6 Ways To Discover New Books

There are a million and one books and it can be difficult choosing what to read. I once came home when I was a teenager and my mum told me that she had just finished a novel called Trust Me by Lesley Pearse. She said it was a moving story and recommended that I read it. The story is about two children from England who were sent to an Australian orphanage in the 1950s. I read it and went on to read more Lesley Pearse novels.

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My mum’s read many Lesley Pearse novels too that I can’t get her any of her novels as a surprise present for her because she may have read it. I think she chooses books based on if she has enjoyed their previous work. 

So, people choose books based on if they’ve enjoyed the author’s previous books. How do I pick books to read? Well, based on my mum’s recommendations although I recommend more books to her now. These are a few ways that I discover new books. 

  1. Blog and YouTube reviews: I have subscribed to a few YouTube channels like Penguin Platform and Reads and Daydreams. Penguin Platform is a channel from Penguin Randomhouse so they only talk about books they’ve published. They run a giveaway every month but I’ve never won so I stopped entering their giveaway. Maybe, I’ll enter their next giveaway and see if I’ll be successful. I recently read Elif Shafak’s Three Daughters of Eve after watching one of their videos. Three Daughters of Eve_mini
  2. Friends: I speak to my friends about books they’ve enjoyed. My friend, Eniola told me how good I Do Not Come To You By Chance by Tricia Adaobi Nwaubani was. I found it at my local library so I borrowed it. The novel didn’t disappoint. If it had, I would have stopped taking Eniola’s recommendations.
  3. Events: I lived in London for a year and would go to author events. The book stands would be irresistible so I would end up going home with a book or two. Since moving to Nottingham last August, I’ve been to only two events. One, where I got Gary Younge’s book Another Day In The Death of America and another on Feminist Publishing. Both events were organised by Five Leaves Bookshop. If you live in Nottingham, you can check them out. I went home with a long reading list of feminist books after going to their event in April and I’ve been reading a few feminist nonfiction books since then. I Call Myself A FeministJPG_mini
  4. Podcasts: Authors are often interviewed on some podcasts that I listen such as Ctrl Alt Delete hosted by Emma Gannon and BBC’s Woman’s Hour. They discuss their books and if I find them interesting, I add them to my growing reading list. I read a book by Sophie Kinsella (Finding Audrey) for the first time this year after listening to Sophie Kinsella on Emma Gannon’s podcast. 
  5. Films: Reading Hidden Figures about female African-American scientists was a decision I made after watching the trailer of the film adaptation. I probably may not have read the book, had I not seen Taraji P Henson in the trailer. Taraji P Henson
  6. Bookshops/Libraries: Any day I have spare time and I’m out in the city centre, I usually stop at the library or any bookshops to see what books they have. I may just browse through the books at a bookshop and not buy anything. However, it requires a lot of self-discipline when I go to a bookshop. 

These are the main places I find books to read. When I see a lot of people talking about a book on social media, I usually check the books too.

I found a book yesterday while reading a podcast review on iTunes. The book is called The Upstarts:  How Uber, AirBnBand the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World by Brad Stone. I googled it and read an excerpt. Then, I found that the author, Brad Stone was on the Penguin podcast discussing the book. I ended up ordering the book from my library while listening to him on the podcast episode.

If you’re looking for a book to read over the summer or at any time, you can use these options or read reviews on my blog or check out my YouTube channel.

Films and Reads I’ve Enjoyed Lately

I usually post reviews of books on the blog. However, I know that people may not be able to access some of the books readily. I thought I’d share links from the internet so if you’re interested in reading and not be able to get a book, this post may be helpful in getting some content to enjoy.

Films

I watched Small Island on Netflix, which is a 2-part drama based on the prize-winning novel- Small Island by Andrea Levy. It’s about a Jamaican couple who move to England in the 1940s.

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The husband, Gilbert played by David Oyelowo arrives in England before his wife and sends for her. She is shocked to find that England wasn’t the country she thought it was. The wife, Hortense had always dreamt of teaching in an English school. She trained as a teacher for three years in Jamaica and her qualifications were not accepted when she applied to teach in England. They told her that she had to train again.

Small Island follows their struggles and explores what the experiences of early Caribbean immigrants in England.

The other show I’ve enjoyed watching is Kemi Adetiba’s episode with Tara Fela-Durotoye in the King Women series. If you’re unfamiliar with Tara, she’s a pioneer in the Nigerian make-up industry and is the CEO of the makeup brand, House of Tara.

