2014 Africa Reading Challenge

Welcome to the Africa Reading Challenge.

This will be the second time that I’m hosting the Africa Reading Challenge.  Details and requirements are the same this year as for the 2012 Africa Reading Challenge, which started with:

“I have absolutely no reason for hosting nor urging you to participate in this challenge save for the joy of discovering and reading African literature!”

Here are the details:

Challenge Period

January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014

Region

The entire African continent, including its island-states, which are often overlooked. Please refer to this Wikipedia “list of sovereign states and dependent territories in Africa”. Pre-colonial empires and regions are also included.

Reading Goal

5 books.  That’s it.  There will be no other levels.  Of course, participants are encouraged to read more than 5 books.  Eligible books include those which are written by African writers, or take place in Africa, or are concerned with Africans and with historical and contemporary African issues. Note that at least 3 books must be written by African writers.

Genres

  • Fiction – novels, short stories, poetry, drama, children’s books.  Note: You can choose to read a number of individual and uncollected short stories.  In this case, 12 such stories would constitute 1 book.  Individual poems do not count but books of poetry do.
  • Non-fiction – memoirs, autobiographies, history and current events

Reading Suggestions

  • Cover at least two regions, pick from North Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa and Central Africa
  • Include translated fiction from Arabic, Francophone and Lusophone literature
  • You can mix classic and contemporary fiction
  • If you are intend to read mostly non-fiction, then please include at least one book (out of the five) of fiction

I’m not inclined to push any reading philosophy, I would however like to encourage participants to broaden their knowledge of African literature. Broadly then:

For the novice, if you have not read any African lit or if you’ve read one book (E.g. Achebe’s Things Fall Apart):  I would advise a mix of at least two regions, two languages, classic and contemporary, with both men and women writers.  A sample reading list could be:

  • Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (North Africa, Arabic, classic)
  • Maps by Nuruddin Farah (East Africa)
  • Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Southern Africa, contemporary)
  • So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba (West Africa, classic, Francophone)
  • Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Southern Africa, contemporary, modern fantasy)

For the advanced reader of African literature:  perhaps there is some gap (country, region, language, theme, gender)  you want to fill or author(s) whose works you want to explore further?

You could also, for example:

  • Read only collection/anthologies of short stories
  • Stick to the literary tradition of one country
  • Explore literature written in African languages
  • Read only Lusophone literature
  • Explore the literature of contemporary South Africa
  • Read the books of North African countries of the Arab Spring
  • Read wherever the urge takes you!

My suggestions notwithstanding, the most important thing is to have fun and to explore Africa through books.

Other Details

  1. Overlap with other challenges is allowed.
  2. E-books and audio books are allowed.
  3. There is no need to make a list beforehand.  Although most of us love lists, don’t we?

To Sign up:

Leave a comment below to sign-up. You can list the books you intend to read if you’ve already decided.

For those with blogs:  write a post on your blog about the challenge (with or without your list) and link to this post.

Reviews and Completion of Challenge

Reviews of books read are not required but are encouraged especially for those with blogs.  Please share your reviews with the rest of community the on Reviews Page.  If you do not have a blog and would like to guest review on this blog, then please feel free to contact me.

Likewise, completion posts are encouraged and you can share those on the Completion Page.

On Books and Reading Lists

Some classic African literature can be hard to find.  Please check your libraries and use inter-library loans if you have access to such services.  You will be able to do this challenge with the books currently available on the market.

I will publish lists of reading materials under various themes until I tire of the process.  Please contact me at kinnareadsATgmailDOTcom if you need any help.

Associated Events

  1. Ghanaian Literature Week – I have hosted this event for the past two years. So you could save your GhanaLit reads for then.
  2. There’re probably be a readalong or two.  I will announce those in the coming months.

You can subscribe to this blog (see top of the right sidebar) to stay updated on this challenge.

That’s it.  Let’s enjoy reading for the 2014 Africa Reading Challenge.

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128 comments

  1. A number of years ago when I taught freshmen English, everyone had to read “Things Fall Apart”. Some loved it, some hated it, some remained unsure. However, the next year when questions showed up about it on the PSAT, I felt totally vindicated. Now, years later, when I encounter these former students, even those who did not like reading it very much, they remember the main character, even his name. I ask them if they remember the names of main characters of other books they have read and most do not. Now I have several African selections for my senior students to choose from to read. Most seem uninterested, but a few do read these and hopefully expand their horizons at least a bit.

