In 2017, I watched a lot less series and movies than the year(s) before, and by consequence, I started reading a lot more again. Next to reading a lot online for both work and pleasure, I finished 29 books and read just below 10,000 pages.
What were the highlights and why did I read those books?
Philosophy, theology, and thinking
Vinoth Ramachandra‘s Subverting Global Myths finally made it to my “finished” reading list. I had started the book in 2016 already and finished it early 2017. Ramachandra has been and continues to be a frequent guest at Ichtus events, the student ministry I worked for in Belgium. As IFES Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement, and a non-Westerner, he often provokes our thinking and he does exactly this in Subverting Global Myths while discussing myths of terrorism, religious violence, human rights, multiculturalism, science, and postcolonialism.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists was the shortest book I read last year but by no means the least important one. I think every man should read this book. It’s a very good introduction to what women go through on a daily basis. In the wake of the #MeToo confessions, I’ve been shocked several times by how horrible men can be. In March, I wrote this short review:
So far my only Goodreads friends who have read this book are women. More men should read this book.
That hasn’t changed. None of my male Goodreads contacts have read this short book.
The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu was the right book at the right time. Especially the first half of 2017 was quite tough. I complained a lot and often felt discouraged and overwhelmed. Receiving wisdom from two elderly men whose followers have gone through such trials and challenges helped me to put things into perspective.
Early in 2017, I felt frustrated that I hadn’t read any introductions into the theology coming from the African continent. I don’t really like talking about “black” or “African” theology because we don’t do the same for American and European theology. In any case, I asked my friend Bosco Bangura, a PhD from Sierra Leone, for some recommendations and he pointed me to John Parratt’s Reinventing Christianity. Though quite dated as a lot has happened in 20 years, the book serves as a good introduction into some of the more central theological questions on the African continent, especially in its connection to traditional religions and colonialism.
Trevor Noah’s story is pretty unique. He’s now known as the host of The Daily Show, but his South African upbringing gives a good insight into our country. Born A Crime made me at moments shocked about the atrocities of Apartheid, while at other times I was laughing out loud at the absurd situations he gets himself into.
In combination with this, I also read Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull, the author’s personal reflections and report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As a white, Afrikaans woman, Antjie takes us on a journey of exposing the challenges and the flaws of the TRC, while wrestling with her own white privileged position of not realising how bad Apartheid truly was.
I devoured Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge and Century trilogies. “Devouring” is the only verb I can use. I had read Pillars of the Earth a few years ago and in preparing for A Column of Fire to be released, I read World Without End, probably my least favourite Follett I read this year. A Column of Fire however was a lot better than the second book in the trilogy. After finishing the Kingsbridge books, I started Follett’s Century trilogy focusing on World War I, World War II, and the Cold War respectively.
Last year, I deliberately wanted to limit the number of books by American authors. Even more so, I wanted to make sure that the majority of the non-fiction I read was written by authors from the Global South. With 6 out of 14, I just missed that target, but if I look at the books that have had the biggest influence on my thinking this year, the balance is quite a bit better with 5 out of 6.