This year has been an introduction to new writers on my fiction list. It was rather difficult to come up with my top three fiction reads not because I read some great books more like most were okay books. When it comes to fiction, characters and plot really matters, these are the things that keep me most engaged. There is also nothing worse than a predictable story or one that is longer than it needs to be. (I did attempt to read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and miserably failed). The three books I have selected as my top three fiction reads presented me with something different.
3. The Shack by Paul Young
I watched the trailer of The Shack earlier in the year, and it intrigued me. A friend recommended the book, but I was always sceptical because I doubted his taste in books. So, when I learnt that it was being made into a movie, I decided to give it a chance. The Shack can best be described as Christian fiction, and even though it has sold over 18 million copies, it has not gone down well with everyone in the faith. It follows a man’s struggle in coming to terms with the loss of his daughter who was abducted during a family vacation. In the process there are life changing lessons that take place at the shack. This book spins everything on its head and brings a different dimension to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The ending is also one that is not expected. This book will leave you with a lot of questions, you seeking for answers, and I understand why it may have rubbed some Christians the wrong way. It is not the most brilliant of writing but in terms of plotline it does the job. I will not divulge too much lest I give away the story. By the way, I did watch the film and as expected the book was better.
2. Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John
Like with movies and music, Nigeria is the powerhouse of African literature, and they seem to have an endless supply coming off the assembly line. (I think I need to pay Naija a visit to discover what they put in their fufu). This debut despite being a short read is packed with punch that is weaved with some wonderful prose laced with tinges of humour and tragedy. The story is set in Northern Nigeria, and it is about a boy called Dantala, who is a student at an Islamic school. It charts the rise of Islamic extremism in the area, and it explores friendships, brotherhood and love. This book ticked the box for me because it explored a culture that I am not familiar with, getting to experience a way of life albeit it being for a moment has always interested me.
1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I need to confess that had this book not been on the Lusaka Book Club reading list, I probably would never have read it. I do not watch the movie then read the book. The Color Purple is the first book that I have done that. The Steven Spielberg directed film did stay true to the book. It is a story set in the American deep south about a black girl who had to endure poverty, abuse and separation from her sister yet find a way to live. The girl is Celie, and she uses letters to God to narrate her life. The characters are multidimensional, interesting and engaging; the dialogue takes you to the period, the language reads like poetry in parts and the sub-plots are just as captivating. You know that an author has done a tremendous job when as a reader you feel like jumping into the book so you can shake Celie and tell her, “Fight. Fight back.” The consequences of watching the movie first before reading the book is that I was denied the opportunity to imagine what Celie looked like in my mind. It was impossible not to think of Whoopi Goldberg, who plays the main character in the movie as I read the book. As at now, I will stick to book first, movie later.
At the beginning of 2017, I challenged myself to read 36 books across fiction and non-fiction. A large proportion of the books I read were from the Lusaka Book Club and Butali House Book Club reading lists while the rest were selected out of interest. I did read 36 books with a few days to spare. In the My Year in 36 Books, I give a review of some of the books I read.