READING LIST: First Quarter – 2015

Put up your hands all bibliophiles!! Hehehe. I have never really paid much attention to the number of books I read over a period of time, but when I decided to add this little bit to my column so readers can follow my reading list, I was made aware of how much one can actually read over just 3 months! These are the books I have read in the first quarter of this year. One thing about my reading habit is that it revolves around books I read purely for leisure, those I read in relation to a current interest, those I read in my field of study, and those that just happen, and whoa! I love them! I have listed them all and I will encourage you to grab a copy of any of them that catch your interest.

 

#1

This is one of those books I read in line with an interest that had cropped up in the moment. Towards the end of 2014 I had conversations, chanced on and thought of some things that led me to read certain women writers, and Alifa Rifaat was one of them, hence this book. I highlight, make notes, etc. in my books while I read them…most of the time, there is one thing or more that stays with me from the book and I will be highlighting those as I make this list. What stayed with me from this one?

“One day I said to myself, ‘Why don’t I make my mother and father.’[With clay] I made both of them with arms and legs and a head and then I put a thing like a cat’s tail on my father. I didn’t know what to put for my mother so I lifted my galabia and didn’t find anything except for something lying there between two leaves, all hidden away inside, something like a sort of mulberry. Then early one day as I was about to go out to have a look at my mud things and see whether or not they’d dried yet in the sun, I found women coming in and gathering round, and then they took hold of me and forced my legs open and cut away the mulberry with a razor. They left me with a wound in my body and another wound deep inside me, a feeling that a wrong had been done to me, a wrong that could never be undone. And so the tears welled up in my eyes once again. When the wound in my body healed my mother said to me that the time had come for me to go to the Qur’anic School so as to learn about my religion.”

 

#2

This was a re-read for me this year. I had already read it sometime in 2013? I think so, yeah. But I picked it up again after I read Distant View of a Minaret and what stayed with me is right there in the Foreword.

“The Islamization of Egypt went hand in hand with the Americanization. The shops imported veils from the USA and Saudi Arabia, and prayer mats from Mecca, alongside red lipstick and tight blue jeans. The majority of people in Egypt were deprived of their basic material needs. Our television screens were flooded with religious men preaching chastity, modesty, spirituality and the veil, interspersed with adverts that used naked women’s bodies to sell imported goods. For women, the veil and Female Genital Mutilation came to be part of the authentic Islamic Identity. I found it impossible to be silent.”

 

#3

This followed right after number 2, also in line with what I had set out to find out more about.

“[On women] Your stoicism has made you not violent or subversive but true heroes, unknown in the mainstream of history, never upsetting established order, despite your miserable condition.”

 

 

 

 

 

#4

This caught my eye because I read Lolita sometime last year and…hahaa! Nabokov ehn! Crazy dude! You should read Lolita. The language, the characters, the plot itself… what had me in fits of giggles was about two pages of the book describing a lecture room where The Great Gatsby was being discussed. Also, this book takes you through many other books (Lolita, Gatsby, James, Austen) as the title says – A Memoir in Books. I cannot quote all that is there, unfortunately, but here is one thing that stayed with me;

“Long-haired preachers come out every night And they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right And when you ask them for something to eat They tell you in voices so sweet: You will eat by and by, in that glorious place in the sky Work and pray, live on hay, you will get pie in sky when you die That’s a lie!”

 

#5

Beethoven's Hair

I found this in a pile of books at the Ghana Book Trust and nearly fell back with excitement! As a lover of classical and choral music, you should understand why I bought this. Not only does it give you Beethoven’s life story (did you know he went deaf very early in life, and couldn’t hear his own music, his great compositions?) it gives you bits and pieces of the lives of other composers. I have a lot of favourite spots in this book!

“For someone to have that many maladies and to suffer so greatly and yet produce superhuman music, music that can actually elevate the spirit to a much different plane than the ordinary plane we live in, is quite phenomenal.”

