This series is continued from here.

Brenda Wambui: Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo

 
This was my favourite book this year. Why? 1. It is non-fiction 2. It answers a question.
I simply can’t get past page 2 of most fiction books, perhaps because I feel there’s much more to be gained from non-fiction books like biographies, epics and books that explore strange theories. This book falls in the last category, as it theorises (and in my opinion, proves) that aid has much to do with the reason Africa is in such a troubled state.
Aid, of course, is money we haven’t worked for, and therefore do not feel the pinch we should when we misuse it. As such, our leaders misuse it, leaving the people it was intended for in the same state, or in most cases, worse off. What we forget is that most of it comes in forms of loans, and not grants. Loans, of course have interest rates. We are left with staggering amounts of debt that we cannot pay off, inspiring a state of hopelessness. In the event that the debt is forgiven, we start off again at square one. More aid is given, and the cycle continues.
The question is clear: Why is Africa in such a poor economic state? The answer: In most part, because of aid. The book is written beautifully, and it is definitely worth your time. I will stop there and advise that you read the book, lest I ruin your experience.
The Dorc: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

How do you say book, Tv series spin off and movie synergy trifecta in Africanese? Better yet, what would the physical manifestation of this delectable feast of the senses look like? I strongly suspect “Who is Afraid of Death”, Nnedi Okorafor’s  virginal foray into adult fiction is not far off the mark.

With 17 out of the 20 classic Ronald Tobias’.htm master plot lines, the book defies simple classification, but at its heart is a passionate love story wrapped in a time warp. Think junked computers, thumb-sized camcorders and e-readers side by side with juju beads, camel racers and African adobe houses.

Okorafor does not dupe her readers into buying into her brand of Afro-futuristic fiction. I found myself greedily eating from the hand of a master storyteller. Knowing full well I could end up in the protagonist Onyesonwu’s evening stew, I found myself wishing I could be a desert hare if only to bear witness to the fantastical magic of the desert where she sang night birds to a perch on her shoulders from inky darkness.

The book contains some grim realities, starting with a rape scene, moving on to genital mutilation and incest. And yet the author’s lilting prose rises above gratuitous savagery. There were parts of this book where I had to stop, convinced that I could not go any further as death haunts and hunts Onye and her companions. Soon as I put it down, I found myself reaching for it again. Onye and her creator enslaved my mind when I was away. Every once in a while you find that one book that becomes a second consciousness where you can almost hold a conversation with the protagonist and flipping the last page is like saying goodbye to part of yourself. For me, Okorafor’s ‘Who is Afraid of Death’ is it!

Rumor has it that the book has been optioned  for a film by Wanuri Kahiu with concept art from Yvonne Muinde who worked on Avatar, and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith .While optioning does not mean a movie will be made,  my personal girlcott of movies ends the day this epic story makes it to the big screen.

When Nnedi Okorafor tweets  tweets0 that she practices ‘literary witchcraftery’ you best believe it.

Need evidence?  Read Chapter 1 and 2  here

Now go get the book. Run!

Corvinus: A time for new dreams by Ben Okri

This is the fifth Ben Okri book I have read, his mastery of the English language endeared me to him when I read Dangerous Love. Ben Okri forms sentences that set you adrift on mystical journeys through the African plane. He really is a spectacularly great writer, in all his books English is a character within the story. An absolute genius, and more so in this collection of poetic essays and aphorisms. A book he published this year, the great thing about it is that it fits perfectly into the current political and social space.

He addresses challenges that we are facing as individuals within this diverse World community. How we form ideas and even why our education system should be overhauled. Ben Okri offers suggestions on our future as Africa and what changes we need to welcome to birth a new fantastical Africa. My favourite essays were; Plato’s Dream, On Self-Censorship, The romance of difficult times and A time for new dreams.

My copy of the book is heavily highlighted, it is not a book you are bound to read and forget; the beauty of it is that you can continually refer to it. A book tells a different tale in re-reading according to me. This is a work of magic. Please read it.

Rombokins: Sense of an ending by Julian Barnes

 

Julian Barnes writes beautiful prose which deliciously quotable—(“yes of course we were pretentious – what else is youth for?)—that is why I picked up this book to read.

But, it is the piercing questions he asks about our memories, and the things that we have long held to be true, that compel me to rate it my best read of the year. Yes, against my better instinct, because this is an award-winning novel by a well-known, well-read, well-loved author after all: how cliché can I get, right?And yet.

The protagonist, Tony Webster, strikes you as the sort of ‘bloke’ (he is British, after all), who likes to stand back in a crowd, affecting an air of dignified ennui while living a fairly ordinary, largely uneventful life: “I moved my lawn, I took holidays, I had a life.”

Then one day he discovers that he is the beneficiary of his university girlfriend’s mother’s will and the ensuing whys and what lead him eventually to the unraveling of the version of events that he has held to be true through much of his life. Which is to say that he relives his life in a version of events where he is not the protagonist, not the centre of the tale he weaves, and it is, in a word, unsettling.

So he speaks, for example, of discovering that “as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been,” because, he muses, “the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it’s the most deliquescent.”

The thing about this book is that its questions continue to haunt me. What is the fact and what is the fiction about my most emotionally-charged memories? I find that I trust myself less, I trust time more. I figure, it will eventually tell. Because in the end, I agree with Adrian Finn, an enigmatic figment of Barnes’imagination:”historians need to treat a participant’s own explanation of events with a certain skepticism.”