I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, I make random resolutions any day, any time. Around December last year, I decided to read better, read more. And that is exactly what I did. And change I did. Change I have done. It began with John Grisham, the only guy I could read even before then. Even then, I still had a pile of his books I was yet to finish. I had gathered them from my trips to Eldoret. I still have some I have never finished. I would buy these novels on my walk down Tom Mboya Street, headed to the North Rift Stage. Most of the time, I would just read the first few pages during the trip and forget about the book once I hit the Moi University compound. I was going to change that.
I began by completing a book I had bought while still in campus, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, an actual true story by Grisham. It turned out to be an awesome book I had ignored for many months. I read it on my way to and from collection of my graduation attire. At first, I thought, Grisham writing non-fiction? Really? But I gave it a go all the same and it was not until the drama started that it really got my attention. It took me months to finally get to the court drama but when I did, I read it in a day! The sarcasm mixed with the thrill of reality. I cried, I thought, I freaked out, I sympathized and felt every single character (or rather person in the text).
I can confidently say this was the beginning of the other chapter of my life where I read like primary school Shiku used to. I bought another Grisham on my journey to the graduation ceremony and read it with renewed zeal. I embarked on getting familiar with Chimamanda too, now that Kenyans could not stop talk about her. My best friend, especially.
I will start from December since the books I bought then, spilled over to January. You will notice that I cannot read one book at a time. I should probably get rid of that habit. Also, why is it so easy for me to keep up with the books I read, complete with specific dates? Because, Goodreads plus Twitter. I tend to write reviews there and sometimes tweet about books I read. In fact, the statements up there on the Grisham book, I just copy-pasted part of my review a year ago. Here we go.
The Confession, John Grisham (Dec 15-Jan 25)
The book I bought on my trip to graduate. Yes, it took me long, but I read it in a month. That is progress. Plus, my reading more than one book at a time contributed.
I liked The Confession because it felt like a continuation of the true story I had read a week ago. Here is a guilty guy dying of a brain tumour who has finally decided to come out and confess to killing a girl years ago. Here is another black guy in prison, accused of killing the same girl. Now imagine a community divided on racial basis. I am sure you thought of Ferguson. Yes, the book is full of protests like that. I will not spoil it for you but the end did not make me happy. It was another great Grisham book.
Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Dec 30-Jan 12)
My journey into Chimamanda’s world began. It was interesting. Descriptions of everything that can be described. I was not disappointed, lives up to the name of the author. I liked the crush the girl had on the priest. I still think it is as cryptic as any book gets. If it was a set book back in the day, I’d have probably flanked those literature exams from misinterpreting the themes. I did not like the ending one bit. I did not like the exaggerations about religion and all. I was determined to read the next book and see whether Chimamanda was really worth all the hype.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell (Feb 15- Apr 10)
First time I read Malcolm, I was writing a paper. I liked him. This is a book you should read if you want to understand how certain ideas grow into what they become in markets. Typical Malcolm. Telling the story, making sure you have understood, recalling facts he’s already mentioned, making me see Salesmen, Mavens and Connectors in my own life. Still figuring out what I am, or becoming. This was a book I should have read a long time ago. Yet to complete the book I first read from him; Outliers.
The Alchemist, Paulo Cuelho (Apr 07-May 08)
“First book I read on my phone to the end. Having said that, I expected more than a fairytale. You can’t blame me. It’s one of the most read books in the world so my expectations were too big.”
That should have been too high. Expectations can’t be big. Smh, Shiku. Anyway, that was my Goodreads review. Like seriously, why do you all love The Alchemist so much? This question led me to read books suggested to be similar to The Alchemist. So I actually walked to Sarit and bought The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. My God. I could not go past 20 pages or so. Right around that point dude comes home and begins his tale. I thought the action would be out there with those sages in the mountains but no, dude was going to give stories to this other lawyer dude for the entire book. I could not do it.
So I gave it away to my best friend. Shock on me, Evelyn actually loved the book. She loved it so much, she started a dream book. This is a journal where your map out your dreams, complete with pictures and all. Speaking of dream books, I met a guy who has published what he calls the first Action Journal, pretty much like that dream book prescribed in Robin Sharma’s book. It’s pretty neat actually. It helps you clarify what you want in life complete with inspiration from famous folk nini nini. I have gone through it and want to give it to my bro for his 16th birthday this Wednesday. Maybe it will help him be a bit focused. Looking for a gift for a loved one this festive season, this may be it. Check it out here. If you want more details, hit me up.
What am I trying to say here? I may not like a book, but someone else may. Funny enough, Evelyn did not even finish the book, but it still drove her to act.
Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, Todd Burpo (Apr 15 – May 19)
This is another book I read after watching the trailer around that time Christian movies were hitting the cinemas. I was sceptical, despite all my faith. That childlike faith is what we all lack, the one described by the little boy’s father. It is a nicely told story by the way, a true story. I am yet to watch the movie. What I know is that there is no way that child knew some of those things he knew without divine intervention. Like seriously. Somewhere in between the pages, I would think to myself that he’d probably seen pictures of Jesus as portrayed in Sunday school and children’s books which influenced his comments but it gets to a point where you actually see this is not normal stuff. Read it sometime.
