eople often talk to me a lot about how their busy schedules cannot accommodate a lot of reading time. While I understand that life gets hectic sometimes, I still firmly believe that reading is essential. That is why I have listed 5 brilliant books that everyone can read in less than a week. All it takes is a little dedication and interest, and before you know it, you’ll have finished them! Nothing beats the feeling of closing a book after having read its last page.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. An American Slave, by Frederick Douglass.
“For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst. I have ever found them the meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly, of all others.”
Frederick Douglass’ autobiography is at once considered a major contribution to the abolitionist cause, a passionate treatise against any form of slavery, and a testament to the power of reading and education. Douglass was born into a family of slaves in the United States of America, he educated himself through the hardships of slavery, fuelled by an immense will-power for education and freedom for himself and his people. His personal account of his journey from slave to one of America’s greatest statesmen, writers, and anti-slavery advocates is as gripping and heart-wrenching as it is inspiring and uplifting.
The Education of a British-Protected Child, by Chinua Achebe
“Paradoxically, a saint like [Albert] Schweitzer can give one a lot more trouble than King Leopold II, villain of unmitigated guilt, because along with doing good and saving African lives Schweitzer also managed to announce that the African was indeed his brother, but only his junior brother.”
This collection of essays takes us through the first 30 years of Chinua Achebe’s life, before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. In these essays, Achebe paints a candid and ironic portrait of modern, colonial life in Nigeria, and he reflects on the wider repercussions of Nigeria’s past on its future. By doing so, the ‘Giant of African Literature’ does not shy away from implicating his own fellow Nigerians, as well as European actors in Africa’s contemporary problems and status.
The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, by James Weldon Johnson.
“…but if the Negro is so distinctly inferior, it is a strange thing to me that it takes such tremendous effort on the part of the white man to make him realize it, and to keep him in the same place into which inferior men naturally fall.”
This is the fictional account of a light-skinned bi-racial man who decides to renounce his blackness and pass as a white man. The ‘Ex-Colored Man’ lives in the nineteenth and early twentieth century America and takes us through his life’s experiences. By ‘unidentifying’ as black for his own safety and advancement, he also gives up on his dream of creating a new African-American musical genre, and is forced to neglect and despise his actual race and culture.
This book tells us the remarkable story of a man who ‘passes as white’ and the unearned advantages this ‘whiteness’ brings him. He moves freely through America and later Europe, knowing that if he passed as ‘black’, the freedoms he is enjoying as a white man would be inaccessible to him. It’s a tale of America’s (and Europe’s) race policies and social systems, and a tale of the paradoxical attitudes of Europeans towards race and skin colour.
Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy.”
Coates’ boldly written exploration of America’s fraught racial history and the contemporary challenges the nation faces, is probably one of the best-reviewed books of 2015. Coates’ work is a collection of letters to his adolescent son, through which he tries to explain to him – and to us – his experiences throughout his life in America, the wider understanding of race, America’s treatment of its own past, and the roots of American society and identity. In Toni Morrison’s words, Coates’ book is “as profound as it is revelatory.”
A Mercy, by Toni Morrison.
“There is no protection. To be female in this place is to be an open wound that cannot heal. Even if scars form, the festering is ever below.”
A Mercy is the story about the life of little eight-year-old Florens, a slave girl who is accepted as payment in lieu of money by her future slave master and plantation owner Jacob. Florens has a keen intelligence and a passion for wearing her mistress’ shoes, and has never been able to really blur into the background and be invisible, the way it was expected from slaves. When Jacob accepts her as payment, her life is irrevocably uprooted, she is separated from her family and forced to live in a new home. She is taken to Jacob’s house and starts a new life with his wife Rebekka, Lina their Native American servant, and the enigmatic Sorrow, who is said to have been rescued from a shipwreck.This is a novel about the trials and tribulations faced by these three women in the harsh environment of North America during slavery in the 17th century.