I came across a meme recently “You know you’re a bookaholic when…” One was “when the first thing you look at in a friend’s house is the bookshelves”. I identified. I house sat for another Africa in Words writer recently, and as I looked at the shelves wondered if I could stay until I had read all the new books.
Who else has your books?
Which books do only you have? (pity the poor author, crying over the remainder pile)
Librarything even has a page ‘which books should you borrow?’ where you can compare your collection to that of another person. The site then calculates (via magic elves, I have no clue) what books you might like from their collection, kind of a remote version of poking around someone else’s shelves and spotting that book you always meant to buy / loan / read.
I like how librarything seems to have expanded, going past a chance to review and critique books to forming bookish support groups for each other. People think I read a lot in my home town said one comment I read recently but compared to the members of this group, I’m about average. It’s not quite lifesaving in the way sites like postsecret aspire to be, but still.
Even Amazon is in on the act (owning goodreads, but also via a kindle notes site) . You can avoid Amazon and do this just for your ebooks on sites such as Readmill, where I’ve also found other readers of “African interest” amongst the majority reading tech and design guides.It turns out that there are groups reading and discussing African fiction too, and I’ve found several new (to me) books this way.
It has also been a nice to find tangible evidence of how wide ranging readers’ tastes are in 2013. One of my favourite ‘books about books’ is Jonathan Rose’s “The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes” which despite the dry title is actually a well written account of digging in old library records, and so the lives of others.
Rose looked at logs kept by private circulation libraries in Welsh mining villages. He found that rather than sticking to a particular genre, people jumped between political theory and westerns (for example). It’s funny to think that this kind of research in ‘real world’ libraries is going to be difficult in years to come due to the Data Protection Act. Also kind of sad. I don’t want the historians of the future to think that my blogging (for example) is representative of what I read. Perhaps these amateur library sites offer a way through that legal maze.
Not content with nabbing fiction from others bookshelves, and as not all fiction published in South Africa overlaps here in the UK, visitors are often asked to stick a paperback in their bag. Returning from South African book related travels, Katie Reid has mailed me two of Umuzi‘s list. I was supposed to start with a novel about South African veterans. However, I read Marli Roode’s ‘Call it Dog‘ last month.
It turns out in the wake of Roode’s account of unresolved, but officially sanctioned, violence, “Lessons in Husbandry” was much more appealing.
This is not just because of the gorgeous cover on Shaida Kazie Ali‘s latest, already a prize winner.
Rather than hide the workshopped, writing programmed nature of the contemporary novel in the acknowledgments to Iowa or Anglia faculty, here the writer uses creative writing prompts to push her character’s autobiographical account of losing a sibling, a family, a sense of entitlement to her own life. Ali’s novel also seems very much of the time, reflecting recent discussions of the Caine Prize focus on migration.
She sidesteps one grief a little too tidily at the end for me, but the humour and vitality in the novel means I’ll be putting an order in to the next traveller for Ali’s first novel. Although I hope that it will be published in the UK soon.