I had seen Tara Fela-Durotoye’s interview on CNN African Voices so I thought I was quite familiar with her story. However, Tara went into a greater detail about her childhood and how she got married at 24 as a way of escaping her family in the King Woman episode. She grew up in a polygamous home without her mother and that affected the experience, she had at home. Even boarding school was a way of escaping from her family.

It made me think that sometimes we look at people and say they’re successful but we don’t know the challenges they’ve faced. I like stories on business people and the episode with Tara Fela-Durotoye was great.

Reads

I enjoyed reading Andrea Levy’s essay titled “How I learned to stop hating my heritage” on the Guardian. While watching Small Island, I wanted to know more about the author who wrote the novel and I googled her and the essay came up. The essay explores Andrea Levy’s experience as a child born to Jamaican parents in England. She discusses shade-ism and how parents felt they were better because they had a lighter skin tone than other people with a similar descent.

Andrea Levy’s father arrived in England on the Empire Windrush ship and I had heard about this ship’s arrival and how it marked the beginning of significant migration from the Caribbean to Britain. It was interesting to me because I had never heard of people who had direct relationships to passengers on the Empire Windrush.

Another post that I enjoyed was the 53 Painful, Horrible Experiences That Are Way Too Real For Black Women article on Buzzfeed. I could relate with everything in the article- from having to reject plans for a specific day because it’s the day I’ll be washing my hair to finding my headscarf’s slipped off my head in my sleep.

I remember when I’d spend hours watching hair tutorials on YouTube and I’d never be able to achieve those styles with my hair. That was frustration.

Do check out the links and let me know your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Goodreads

 

Book Review: Love Me Unconditionally by Ola Awonubi

Love Me Unconditionally is a romance novel set in Lagos and London. It’s about a lady in her thirties known as Deola, who has been a long-term relationship. Her boyfriend promises her marriage if she can get pregnant for him. However, she doesn’t get pregnant so that puts strains on their relationship. The relationship ends on a sad note and Deola has to move on from it.

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She decides she needs a change of scenery so she moves to Lagos. As Deola is in her thirties, she faces pressure from her mother to get married and her family tries to set up with potential suitors. The novel follows her time in Lagos and whether she’s able to find love again.

There’s a full review of the novel on my YouTube channel.

*Love Me Unconditionally was kindly sent to me by the author, Ola Awonubi. However, all views are mine. You can find the book on Okada Books and on Amazon.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley: A Tale of Race, Discrimination and Achievement in the Modern World

Hidden Figures was a book I discovered after its story had been made into a film. It tells the true-life story of African-American women who worked in aeronautics and their role in helping America win the space race.

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Hidden Figures talks about these female mathematicians who worked in a white, male-dominated sector. They faced challenges such as having a segregated bathroom and not being allowed to participate on certain tasks because they were women.

They were pioneers in their field, occupying positions that black women had not previously worked in. In the past, black women with mathematics degrees mainly worked as teachers in underfunded segregated schools. When roles opened for black women at NASA,  it gave black female graduates the chance to work in a different sector and earn more money.

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These female mathematicians faced challenges such as having a segregated bathroom and not being allowed to participate on certain tasks because they were women. However, with persistence and delivery of excellent work, they were able to progress. There was a particular woman, Katherine Johnson who had asked to participate in editorial meetings. She was told she couldn’t because she was a woman. By persistently questioning this, she was finally allowed to attend. This was in 1958. There’s been a progress in that, sexual discrimination in the workplace is becoming more unacceptable.

The story also explores the social situation in America during the time, Katherine Johnson and her peers were working at NASA. Margot Lee describes this well in this section of the book.

So much money spent so that between 1969 and 1972 a dozen white men could take the express train to a lifeless world? Why, Negro men could barely go to the next state without worrying about predatory police, restaurants that refused to serve them, and service stations that wouldn’t let them buy gas or use the bathroom.

While some were glad that America had made into space, there were difficult conversations being had on how there were no black astronauts at the time. People also challenged the fact that a lot of money was being spent on the space programme while people were poor and dispossessed in the United States. Was this the right way to spend government funds? Although, I felt the good side about the government spending money on the space programme was that it created jobs that helped some black families move up the income ladder.

I enjoyed reading Hidden Figures but I must say some sections were quite technical. There were areas where Margot Lee wrote about the work being carried out in NASA and it was a bit hard for me to follow. Besides that, it was quite readable.