“He could only hear what his mind imagined”

“He rose to such heights that our breaths began to fail us…This is music [only] for him or for those of us who have followed the incalculable flight of his genius.”

“…the fundamental brilliance of the master’s music was that it achieved softness without weakness, enthusiasm without hollowness, longing without sentimentality, passion without madness. He is deep but never turgid, pleasant but never insipid, lofty but never bombastic.”

#6

This book is by my boss (Writers Project of Ghana) and my reading it was long overdue. All I can say is, Martin is a brilliant writer!

“Great lies are often hidden in misnomers.”

“I have heard about people screaming in sheer fright at the time of death: What could they have seen, that scared them so? The blazing fires of hell? But Hell after Judgment and not before; someone might have read their Bible wrong.”

“Finally perhaps, the sum of a man’s life is to have done more evil than good unto others or to have had more evil than good done unto him. Yet neither choice is acceptable. Everyone is equally innocent, yet some pay a huge price for life. Therefore life cannot be a race, because it is not fair.”

 

 

#7

I got attracted to Caine Prize’s 2014 short story anthology because again, the title story was written by Martin Egblewogbe, author of book number 6, and well, it comes with short stories from other writers across Africa, including the 2014 shortlisted stories for the prize.

“He ran 200 feet in all before he was reached by the ‘first responders’, ever concerned Ghanaians who wanted to help but also wanted the inside story – the scoop – and they reported that his first words upon bein accosted, at which time he also must have come to his senses, were: ‘Oh, what a shit.’”

“The first thing I did when we got to Leicester was ask Precious to use the bathroom. I did my business super quick, because I wanted them to think I’d only gone in for a long piss, and her loo had one of those inexplicable doors with frosted glass. I flushed, washed my hands, gave the room a blast of the good ol’ Glade, checked the bowl for skid marks and got out of there.”

 

#8

The Bluest Eye

This one was the first Morrison book I ever read, when I was in Junior Secondary school, if I remember correctly, and then later I fell in love with her after reading Sula in my African-American Literature class as an undergrad. I went on to read most of her novels after that. I read this again this year because I wanted to experience it now as an adult, and as I suspected, I related to it differently.

 “‘Boyfriends? Boyfriends? Chittlin’, I ain’t seen a boy since nineteen and twenty-seven.’… ‘How come, Miss Marie?’… ‘How come what? How come I ain’t seen a boy since nineteen and twenty-seven? Because they ain’t been no boys since then. That’s when they stopped. Folks started getting’ born old.’”’

“Once there was an old man who loved things, for the slightest contact with people produced in him a faint but persistent nausea. He could not remember when this distaste began, nor could he remember ever being free of it. As a young boy he had been greatly disturbed by this revulsion which others did not seem to share, but having got a fine education, he learned, among other things, the word ‘misanthrope.’ Knowing his label provided him both comfort and courage, he believed that to name an evil was to neutralize if not annihilate it.”

“Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe.”

 

 

#9

Pursuit of God

I have read mostly Chhristian Fiction over the years, but this year, one quote led me to this book, and more of Tozer’s books. I not only enjoyed the read, I read it over twice in succession, and though I will quote parts that really got to me, I must say this book and the next two I read from Tozer, got me from start to finish!

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. In Jesus’ name. Amen”

“Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

“What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world-scale I do not claim to know. But what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in is leaner and weaker days.”

“The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience realm relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.”

“O God, be Thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth’s treasures shall seem dear unto me if only Thou art glorified in my life. Be Thou exalted over my friendships. I am determined that Thou shalt be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth. Be Thou exalted over my comforts. Though it mean the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses, I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee. Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream.”

 

#10

the-radical-cross

As I said, this followed number nine.

“Do we think that we are actually keeping our spiritual poverty a secret, that God doesn’t know us better than we know ourselves?”

“People will pray and ask God to be filled – but all the while there is that strange ingenuity, that contradiction within which prevents our wills from stirring to the point of letting God have His way…”

“The heart that learns to die with Christ soon knows the blessed experience of rising with Him, and all the world’s persecutions cannot still the high note of holy joy that springs up in the soul that has become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

“You had better mortify your flesh, or your flesh will do something terrible to you.”

