Like I do every year, I signed up for Goodreads’ 2016 Reading Challenge and failed miserably. My plan was to read 52 books and just yesterday, as I read the final chapter of Paulina Chiziane‘s Niketche – a novel in Portuguese language novel about polygamy in Mozambique – I closed the page on my 39th book of the year. Thirteen books behind, I could feel guilty, but why? I discovered audible and listened to 3.5 books (not counted), saved so many life minutes that I would have spent listening to garbage music or actually reading Mindy Kaling’s horrible book. I would say that’s a victory. And so, I will only feel but so guilty before I share with you my annual book review…
First, I have to say that my reading heavily focused on the two areas – productivity and my Ph.D. So, while both may seem boring as hell to you, they were fascinating to me and really pushed me to my professional limits. Second, you can imagine why this year is extremely difficult for me to judge – naming favorites across vastly different genres is really hard to do. Third, I apologize in advance because many of the books I read are not readily available. Last, if anybody is particularly interested in reading in Portuguese, I suggest you get very familiar with wook.pt and their global shipping rates.
So, let the fun begin…
My top five are as follows:
Living with Bad Surroundings by Sverker Finnstrom
You can read the book if you want to know what it’s about, but I particularly enjoyed it for its excellent writing. As a Ph.D. student struggling to contextualize and explain how everyday violence affects individuals and their life choices, I plan to fully mimic Finnstrom’s writing techniques and adapt them to my own study.
African Workers and Colonial Racism by Jeanne Marie Penvenne
As I wrote in my amazon.com review: “I found this study to be utterly fascinating and eerily relevant to the contemporary labor constraints in the capital of Mozambique. Anyone looking for a serious text about Mozambican economic and social realities should read this closely. It is not about the countries beaches and it doesn’t wax prophetic about the Portuguese colonial system, which I’m sure damages some people’s idyllic view of Mozambique as a country and Portugal as a racially proximate colonial master. But, with Portuguese colonialism lasting well into the 1970s, anyone living, studying or working in the country could well benefit from reading this text and understanding how it affects present day realities.”
Our Black Year by Maggie Anderson
While every year I have tried to become a more mindful consumer, this book taught me how hard that can be. For those of us who live in food deserts, it’s hard. For those looking to support small businesses it’s hard. But, this family’s quest to try to exclusively patronize Black-owned businesses while living in a predominantly Black neighborhood really showed me that the economics of poverty and patronage in the U.S. context are more complicated than I thought. I, for one, am taking a second to check the owners and competitors of businesses and products that I buy regularly. Entrepreneurship is to be praised and supported. Now, many years after this book was written, it’s even easier to support – no excuses. Your funds fund corporate ideologies and empires, the choice is always yours, consumer.
This Present Darkness by Stephen Ellis*
This book was written by a dead man. Really! He died while doing the research, but the study was so valuable and fascinating that his team continued his work. The study focuses on Nigeria’s black market scams and underworld. If you know anything about my interests, you know that mob movies and illegal activities are my schtick, so this story strikes a chord in my intellectual and entertainment soul. You’ve got to read it!
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
I have become a productivity addict and while listening to Asian Efficiency’s Productivity Podcast, I heard Mr. McKeown speak. Basically, he takes 100 years after your death approach to prioritizing what you should do daily. By his definition, you can throw away half the stuff on your current to-do list and never look back. It’s very freeing to pay attention to your legacy rather than your inbox, but it’s also a lot of responsibility. Once you figure out what you want your contribution to humanity to be, there’s really no looking back.
The bottom dwellers:
The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read by Daniel R. Solin
The 7 Secrets of the Prolific by Hillary Retig
The Americanization of Goans by Ladis da Silva
Actually, all of these books suck, so I won’t waste more time on them than is necessary. They all have great premises and are about really riveting subjects, but they are poorly executed in my opinion. So, read them if you must, but don’t say you weren’t warned.
I look forward to a 2017 without a goodreads challenge, but still with a lengthy reading list…
I welcome your suggestions. Leave ‘em in the comments.