A question: Have you ever experienced shame? 

Another question: What is shame anyway?

Aha! Shame is such a shameful subject that you feel ashamed to even think about it?

No worries. Dr. Brené Brown is here to help!

This has been one of the most insightful and intriguing books I have read yet. The author, Dr. Brown, is an academic. Her field of expertise is shame. That’s right, she’s a shame researcher. 

I Thought It Was Just Me is the canvass upon which she painted an arresting picture on shame, power, and courage. Specifically, in relation to women in society. Herein she offers the reader information, insight and specific strategies for understanding shame and building resilience to it.

Taking the bull by its horns. Dr. Brown delves into the universal struggle that is shame. She taps into her years of research, teaching, interviewing and yes, living through it, to enlighten the reader on this subject. 

She sagaciously offers practical strategies and tips on how to face, acknowledge and conquer shame. As she continues to empower millions of people through her speaking and writing, she is powered by one statement: You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors.

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How disastrous can one choice really be?

How much havoc can be generated by a single decision? 

How life-altering can a solitary action be to the lives of millions?

Wanjiru Koinange sets the stage for the answers to these questions to unravel. In her inaugural novel, she chronicles the havoc that one choice could cause. 

The Havoc of Choice is set in the run up to Kenya’s 2007 general elections. The events span just twelve days. Twelve days of extreme changes. Changes in emotions, vantage points, life style and life itself. 

Wanjiru novel’s follows the career of Ngugi. A bright architect who marries the daughter of a long-serving politician. After a spell of unemployment, he gets a lucrative government job offer, almost out of the blues. What should have been the chance of a lifetime turns out to be a direct ticket to infamy.

Corruption is exposed in the department he heads. He is hounded out of office. His reputation and career take an almost fatal beating. He finds out that his father-in-law, had indeed set him up for the job, and for the fall. 

He keeps a wide berth from him, to the delight of his wife, Kavata. Until he shows up one evening with news that turned his marriage on its head – He was running for office under the tutelage and sponsorship of his father-in-law. The same man that ruined his career. Battle lines are drawn. Kavata discreetly leaves for the US. She runs away from the possibility of her husband turning into her father.  

An election is rigged. Lives are lost. Blood is shed. Life is never the same again. 

The Havoc of Choice is a high-octane political thriller. It brings to fore the intrigues behind power. Wanjiru expertly highlights the horse-trading, back-stabbing, bribery and debauchery that characterizes Kenyan politics. She speaks to the pertinent issues that have bedeviled Kenya’s history. Ethnicity, corruption, electoral violence and a system of patronage. 

She reminds the reader of the abyss that Kenya missed by a whisker just thirteen years ago. In doing so, she honors the memories of the innocent civilians caught up in the crossfire of political conquest. The healthcare workers, women and girls who bear the brunt of sexual abuse, men and boys who are recruited to cause violence, and everyone in between. 

Her’s is a salient reminder of the ripple effect that one decision could have on millions of people. Such a timely read, just two years away from Kenya’s next general elections. 

The Havoc of Choice is entertaining, thought-provoking, and mind-blowing. 

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Buchi Emecheta sets her novel in pre-colonial Nigeria under the chokehold of British colonialists. She dexterously uses flashbacks to juxtapose different time periods and their trends.

Her main character, Nnu Ego is born into a wealthy family. Her father, a chief, is a revered legend in society. Her marriage was every bit befitting of a daughter from an affluent background. Complete with the traditional pomp and fanfare. 

Her fortunes however change when she is slow to conceive. Her husband marries another wife who conceives in quick succession. He’d die leaving both of them widows. Her father organizes a second marriage for her. This time, with a man in Lagos. She leaves her father’s land to begin another chapter of her journey. 

To her utter disgust, she finds out that her new husband works as a domestic worker. He washes clothes for a British couple. Something deeply frowned upon in her Igbo traditions. 

Buchi Emecheta deftly interrogates the pertinent issues of: polygamy, Christianity vs African traditional religions, colonialism and its effects on the African architecture and the place of women in African societies. 

Why is it that the worth of a woman is hinged on a man her entire life? When she is a child, her worth is determined by who her father is. When she grows into puberty, her worth is determined by the man she gets married to. When married, her worth is determined by how many sons she can conceive. 