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  2. […] I was strongly reminded of the character of Okonkwo in fellow Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. In fact I wonder if perhaps Foreign Gods Inc. is, in part, the latest instalment in a series of literary conversations stemming from that ‘archetypal modern African novel’ –Okonkwo also resembles a character in Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. I will have to keep reading African literature to find out, which is fine by me, as I enter my second year of Kinna’s African Reading Challenge. […]

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  3. What a great challenge – pity I found out about it so late in the year, not sure I can complete it in 3 weeks! Will there be one next year?

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      • That’s great news. Thanks for the follow too – and I guess you will have seen I decided to get stuck into the challenge this year anyway.

        I’m excited about it – so many new books to check out, plus an opportunity to reread old favourites and see if they’ve stood the test of time. I’m looking forward to reading what other people have read along with their reviews.

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  4. Hi Kinna – I finished the challenge but I’d like to go further. And I’ve been really remiss in posting progress – sorry.

    I’ve read 9 so far covering 3 major areas of Africa – Southern Africa, Western Africa and Central Africa – East Africa is coming up (I hope). I’d also like to get something from North Africa this year without doing rereads. The book titles are linked to my reviews on the same site:

    http://beckylindroos.wordpress.com/upcoming/yearly-challenges/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] 2014 Africa Reading Challenge. Was quite excited to see this – okay, I caught on a bit late but it’s not yet November 😊. At uni in Germany I took a class on African Literature as part of my English studies and we read some of what I (if I may) refer to as the [new] classics: Bessie Head (Maru), Tsitsi Dangarembga (Nervous Conditions), Ben Okri (Astonishing the Gods). Ngugi wa Thiongo, Chinua Achebe and Tsitsi Vera were also discussed. We also had the option to write our term paper on any other authors we knew so I oPete for Stanlake Samkange’s “On Trial For That UDI”. His works are based mainly on historical facts. […]

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  6. Hi Kinna, I just started blogging two days ago and came across your challenge yesterday whilst navigating my way through WordPress. I’ve linked your challenge to my page and shared a list of books I’ve read. I’m Zimbabwean and was quite happy to see your challenge! Sign me up 😊

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  7. I’ve only just recently discovered this challenge, but having read both Purple Hibiscus and Americanah – and really enjoyed both of them – in the last couple of months, I thought it would be good to discover some more books by African writers. I’ve got four or five more in mind but am not sure I’ll manage them all by the end of 2014, but it can continue into the new year as my own personal challenge if I don’t. I’ve tried to choose a balance of countries, original languages, male and female authors, and a mix of old and new, novels, short stories and non-fiction. Looking forward to it.

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  8. Hi, I just found this challenge and coincidentally I have already read one book by an African author this year: Things Fall Apart. I will do some more research as to books to read. Post will be going up within the week!

    Kimmieinwonderland.blogspot.com

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  9. I just found out about this but I’d still like to participate. I’m starting with Touch my Blood, an autobiography by Fred Khumalo. My one will be Wole Soyinkas ‘You must set forth at dawn’

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  10. Lovely project. I thought it required one to read 53 books in a year, one per country, and I never manage to read more than 30 (usually more likely 24) books per year. I already completed your challenge this year, I guess, since 6 of my 12 books I’ve read so far were by African writers. Great blog.

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  11. What a great blog and challenge! Sign me up, please! I’ve already read quite a few books by African writers (and have posted on a few in my blog), but there’s plenty more out there to read. I’m not sure yet which ones I’ll do.

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  12. Coming to the dance late… but I would definitely like to join the challenge. Will get a blog up soon with my choices.

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  13. I live in South Africa, what a great idea. I am in. I have read 2 excellent non-fiction books by SA writers this year. “To catch a cop, the Paul O’Sullivan Story” by Marianne Thamm; “Dances with the Devils” Jaques Pauw and 1 fiction by Deon Meyer “Devils Peak”. I would encourage readers to give Zakes Mda a try, awesome.
    Katy

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  14. Reblogged this on glasgowmango and commented:
    I am a little late to the party but really up for the challenge. I am really interested in revisiting ‘Second Class Citizen’ by Buchi Emecheta a book I read as a teenager; finally reading ‘Americanh’ by Chimamanda Adichie, ‘Ghana Must Go’ by Taiye Selasi and ‘We need new names’ by NoViolet Bulawayo amongst others.

