Booked All Week

and next week, too

Reading Projects: Kenyan Authors and Victorian Spiritualism

with 15 comments

This semester of school will be my last…at least for the foreseeable future. I’m both happy and nervous about that (but mostly happy, since honestly, I’m still in complete denial about what that’s going to mean for me as far as responsibility and sense of life-direction and all that goes). But I’d like to keep the studious habit of looking closely into specific subjects that interest me even as I leave college. Setting myself up for some more directed reading will help me do that, I think. So, I’ve come up with a few short-term reading projects for myself that I’m very, very excited about!!!

The first is in conjunction with a trip I’ll be making with my mom, and possibly my brother, to Kenya next July/August. My mom’s been involved for years with a non-profit that operates there and assists rural communities in digging wells and maintaining their own fresh, clean water supplies. We’re going to do a site visit! (We’ll be doing a few other things, too, but our plans are still a bit up in the air at this point so I can’t share them). I am beyond thrilled. Together, we’re going to prepare by reading one Kenyan author a month–and one book about Kenya–until our departure (mom’s a big reader too). Our tentative reading list includes:

1. Wizard of the Crow, by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

2. The Other Woman OR Land Without Thunder, by Grace Ogot

3. The River and the Source, by Margaret Ogola

4. One Day I Will Write About this Place: A Memoir, by Binyavanga Wainaina

5. Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya, by Caroline Elkins

6. The Challenge for Africa OR Unbowed: A Memoir, by Wangari Maathai

Have you read any of these? Do you have a favorite Kenyan author? Would you recommend different titles by these same authors? Anyone I MUST add? Have you been to Kenya/have suggestions for my trip? Please do let me know!

My second project, which I would wait until the fall to start if I weren’t so curious about it, is to read at least three of the following five books about women and Victorian spiritualism this year:

1. Altered States: Sex, Nation, Drugs, and Self-Transformation in Victorian Spiritualism, by Marlene Tromp

2. The Sympathetic Medium: Feminine Channelling, the Occult, and Communication Technologies, 1859–1919, by Jill Galvan

3. The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, by Alex Owen

4. Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism, by Barbara Weisberg

5. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth Century America, by Ann Braude

I think there’s just enough variety of focus in those titles to keep it non-redundant. Have you read anything on the subject worth checking out?

I’ve had so much fun compiling these short lists…I hope these projects are successful if only so that I can keep designing them. I’ve got a few other ideas in mind, already (Victorian circus cultures, you’re up next)!

Have any specific subjects have caught your reading imagination lately?

Written by Emily Jane

January 5, 2012 at 9:58 pm

15 Responses

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  1. oh I look forward to your Kenyan reviews I read a lot less african fiction last year than I did the year before so would love some inspiration Emily ,happy new year ,all the best stu


    January 5, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    • Thanks Stu, happy new year to you too! I’m really excited to do the reading. Feel free to join me for a few if you’d like 🙂

      Emily Jane

      January 6, 2012 at 12:55 am

  2. Though my reading is skewed towards African authors my forage into Kenyan literature is very limited. I’ve read four different authors but three of them are short stories. The other author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, is one I’ve read quite well, if reading four books from an author could be described as such. Follow this link, it might be helpful.

    Wizard of the Crow is considered one of his good books.

    Nana Fredua-Agyeman

    January 6, 2012 at 7:53 am

    • I’m excited to try him out, Nana. And thank you for the link! You’ve accumulated quite a wonderful list 🙂

      Emily Jane

      January 8, 2012 at 4:37 am

  3. Despite how interesting the Kenyan books look, I am more enthousiastic about the Victorian Spiritualism & woman reading. That is a super fascinating subject!! I almost want to join you, except that I am not sure what my life will look like this year..


    January 7, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    • I think so too Iris! I am so excited to learn more about it. I would be more than happy if you decide to join me for any of them; I’m not on any particular schedule and of course I wouldn’t expect you to make any commitments (I don’t know what my life will look like this year either! haha). I’ll probably be starting with the biography of Kate and Maggie Fox sometime in the next few months 😉

      Emily Jane

      January 8, 2012 at 4:42 am

  4. I’ve read Unbowed and liked it but didn’t love it (I’m not really a memoir person though). I got about 5 pages into One Day I Will Write About This Place, saw that the entire thing was written in present tense, and returned it to the library. I’m hoping to read Wizard of the Crow this year, despite not really liking the fist Ngugi Wa Thiong’o I read last year (The River Between). If you’re looking for a thriller, Nairobi Heat was a fast-moving romp! In general I tend to read more southern and western African lit than eastern though!

    The spiritualism list sounds like fun! Deborah Blum’s Ghost Hunters might be too broad for you, and it looks at men at least as much as women, but it’s a great read.


    January 9, 2012 at 5:00 am

    • Uh oh. I’m not really a memoir person either, but they seem such a good route to go when searching for a sense of place…I’ll try to prepare myself for the tense thing in One Day I Will Write About This Place (eep!). I don’t think I’m really a thriller person either–unless we’re talking movies–but hey, maybe I’ll try Nairobi Heat? Thank you for the suggestion!

      Actually I’ve been wanting to read Ghost Hunters! I can’t believe I forgot to put it on the list! It’s not too broad…originally I was just focused on spiritualism, I only added the gender component because literally every other title I came up with had “women” or “feminine” in the title so it seemed weird not to mention it…perhaps because I was only browsing “related titles” on amazon 🙂

      Emily Jane

      January 9, 2012 at 5:24 am

  5. So exciting about your trip to Kenya! That would be so fantastic. I’ve not read the works on your list but have a number of them on my shelf to read including Thiong’o, Wainaina, and Elkins. I really hope to read them soon too so perhaps your reviews will push me to read them sooner. I hope you will also post about your trip.

    The other list of books sounds really interesting too. I’d never heard of any of them.


    January 10, 2012 at 5:13 am

    • I am so excited Amy! I will do some sort of post about it, I’m sure. If you’d like to read any of those with me, please do! I’ll be starting the Wizard of the Crow as soon as I get it (hopefully toward the end of this month, or early next month) and the Wainaina and Elkins later in the spring.

      I am so looking forward to all of these books!

      Emily Jane

      January 11, 2012 at 3:21 am

  6. […] challenges that looked interesting to me, but craving more structured reading I opted for creating two fun projects for myself instead. I’ll still be doing these, but I’m also going to join two new challenges, both because […]

  7. […] this year. Also, I’m leaving for Kenya tomorrow (!) and have similarly failed to complete my prepared reading list of Kenyan authors and histories. I have also pre-written 0 updates for while I’m out of the […]

  8. […] book was one of my Kenya project reads, and also counts toward Kinna’s Africa Challenge. The River and the Source follows […]

  9. […] disunity that would persist through Kenyan independence in the 60′s. I read this book for my Kenya project, and it also counts toward Kinna’s Africa challenge. It was mind-blowing to read this while […]

  10. […] Victorian Spiritualism–This is a subject I find endlessly fascinating, particularly because of its relationship to ideas about gender, and I planned to delve deeply into it by reading three to five books, of which I completed one: Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism, by Barbara Weisberg. I did, however, decide to count a book which had not been previously included in my list of options, but was totally relevant: Other Powers, by Barbara Goldsmith. I’ve since read half of The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, by Alex Owen. I do plan to finish it and to revisit this topic seriously when my faculties of concentration are stronger. […]

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