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Books | Reading in Spring 2014

I’ve been reading like crazy lately and I love it!  I had fun sharing my winter 2014  roundup of books, so how about we talk about spring?  (Especially since I just started A Tale for the Time Being and Das Schloss — both 450+ pages —  which will certainly last me well into summer.)

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


I absolutely loved Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun from a few years ago, so I didn’t need too much convincing to add her latest book to my to-read list.   Whereas her last novel told the story of 1960s Nigeria and the Biafran War, Americanah spans cultures and worlds, capturing the essence of having a flexible sense of home and identify.  The two main characters in Americanah are Nigerians who deal with the harsh realities of migrating to the US and England, as well as the struggles inherent in returning home and finding themselves changed.   Adichie uses their love story to bluntly confront issues of race, privilege, xenophobia, immigration, and cultural identity.   I enjoyed the story and found myself pulled into the book, but I have to admit that Half of a Yellow Sun wowed me more.   If you haven’t read anything by Adichie yet, I would recommend starting there first for a stunning story rooted in Nigerian history, and then making your way to Americanah for a more modern take on what it means to be Nigerian.

In der Strafkolonie, by Franz Kafka

In der Strafkolonie

Back in 2006, I went through a Kafka phase, reading English-language translations of The Trial and The Metamorphosis and wishing that my German was good enough to read the originals.  Now eight years later, thanks to a friend who is letting me borrow his Kafka collection, I’m getting my wish!

Not really being patient enough to reread the stories of his that I’m already familiar with, I thought I’d start with one of Kafka’s short novellas called In der Strafkolonie (or In the Penal Colony).  I am happy to report that these days the language itself is not too difficult, except for those notoriously long sentences — which are annoying, but also somehow the essence of Kafka’s writing style.

Anyway, In der Strafkolonie is a troubling story of a traveler to a penal colony, who is there to observe a convoluted form of execution which carves prisoners’ sentences into their skin over the course of 12 hours until they die.   Since this art of tortured execution is itself dying out in the penal colony, an officer who remains fervidly devoted to the execution machine tries to persuade the traveler of its merits.  Let’s just say there isn’t a happy ending — but I guess with Kafka, you kind of come to expect that, right?

In any case, my little Kafka experiment was a success!  And now I’m looking forward to seeing where Das Schloss (The Castle) takes me.

What are your favorite books at the moment?  Have you read anything intriguing that you could recommend?


  1. nikki says:

    Interesting to know that Half a Yellow Sun was more wowing. I admit I only read Americanah because a friend gave it to me, and I had “friend book present guilt” which I really resent. But Americanah was a lot of fun to read, and there was a lot of interesting thoughts to chew on. It was such a new perspective on America and American race relations for me, and I always like getting my perspective all shook up. As much as it had to say and I enjoyed it, I couldn’t say it wowed me either. So yearh, I’ll keep Yellow Sun at the back of my mind.

    • Interesting! I found Ngozi Adichie’s writing a lot more convincing in Half a Yellow Sun, although I’m not sure why, since Americanah seems to be quasi-autobiographical. If you do end up reading it, I’d love to know what you think.

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