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  15. I’m in. Thank you for hosting this challenge. I will be looking at picture books from Africa as well as some biographies. I will check with my local library.

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  16. i wonder why African books are produced outside Africa not to talk about how expensive they are. I must say however that if one has got the dough, buying and reading African writings is the most classic thing ever. Any one has African books to lend, i will be grateful!!!

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  17. I just reviewed The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh. It’s set in South Africa in the 1880s and has inspired me to join your challenge as there are some African books I’ve been wanting to read for a while:
    The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
    Americanah
    The Good Doctor or The Imposter (can’t decide)
    Band Aid for a Broken Leg
    Tiny Songbrids Far Away
    Chasing the Devil

    The list goes on… I really like the look of Season of Migration too and may start with that to get into the swing of things. All suggestions welcome!

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  18. And I read Scenes From a Provincial Life by J.M. Coetzee – -a trilogy of three novellas, actually, a fictionalized biography. Also, I read We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and am now into The Fear by Peter Goodwin – also Zimbabwe – nonfiction. I’m looking seriously at the older book, Agaat by Marlene van Niekirk (South Africa) as well as some other newer ones – perhaps a couple from the northern areas.

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  19. Just finished Zebra Crossing by Meg Vandermerwe about a young woman with albinism from Zimbabwe who flees to Cape Town with her brother on the eve of the World Cup. Generally I liked it–an interesting portrayal of challenges illegal immigrants face in South Africa, especially someone with albinism–although I kind of felt the ending was rushed…although that may be because I was being interrupted a lot for the last several pages.

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  20. Sounds like a challenge that I “need”, as I’m trying to read a book from each country in the world (in the extent that it is possible).

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  21. I will be participating. I just started reading Akata Witch and am looking forward to jumping into some of the other titles you mentioned above. Thanks for organizing this! I blog at Rich in Color and Reading Through Life so reviews may show up at one or the other or in Goodreads.

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  22. I didn’t know you’ve launched this. I am in. Which is to say in the next few months I will rush in here to tell people I have completed the challenge, which in itself will be no challenge. *weeping*.

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  23. Just finished “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo (2013 / Zimbabwe) and highly recommend it. Want to read Peter Godwin’s “Fear,” a nonfiction about that country and Robert Mugabe.

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  24. Very excited about this challenge. I just finished Foreign Gods, Inc. by Okey Ndib and am looking forward to meeting him at a local bookstore in April. Will come back later with My List but a couple of others I enjoyed recently are Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou and I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

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  25. Feel challenged by the challenge. I hardly step beyond West African works…….Maybe you could give me tips on where else to start from. Great work, Kinna

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    • Oppong, please don’t feel challenged by the Challenge, at least not too much. I will compile a special book list for you, to answer your question, and will post it here. Stay tuned and thanks for participating!

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  26. This year, I resolved to read more. So this is coming a good time. Please sign me up. I will share my reading list on my blog as soon as decided. I must really educate myself about fiction writers from my continent.

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  27. No idea what else I’m reading yet, but I’m definitely doing this. Maybe I’ll begin with Taiye Selasi’s ‘Ghana Must Go’. Thanks for hosting this Kinna!

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  28. I’m in. I will report on my blog “Transsahara”. http://www66.jimdo.com/app/s7f75aceb79b85a35/p98d575117cbb7342/ . My favourites are
    Chinua Achebe: Things fall apart
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a yellow sun
    Chika Unigwe: On Black Sisters’ Street
    Mungo Beti: Le pauvre christ de Bomba (The poor christ of Bomba)
    Francis Bebey: Le fils de Agatha Moudio (Agatha Moudio’s Son)
    Claud Njike Bergeret: Ma passion africaine
    My special tip (just read) is Chuma Nwokolo: Diaries of a death African

    On my to-read-list are
    Taiye Selasi: Ghana must go
    Binyavanga Wainaina: One day I will wrie about this place
    Patrice Nganang: Temps de chien
    Doris Lessing: The grass is singing

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  29. Okay. I dug around and found or downloaded my books for the challenge:

    The Palm-Wine Drinkard — Amos Tutuola
    We Need New Names — NoViolet Bulawayo
    Nervous Conditions – Tsiti Dangarembga
    Akhenaten — Naguib Mahfouz
    The Famished Road – Ben Okri
    Arrow of God — Chinua Achebe
    A Grain of Wheat — Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
    Half of a Yellow Sun — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    But you know how lists are … always subject to change.

