December 27, 2018

My Year in Books! | Incessant Scribble 2018

Isn't it crazy that there's only 4 days left in the year 2018?! This has been an incredible year and I'm grateful for all of my experiences. Let's talk about boookssss!!! Last year I began the tradition of looking back at all the books I read during the year so let's dive in once again using lists. Here we go!

Books I READ in 2018!
5) Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala [Didn't Review]
6) We Are Taking Only What We Need by Stephanie Powell Watts [Didn't Review]
7) No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts [Didn't Review]
8) Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris [Didn't Review]
9) We the Animals by Justin Torres [Didn't Review]
10) Radiance by Emanuel Xavier [Poetry] [Didn't Review]
11) Madness by Sam Sax [Poetry] [Didn't Review]
12) A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White [Didn't Review]
13) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead [Didn't Review]
14) Island of Happiness by Onyeka Nwelue [Didn't Review]
15) Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile [Didn't Review]
16) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah [Didn't Review]
17) The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor [Didn't Review]
18) Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx [Didn't Review]
19) Becoming by Michelle Obama [Didn't Review]

Books I ABANDONED in 2018!
1) Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
2) The Granta Book of the African Short Story edited by Helon Habila 
3) The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne 
4) The Girls by Emma Cline
5) How Are You Going to Save Yourself by JM Holmes
6) Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and         Why It Matters by Helen Smith, PhD
7) Brother  by David Chariandy
8) Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
9) Redemption Song and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2018
10) What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
11) Granta 139: Best of Young American Novelists edited by Sigrid Rausing
12) Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
13) The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips
14) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
15) The Complete Poetry by Maya Angelou
16) The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde
18) Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
19) Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
20) What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
21) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
22) The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
23) A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
24) Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Last year I read fourteen books and only abandoned eight. In 2018 I abandoned a lot of books. In 2017 I resolved that I would read more diversely (= not be solely focused on African book titles as I tend to do for this blog) and I also resolved that I would drop any book that I couldn't sustain interest in. I'm glad that I stuck to those resolutions. Here are a few words about the books I read but did not review on Incessant Scribble. 

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala was disappointing. It's about a Nigerian-American boy who's struggling with his sexuality. Initially I wondered why this smart, privileged, athletic, Harvard-bound boy who lives in the freaking United States of America, the Land of the FREE, was acting timid and unsteady like a fawn. I found it irritating. It wasn't until the huge confrontation with his parents that I realized I hadn't factored in how much power his super successful Mom and Dad have over the trajectory of his young life and the possible consequences he'll face if he refuses to succumb to their demands. Speak No Evil is disappointing because rather than deeply explore being a black, gay Nigerian boy in America, Iweala veers off tangent and skids over to cover Black Lives Matter issues. I just... I just feel like Iweala should have been more focused. Speak No Evil could have been a pillar for Nigerian LGBT everywhere now it's just a tiny stone in the BLM movement. Oh well... Moving on... 

We're Only Taking What We Need and No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts are great reads! I'm a new fan of Stephanie Powell Watts. I was first attracted to We're Only TAking What We Need because of its title and its magnificent book cover art. After I read a sample on Amazon, I bought both books. No regrets. You should read them. 

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris is deep and funny and memorable. I loved it a lot. It centers on employees at an office that's slowly downsizing and it chronicles the laughs, the panic and the horrors of this downward spiral. You should read it. 

We the Animals by Justin Torres is tender and beautiful. A band of three brothers are growing up wild because they lack parental supervision. With their young eyes they observe everything around them including their parents toxic relationship. One of the brothers, our protagonist, is gay and it's through his eyes that we view their world. After I was done I went hunting for Justin Torres on YouTube. I also tried to watch the movie adaptation about three days ago but I stopped mid-film because I wasn't digging it. We the Animals triggered me to go hunt for more gay literature. You should read this.

Radiance by Emanuel Xavier is a book of gay poetry. I first heard about Emanuel Xavier in 2016 via the literary blog "Read Diverse Books". One of his poems had caught my attention back then so I ordered it this year off Amazon, devoured it then went on to YouTube to watch clips of him. You should read it. 

Madness by Sam Sax is another book of poetry. It's okay. It doesn't compare to Emanuel Xavier's but I still like it. 

A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White is a well written account of a young gay boy growing up in the 90's. It's well written and I like it. 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead deserves a standing ovation. Would you believe that I had bought this novel way back (because of Oprah), I perused it, found it uninteresting and then returned it to Amazon to get a refund? I found myself checking it out again this year and it's superb! It's amazing! You have to read this tale of African-American men and women who risk their lives as they make the journey to North America so they can live free. It also made me reflect on how this hard-fought freedom was won with the help of a lot of caucasians who opened their hearts and their doors and who stood up publicly against slavery, risking their own lives for all of us to get to this point in history. I don't see celebrations of those amazing individuals and I'd really love to see them celebrated. Amazon is making a TV show based on The Underground Railroad, helmed by the amazing Barry Jenkins. You have to read this. 

