Tuesday, 31 December 2019

My Year in Books - 2019

I’m ashamed to admit that this year I didn’t read as much as I would have liked. Life does take over, I suppose. Better to have read something than none at all, right? So, here is my 2019 book list starting with the latest to be read:

10. The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

What does it take to win the love of your wife?

It was the day after Christmas when I found myself craving a bit of romance, and there was only one guy to satisfy my needs. Nicholas Sparks has the knack of transporting me to an idealistic world. A world in which I wish to reside. A world that, quite frankly, few ever get to experience. That world, I sometimes call it, a place of bliss. In this tale, the author does not disappoint. I always love Nicholas's simple and yet sophisticated way of writing. A story about a husband who successfully rekindles her wife’s fading love for him. I was mesmerised by the husband’s creativity in making his wife fall in love with him all over again. How effortless, once he had made up his mind to win her once more, the process became compared to when he didn't care. I was enthralled by the way the writer made references to my all-time favourite, the mother of all romance stories - The Notebook. The story took me on quite a journey, and I found my spirit soaring. Tears dripped from my eyes. And I fell in love with love. Indeed, Nicholas knows how to deliver just the right concoction for the romantic at heart, and what a perfect finish to my reading year. 

9. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

 "A black man, in the wrong place at the wrong time, will find retribution meted out swiftly and unquestioningly."

Had someone not Tweeted about this book, I would not have discovered it. Winner of the Women's prize for fiction, this story pulled at my heartstrings, to say the least. Celestial and Roy, a newly-married couple, are on the verge of realising their American dream when it is cruelly snuffed away when Roy is wrongly accused of rape by a white woman and ends up incarcerated. Heartrending and unfortunately, a poignant reflection of the plight of the black family and our society in general. Bound by their love, the newly-married couple is determined to make things work. They send letters back and forth to each other, and this is how the writer tells the story. Through the characters’ correspondences, which I thought was quite creative, we delve into each character’s head and glimpse into their feelings, attitudes, fears and motivations. The book delivers themes that spark passionate conversations about the black family, love, betrayal, abortion, the relationship between the black man and America's police force and more. As one can expect, there is always conflict, a twist or two in every story worth telling, but I did not anticipate the ending. Being an idealist and a hopeless romantic, I imagined the couple making it despite the challenges of being pulled apart by time and distance. Such is life, I guess. *sigh*

8. Slay in Your Lane: The Journal by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene 

The book delivers exactly what it says it is: The Black Girl Bible. Black women and girls do face a lot of challenges. We are misunderstood, labelled as angry, and sometimes find ourselves at the bottom of the food chain in other areas of life. If you are a black woman in need of some motivation, this is the book you will want to read. The book also gives real-life accounts and testimonies of those who have ‘made it’ in life. It demonstrates how to navigate societal prejudices, how to attain the right level o education, how to get employment, and how to simply to get ahead in life. A great read, but difficult to swallow in some parts as I found myself reliving some of the harsh realities of my life as a black woman living in Britain.

7. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Dubbed by some as the black Bridget Jones, I found this book funny, gripping and a compelling read. The writer uses light-hearted language to depict serious issues. She explores her Caribbean family, and even though I am from Zimbabwe, I can identify with her experiences in matters of life in general, love, race, relationship break-ups, disappointments, societal attitudes and misconceptions about certain groups of people and family. Told in simple language, humorous and yet compelling way. I concluded that the writer's aim was to enlighten, teach, inform as well as entertain and Candice did just that. 

6. Washing Black by Esi Edugyan

I was drawn to this book because it was nominated for the Booker Prize, and most people were raving about it. In the opening pages, Washington Black launches the horrors of slavery at sugar plantations in Barbados. But he does not dwell on slavery. Instead, the author drifts towards the experiences of the free young slave who is chosen to be the helper of his master’s brother. As they explore their relationship and adventures together, Washington Black discovers that he is talented. He soon embraces life as a free man. A man, perhaps, seen as an 'equal to the white man'. I don’t know what to make of this story as the ending left me craving for more, wishing it was more. Something else. Oh, well. 

5. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This #ownvoice romance novelist delivers a classic tale about Stella, who is an ambitious, intelligent, autistic young lady. Stella's mother keeps nagging her about finding a boyfriend. She wants her daughter to be 'normal', I guess. In the end, the sequence of events drives Stella to hire a male escort to show her the ‘ropes’ of love and sex in preparation for her real man. Now how many would do it I suspect, but hey, whatever works. An energetic, light read, a little bit predictable but enjoyable nonetheless. I am always drawn to heartwarming stories where love prevails.

4. Sycamore Row by John Grisham

This book grabbed me by the neck right from the beginning. A timber tycoon decides to hang himself from a sycamore tree as the title suggests and we soon discover that his handwritten will leaves a significant part of his fortune to his black housekeeper, not his children. You can imagine their horror. What causes even more of a stir is that another will written before the suicide rewards the children quite handsomely but excludes the housekeeper. The writer of the will was on Demerol, and this begs the question – did he have ‘testamentary capacity?’ As always, Grisham delivers a compelling legal case and I for one, love not just a good murder but a stirring courtroom drama where you sit at the edge of your seat, rooting for a character and praying for justice to prevail. 

3. The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

“If Africa was a bar, Zimbabwe would tell the story of how it fought bouncers to get inside.”

You know why I just had to slip that little excerpt in there, right?

Different writers, one Zimbabwean, of course, write unflinching essays about what it's like to live in a society plagued by racism and prejudices, among other things(Britain.) Just like the book, Slay in Your Lane, the book requires one to have nerves of steel for it takes no prisoners. If you can swallow some harsh truths of life, then this enlightening book is the one to pick. 

2. Her Last Move by John Marrs

I love a good murder! And the darker, the better. After reading the blurb, I was hooked. DS Becca is chasing a killer. The killer is watching her every move and is always a step ahead. As bodies continue to drop like flies, Becca's life gets in the way, and she has no choice but to seek help from experts in other fields. As the drama unfolds, one is taken on an adrenaline-pumping adventure. And Mr Marrs doesn’t disappoint.

Besides the books I’ve listed above, I also read Becoming by Michelle Obama,War Room by Chris Fabry (again), A Time to Kill and The Rain Maker by John Grisham and The Foundling by Paul Joseph and Fronckzak Alex Tresniowski. 

Okay, so none of my reads made Obama's list this year, who cares?! 

Here's to wishing you all a Happy New Year filled with many opportunities to read!