These are the questions that Buchi Emecheta’s characters struggle to answer. 

The Joys of Motherhood is a beautiful story of the African way of life by an African. It’s exhilarating, insightful and so much more.

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What does a four-decade career at the United Nations look like? What have the eyes of the first black Secretary General of the UN seen? What lessons has one of the world’s most formidable negotiators learned? What’s the future of international relations?

These are the questions that Kofi Annan answers in his memoirs. Interventions chronicle his life’s work. From his upbringing in Ghana to the lofty offices of the United Nations headquarters in New York. He writes of leading efforts against HIV/AIDS, advocating for girl’s education, advancing human rights across the globe, leading relief efforts and intervening to stop wars. 

It is as honest as memoirs get. He offers the reader a sharp assessment of his wins and losses. He valiantly calls out the shortcomings of the very organization he led for 10 years and the world leaders he interacted with in that period. 

Interventions is a personal account of Kofi Annan’s service to the United Nations. A personal account of his efforts to address major diplomatic, development, and humanitarian challenges facing the international community. 

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ELIZABETH GILBERT! Another one! (DJ Khaled  voice). 

Committed was written after her self-inquiry trip across Indonesia, Italy and India (See Eat Pray Love). It is a non-fiction book. A memoir of sorts but the events herein sound like something out of a Shonda Rhimes film. 

Her journey towards marriage was necessitated tacitly by the US government. Yes. That’s right. The United States Department of Homeland Security. She met her affectionate Brazilian lover in Bali. Both survivors of nasty divorces, both gutted by the consequent experience, both on a journey of healing. It was attraction, adrenaline, courtship and then full-blown love. Until the US government came into the picture. 

Following the horrific terrorist attack of 9/11, President Bush’s government beefed up security on every front imaginable. What erstwhile seemed like a routine thing, an Australian and American walking through customs, took an unexpected twist. Her lover was denied passage. This, despite the fact that he had erstwhile been allowed in and out as he wished.

After six hours of interrogations at the airport, he was handcuffed and jailed, awaiting the next plane out of the US. UNLESS, they got married.

The very thing, very word, very institution, they had both been fleeing from. That thing was their only answer. Their very survival depended on it. The wedding was to take place in the US and as an advance gift, they were presented with a blockade of bureaucratic red tape. The same State that made leaving a loveless legal bond such a painstaking process for Elizabeth Gilbert, now demanded that she get herself into another legal bond, but this time, it made it even harder for her to do so. 

Committed is the story of what ensued in that period between being her lover being expelled from the US and his readmission and finally, their marriage.  

Quintessential of Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed is witty, honest and full of wisdom gained from the school of life. Take this for example:

“Destiny’s interventions can sometime be read as invitations for us to address and surmount our biggest fears. It doesn’t take a great genius to recognize that when you are pushed by circumstance to do one thing you have always most specifically loathed and feared, this can be, at the very least, an interesting growth opportunity.”

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Yes! I am officially a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert (*insert rest face emoji).

This one has a poignant start. Elizabeth woke up one morning and decided to face the truth she had been evading all along – she didn’t want to have babies. She was thirty one years old and had been married for six years. What followed were years of a protracted, heart wrenching, money-sucking divorce. Her emotional and mental health were thrown into a state of disarray. 

What’s a girl to do? Whatever a girl’s got to do. This particular girl decided to take a trip in search of the kind of healong and peace that can only come from solitude. 

Eat Pray Love is the story of her life’s journey during this tumultuous time. She has divided this book into three distinct parts that chronicle her time in Italy, India and Indonesia. The three countries that she visited during her period of self-inquiry.

Like she does so well, she captures the lessons she learned at each stage. She recounts in lucid detail her spiritual journey of finding God and peace. She recalls with studious candidness her time in meditation and everything she learned about herself. She chronicles, delightfully so, getting over her pain and anguish and allowing herself to experience love again. 

Eat Pray Love is the story of a woman who at the onset of her journey was despondent and broken but at the end of it, she was renewed in spirit and life.

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Guys, I know 2020 has been a lot. Plans changed, projections suspended and progress stunted. I know. However, I have just the book to get your spirits up. Big Magic!

My baby sister, herself such a burst of good energy, sent me this book. Like all the books she has suggested, this one did not disappoint. 

