I decided a while ago to give up reading challenges because they get away from me too easily. But, I like the way they challenge me! They push me to expand the way I approach genres I already read or they get me to read something I thought I’d rather not. Kinna Read’s Africa Challenge will get me back to reading Africa, something I haven’t done in a while. While I’d love to add a few new books to my shelf, I’ve decided the very best way for me to participate in this challenge which lasts throughout 2012 is to read five books I already own, but have never read. I believe they’ll be the following.

The boy who harnessed the wind: creating currents of electricity and hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer; Harper Perennial 2009. An enterprising teenager in Malawi builds a windmill from scraps he finds around his village and brings electricity, and a future, to his family.

Weep not child by Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo; Heinemann Press, 1964. “Two small boys stand on a rubbish heap and look into the future. One boy is excited, he is beginning school; the other, his brother, is an apprentice carpetner. Together, they will serve their country–the teacher and the craftsman. But this is Kenya and times are against them. In the forests, the Mau Mau are waging war against the white government, and two brothers, Njoroge and Kamau, and the rest of their family, need to decide where their loyalties lie. For the practical man, the choice is simple, but for Njoroge, the scholar, the dream of progress through learning is a hard one to give up”

The collector of treasures and other Botswana village tales by Bessie Head; Heinemann Educational, 1977;  Collector of Treasures explores the lives of Botswana villagers, both before their colonization by the British and after their independence in 1966. Bessie Head tells tales of ancient leaders, of educated women trying to find their way between city and village life, of women who must suffer while men treat the independence of their country as an opportunity to throw away all restrictions, British or tribal. In these stories, it is the women who suffer most – who bear the children after the men have deserted them, who endure the village gossip, who raise the money for their children’s school fees as their husbands support other women. But though they suffer, these are women of strength and inner beauty. (Amazon)

Out of Eden the peopling of the world by Stephen Oppenheimer; Constable and Robinson, 2004; In a brilliant synthesis of genetic, archaeological, linguistic and climatic data, Oppenheimer challenges current thinking with his claim that there was only one successful migration out of Africa. In 1988, “Newsweek” headlined the startling discovery that everyone alive on the earth today can trace their maternal DNA back to one woman who lived in Africa 150,000 years ago. It was thought that modern humans populated the world through a series of migratory waves from their African homeland. Now an even more radical view has emerged, that the members of just one group are the ancestors of all non-Africans now alive, and that this group crossed the mouth of the Red Sea a mere 85,000 years ago. It means that not only is every person on the planet descended from one African ‘Eve’ but every non-African is related to a more recent Eve, from that original migratory group. This is a revolutionary new theory about our origins that is both scholarly and entertaining, a remarkable account of the kinship of all humans. (Amazon)

I saw the sky catch fire by T. Obinkaram Echewa; Dutton, 1992;  The day before Ajuzia leaves for America, his grandmother spins a skein of tales, weaving a colorful, bawdy, powerfully evocative tapestry of Nigerian life.Wonderfully specific in its sense of place and the all-too-human people who inhabit it, I Saw the Sky Catch Fire captures a world of myth, magic, and gods in a novel which is as broad as it is deep.

What’s challenging your reading these days?