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Page Turners! Who doesn’t love a page-turner? So, in the spirit of reminiscing about our page turners, let’s talk about my 2019 Favorite Reads!
Reading is one of the greatest pleasures of the world that I have come to enjoy. From the unraveled stories when you open up the first page to the smell of books! In between the pages of a book, I have lived in different places in this world and even centuries. I have fallen in love with characters, felt their pain, shared their hopes and destitution, I have had my heart broken more times than I’d care to count, and I have cried and laughed out loud- enough for people to think I was already a gone case.
Through the many books I have read so far, I can say I have lived many lives. In his book, A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martins wrote, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one”, a statement I agree with a thousand times.
Because of the many responsibilities and tight schedules this year, I have only read 11 books. 11 books! It’s a sad affair, I know. But from my list of books, I am going to share my favorite ones; the ones that I think that if you have not had an opportunity to read, then you need to order online or visit your favorite bookstore and start reading.
In his famous book, The Fault in Our Stars, author John Green wrote: “Sometimes, you read a book, and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
So here are the books I fell in love with in 2019, and I wish everyone read them, too.
My 2019 Page Turners
1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
On more than one occasion, this book managed to break my heart into many pieces. Many times, I tried patching them back together. By the time I was halfway through the next chapter, the patches would begin to crack up again.
Told through the descendants of two half-sisters, the story covers the lives of these individuals’ lineage in a span of 300 years right from the 18th Century. This book touches on the slave trade in West Africa.
It touches on the roles played by both whites and Africans in making the slave trade such a success. It also touches on slavery in America and the struggles of families through these times.
Maame’s two daughters, fathered by different men, end up living separate lives- one, Effia, married off to a white man, and the other one, Esi, captured and sold off as a slave- which affected the lives of their generations for years.
When Maame, an Asante woman who was serving as a slave in the Fante Kingdom, managed to escape after setting a fire, she left behind her baby girl, Effia. Effia grows to be a beautiful woman but is sold off to a British Official, James, a slave trader, as a wife.
Maame manages to marry a ‘big man’ after her escape and births another daughter, Esi. Growing up in a house of a ‘Big Man’, Esi leads a pampered life compared to Effia’s life. This life is, however, brought to a halt when their village is raided and Esi is captured.
In the Cape Coast Castle, where Effia spends her married life, her half-sister, Esi, is held captive in the dungeons beneath the Castle. Esi is later sold off as a slave and ends up in America. The story of their generations is a bit detailed, with Gyasi tackling each family’s representative as a chapter on its own.
Get your copy of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
2. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
This one holds a very special place in my heart. Not only did I have my copy autographed by the author, but I also had the chance to experience Maimouna Jallow showcase her adaptation of this book early in the year at Alliance Francaise. This experience was nothing but breathtaking, and it made me want to read that book more than ever.
Lola tells the story of Baba Segi, a wealthy man who never shies away from taking in another wife whenever he gets a chance. His four wives, Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi, and Bolanle, married in that order, all live in one house, each with her own room.
Each wife gets her own couch except for Bolanle, who is yet to bear her husband any child. The wives share their husbands in turns every week, an arrangement that starts to strain with Bolanle in the picture.
As a graduate and the only graduate of the four wives, Bolanle’s arrival is not well received by the other co-wives, especially Iya Segi and Iya Femi. It is a story of how polygamous families live, the hate that turns to love when fighting a common enemy, the secrets shared between individuals in the family, how children in such homes are affected, and the repercussions from all the hate that can ensue in such arrangements.
The book is hilarious, sad, intriguing, and disconcerting, all wrapped in one.
Get your copy of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
3. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
The praises this book has garnered are all warranted. That I can assure you. Stay With Me takes you through the 1980s Nigerian political and social struggles. The book will break your heart; you will live through the love life of the characters, share their pain and their patience, and take you to emotional heights you never thought you could get to.
Shortlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, Ayobami tells the story of Akin and Yejide. She takes you through their marriage life and believes their struggle to get a baby and their families involved in their marriages leave Yejide broken, desperate to conceive, and jealous.
Her desperation to get pregnant leads her to take drastic measures whose repercussions she could have never thought of. It is a story of love, desperation, polygamy, and how people do just about anything to fulfill their desires or those of society, regardless of how modern they are.
Get your copy of Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
4. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
If you are looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud regardless of where you are, then this is the real deal. Trevor tells the story of his childhood in a way that is both hilarious and sad at the same time. The presence of apartheid in South Africa did not make his childhood easier.
Born of an African mother and a Swiss father, his was a life born out of a criminal offense. It was during an era when interracial marriages were a crime in South Africa, and segregation was present, too. His mother defied all the laws of the land to have him. This is a crime that could have landed her in prison for up to 5 years. She took every step possible to protect him and herself, thus leading to young Trevor spending most of his childhood indoors.
Trevor’s mother is an embodiment of what the strength of a woman is- I am not saying others aren’t, but I admired her bravery on more than one occasion. She never let anyone look down on her, and she did anything and everything to get what she wanted and protect it.
Trevor’s mischievous ways, his struggle to find himself, the struggle of life in the ghetto, and his struggle with family, especially his step-father, are weaved in a way that is entertaining but drastic and makes you think beyond the words. Trevor has defied all odds of his background to become the host of The Daily Show.
I honestly had Trevor’s voice in mind while reading the entire book. An audio copy of the book is also available.
Get your copy of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
5. Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann
When I picked up this baby on the streets of Nairobi from a street vendor, I was ready for a great story. However, I was not ready for what I had gone through by the end of the book. The first chapters of the book saw me put it down and pick up something else to read. I did not feel any connection, and I honestly struggled with them.
By experiencing the pain and grief of a group of mothers whose loss of their sons in Vietnam brings them together, the lives of the prostitutes in the Bronx, and their monk friend, I began to see the connections in the lives of these characters.
Their grief, however, makes these women realize that their lives are different. With one of the women living in a penthouse and the others judging her for it, forgetting her grief. It reminded me of situations in a real-life setting that isn’t far from this.
The life of Corrigan as a monk who lives in the Bronx among prostitutes, being their friend and helping them, as well as struggling with his own personal issues, sees him lead a life that even his brother does not understand when he comes to live with him.
Colum takes us through life in the Bronx. The lives of prostitutes as they struggle to provide for their children and the decisions they would take to protect each other.
It is the story of love, a love that sees a woman come to the rescue of two children she sees in the building but takes them in. She loves them and provides for them when child support fights to take them. It tells of love brought about by a hit-and-run accident that leaves two families destitute and burying their loved ones.
Get your copy of Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann
I could honestly go on about page-turners. Choosing books that I love dearly and hope others can read is something I have never excelled at. Every author tells a different story, and each story has different effects and lessons.
This is why, for me, every book has its own special place in my heart. And I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store apart from those that I have already read.