I wanted to review the best books i have read this year but i realized that most of them have been reviewed elsewhere on this website so i decided to reach out to some book lovers I know and asked them to share & review their best reads of 2011. Some of them are here below. The rest will be posted in the coming days. Also, you can share with us – in the comments- your best book this year.

Saliva Vic: Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas by Louise Rennison


I wasn’t much of a reader due to my over dependence on the idiot box otherwise known as television. This year I got rid of the TV & my girlfriend. Oh, I fib. What actually happened is that my girl dumped me & took the TV with her since we bought it together. Good riddance I say. I have since been devouring pages & discovered a treat. It’s called Get Knocked Out by my Nunga – Nungas. It’s the hilarious diary of a teen girl called Georgia Nicholson written by English comedienne Louise Rennison. It’s part of a series known as Confessions of Georgia Nicholson. I have read it 3 times, each time laughing at a new passage every time.

It’s the kind of book that provides for light reading, nothing too cerebral…well, save for Georgia’s vocabulary as she coins up new words such as Och-Aye land with reference to Scotland. As a matter of fact, if the title has you a bit puzzled, Nunga – Nunga is Georgia’s term for breasts because as one of her friends told her that when you pull out a woman’s breast the sound it makes is Nunga Nunga Nunga! This is my best book this year.

Mwirigi : Without Remorse by  Tom Clancy

Without Remorse - Tom Clancy

Without Remorse - Tom Clancy

 

Its a well known fact that the Tom Clancy universe revolves around a character called Jack Ryan.

He’s an Investment Banker with a strong Catholic upbringing who gets a desk job as a CIA analyst, gets involved in some dangerous “field” stuff and deals with it well enough to eventually become the President of the United States.

Most of the stories Clancy weaves around him are complex tales made up of lots of technology, military strategy and mind numbingly complex jargon. So much so that in one book, SSN, a glossary had to be included at the back to explain the acronyms and some of the terms.

Ryan occasionally has time in the course of his awesomeness to bump into this character called John Clark.

Clark is a shadowy CIA black ops guy who usually sweeps in and saves the day when things get out of hand for Ryan. Very little is know about him save for his ruthless nature and incredible ability to get the job done. He is the dark side of Jack Ryan and because of that, Clancy keeps him in the shadows.

The relationship between Ryan and Clark is similar to that between Superman and Batman. Superman is this amazing, powerful being bound by a strict moral code while The Dark Knight has no such limitations, the end justifies the means. They may not always agree, but they are on the same side and they both fight the good fight.

Without Remorse tells the story behind John Clark.

Unlike the majority of Clancy’s novels, it starts out at a very rapid pace. The action in this story is merely a means to an end. While it is a huge part of the novel, it is not the focal point. There is very little military jargon, this story is all about emotion, and revenge.

Njeri Wangari: Famished Road by Ben Okri

I had no idea who Ben Okri was until a few months prior to the annual Story Moja hay Festival which took place in September at the Railway grounds in Nairobi. He was one of the main writers expected to headline the literary festival.

Naturally being a writer, I wondered just who he was and what his writing was all about. I started where most start; by buying the first book he ever published.

Again, like most, I plunged myself into The Famished Road with pre-conceived ideas of what to expect, what themes to encounter, the setting etc. Being a Nigerian and an African Writer, I expected him to delve into corruption, effects of colonization, heck I even hoped to see a hint of the Biafra war somewhere.

Those who have read this book (I mean read it from cover to cover) know how farfetched my expectations were and how disappointed, nay, schooled I would be.

Ben Okri is not your typical African Writer, a term that many a writers of African descent have come to view with disdain with the belief that a writer is a writer; there are no African or European or Asian writers. But I digress.

Through reading Famished Road, I realized I needed a very open mind, a childlike mind that is free from expectations and just take the story as it comes.

His writing is beautiful, poetry if I may assert. His imagination is unlike anything I have ever seen. Initially however, one might dismiss the book as magical realism. Having read it three quarters now, it is beyond that.

One thing I should say about the book, It’s not the kind that one reads overnight or continuously.
Famished Road is like a bible. If possible, read a chapter a day.

It has been my best read this year.

Lydia: The Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup

There is always that one thing that catches one’s eye when they are busy walking through the streets of Nairobi minding their own business; for some it may be a beautiful lady or a handsome bloke, a pretty dress or whatever tickles one’s fancy. For me, it was the name “Vikas Swarup”. It was lying there amidst a heap of other dirty looking stack of books, as if begging me to rescue it from the pile of loneliness. Being an Indian literature fan, and having read Vikas’ first book Q&A, I was more than glad to rescue the book from the pile.

And it didn’t disappoint! Six suspects is a very intriguing book that tells the story of Vicky Rai, who is murdered during his acquittal party. Found with guns at the party are six people who have their own secrets and stories to tell. Vikas crafts a story about the six suspects which entices you and keeps you wanting to turn the next page. It is a book that literally disrupts your life, and that is what I love about it.

Jacque Ndinda: Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Towards the end of this year, I found a balance I was looking for- the ability to switch off social networks and immerse myself in a good book while in the bus. I haven’t read a lot of books, but one out of the few I have read this year has quenched my thirst inexplicably! I found it on a friend’s chest, and from the cover, to the title, to the first line, I knew I had to read this book.

It is written by Sara Dunant, titled ‘’The Birth of Venus’. And the first line? “No one had seen her naked until her death”.

It is a book set in the 1500s! It plays around with the works of Michelangelo, Picasso and Leornado Da Vinci. The book is set in the streets and homes of Florence at the height of Renaissance art, a revolution that made art the flesh of godliness. It was still the same art and religion that was the backbone of all manners of transgressions. From sodomy, to adultery, to wild sex behind convent walls, to the immiscible church and politics.

‘The Birth of Venus’ is told through the voice of a painter, a woman in a world where womanly intelligence is frowned  upon- Alessandra Cecchi.

It is a story of the discovery of her person, her passion for art, her inquisitiveness and desire to know, her nakedness, the pleasures of the body, and her enslavement by that which she holds dear. Art. She turns to it after an arranged marriage sentences her into matrimony with her brother’s sodomiser!

It eventually plunges her deep into pits of self destruction. Picture a woman that within the layers of clothing has tattooed a serpent on her body with pins- and it runs down through her stomach, and it’s head rests on her crotch. The face of the serpent takes the humanly form of her lover.

The book is well researched. Even though fiction, it draws a lot from real events of Renaissance Rome. The language that Sarah uses in this book is beautiful, and from paragraph to another, you will find phrases that leave you wanting to take down notes.

This series is continued here.