the target is two books a month and buying minimum of three books per quarter. Already for the first quarter, I am looking at The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Jamaican writer, Marlon James which won the 2015 Booker Prize and Soccernomics by Simon Kuper.
I will also try to finish books I started last year which I realize are really piling up.
PS: I had been thinking of writing about the books I read in 2015 but suffered from inertia. A big thank you to Feyi Fawehinmi whose own post gave me a template to use.
Special thanks to my man, Ikemesit Effiong for all the tons of articles he sends to my Pocket. I promise to revenge in 2016 😀