Elizabeth Gilbert, also author of bestseller Eat Pray Love, sets out to unleash the big magic within all artists. Her premise is simple;

“I believe this one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

The hunt to uncover those jewels and the often surprising results of that hunt is what Elizabeth Gilbert refers to as Big Magic!

Big Magic is the story of Elizabeth’s creative journey. Herein, she chronicles her creative life from the mundane to the extraordinary. From wishing to have her short stories published in a magazine to selling millions of copies of her books. From stacking up rejection letters to stacking up even more invitation letters. 

She chronicles that journey and everything she learned in between. It’s almost like magic!

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What comes to mind when you hear the word feminism?

Are you a feminist?

What does living life as a feminist mean?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Sara Ahmed seeks to answer in this informative book. She combines decades of scholarship, leadership and personal experience to bring to life this insightful book. 

She is blunt, forthcoming and unapologetic. 

She is unyielding in her quest to ask ethical questions about how to live better in an unjust and unequal world; how to create relationships with others that are more equal; and how to find ways to support those who are not supported or are less supported by social systems.

Dr. Sara Ahmed aptly elucidates on issues such as sexism, racism, phallocentrism and patriarchy. She shows how all these issues are connected and contribute to oppression against less-privileged people. 

Living A Feminist Life is a must-read text to everyone willing to understand the dynamism of power relations in the world.

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It’s just six days after the nineteenth anniversary of the 9/11 bombings. We continue to honor the memory of all those who lost their lives. It’s for this reason that reading the recollections of the man charged with responding to those events is a natural choice. 

Decision Points is President George W. Bush’s (43) memoirs. He embarked on writing it shortly after he left office. Unlike most presidential memoirs he focused on his time at the White House. Herein he discusses some of the major decisions he made as President of the United States. 

In typical Bush (43) fashion, this book is both humorous and informative. He touches on the 9/11 terrorist bombings and how they redefined the world; America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan; fighting the AIDS and Malaria pandemics in Africa; Hurricane Katrina; and the financial crisis, among many others.

Other than politics he aptly uses flashbacks to touch on his drinking addiction, struggle with English, difficulty to conceive and death of his brother from cancer.  He passionately writes of how his faith saw him through his most difficult periods. 

It’s an honest and reflective account of the 43rd President of the United States. He gives the reader a front row seat to the exclusive high stakes, high risk position of being the leader of the free world. He elucidates the options he weighed and principles he followed to arrive at many of his decisions. 

It’s a resourceful document for anyone keen on studying that period in American history and leadership insights. 

Decision Points is book of challenges, successes, failures and lessons learned. It’s the outcome of years of reflection and introspection. 

In his own words;

“Perceptions are shaped by the clarity of hindsight. In the moment of decision, you don’t have that advantage.”

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Dr. Nwando Achebe is a professor of History at the Michigan State University. She served as a Ford Foundation and Fulbright-Hays Scholar-in-Residence.

 The Female King of Colonial Nigeria was submitted as part of her doctoral thesis. It is the result of cumbersome piecing together and constructing the life of an extraordinary woman, out of scattered vignettes and scanty documents. In it she details the life and times of Ahebi Ugbabe. The only female warrant chief and king in colonial Nigeria. She offers her readers a sharp, scholarly assessment of women, gender, sex, sexuality and the colonial encounter. 

Unlike other texts, Dr. Achebe’s biography of Ahebi Ugbabe seeks to encourage new ways of seeing, reading and interpreting African worlds beyond received categories of analysis. She challenges the notion of homogeneity with regards to masculinity. She posits, convincingly so, that there exists a multiplicity of African female masculinities such a female husband and a female king. She encourages her readers, as Judith Halberstam did years before her, to reimagine masculinity without men. 

In addition, she details the challenges of conducting field research on a topic as engaging as this. She recalls the conundrum of an audience that is skeptical of her, custodians of oral literature whose memories wane with time and the tedious task of scouring through endless documents. 

Most importantly, she has told the African story from an African perspective. In her words;

People who have been lucky enough not to have had their stories told by others without respect might not fully understand nor appreciate the gift of being able to tell one’s story on one’s own terms. I come from a world where our story has been told almost exclusively by others. Therefore, in my own writing, I have worked to privilege the indigenous point of view so that in the final analysis, the people who entrusted me with their histories and lives can see themselves emerge within the text.”

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