A Time to Kill, John Grisham (Jul 5)
Now this book, this was the very first book John Grisham ever wrote. I had started reading it like many months back. On my laptop. Exhilarating. A little girl is raped. A black girl by white men. Yep, racial stuff again. I finished reading the book on my phone, many months later because I love reading books on my phone nowadays. It’s easier. It’s faster. I also needed to read this book to read Sycamore Row. Funny enough, I finished this. I still remember the girl’s dad, Carl Lee, killing the two guys on the courthouse stairs with an M-16 rifle, laughing as he did. That was the only way he knew he was going to get justice as a black man.
Another story of black and white tension and the justice system. This time, you are allowed to wander to Eric Garner.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (Jul 11)
Sick, sick, sick book. And I still couldn’t sleep before it was over. Sickness is real. I hate that ending. I actually hate the book. Okay, I don’t even know any more. Aargh.
That was my first reaction on Goodreads when I finished the book at 3 am in the morning. I wanted to scream. I wanted to kick someone. Most annoying book ever. So annoyingly well-written. Too much cussing though. I found it after watching the movie trailer one lunchtime, after reading that it was based on a book. I loved it so much (or is it hate?) that I dragged him to the movies when it was released later on. I actually picked Gone Girl over The Equalizer. I picked a crazy book/movie over Denzel. Like seriously, I am metamorphosing!
Gone Girl is psychotic material. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s about a crazy woman. It’s about a crazy couple. And an equally crazy writer. I am not sure I am reading another of her books any time soon, despite the fact that the bookstore I frequent, TBC at Sarit Centre has suddenly realized it needs to stock Gillian Flynn books. And John Green. And you wonder why we download books. Clearly, our local bookstores only stock books after they are now the in thing. Sad. Or realistic. Depending on how you look at it.
Gather Together in My Name, Maya Angelou (Jul 5-31)
Well. It is one hell of a roller coaster. Well written. She did so much more than I did when I was 18! (Which I don’t regret.)
Clearly, I got myself this book after she passed on. Shame on me. I had read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in campus. One of the few non-academic books I actually read and loved. I tried looking for the other autobiographies in the Margaret Thatcher Library but you can all guess how that went. Actually, let us all laugh at innocent freshman Shiku walking around that first floor looking for Maya Angelou’s books.
Anyway, Maya makes you laugh and think at the same time. She almost makes you want to judge her, what with running a brothel and whatnot, but then again she makes you think about it. Think about her. Think about life as a black woman in the US back then. I will definitely be reading the next book soon.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (Aug 06-11)
““Why are you looking at me like that?” Augustus half smiled. “Because you’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence.””
These were the lines that got me hooked to the book and I read it in a week. On the bus, in bed, everywhere (ePub on my phone). I Googled it because Biko had written about it a while back. First I watched the movie trailer. I watched it and fell in love. I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. (If you have read the book or watched the movie, I know you have seen what I did there. 😉 )
I cried. I laughed. I cried again. There’s something profound about a book making me cry. I cry at movies all the time, but books, it takes people like Green and Grisham. I finished the book on a Monday morning with a smile.
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nov 11)
Almost a whole year down the line, I finally got my hands on the second book. Yes, it is that bad with bookshops. I had to borrow this copy. One good thing about this book, it painted a picture of a war I didn’t even know about vividly. The Biafran war. I had no idea. I still didn’t get the point with this book too though, just like Purple Hibiscus. Too much repetition of the half of a yellow sun references. I also wonder why there’s so much praise for it from the West. Which makes me wonder whether Nigerians actually loved it and related to it.
Maybe I am just being overly critical but I like it when an author actually takes a stand about stuff. The book has so much sex in it, I wonder why in the world it was necessary. I even wonder how they translated that into a movie. I hear it was banned in Nigeria? Cheat on me, I will cheat on you with my sister’s man. Like seriously? Maybe you will tell me I do not know the real world and that these things happen, but you know what, you don’t need to glorify them. I also hated how it ended. I may never read Americanah, at this rate. Call me judgmental, but I just did not like the book.
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (Nov 21 – )
I have only really read this book this weekend. Again, another war I have never known about beyond CNNish/ Dunia Wiki Hii reports. It’s an interesting book someone recommended on Twitter. I will be done by tomorrow. I obviously do not like Amir much. But again, I am just being judgmental. I have no idea what I would have done myself in his shoes. Hassan is a darling. He represents all those people we look down upon because we think they come from a lesser tribe, race etc. People who think they are less important because of their circumstances. That’s what most wars in the world revolve around, superiority and inferiority complexes based on races, religions and tribes. Think about that while you make a point to grab the book.
Books I Have Not Completed Yet, for One Reason or Other
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – and How to Make the Most of Them Now, Meg Jay – Yes, I read about half of it. Yes, it made me change my thinking about my 20s. I even wrote about it and sent it to some of you. But like I said, a book can make you do stuff without even completing it.
Sycamore Row, John Grisham – I don’t know why, but I don’t like real books as much as I should nowadays. They take up too much space in my bag. Probably why I am yet to finish this one. Still on my bed.
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion – It’s a funny book Bill Gates recommended on his blog. Only it’s not that much of a page-turner. So it’s still in my currently-reading list. Or I just never got to the point where it becomes so.
A Day Late & a Dollar Short, Terry McMillan – This one starts right off on a very hilarious note. It is written in that African-American English way and from like six different perspectives. I kinda got tired eventually. I will take it from where I left off someday I guess.
And many more I read just to get a feel and not really to complete. I have realized if I go on, I might spend the night here. So, what did you read in 2014?