Thursday, 27 August 2020

Shoe Rack

Time for the final, final stop on my bookshelf tour. I very recently acquired a shoe rack, made by my friend Désiré, who I do the pianos with. It's become a makeshift extension of the bookshelf. The majority of the books here were left to me by my neighbour Didier, before he headed off to study in Canada. He was such a nice guy, and a great cat sitter when I went away, so he is much missed, but he's joined his brothers overseas to complete his studies.

A few months before he left, he told me that he'd started getting into fiction. It's rare to meet Rwandans who really enjoy reading novels. Most people you meet prefer self-improvement books or non-fiction, and the majority of reading is focused on academic texts. There are hardly any bookstores, and the price of books is high. They're very much luxury items. The price of a glossy paperback in Ikirezi can easily represent a month's wages for someone in the villages. So, there's a sense that if you're going to spend your time reading, it should be something that will increase your income or job opportunities in the future, rather than something you do solely for pleasure.

I lent my neighbour everything on my top shelf - the best books - and he really enjoyed The Book of Negroes. So, when he left, he gave me a bag of books to enjoy. Really lovely of him. A shared love of literature is a wonderful thing. Sadly, I have very little spare time to read much anymore and almost exclusively listen to audiobooks either in the shower, whilst cooking or loading the washing machine, or whilst falling asleep at night. I've kept these books but intend to sort through them and either read them or find good homes for them.

Forgot to mention this lovely little card on top of the bookshelf. This was a birthday card from dad and Marilyn a couple of years back. A 3D kitten-in-the-garden scene. Cute.

So, here's the books on the shoe rack, and perhaps you can tell me which are worth reading. Just before we get onto that, I should explain that I'm currently cosied up with my books and all my belongings in the spare room at the moment whilst the front room, where the bookshelf usually lives, is being renovated. One of the hazards of Rwandan houses is that they tend to rot during the wet season and the concrete needs patching up every couple of years. It happens to all the houses. So, the workmen have been in the past couple of days and now everything's damp-proofed again and repainted nicely. Just in time for the wet season, which is due in a week or two.

So, here's the collection.

Mysterious Hardback

There's a couple in there that I nicked from my friend's restaurant, CasaKeza. She had a few lying around for people to read, and I'd never read Nietzsche, and I'm a fan of The L Word, so I pinched her copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I still haven't read Nietzsche.

I think I also nicked The Secret Life of Stuff from there. All about where the things we buy come from and what their impact on the environment is.

There's also The Honking, which I bought from Acacia Book Café the same day I persuaded the owner to sell me the not-for-sale copy of Shadow of the Wind (top shelf). It caught my eye as it's a murder mystery by a Ugandan author, Mulumba Ivan Matthias, and the blurb caught my attention:

Students are getting murdered inside Makerere University. Fear is spreading. Life moves on for some yet for others, it is never the same. Kaggwa looks for an income beyond the handouts from his much older lover. Professor Mukalazi, unhappy at home and at work, is dealing with the consequences of his actions as he fights not to become a total failure. We encounter grieving friends and lovers, a web of affairs, and a death that opens the flood gates of anger.

I was hoping it would be another Tail of the Blue Bird, but the prose could do with a polish so I didn't get very far into it.

There's a couple of books in the collection I definitely want to read. Obviously Pigs in Heaven, as it was written by Barbara Kingsolver, who wrote The Poisonwood Bible, one of the greatest books ever written. I believe she was also in a rock band with Stephen King? There's a copy of The Time Traveler's Wife, which is very famous and therefore I feel I should read it, although stories of time travel don't really float my boat, so I'll maybe pick it up on audiobook someday. I also have a copy of The Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller, which rings a bell as being quite famous? And, finally, the Mysterious Hardback, which turned out to be a copy of The Hammer of Eden by Ken Follett, who wrote another of the greatest books around, Pillars of the Earth.

I also have a random Dutch novel, De engel van Amsterdam by Geert Mak. I believe this was left behind, along with The Book of Negroes, by the Pinhoe pilferers (see top shelf). I have a couple of Dutch friends so will find it a good home.

Apart from those, I have no knowledge of, nor connection to, any of the remaining books (in no particular order): Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a New York Times bestseller; The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, the title of which intrigues me; elaine's circle by Bob Katz; The Potato Factory by Bryce Courtnay; Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, this one's lost its cover; The Bay of Foxes by Sheila Kohler, which looks like a short read and also delightfully deckle-edged, which automatically endears me to it; the white bone by Barbara Gowdy, which is probably a lovely read but I'm repelled by the lack of capitalisation in the title - it's an edgy style choice, but not one that I will ever agree to willingly; Confessor by Terry Goodkind, which appears to be the last book in a long series and is also an NYT bestseller; Phantom by Jo Nesbo, another NYT bestseller. I'm not sure I feel hugely drawn to any of these, but if you think I'm missing a hidden gem, let me know.

So, all that's left is to introduce you to Harris Bear, who guards the bookshelf against Pinhoe pocketers with his ferocious cuteness. His name's Harris Bear after my friend Harris, who had him delivered, along with a suitable quantity of whiskey, chocolate and gorgeous flowers, for my birthday last year. He was a good friend who used to visit Rwanda several times a year for his PhD research. He now has his PhD and won't be returning, so Harris Bear is my substitute drinking buddy. I hope to see the original in Europe at some point if the plague ever subsides.

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