Books are an escape into another reality, a chance to live and experience and enjoy what the limits of human imagination has to offer.
1. The Secret History of Vegas by Chris Abani
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this particular book by Chris Abani. I got to know about this book from James Murua’s literature blog. The book has been shortlisted and won several awards. See other glowing reviews here (The Washington Post) and here (The New York Times).
I read the book back in May and I am just reviewing it now, six months later. I have either become lazy or I am losing the blogging mojo or both. Anyway, this is not a conspiracy book about the current Las Vegas and its secret past; rather it is a story about twin brothers who are conjoined into adulthood. One is Fire and the other is Water. They are homeless “freaks”, Water is tall and handsome while Fire grows out from his side.. little more than a head with two arms projecting out of Water’s side. They are caught with a container of blood near Lake Mead where bodies of homeless have been dumped before. It is also a story about a certain South African called Dr. Sunil, who lives in Las Vegas and is conducting dubious experiments for the US government, reminiscent of other experiments he carried out for the apartheid government back in his home country. There are many other characters as well, such as detective Salazar. As the story unfolds, we get to see the backstory to the characters and realize just how much, in the words of the Washington Post review, “the world can be horrid on a grand scale, and we’re all at risk of being downwind of the worst that humanity has to offer.” This book will be worth your time.
2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I am glad I hadn’t watched this movie because I could then realize why the book had to be made into a movie.
— Savvy Kenya (@savvykenya) July 13, 2015
That is how I felt while reading the book. It was full of suspense from the beginning to the very end. There are two sides to every story has never been a truer statement.
The story starts when Amy, Nick Dune’s wife, has gone missing (she is the Gone Girl). From the journal entries from her past, she tells the story of how she and Nick met five years prior, their marriage that has been steadily disintegrating since then until she finally goes missing on their 5th anniversary. Nick starts looking for his wife and after reporting her missing to the cops and calling her parents, he quickly becomes a suspect in the case. Overwhelming evidence seems to pile up and Amy’s diary entries make us suspicious too. The question now is, is Amy still alive? Where was she? Is Nick innocent? The story has an interesting twist at the end that I don’t want to give away, but Amy could be lying in her journal, or Nick could be the one lying, or both are lying. You find out.
3. The Weight of Whispers by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Well, this isn’t exactly a novel but the award winning short story by Yvonne. You can get the pdf here. The story won the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing.
It’s a story about Rwandan genocide survivors. War robs people of their homes, their livelihoods, their security, the innocence, their status and material possessions, their lives and that of their kin, but most of all, war robs people of their DIGNITY. When you are alive and you are refugee, you lose your dignity as you try to jump over a fence other human beings erect to keep you out of “their country”, as you beg for bread and water so your children won’t starve, as you push other refugees to get into a train that’s going to destinations where no one wants to see you, where they don’t think of you as a fellow human being but as a REFUGEE.
It is in this state that a royal Rwandese family finds itself in Kenya, living in one room in Nairobi’s back streets, hoping to get out and go to Europe as some families were able to do. They must find their way out by any means necessary, sometimes ways that strip them of any little dignity left. The cost of their actions may be too high as they are about to find out. It was such a melancholic read for me. I think I shed a tear once or twice.
4. Call of the Wild by Jack London
If you have read White Fang by Jack London, then you might be familiar with his style of telling a story from a dog’s point of view.
It tells the story of a large dog stolen from his home and sold to gold prospectors in the mountains of Canada. Here, the domesticated dog’s true nature is awakened from torment by his new masters, and as soon as he is trained he is put to work hauling mail through the snow. The dog Buck, meets and makes friends with many among men and among the dogs. The ending is a little bit sad but the story is every bit involving. It’s also not as long and is perfect for a laid back indoor weekend. You could also watch the movie from which the book was adapted.
5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I read this book when I was young and when I found a free copy in my e-reader I decide it was worth re-reading it. The character is so famous there is no need to reintroduce him here. Dr. Watson, who is Sherlock Holmes’ best friend, is the narrator. There are twelve stories in the collection. One of my favorites because it was so funny was “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League”, in which there is a league recruiting men with red hair – but there is no such thing as it is merely a plot to lure a certain red-headed man from the scene of a would-be crime. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” was also interesting in the many twists it had. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” was a little chilling, as was “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” but overall they were both entertaining reads. If you have never read Sir Arther Conan Doyle, you are doing yourself a great injustice. There is nothing as interesting as rediscovering your love for a good mystery and marveling at Sherlock’s brilliant ways of discovering the truth.
6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This is another classic that I also hadn’t read previously. Here, I add that I also haven’t read Wuthering Heights by the sister, Emily Bronte. Saying it is a classic reminds me of the quip I read somewhere “a classic is a book that everyone praises but no one reads”. But pick up such a book, have a little patience and you will soon see why it is a classic.
Jane Eyre is a little, plain but passionate girl. She is orphaned while very young and goes to live with her aunt and cousins, who make it obvious they don’t want her there and send her away to a boarding school for girls when she’s about 10. After a strict education, she stays on at the school for two more years teaching and then decides she is ready to face an adventure in the real world. She encounters friendships, love, and kinship; as well as loss. A bittersweet ending to the book is what you will find in the story of Jane Eyre, for whom I have boundless admiration. It is the book I read the most recent and it’s still fresh in my memory; so well written and the characters are so alive. When their memory is blurred by time, I am sure I shall then reread the book. Great stories are not about big, larger than life characters having an extra-ordinary adventure; great stories are about ordinary characters that we can relate to, but their story is told with such beauty and such elegance that their ordinary story becomes a fascinating adventure.
Those are the books I have read since May, including the children’s book, Matilda. I have hardly read in November but in December I must read at least one book and I am scouting my (e)library for an easy read.