Coming Late to the Party

And not knowing whether I will take part because I can barely keep up, but:There's a reading challenge going on this year that I'd like to alert people to, just in case.It's the Africa Reading Challenge:

Participants commit to read - in the course of 2008 - six books that either were written by African writers, take place in Africa, or deal significantly with Africans and African issues.  (Read more if you like!)You can read whatever you want, but of the six books, I recommend a mixture of genres. For example, you might select books from each of the following:
  1. Fiction (novels, short stories, poetry, drama)
  2. Memoir / autobiography
  3. History and current events

I also recommend reading books from at least 3 different countries.  The challenge is for 2008, but if you feel like jumping in now: karibu sana!

There's help for the challenge.  For example, there's this list of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, compiled by a committee selected by the Zimbabwe Book Fair and published on the web by Columbia University Libraries.And here's the list put together by the challenger.Here's my own list of books which I've read by Africans/about Africa.  It's partial because of my memory, and you'll notice it's pretty old (mostly mid-20th century), and it includes only those books I finished (there are several, like Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah, Ngugi's Petals of Blood and Matagari and Okri's The Famished Road that I started but didn't finish).  Some of them I know pretty well, others not so well.  Some I read in the original French, but can't remember the name anymore.  Several are not here, because I have to go dig them out to remember them. But if they are here, be sure they stuck with me.

  • Achebe, Things Fall Apart, A Man of the People, Morning Yet on Creation Day
  • Armah, The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born
  • Sembene, Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu (God's Bits of Wood)
  • Oyono, Houseboy
  • Soyinka, Death and the King's Horseman, The Lion of God, The Bacchae of Euripides*
  • Ngugi, A Grain of Wheat, Decolonizing the Mind
  • Fugard, Master Harold and the Boys, Siswe Bansi is Dead
  • Head, A Question of Power
  • Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

*Edited to get Soyinka's play title right - it's the Bacchae, not the Bacchus of EuripidesAnd of course one of the most influential books about Africa (and the whole colonial world, for that matter):

  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness

It's time, I think, to refresh my reading list anyway.  If I decide to participate (some things will help me decide, like, oh, CARIFESTA) I will do so here.Till then, I offer the challenge to you all.EDIT: Here's a bonus to the challenge - Siphoning Off A Few Thoughts' link to Binyavanga Wainaina’s essay "How To Write About Africa" in Granta 92.My favourite bit:

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

There's a whole lot more.