At various times in my life I have kept a reading log. I’ve done so continuously for many years now, but it wasn’t always that way for me. One exception was during my Peace Corps Service–I noted every book I read in m so-called journal. I was not great at introspection and knew I wasn’t doing the best I could so my journal is not very edifying. But that book list! Yes! In two years I read 84 books. The second year, getting books required walking nearly all day after a packed bus ride into town and, if lucky, a ride home or another packed bus back to the gates of the Agricultural Research Station where I lived.
My sources for books were: The National Library of Malawi (the National Librarian was a friend), The British Council, USIS, and the Peace Corps office book shelves. Slim pickings, you say? You are correct. I read anything. There was no TV in Malawi then and the radio was limited to playing songs like The Dave Clark Five’s “Catch us if You Can.” You can guess how great the radio dramas were. I did not have a shortwave. If I did I could have listened to English lessons!
Three by Anne Tyler
I’m counting these as one book since they are all the same author. My math skills have never been great. (I absolutely HATE these covers, by the way!) Celestial Navigation, Breathing Lessons, and The Accidental Tourist.
Tales of The Raj and Empire
I devoured the Raj Quartet! Later I watched the miniseries equally spellbound. FYI: Since I read the one volume omnibus edition, I’m counting it as one book. The Flame Trees of Thika and The Ice Cream War.
I think everyone brought at least one they had never read and figured they’d read now that they had the time. Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair.
The Joys of Motherhood, A Far Cry From Kensington, A Town Like Alice, A House for Mr. Biswas.
This period expanded my reading horizons considerably. “Multicultural” was not yet a thing. We went to high school and read Steinbeck and Hemingway, Shakespeare and maybe someone else. In college I was given Malcolm X and theater of the absurd. This expanded my education considerably. Except for the Caldecott Award, I knew nothing yet of literary awards like the Booker Prize or others. The books I read in Peace Corps often introduced me to different cultures, prize winners–you name it. Oh, don’t worry, I read lot of crap too! I went on to read all of Buchi Emecheta, all of Maya Angelou and more.
Sadly, I was very depressed during part of this time so I had absolutely no memory of reading A Town Like Alice when I listened to it in 2011. It is one of my 5-star, life-time favorite books now. Celestial Navigation was another I have no memory of. Since I love Anne Tyler and she is “must read” for me, I blame depression and not the writing. There were others like that.
Have you read any of these? DId you serve anywhere as a volunteer? What got you started reading about other cultures and other points of view? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.
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