The Three Rs: Reading, Reading and Reading

by Ikhide R. Ikheloa

First published in Next Newspapers on January, 23, 2011. Reproduced here for archival purposes only.

If you love reading this is a great time to be alive. Thanks to technology, pretty much anything these days is a book. There is always something to read.  The democratization of reading is happening at a time when it appears that people have lost interest in reading anything that doesn’t chant “Amen!” at them. Today, there are homes that house no books. Unfortunately, there are children in those homes. That is child abuse. A child should be immersed in all sorts of books. I know, I know, I have said that the book is dying a long slow death. A house should be slaphappy with books and ideas. Look at it another way: This is a great time to buy books because no one wants them anyway. Buy them and leave them lying around the house. A child may just read them.

I have enjoyed reading many African writers. The younger ones tend to be enthusiastic and eager to be published. Many are good at what they do, but if I had to give advice, I would suggest that many of our writers would improve their craft if they spent more time reading than writing. Read, read, and read. You will be surprised at how much it improves on your muse’s judgment.  What do I read? People regularly send me books from Nigeria. I stalk used bookshops thrift stores, and yard sales. You would be surprised what Americans will give away for pennies. I trek the Internet buying the books of my childhood. If you really want to see how the Internet is fueling the renaissance that is African literature today, google “African writing”, kick back with a good glass of something red, luscious and bold and enjoy yourself. There are blogs, websites, and Facebook pages out there devoted to some pretty good writing. Google Nnorom Azuonye and his Sentinel Poetry Movement and you will be love-struck. Jeremy Weate, (who with Bibi Bakare-Weate publishes Cassava Republic) owns Naijablog, a brilliant blog that I am fairly addicted to. Read Molara Wood’s Wordsbody, Chuma Nwokolo’s African-Writing, and Sola Osofisan’s Africanwriter.com and Nigeriansinamerica.com. And of course, for home grown investigative reporting, late breaking news, literature and some pretty strong opinions, you should visit Sowore Omoyele’s inimitable Saharareporters and Philip Adekunle’s bustling Nigeria Village Square.

The irrepressible writer and poet Obi Iwuanyanwu (Obiwu) manages a small group of top notch Nigerian writers on the list-serve Ederi. The poet Amatoritsero Ede edits Maple Tree Literary Supplement and manages the list-serve Krazitivity. Indeed, many of today’s Nigerian literary stars cut their teeth on Krazitivity under the watchful eyes of griots like Obiwu Iwuanyanwu, Tade Ipadeola, Pius Adesanmi, Molara Wood, Chika Unigwe, Olu Oguibe, Afam Akeh, Lola Shoneyin, Chuma Nwokolo, EC Osondu, Jude Dibia, Tolu Ogunlesi and Victor Ehikhamenor. Shola Adenekan runs The New Black Magazine.  Kola Tubosun blogs his escapades in America and elsewhere in ktravula. Chielozona Eze connects the lush dots of African Literature in his blog African Literature News and Review. Google the Zimbabwean writer Ivor Hartmann of Storytime and be enthralled. Do not die until you have read Ainehi Edoro’s blog, Brittle Paper.  Edoro is enigmatic, witty, brainy and just plain fun.  Binyavanaga Wainaina is the brainy godfather of them all, spewing his brilliant rage on our e-conscience. The uber-smart Petina Gappah blogs (too occasionally lately, alas) on The World According to Gappah. Oh, if you are on Facebook, please visit my favorite, Auntie PJ’s page, Let’s Talk About It. The sum total of our sexuality is on full luscious display right there in all its glory. It is not literature as we know it, but I highly recommend it. There are also many groups and pages on Facebook devoted to literature and writers. I am friends with several African writers on Facebook and they are an invaluable source of manuscripts, stories, leads, books, etc. They tend to accept you as a friend once you request, don’t be shy.

When I read books, I take copious notes along the margins of the books. The notes are usually my observations about many aspects of the book I am reading. At the end of the reading, I always go back and compile all the notes and it never fails, strong opinions always result from the compilation. I invariably always publish the opinions for what they are worth. If I like a book, I say so. If I don’t, I say so. It is really nothing personal. And please do not take me too seriously; I am just an opinionated consumer that has been fooled by America into thinking he is always right. I am a consumer, I paid for the damn book, and I am right. Deal with it. So tell me, I really would love to hear from you. Where do you go to for the literature of our people? I am thinking of compiling a digital reading list that I would share with the world. Send me your favorite digital site and I will put it out there for the world to see and enjoy.