This past year taught us, the editors and contributors of this magazine, to read more and it convinced us that it is more important than ever to share the knowledge and help our audiences find a sense of direction.
Quite eagerly, and perhaps of all things, we don’t read books because they are new or because they are trending. We read books not just because it’s fun, moving and evocative — or because it’s a fancy thing to do nowadays — but also because we read to learn and keep growing. Hence, most of the books on this list were not published in twenty-seventeen.
“Ngucire Umugani” by Cyprien Rugamba (1987)
One would easily claim that Cyprien Rugamba was the pioneer of short stories as far as Rwandan literature goes. In Ngucire Umugani (first part), a number of connected themes — including but not limited to friendship, parenthood and childhood — are explored. His very swift writing style gathers incidents from the old times, and their respective lifestyles, which deliver lessons that can still be applied in our day to day lives. In this book, he depicts the essence and structure of a short story. It’s an important and fun read for people who wish to revisit storytelling in Ikinyarwanda.
“Mahoro” by Natacha Karambizi (2017)
Mahoro is Natacha Karambizi’s first novel. It tells the story of protagonist Mahoro who — after living through the Rwandan genocide at such a tender age — must make sense of her past years later, even when it means dealing with and accepting some uncomfortable truths. (Read a more elaborate review of this book on Mellowviews.)
“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953)
Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian account of an American society in which books are banned and firemen burn every last one. Ray used this book to portray the consequences of failing to cultivate a critical and open mind. It is especially an interesting read now when set against our modern context of ‘fake news’ and political correctness.
“Petit Pays” by Gael Faye (2016)
Gael Faye’s debut novel is a story told retrospectively that centres around Gabriel, who is haunted by his troubling past. Petit Pays’s beginning and end take place in Burundi where Gabriel was born to a French father and a Rwandan mother. The novel is a collection of Gabriel’s recollections of the peace that had once been, of the pain of growing up too quickly, and the war which not only happened around him but also inside him. (Read a more elaborate review on Mellowviews.)
“The Go-giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea” by Bob Burg, John David Mann (2007)
In a city glowing with an effervescent economy and entrepreneurial spirit, the youth is now known to consume voluminous reads regarding laws of economic growth and how-tos. The Go-giver is a tiny little book with an encyclopedia-like cover, of a hundred and thirty pages, that embeds the secret of trade and its five laws of stratospheric success.
It focuses on the power of ‘Giving’ as the ultimate difference between people who are good at what they do and people who are stratospherically successful.
This story of a young ambitious hard worker who always gets half the result compared to the effort he spends, and the fear he had to approach a successful mentor, is quite a resonating description of what most young people face. Yet the book reminds, in the words of Larry King, “The bigger they are, the nicer they are.” My best read of 2017.
“Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen” by Mary Norris (2015)
One of the praises on the book cover describes Between You & Me as “Pure porn for words nerds” and I agree. If you’ve had a chance to read Marry Norris, who is a former copy editor at the stylish New Yorker magazine, you probably know how witty she can be. Her book is a vivid explanation of what it means to value language and writing, and spelling, punctuation, and usage, and why it matters in these critical times. Fun and immersing, and educative, It is as important as a dictionary or any book that reminds you of the small — yet big — mistakes we overlook. For storytelling, for learning, and for laughter.
“Science in the Soul: Selected Writings by a Passionate Rationalist” by Richard Dawkins (2017)
Many would describe Richard Dawkins as an atheist — of course, because religious belief has been such an important part of our life in this part of the world — but that’s just a drop in the ocean. Dawkins is a respected ethologist and evolutionary biologist and one of the greatest ‘science communicators’ alive, among many other things. Science in the Soul is an anthology of forty-one of his essays, speeches, and journalistic writings.
From religion to philosophy and spirituality, subtitles and fireworks, humour and satire, Dawkins’s arguments are provocative yet compelling. He writes, “Science really matters for life — and by ‘science’ I mean not just scientific facts, but the scientific way of thinking.”
As a fan of nonfiction works, I have enjoyed reading essays in the past few years, and this collection is by far the most compelling and passionate manifesto for science—and, indeed, a call to arms in its cause—I have ever read. As Dawkins puts it, “There is objective truth out there and it is our business to find it.”
“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil de Grasse Tyson (2017)
In this book, Neil deGrasse simplifies and breaks down the complexity of the cosmos, condensing hard to understand the phenomenon in a sweet, funny, and concise way. He describes and provides details — from the Bing Bang, the dark matter, dark energy, quasars, all the way to the black holes. He mixes novelties about sciences and humour he is well known for, to offer an easy-to-digest masterpiece. I particularly enjoyed how he wants the reader to take away humility in addition to understanding the basics of astrophysics from the book by realising how small humans are and how much they are yet to define in the grand scheme of the universe.
“Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari (2015)
Pretty much a continuation of his previous bestseller, Sapiens, he builds on the concepts of the history of humankind to somehow predict the future where humans get an upgrade into gods. Building on rather wonderful and terrific strides over the past century where humankind has transformed incomprehensible and uncontrollable natural challenges into easy-to-solve problems, think of vaccines for eradicated diseases, building up after wars, industrial revolutions that significantly reduced global famine. Harari looks at destinies that we are setting ourselves to, as we reign over the world like gods, not responding to chaos — as in the previous century — but as we innovate, create, and redefine living by defying death and explore trans-humanism from super-humans to “Dataism” by empowering non-conscious but intelligent algorithms to replicate and extend how far organisms can go.
Have books you enjoyed reading last year? Share in the comments.