Island of Happiness by Onyeka Nwelue is a bold book that shines light on the lives of residents of Oguta in Imo State as they battle immoral desires and corrupt leaders who siphon payouts from petroleum multinationals. Onyeka Nwelue directed the movie adaptation of his novel and it premiered at the Newark International Film Festival this past September. I'm proud to have my name linked to the project as an Executive Producer. You should read it. 

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile is different from a lot of things I've read. In this tale a young woman has been left a huge area of land by her father upon his death. Her inheritance comes with some difficult stipulations and we spend the novel seeing her battle herself, her family, her employees, sexism, racism and more. I can see why Oprah would adapt this novel into a TV show on her channel, OWN. You should read it. 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah surprised me. It's another book I had investigated in the past and then given up on. I turned towards it again when I heard that Lupita Nyongo is slated to portray Trevor Noah's mom in a movie adaptation. This memoir is special. Trevor gives generously of himself and his incredible life and relationship with his mother. You have to read it. 

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx is a tale we all know because of it's terrific movie adaptation. I was on the internet one day in the later half of this year and in the comment section someone mentioned that the short story Brokeback Mountain had somethings the movie did not so I ordered it off Amazon. It's exceptional and I love that the screen writers did not try to change the conversation or invent new dialogue. I give them major kudos for that. As can be expected some parts of the original story did not make the movie cut and you have to read it to understand how much of a bigger gift Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx is to mankind. You should read this. 

Becoming by Michelle Obama is my BOOK OF THE YEAR! I finished reading Becoming this past weekend. It's everything you wanted and more. Michelle gives and gives and gives. Her prose is stellar. Nothing I write here will do Becoming justice so order yourself a copy ASAP! You'll walk away from its pages blessed, tremendously inspired and in fervent awe of Michelle Obama. 

That's it for 2018! I'm not reading any book right now. I'm taking a few days off before diving into a collection of short stories by Chaithanya Sohan and Shaima Adin titled America Deconstructed. I'm also going to read The Day of the Orphan by Dr. Nat Tanoh. I'm counting down to when I finally get my hands on Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I watched her interview on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday last month and that lit a fire in me so I followed it up by watching her Dartmouth Commencement Speech and other YouTube clips. I'm excited for Year of Yes! I've never been this interested in memoirs but the last few I read have been incredibly rewarding so I'm on the hunt for more!

As you've probably already noticed I did not review a lot of books this year. The plan was for me to enjoy books without the added stress of putting together a book review. It felt good and bad at the same time but it's a trend that I'll likely continue in 2019. I'm honored to still be on the Top 50 African Literature Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Follow. It's a list compiled and maintained by the gracious Anuj Agarwal. There are a good number of blogs and sites on that list that I love so I hope you can check it out when you need to expand your reading.

New Year Resolutions for 2019
1) Read More Books! - I hope I can read at least 24 books next year. Two books for each month.

2) Be More Selective! - I ordered a lot of books this year without much thought. In 2019, instead of ordering any book that catches my eye, I'll just add them to my Amazon list. I'll only order one book at a time that way if it arrives and I find it lacking I can send it back and get my refund. You guys know books can be expensive lol. A lot of the books I abandoned this year had passed their return window on Amazon by the time I came to the conclusion that I wasn't interested in it so I lost money. They're all now at the Goodwill store near my house because I refuse to crowd my bookshelf with books I won't read.

Thank you for reading! Have a wonderful New Year! May 2019 bring you every thing you desire and more! 

December 03, 2018

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2018 Anthology

We're approaching the end of another year and so it's time for my annual review of the Caine Prize for African Writing Anthology. I've been reviewing the Caine Prize Anthology on this blog site since 2015! I find great pleasure and excitement in reading short stories from new voices and familiar voices every year. 

As always, I preordered my copy of this years anthology, Redemption Song and Other Stories,  off Amazon but I didn't get to reading it until November in advance of this month's book review blog post. I found Redemption Song and Other Stories disappointing. Right off the bat I found myself skipping stories either halfway through it or after a careful perusal because of an underwhelming opening paragraph or first page. I could not find any story in that collection that I could get through. In light of this I've decided to break tradition and skip this years review of the Caine Prize Anthology. I ended up donating my copy of Redemption Song and Other Stories to the GoodWill store near me because I've made a resolution to only keep books I've read and books I plan to read on my book shelf. I found it necessary to make that resolution because I had so many half finished books abandoned on my shelf causing clutter. I considered not discussing this but I think it's necessary. 

This does not change anything. I will always review the Caine Prize Anthology for as long as this blog is active. I'm already anticipating the literary treasures next year's Caine Prize Anthology will bring. Catch up on previous book reviews of this anthology! 

Osondu Awaraka
Incessant Scribble

[Image via Amazon]