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  30. I just posted my first book for the Africa Reads Challenge on my blog. Distant View of a Minaret, by Alifa Rifaat. http://wp.me/p24OK2-10y I loved the short stories from inside Egyptian Muslim women’s worlds.

    Do I need to do anything else?

    I said I wasn’t going to list my proposed list of reads, but without trying I have made one.

    The five books on Kinna’s “African Women Writers Syllabus that I haven’t read.
    Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana
    No Sweetness Here and Other Stories by Ama Ata Aidoo
    On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe
    Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
    July’s People by Nadine Gordimer

    and others I happened to find on Paperbackswap
    Love in the Kingdom of Oil, Nawal El Saadawi
    Mother to Mother, Sindiwe Magona

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    • I love love love Distant View of the Minaret, one of my favorite all-time books from the Continent. Of course, I appreciate your focus on the women writers. Very nice reading list!

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  31. Challenge accepted. I read a good amount of African literature, but mostly from west Africa (I live in Burkina Faso) and stick mostly to the “classics.” So my plan is to expand outside of that, starting with “Petals of Blood” by Ngugi wa Thiongo’o. Thanks for hosting this!

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    • I don’t think I’ve ready anything by a Burkinabe writer. Do share if you know of any. Ngugi is a good place to start. Thanks for joining the challenge.

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  32. Reblogged this on A Celebration of Reading and commented:
    Everyone should add this important reading site to their Browser. Furthermore, this reading challenge is a good way to further expand your reading experience. Go for it! I intend to make certain there are at least five books on my 2014 Reading List.

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  33. Definitely I am in, though I am fairly sure I will end up with more than five “African” books – at least given my reading over the last few years! Will also post something about the challenge as well.

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    • Which Ngugi book? I want to read Matigari this year, so you’re in good company. Plus, I’m mulling over a read-a-long of Wizard of the Crow. Thanks for participating.

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      • I’m actually just finishing Wizard of the Crow. It’s a behemoth but has been a great experience. I love the way Ngugi weaves magical realism with psychology, anthropology and politics. I want to tea more of his work this year

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    • Haha, I do hope you make a selection soon. Given your reading global efforts, I have no doubts that you’ll find something wonderful. Thanks for participating.

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  34. I dare not join the challenge but will be watching with great interest. Its so true that its hard to find some of these authors – many of the books are not available in English or if they are, it’s really expensive.

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  35. Hi! Sounds like a fun challenge. I’ve read quite a few books by African authors but was looking to explore further. As it happens I bought ‘Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria’ by Noo Saro-Wiwa yesterday, so I’ll start with that one and go from there. I’ll link to a review on Goodreads if that’s ok.

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  36. Great! I am very glad you are doing this again. You got me started reading African books in 2012. I will continue to focus my reading on fiction by African women for this year’s challenge. I don’t have a firm list. What I will read depends on which of the relevant books on my wishlist become available. Thanks.

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    • And thank you for participating again! I’ll be posting a list on contemporary African lit written by women soon. Maybe you’ll discover something new on the list? Nothing like adding to the wishlists!

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  37. I’m excited about this challenge! I’ve read lots of books from Nigerian authors but not many from elsewhere so this will be a lot of fun to complete. I’m going to read all the ones on the “beginners” list, but So Long a Letter isn’t available at my local library so I’ll do some research and find a good replacement. Any recommendations would be more than welcome.

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    • Thanks! Entirely different but also written by a woman writer and listed as a classic is Sindiwe Magona’s Living, Loving and Lying Awake At Night. Do see if your library has it. Enjoy your reading and thanks for participating in the challenge!

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      • I think Living, Loving and Lying Awake At Night needs some kind of warning label! “Warning: This book will devastate you. Not recommended for pregnant women or people who cry in Kleenex commercials. Do not consume within 24 hours of any movie where a main character dies at the end.”

        100% beautiful, 100% heartbreaking.

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