Technology is mainly seen as an industry dominated by men. Reading Hidden Figures helped me realise that women, including black women, made contributions to technology in the middle of the twentieth century and this should be recorded in history.

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I would recommend this if you’re looking for something inspiring to read and if you’re interested in the experiences of African-Americans. These female mathematicians worked in challenging circumstances and made a difference in their families and in the workplace.

*I got my copy of Hidden Figures at WhSmith at St Pancras Station. You can get the book on Amazon, Book Depository, Waterstones and WhSmith. 

Literature At School and Its Influence on my Reading

Reading through my last post where Damilola spoke about books and reading, I realised that she liked some of the literature texts we read at secondary school. Damilola mentioned that she liked Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Both are books we read at school. I remember struggling to get through these books for my IGCSE literature exam.

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I preferred the poetry section in literature at school. One of the poems I studied that stuck with me was The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

I don’t know if it was the thought that I had to read a book to pass an exam that made me not like literature. I wonder at other times if it was the selection of books that didn’t appeal to me. Primary school and junior secondary school literature was fine. I enjoyed reading Without A Silver Spoon by Eddie Iroh which was about a young boy from a poor background in Nigeria. Oliver Twist was also good.

I think a few of the books I read at school between ages of 8 and 13 had a common theme on how a family’s income can influence a child’s life chances, from Oliver Twist to Without A Silver Spoon.  I read Mother’s Choice by Agbo Areo when I was 11. This had a similar theme. It was about a young boy from a rich background in Nigeria and his parents send him to boarding school in England at a young age. He becomes wayward when he starts school in England.

The books at senior secondary school were the ones I struggled to read. It was at this stage that my class read Things Fall Apart and Romeo and Juliet. I feel because I was in a large literature class, it was hard for me to learn during classes. We usually had about 30 people in an average class. However, for literature, we were over 40 students in a class that was meant for 30 people.

If I were to suggest an improvement to my secondary school literature class, it would be that the teacher breaks the class into small groups. People can then discuss each book as though they were in a book club. That would have aided my understanding on each book. We could have had these book discussions in small groups during the many prep times we had. I went to boarding school and we had a lot of prep (periods in the afternoon and evenings meant for personal study).

I got through school and did well in literature but I think I should have taken more time to read the books. When it came to choosing subjects for my A Levels, I thought of doing Literature but I ended up choosing Sociology in place of English Lit. I also did French and Economics.

Although, I didn’t carry on studying literature at A Levels, I still enjoyed reading. I volunteered last year as a tutor in a secondary school in London and I assisted with their English lessons. The Year 7s read The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas and I read that with them. It’s about a boy who lives near a concentration camp in the Holocaust but he didn’t know what was going on in the camp. It was an interesting read and I also watched part of the movie adaptation.

Given that I didn’t really understand some of the literature texts I read at school, I’ve decided to re-read Things Fall Apart and I picked up a copy from my local library.  I think I might prefer reading it as an adult. Damilola recommended it and I’ll let you know my thoughts when I’ve read it.

Let me know if you studied literature at school and what books you enjoyed.

Exploring Books with Damilola

I interviewed my friend, Damilola for the blog. I’ve known Damilola from secondary school. We discussed books, reading and accessing books in Nigeria.damilola_mini

How did you get into reading?

I like to believe I learnt to read pretty fast. As a child, I read mostly storybooks with the popular children’s fairytales like The Princess and The Pea and Cinderella. The primary school I attended used to give us storybooks as birthday presents. Through my adolescence, I wasn’t much of a reader as most of my classmates were, but when I started doing literature in high school, I began to really like reading fiction mostly because of all the places I could go to through different books, and even then I was very picky. One of the first books I remember really enjoying was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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What were favourite books as a child?

As a child, I had this collection of books with some of the Grimm’s fairytales and a bunch of other children tales which I loved so much because there were many books in it. I can’t pick a favourite there. I don’t remember what I spent my childhood doing but I don’t think I read a lot.

Do you have a favourite genre of literature?

I do have a favourite genre of literature. Prose over all! To be more specific, I really like historical fiction. I read a few historical fiction books last year and I really enjoyed them.

*If you love Historical Fiction, you would like Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and The Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden, I wrote briefly about The Book of Harlan in this post.

How do you balance reading alongside other interests? For example, I like podcasts and sometimes it’s a struggle for me to decide whether to spend my time listening to a podcast or to a pick up a book instead.

