Ideas, Stories, and Profiles

TWENTY-EIGHTEEN was a big year for books and lovers of literature. As more bookstores open in Kigali, it’s safe to say our literary foundations are well picking up and information is spreading like never before. We cannot wait to see the change it brings to the city and how it shapes the future of literacy in Rwanda.

Israel Bimpe and I read Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker. It is the most fascinating book I read last year, and definitely my new favourite. I grew to admire Pinker’s work ever since I read The Better Angles of Our Nature, which is now the most important book I have ever read. A polemic against pessimism and cognitive bias, Pinker’s Enlightenment Now (published in March twenty-eighteen) is well-argued, making the case for the Enlightenment values – of reason, science, and humanism – and why they’ve been essential to human progress. He argues that these values are under threat from modern trends like political correctness, religious fundamentalism, and post-modernism – and it’s hard to disagree.

Bimpe also read Factfulness by Hans Rosling – very similar to Pinker’s, although more focused on the numbers ­– and Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin.

Nicky Uwase read Lying, a long-form essay by neuroscience expert Sam Harris, among others. Lying “argues that we could actually live good lives without ever lying,” Nicky told me. “I disagreed, though it was a good way to challenge myself.” But Nicky says she enjoyed reading Flowers of Algernon, a “psychological experiment on the brain of a human and that of a rat. And how similar we are. And the power of suggestion.” By reading it, she learned that “we can totally reshape the brains of those around us if we take enough time to do it.”

Another book that Nicky loved reading is Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue.

On Christian Ituze’s list, there is a rather more interesting book: Rwemerikije: Ibuye si umugati, a 1988 classic novel, written in Kinyarwanda, by Aloys Rugema. “Reading this book is not only fun but also very instructive, as far as the Rwandan culture and way of life [back then] is concerned,” says Ituze. “If it were up to me, I would recommend it to be a must-read for students across high schools in Rwanda.”

Tara Westover’s Educated is another fascinating memoir that I read. If you’re thrilled to understand the contrast between an educated and an uneducated mind, add it to your reading list. Historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harrari’s latest book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – which provides a deeply reflective exposé on global trends such as artificial intelligence, big data and bio-technology, rise of populism, and much more – is also an important read. Very thought-provoking and informative. If you’re looking for clarity for the current century and are interested in understanding where the world is going, this is a must-read.

That aside, a big shout-out to Karen Bungingo for her debut memoir, My Name Is Life. It is a beautiful small book, written in easy prose, narrating her story as a cancer survivor. As Bimpe puts it, it’s 200 pages of flawless storytelling. And whether you like it or not, My Name is Life was Kigali’s book of the year twenty-eighteen.

Have something to add to this story? Write to editor@kigalian.com.