Monday, January 23, 2012

A Few Quick Book Reviews

We have purchased a USB satellite modem that plugs into our computers and gets us pretty decent internet, though it’s not super fast and we pay for a certain amount of bandwidth. The result is that my habit of surfing the web 24/7 has ended with a quickness. This has been one of my biggest adjustments here to Tanzania, because constantly reading status updates on facebook or perusing music/movie reviews or looking at pictures of kittens or watching videos of people doing stupid things and hurting themselves- that’s what I DO with my time. And I cannot do much of that anymore with our finite amount of internet access (which is still enough to jump on a few times a day, but the usage is much more precise and limited). So, I suddenly have a lot more time on my hands. This is not a bad thing; it’s high time I cut the cord a little and did something other than the internet.

Like reading a book. Even with our classes and the study of Swahili, I’ve managed to read a book and a half since the start of language school a week ago, and I managed to finish another on the flight over a few weeks ago. Here’s some quick reviews of two books:

Biko (1978), by Donald Woods
This is the book on which the film Cry Freedom is based. It is written about Steve Biko, the black South African activist who was tortured and killed while in police custody in 1977. Written by Donald Woods, a white journalist who was very close friends with Biko and who risked his and his own family’s life by supporting Biko’s activism, the book is a very clinical and detailed overview of Biko and the world of late 1970’s South Africa. It is not always an easy read, but it is a fascinating look at Apartheid and the depths that such a racist system will stoop to protect its own ideology.

To A God Unknown (1933), by John Steinbeck
I had never heard of this book, I found it on a shelf here at Mokoko, I needed a book to read, and I like Steinbeck, so there you go. A strange little book. I’m glad I read it, it kept my interest, but I was kind of glad to be done with it. It’s about a homesteader in California and life on his ranch. The protagonist is a strange character; he’s good, but I couldn’t really connect with him at all (and in fact, no one can- that’s part of the story). If you’re a big Steinbeck fan, read this. If you aren’t, then don’t read this one. And if you haven’t read much Steinbeck and want to know where to start, then don’t start here; read The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men.

I found a whole shelf of books by African authors in the Mokoko library. I’ve read a lot about Africa, but very little of it has been written by Africans. Expect more reviews to come.

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