In which I wrap up December

(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
I’ve been reading Kent Annan’s Slow Kingdom Coming over the past couple of months and I think it’s really good and helpful for thinking about approaching international aid and development – even if you’re not a Christian and don’t think of increased global equality and flourishing as a part of the coming kingdom of God. The habits and practices he discusses as ways of approaches to take on board if you’re thinking about ‘helping people’ are just valid, regardless of faith.

Holidays = BUNCHES of reading time. On my holidays I read:

  • Chinaman – Shehan Karunatilake, which is about cricket in Sri Lanka. I enjoyed it a lot, but it was a good 100 or so pages too long. I’m also not sure if it’s a novel that would work if you don’t already like cricket and feel the attraction of its weirdo magnetism: at least 30% of my liking for it came from the fact that it’s populated by cricketers who I used to watch back when crickets was on’t’telly.
  • Human Acts – Han Kang, a powerful book about political revolt in South Korea. It wasn’t something I knew anything about – and the novel was both illuminating and powerful – without being either sentimental or gratuitous. It tells the story in a number of short accounts from different perspectives from the revolt up to the present days, which is a really effective way of illustrating the impact of events on people over time.
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, which I’m about a decade late to, but I loved. I really need to remember how much I enjoy Adiche’s writing and stories and not leave her books lying on my shelf waiting for me to get around to. Like good old friends they deserve bettter attention.
  • Six Four – Hideo Yokoyama, which is our January book club pick and something quite different for us. I’m not usually a big crime reader, but I really enjoyed this: the way that it’s about what is going on within the internal politics of the police force totally worked for me.
  • The Sellout – Paul Beatty, which won the Booker Prize. I tried to set aside my crankiness that this beat out Do Not Say We Have Nothing and just read the book – and I think that the book’s quality is probably higher than my enjoyment level (and that one of the major reasons that it won the Booker is because it’s the kind of book that makes nice middle class white liberals good about reading it and about opposing people like Donald Trump). I never actively enjoyed the whole reading experience, though I enjoyed particular sentences very much, but I am glad that I read it. There was a lot that didn’t ‘speak’ to me or that I didn’t really understand, but equally, I don’t think it was supposed to or trying to, and there’s something refreshing about the fact that it didn’t want to provide a universal experience.

(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
I made it to the cinema twice while I was away, to see Rogue One and Edge of Seventeen again, both of which I really enjoyed.
Rogue One was wonderful to me because it didn’t sell Felicity Jones short and she is my favourite and also because it dared to really embrace it’s stand-alone story status. I loved the fact that it made the rebellion a little murkier and more complicated – I’ve enjoyed the whizz-bang heroics of the ‘main’ Star Wars verse, but this was real-er for me.
Edge of Seventeen made me realise I probably need some therapy to deal with my over-identification with angst-ridden isolated teenagers like Nadine. The scene where she goes to the party was the most ‘It Me’ scene I’ve seen for a long time in cinema and I snuffled my little heart out, to the bafflement of my motherm who came to see it with me.

(3) Things which I wrote

Just a few wrap up posts for 2016:

(4) A photo from the month gone by
Sunset from South Africa

(5) In the pile for January
I’ve been slowly and steadily reading my way through The Good Immigrant, which I’ve been loving, and I’m planning on finishing the last few this month. I started the year with Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind and enjoyed it immensely, so I’ll be reading it’s sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear. While I wait for that I’m reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thang Nguyen, which won the Pulitzer last year and is a spy novel about Vietnam. I’ve also picked up Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue, which is an Eygptian dystopia novel, and Imraan Coovadia’s Tales of the Metric System, which is about South Africa from the 1970s to now. Coming back home, I’m going to read Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun and Emma Jones’ Following On, while my ‘Sundays’ book is going to be Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary.

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