Read any good books lately?


So, what have you been reading lately?

In the tall queue of books beside my bed there's South African commentator Eusebius McKaiser's A Bantu In My Bathroom and the trenchant Kenyan Binyavanya Wainaina's One Day I Will Write About This Place. Having just finished the sublime Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah's first book, From A Crooked Rib, I am also itching to get hold of his most recent attempt "to keep my country alive by writing about it" - Crossbones.

Speaking of Somalia, I would urge you to get hold of Gerald Hanley's Warriors - a dry, intense, extraordinary memoir of his time as a British army officer during World War II, patrolling the remotest corners the country. It's no wonder Hemmingway called him "the foremost writer of his generation."

A few years ago I went to meet members of militant group al-Shabab in southern Somalia with fellow journalist Jonathan Legard, who has now written a wonderfully vivid, philosophical novel, Submergence, involving a British hostage held in Somalia, a love affair, and deep sea diving. How could you resist?

And how do you choose what to read next? It can be a satisfyingly accidental process. A few months ago I was digging through some books that my grandfather had given me. He was an entomologist who spent three decades chasing termites and mosquitos across East Africa. Besides some rather dry colonial tomes about Uganda and Tanganyika, I found Alan Moorehead's The White Nile and The Blue Nile. They're classics - spare, colourful, hugely ambitious and enduringly modern accounts of Europe's attempts to map, conquer, loot, and learn about the sources and branches of Africa's greatest river, from Napoleon to Speke, Burton and beyond.

As South Africa's ANC gears up for another spasm of political infighting in December, I should probably be catching up on books like Frank Chikane's Eight Days In September. But if you're looking for the ultimate account of court intrigue and Sopranos-esque infighting, then - and apologies for wandering off subject - wallow in Bring Up The Bodies, the second part of Hilary Mantel's exquisitely imagined re-telling of Henry VIII's reign. What games would Mr Cromwell have played with Julius Malema?

Lastly - and the book should come with a health warning for those with weak hearts - I recently spent an adrenalin-drenched hour or two inhaling the South African thriller writer Deon Meyer's latest breathless caper, 13 Hours.

Please do weigh in with your suggestions and comments below, and as with previous book blogs on this page, remember that bouncers will be policing the message page to ensure you all bring a book recommendation.

Andrew Harding Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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    Comment number 4.

    Emerged from 'Children of the Alley' by Naguib Mahfouz to dip into 'Doing Theology at the Grassroots' by Patrick Kalilombe (RIP) of Malawi, exploring Scottish issues from an 'African world view.' Yasmin Alibhai Brown tells of the pain of Ugandan Asian in 'A Settler's Cookbook'. Ben Okri's 'Wild' is restorative. 'Looking for Mrs Livingstone' by Julie Davidson and Adhaf Soueif's 'Cairo' await

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    Comment number 3.

    Very interesting. I recently read through The Shadow of Kilimanjaro by Rick Ridgeway. I enjoyed the anecdotes on conservation in Kenya as that is the area I work in. On topic of books, what are some top books that you would recommend for children under age 12 especially on East Africa? Our family will be spending a couple months in Kenya and I want to develop a reading list for the kids.

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    Comment number 2.

    Lots of stuff, but here are two:
    Paul Theroux's "Dark Star Safari" detailing his return to his "roots", travelling south through Africa by public transport / hitchiking. Rather depressing, but realistic and a fascinating read.
    Martin Meredith's "The State of Africa" which seems to me to give a thorough account of Africa's history since colonialism.

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    Comment number 1.

    Just finished "Emerging Africa", Steven Radelet (Author), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Introduction): In 17 countries, five fundamental breakthroughs are making old assumptions increasingly untenable:
    1. rise of democracy
    2. economic management
    3. constructive relationship with international community
    4. mobile phones & internet
    5. emergence of a new generation leaders.



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