 

 

#11

Tragedy of the Church

 Yup! And this followed…

“You need to have a big heart that wants the will of God more than anything else in the world.”

“…you will move into that zone of obscurity where human reason has to be suspended for a moment and your heart leaps into the arms of God. It is at that point where human talent, human glory, human duty, human favour all flow out into the darkness of yesterday. Suddenly, everything is God’s glory, God’s honour, God’s beauty, God’s Spirit in your heart! You have been broken and melted and finally filled with His mighty Spirit to such a degree that no one can change your mind!”

“I am not ashamed that I want to belong to something good and great and eternal – the Church of Jesus Christ.”

 

 

#12

Redeeming Love

 Ohh Rivers, Francine Rivers! She is my most favorite Christian Fiction writer, and a common love in my home. We are a family of readers, and when it comes to this genre, it is Rivers all the way. I have read almost all of her publications I have been able to lay my hands on. Laid my hands on this one some two weeks ago and read it in a matter of hours! I really cannot quote the entire book here, so I will spare you. But this story is based on Hosea’s story in the Bible, when God commanded him to marry a prostitute. It brings “Love one another as I have loved you” to life!

 

 

 

#13

Bridge to Haven

I promise, I hardly tear up when reading fiction, but…this one. The turn of events had me feeling a little tight in the chest! This was like the prodigal’s return told so beautifully! Maybe I am partial to Rivers but…no doubt, she is good. God bless her.

 

 

 

 

 

#14

Narrative of F. Douglass

I won’t go any deep…this got me right from the prologue.

“Expostulation, entreaty, rebuke against that crime of crimes, – making man the property of his fellow man! O, how accursed is that system, which entombs the godlike mind of man, defaces the divine image, reduces those who by creation were crowned with glory and honour to a level with four-footed beasts, and exalts the dealer in human flesh above all that is called God! Why should its existence be prolonged one hour? Is it not evil, only evil, and that continually? What does its presence imply but the absence of all fear of God…?”

 

 

#15

Half the Sky

This is not fictional. The things I read in this compilation took me through emotions! Anger, rage, sadness, frustration! Reading about child prostitutes, and fistula clinics in remote areas, and forced early marriage, and wars, and rape, and terrorism…Let me not say much. Time will tell what one can do to help, even in the minutest way…*sigh* A good friend of mine read just a few lines in the book and was immediately tearing up (Hi, Retta!)

“Another dispute about the Koran concerns the idyllic black-eyed virgins who supposedly will attend to men in the Islamic afterlife. These are the houri, and some Islamic theologians have been quite specific in describing them. A ninth-century scholar Al-Tirmidhi, recounted that houri are gorgeous young women with white skin, who never menstruate, urinate, or defecate. He added that they have ‘large breasts that are ‘not inclined to dangle.’ Suicide bombers have often written about their expectations of being rewarded by the houri, and Muhammad Atta reassured his fellow hijackers on the eve of 9/11: ‘The houri are calling you.’ The bombers are in for a surprise. The Arabic language was born as a written language only with the Koran, and so many of its words are puzzling. Scholars are beginning to examine early copies of the Koran with academic rigor, and some argue that a number of these puzzling words may actually be Syriac or Aramaic. A scholar who uses the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg for his own protection argues that ‘houri’ is probably reference to the Aramaic word for ‘white grapes.’ That would be plausible, because accounts of Heaven from the time of the Koran often included bounteous fruit, especially grapes to refresh the weary. Would there be as many suicide bombers if the presumption was that martyrs would arrive at the Pearly Gates and be handed a dish of white grapes?”

 

 

And that’s it for the first quarter of this year. I am currently reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and will be back to share my reading list for the month of April. Do share with me parts of the books that got to you, if you have read any. Also, you can share your own list too, who knows? I might go grab my copy and share the experience with you. Keep reading!

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