In what is becoming a tradition for me, I write again on the books I read in this outgoing year.
Like last year, I had a target of reading a book per week. Like last year too, I failed at it. It is not my fault – blame MTN with their new, cheap, all-day data plans. It is tough reading books in this age of social media, but as a compensatory measure, I read a lot of articles daily, many of them long reads and thoughtful analyses.
So here are the books I read this year in the order I read them:
Soccernomics – Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
For long, I have wanted to read this book largely because I am a huge fan of Simon Kuper’s articles in the Financial Times. The other reason is to see economics applied to football. The book is a really interesting read if you are an avid fan of the round leather game – from the fact that defenders are mostly underpaid for and strikers are overpaid for (although this is quite apparent), and that club managers are in reality, middle management staff in a club rather than the all-conquering saviors we expect them to be. There is also a lot of trivia within.
The Fishermen – Chigozie Obioma
Continuing in my quest to read more Nigerian literature, I got Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel about 4 brothers in Akure who receive a violent prophecy about their family and scarily enough, it comes to pass. The book received a Booker Prize nomination last year. Watch out for a twist in the end too.
A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James
This was the book that destroyed my reading plan for the year. It took me 5 months to finish the book, and yet it is an interesting book. However, large parts of it were hard to read – the Jamaican English, a whole chapter written in Jamaican English without any punctuation, and some parts that were slow.
But the plot is an interesting one – fiction written around an assassination attempt on reggae legend Bob Marley in 1976, with the politics and gang violence prevalent in Jamaica around that period woven in. Towards the end of the book, it becomes really fast-paced.
This was the book that won the Booker Prize for last year.
Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security – Sarah Chayes
This is a really interesting book that explains how corruption brings insecurity and breeds violence and terrorism. Sarah Chayes, the writer uses her experience in Afghanistan first as a reporter, then as a special adviser to the commanders of the American forces in the country to write on this nexus in a riveting, reportorial style. Of course, there is a chapter on Nigeria and how corruption has brought our own insecurity from Boko Haram to Niger Delta militancy.
Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
Someone described this book as the most important book in Christianity after the Bible, and I very much agree. If you have struggled to explain your Christian faith in logical terms, then this is a book for you to read.
First written in 1952 and adapted from a series of radio talks from 1942 to 1944, this classic uses logic to first explain human morality which is generally accepted like a universal law of nature (for example, all humans irrespective of faith condemn Hitler’s actions and believe stealing is wrong), and then builds on that to explain the human need for God and why Jesus Christ is the only route to salvation.
It goes without saying that C.S. Lewis was once an atheist before becoming a Christian, and he has left us with this beautiful work of his mind.
Zero to One – Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
This is a book that emerged from a set of online notes taken by Blake Masters for a course on startups taught by Peter Thiel (Paypal co-founder, Facebook early investor, tech billionaire) at Stanford University. The book talks on how by innovating and disrupting, tech companies can become monopolies in their fields (e.g Google as the leading search engine in the world). Pretty interesting book
Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Growth – Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
I heard Mark Essien, founder of Hotels.ng mention this book at a tech startups event in Abuja as an excellent book for marketing and I immediately got it. And yes, it is an excellent book for marketing. I have read and reread it at least twice already, and I consistently go back to look up specific chapters. If you are into business, you definitely should get this book. It will do you a whole lot of good.
The Origins of Political Order – Francis Fukuyama
I saw this book at a motor park in Jos and the author’s name caught my eye, having read his popular essay, The End of History years ago. The book looked out of place in the park, and thankfully, it was cheap and that made me buy it. But I didn’t think that a book on political theory will be so interesting – from his theories on how human societies became organized to how India and China developed a federal nation and a centrally controlled one respectively despite their similar size and geographic proximity – it is a page turner to the very end.
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
This book was listed among the top 10 books of the year by the New York Times and I proceeded to get a copy immediately. The book is made more interesting with the recent election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. It is a really interesting read on how American billionaires from decades back, motivated by self-preservation proceeded to move the opinions of the society in the direction that it will benefit them. It is scary how for some, even much-needed environmental regulations stand in the way of their making money; and scarier that a lot on the wishlist of these politicians might be achieved with a Trump administration.
But there is one thing I admire about these billionaires: their ability to play the long game. They poured money into a project they knew will take a very long time, and which many of them have died long before now, constantly fine-tuning their strategy to achieve their goals. This is something more Nigerian politicians need to learn instead of only thinking in 4-year cycles or even less.
Beautiful book, but haters will say it is leftist propaganda.
What I Missed
From my last year’s list, I missed out one book I read: The Tragedy of Victory by Godwin Alabi-Isiama. I am of the opinion that not enough has been or is being written of Nigeria’s contemporary history and especially of the Nigerian Civil War, which is still a sensitive topic.
However, I did not quite enjoy Alabi-Isiama’s account of the war in the Atlantic Theatre, which is where the Third Marine Commandos under the leadership of then Col. Benjamin Adekunle (popularly called Black Scorpion) and a hero of the Civil War operated. I found the book to be not excellently written and showing too much emotion, especially against former President Olusegun Obasanjo who took over leadership of the Commandos, and with whom Alabi-Isiama seems to have an axe to grind with because he feels Obasanjo was taking too much credit for the victories of the Commandos. It also had too much military jargon which made the book feel like a military textbook at some points, and was repetitive in other places. I feel the publishers should have paired Alabi-Isiama with a professional writer in order to arrive at a better output.
Like I earlier admitted, my reading this year was rather poor by my standards – just 9 books, down from 12 the previous year. But I can pat myself on the back that the first 3 books I read were on my target list for next year. Small victory, but it still counts.
Also, while 8 of the 12 books I read last year were fiction books, only 2 of the 9 I read this year were fiction. I don’t know whether that is a good or bad thing though.
The Books on My Target List for 2017
I am currently reading Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, a novel on a terrorist attack in India and the lives it affected. This is another book I got after reading the NY Times’ 10 Best Books of 2016.
I also have 3 more books from that list waiting for me: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Vegetarian by Han Kang and The Return: Fathers, Sons & Lands in Between. The first two are works of fiction while the last is a personal memoir of post-Gaddafi Libya.
I am also very much interested in reading Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel, which looks at the illegal drug business from an economics viewpoint. After watching Breaking Bad (which I am still not over) and still watching Narcos (the series on Pablo Escobar), it only feels natural I read this book too, and I think it will be really interesting.
I also want to read Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics. I have heard so many good things about him, read some of his columns and my economics knowledge needs a lot of work (especially as I didn’t even study it in secondary school) – all a perfect match.
Also, I am picking up this challenge to push me to read more
For all my book lovers.. pic.twitter.com/ZoHAmg2Ylv
— Aisha. (@Molayyo) December 6, 2015
But along the way, I am sure I will pick up more books to read in the year.
Do I have a target? I know better than to put one. I only hope to read as much as possible and to deliberately create time for that, which also means less time to be spent online.
P.S: A big thanks to the two people that gave me Amazon gift cards to feed my reading addiction. I have to admit – buying me books will be an efficient way to bribe me, and if you are thinking up gift cards for my birthday next month, an Amazon gift card will be great. No amount is too small. Tenkz.
Also, a lot of the books I read this year and will read next year are ebooks. So if you are interested, do holler and I can email them to you. If you have interesting books, please share with me as well.
May your 2017 be your most amazing year yet.