- As my folks in the village were saying Afa gbara aka la, my friends in faraway Kifissia were hugging each other with shouts of eftihismeno to neo etos. In every corner of the globe, it is a new year. The old is gone and the new is here, in some sort or the order. Best wishes are in order.
Just a quick one before we settle into the new year. Let me try and reminisce one last time on the reads I had last year. With one or two exceptions, I enjoyed my 2019 reads tremendously. I have seen a lot of Best Read of 2019 tweets on social media and I find such questions almost impossible to answer. Not only is it difficult to compare books from different genre but it is also difficult to pick one when they all evoked different eotions when finished. With all these said, a few books stood out for me. I have chosen to highlight these below and share some of my favourite excerpts in that genre (not specifically the chosen book in that section).
Fiction – The Lonely Polygamist
I did not read as much fiction as I would have wanted. My reading pattern is a blend of random but deliberate which means that I pick out random books from the shelf at the start of the year but being deliberate not to pick more than one or two books that I had previously read. My 2020 picks seem way better on the fiction front. However, from the few I read in 2019, I really liked The Death of Rex Nhongo. I enjoy simple books that are centred on family dynamics. The Death of Rex Nhongo is a good example of this. However, my standout read was The Lonely Polygamist. I am partial to Brady Udall’s books. His humour and understanding of dysfunctional family dynamics is something unique and The Lonely Polygamist is typical Brady Udall. The protagonist is as dysfunctional as they come and the humour spills out of every page. A good read indeed.
While I could have chosen any of the many funny excerpts from The Lonely Polygamist, I have gone for this one from The Death of Rex Nhongo. The dynamics of the marital relationship between the couple in the paragraph is so bare and tension is perfectly described and pitched. It is a sex scene that is not in any bit sexual but full of a full range of sensual emotions.
Memoir – How Can Man Die Better
My random choices in 2019 did yield a few exciting memoirs. Endings and Beginnings, The Undoing Project, How Can Man Die Better and Paul; A Biography were all exciting reads in 2019. However, Benjamin Pogrund’s memoir of the life of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe stood tall above all else. I have always been of the opinion that the ANC upon assuming power, have made an unconscious effort of downplaying the role of freedom fighters and anti-apartheid activists who were not part of their party. Without denouncing the Mandelas of this struggle, the likes of Sobukwe had largely been reduced to footnotes in the literature and narratives of the struggle. This book affirms my suspicion that Robert Sobukwe was a giant of the struggle. What makes this book shine brightly is the thoroughness of the narrative allied with the fairness of it. It is an interesting read that explores the fullness of Sobukwe’s life while detailing the complexity of the Africanism that PAC pursued, made even incomprehensible by Sobukwe’s lifelong relationship with the author, a white Jew.
I am spoilt for choice as it concerns excerpts here. Every book in this section offered excellent excerpts but I have plumped for two. The first from my chosen book and the second from The Undoing Project. Robert Sobukwe’s views on Conservatism and Liberalism are prudent and very pertinent for the current climate of our world. The second excerpt is a pointer that we should be wary of history that tends to always impose order and cause to random events. Creeping Determinism is a valid term.
Football – Kaizer
In 2019 like the prior year, I read 3 football books. The quality of football books are either hit or miss but I think I have developed a keen eye for good football literature. However, the picks in 2019 were good without being particularly spectacular. In this field, Kaizer was a winner. It is a strange but well-written book. You have to pinch yourself every now and again to remind yourself that it is not fiction but real life. Kaizer was a professional footballer who had a stellar career without playing football. In simple terms, he was a supreme con artist. This book could even pass for a memoir, however, I did enjoy the football anecdotes which are really what the book is about.
In this section, I could have gone for any of the excellent tactical analysis replete in The Mixer but I have chosen one of the funny anecdotes from Kaizer.
History – Bury The Chains
Aldous Huxley may have rightly said that the fact that men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history but I think that one of the reasons why men learn little from history is that most history books are dense and almost unreadable. Therefore it is a relief to find books that tell the stories of humanities past without dry academic feel yet are thoroughly researched and readable. The books in this category from my 2019 read were excellent. While I have chosen Bury The Chains, any one of them would have been worthy winners. Bury The Chain is an excellent book that is very accessible writing details the history of the movement that led to the abolition of the slave trade in the United Kingdom.
For this section, I have chosen this excerpt from Bury The Chains. It highlights an often unstated side of slavery – the critical role of indigenous slave traders. While westerners were evil in their trade of their fellow humans, African slave masters had little qualms in selling their fellow Africans.
Spiritual – Phoebe
I think my yearly TBRs re often balanced. A little of almost everything. My faith-based reads are often top class (if I may say so myself). As a Jesus follower, my faith-based reads are almost always from a Christian perspective but never mainstream. In 2019 I read some excellent faith-based books. From the exhaustive The Day the Revolution Began to the unique Phoebe to very left-sided Lord Willing? to the simple and introspective Everyday God and the highly-rated Paul – A Biography. Of all these, I’ve chosen Phoebe. It is a very unique book. An exceptional work of research, imagination and beautiful writing. I have a special liking for the work of Paula Gooder as a New Testament scholar but I am sure an interested reader with no prior knowledge of her work will enjoy this book.
For this section, again I am spoilt for choice as I had lots of exceptional excerpts. It is hard enough even choosing two from the lot and I have chosen a random one from the thought-provoking Lord Willing?
That is a wrap for 2019!
May the new year bring even better reads!