In addition to the two books that I've read below, I started two others that I haven't been able to focus on getting through. We'll see how much reading I get done this week while Kristoffer is in Senegal for 6 days.
Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins (2004)
Nonfiction. Recommended by our friend Mike here in Nairobi and my cousin Jonathan. I bought this book for Kristoffer's birthday 2 years ago and he never got around to reading it.
In this book, Perkins claims to have worked as an "economic hitman" for a private firm with strong ties to the American government and intelligence community with the purpose of persuading developing countries to borrow money from the US (all of which would be invested in US firms for the expansion of infrastructure and social services) that they would never be able to pay back without granting the US access to their most prized natural resources (i.e. oil). A controversial narrative, the story reads really well and certainly gets one thinking about what is going on in the world of global finance and international development. Perkins wrote about several world events that I didn't know that much about (both before and during my lifetime), which was interesting for me, and made many connections between events from the last several decades with extremely current events (at least up through 9/11 and the starts of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). A critical reader should be careful not to swallow everything Perkins writes as gospel, but could use the book as a jumping off point for thinking seriously about world economies and the US's role in their development. I thought it was well worth the read.
A Mercy by Toni Morrison (2009)
Fiction. Not recommended by anyone; I bought it when it was first published because I own and have read all of her other works, started it a few times, never got into it, and finally dedicated myself to reading it.
I don't know if it is enough to say that this book is "typically Morrison", but that is nevertheless my opinion. Morrison's books touch upon issues related to slavery and its aftermath, specifically for women, and this story is no different. Taking place at the end of the 17th century, the book profiles four different women and their connection to one man trying to make it as a farmer in the "new world" (America) while also dabbling in the importing of rum from the Caribbean. One of the women is his wife (an arranged marriage that brought her to Maryland from London) and the other three are their servants: a Native American woman and two distinctly different African American girls. The story describes unique elements of the slave trade, the effects of smallpox, and the significant role of religion in that time period. Without having "studied" the book too much, I liked that it offered new elements to her repertoire, such as the intersection of Native Americans and African slaves at that time. Like many of her books, it is often hard to tell in whose voice she is writing (which alternates each chapter) and requires a bit of re-reading as you go through it to understand their voices and perspectives. I can't say that I loved it - because of course it is pretty sad and heavy - but I did think she did a good job developing the characters of the four women and I didn't dislike it. I think that if you usually like her work that you should read this one too.