Tuesday, December 04, 2018


In lieu of writing (checks to see the alarming length of time since I last clicked publish) as the parental cone of silence has enveloped those routines, I have managed to do some reading of late (and by reading I mean books, not the omnivorous web consumption that is our new normal) (and by books, I mean paperbacks - it's my practice to ensure that I am always behind the latest literary fashion). I've been pleasantly surprised that this past year's crop of books has nothing that should be best left unread, and indeed I recommend all of these. Herewith my year in books.

Readings 2018
  • Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

    An entertainment and a tour-de-force. The sheer bravado, humour and joy at work is remarkable. With every page, I grew ever more convinced that the future of the African novel is in good hands. Sidenote: it is so well crafted that it elicited the finest book review I've read in years. Apparently there's a good translation that manages to capture the frenetic energy and linguistic fireworks. There's a musical rhythm to the writing, classically one might call it a Greek chorus, but I would rather ascribe it to the the swirling multitudes of Papa Wemba. Taking a broader, pan-African view, I imagine a soundtrack by T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo. When paired with Alain Mabanckou's wonderful earlier Verre Cassé (with which it almost rhymes), it is clear that we have been gifted a great cultural movement: literary sapeurs of the two Congos.

  • Petit Piment by Alain Mabanckou

    The master is always more impressive when he writes in a personal mode. The focus on the young protagonists expands the range of the customary humour. Congo's Dickens is at work sketching journeys from the orphanage to gritty streets. Oliver Twist or Great Expectations.

  • Tales from Africa by K.P. Kojo

    Nii Ayikwei Parkes' second collection of children's stories was a nighttime favourite for the kids. Encore!

  • Les aubes écarlates by Léonora Miano

    A Cameroonian take on the child soldier narrative. Haunting stuff that made for gripping reading. I will nitpick the ending - although I later realized that I had missed the fact that this was the third novel in a series. I'm with the 99%.

  • The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

    Modern Britain is yet to come to terms with race and the probing essays in this collection broaden the perspective, lucid without being didactic, personal yet universal. I await the follow up on that deals with this side of the Atlantic.

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

    Hey, Oprah recommended it and man did he deliver. Applause all around. There was a vibrant literary scene at Harvard just as the dot com boom got going. Kevin Young, the late Philippe Wamba, and others all had oblique takes our modern condition. Colson Whitehead remains one of the most original of that cohort.

  • Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

    Uganda sliced every which way. Read it. Savour it. Then read it again.

  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

    A crowd pleaser from our greatest writer. Every detail works. Even this musical obsessive couldn't play gotcha. How's that, not even one anachronism; it isn't fair.

  • The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
  • Late era Barnes is no less ambitious than the young lion who gave us A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters. Pointillist precision on display.

  • Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole

    A late pass as ever, I'm forever fascinated by what he omits in his published works while grateful for what we do get. Here's willing him back to the blogging front. As Abbey Lincoln sang: Throw it Away.

  • The Cartel by Don Winslow

    Epic in scope like its dark predecessor. The definitive take on the drug wars that are our ongoing predicament.

  • Les Contes d'Amadou Komba by Birago Diop

    I am savouring these modern Senegalese folktales with all their delicious twists. Having been brought up on Ananse stories and Arabian Nights, this is right up my alley. I treat myself to Diop's tasty morsels. He's my Peggy Appiah.

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1 comment:

W.ofosuamaah said...

Great selection, Koranteng! I’ve read only three on this list. And if I eliminate Diop, Miano and Mabanckou (for obvious reasons - I am still struggling through Le Grand Meaulnes after 20 years!!!) that leaves 4 excellent recommendations to add to my fast growing 2019 reading list. I was not as impressed with Swing Time as you were - I liked Feel Free better, particularly as I heard her explain it at Sixth and I earlier this year. The crowd was VERY pleased at that event!! Thanks a lot for this list.