Hmm. Balancing reading with other interests can be tricky sometimes. I love music, and I’ve found that reading while listening to music is not a bad idea. Especially, relaxed or wordless music. I find it hard sometimes to read while I’m commuting because I like to just look at the road, the other vehicles, the billboards and people walking on the street. Generally I just like to be aware when I’m in a moving vehicle. So sometimes it’s hard to make a decision between people-watching and picking a book from my bag to read. But when I’m at home or by myself, I’m usually drawn to read something.

Which authors stand out to you?

There are a lot of authors I’d like to read more from particularly because of the topics/issues they portray. I’d read anything by Chimamanda N Adichie, Marlon James, Taiye Selasi, Sefi Atta and many others I can’t remember right now. I’d definitely read anything they write or listen to any speeches they give.

What books would you recommend to people who are new to reading or want to read more but don’t know where to start?

The books I’d recommend are based on my taste and books I’ve really loved. One book I’ll always recommend is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s one of the most widely acclaimed books by an African writer, and for very good reason.

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If you’re not really into African Literature, Gillian Flynn has brilliant thrillers and Jodi Picoult is also very good. You should read Dark Places. I’m trying to read more non-fiction this year. One non-fiction book I would recommend is Freakonomics by Stephen J Dubner and Steven D Levitt. It’s one book that has really opened my mind to a different way of thinking and of viewing human behavior and incentives.

*If you’re looking to read more non-fiction, I recommended some in this post

Has living in Lagos affected your ability to access books you are interested in?

Because I’m a lot more interested in African Literature and writers, it hasn’t really been difficult finding the books I want to read in Lagos. Publishers like Kachifo and Cassava Republic are here in Nigeria and they have taken on the job of publishing the works of talented writers from across Africa. Also there are a few, but still well-stocked bookshops in Lagos that sell ‘African fiction’. Even when I can’t find a book I want, there’s such a large community of readers and writers in Lagos that there’d definitely be someone who can lend or barter a book with you.

Do you read e-books? Do you feel reading e-books in Nigeria would provide more people with access to reading books in Nigeria? 

Yes I read e-books. I’m hardly against it, but I also really love the smell and feel of physical books. I feel publishing e-books will give a lot of people access and exposure, especially to books from countries or writers who aren’t as popular over here. There are a few sites that sell e-books and many people download books using torrents.

What books do you hope to read in the near future?

Towards the end of last year, I made a list of books I was looking forward to reading as soon as I can get my hands on them. There’ll be more through the course of the year but here is my list for now.

Where can we find you on the internet?

I run a blog with a very good friend, Aramide. On the blog, you’ll find a few book reviews and stories about our personal lives as millennials living in West Africa. I’m also on twitter!

Book Review: Radio Sunrise by Anietie Isong

Radio Sunrise is about a radio journalist, Ifiok who loses funding for his radio drama on a public station in Nigeria. The government stops the funding the programme so he starts to look for alternative funding. The fact that the government cut the funding for the programme made me question whether we can rely on the government. One minute, they are helping the people and the next minute, the help stops. He is then called to work on a documentary about ex-militants in his hometown and the story follows his experience while he’s there.

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Ifiok is a journalist so he chats often with people and discovers new stories along the way. The novel ignited my interest in journalism and how it can expose things going on in society.

Ifiok’s interest as a journalist meant that sometimes he was more interested in recording a story than helping at an incident.  A fire started in Ifiok’s neighbourhood once and  he quickly brought out his tape recorder to record the event, rather than helping his neighbours who were trying to get water to quench the fire. You may wonder why people had to stop the fire themselves. It’s because the firemen arrived without any water and only came to record the incident.

One of the conversations that stuck with me from the book was Ifiok’s conversation with a woman who’s a street food seller. She mentioned how KFC’s arrival in Lagos had affected her business negatively. I remembered how I only thought about buying crispy fried chicken and chips in Lagos when KFC arrived. I didn’t think about the livelihoods it affected.

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In all, I enjoyed reading Radio Sunrise. Anietie writes in a way that talks about society in a funny way but questions important parts of society. I laughed a couple of times while reading Radio Sunrise. But, it also made me think a lot about the government, journalism and what it’s like being a young man in Nigeria facing societal pressure.

If you’re looking for a book that is easy to read, definitely pick up Radio Sunrise. It’s quite quick to get through too; it’s less than 200 pages long. This is Anietie’s first novel and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

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*I received Radio Sunrise as a gift from Jacaranda Books but all views are mine.