Looking back on 2008 via books I’ve read

[MONTRÉAL] On this last day of 2008, I want to take some time to look back on the last 365 days to review the past to give me direction for the coming year 2009. Here are some books I’ve read in 2008 that my interest others.

Favourite books read in 2008

About Sudan and Africa:

In preparation for a three-month trip to Southern Sudan with a departure date in early February, I’ve come across several books that have helped my better understand the situation in Sudan, in the Great Lakes region, and on the continent Africa. The effects of European colonialism  continues to ravage the continent with civil wars, coup d’états, and constant foreign interference. Post-colonial democratization in Africa is still in its infancy with Sudan representing a prime example three years into its six-year interim period after 21 years of civil war. Southern Sudan is three years away from a referendum that will decide whether it remains within a New Sudan or whether it will become autonomous as a sovereign state. This democratization process is something I plan to follow closely beginning with my first visit in 2009.

David Eggers (2006) What is the What: the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: a novel — non-fiction/memoir/Sudan — isbn 978 -0-307-38590-1 (the book follows Valentino, on of the Lost Boys of Sudan, through the 21-year civil are that ended in 2005: his long walk away from the fighting with thousands of other boys toward refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya then eventually to the United States as a refugee.)

Jok Madut Jok (2007) Sudan: race, religion, and violence — isbn 978-1-85168-366-6 (An investigation by a Sudanese man who “delves deep into Sudan’s culture and history, isolating the factors that have caused its fractured national identity. [Jok] critiques a country in turmoil and addresses what must be done to break the cycle of racism, poverty and brutality that grips Sudan and its people.”

Ryszard Kapuscinski (2001) The Shadow of the Sun — non-fiction/history/Africa — isbn 978-0-679-77907-8 (Kapuscinski is Poland’s first and only foreign correspondent in the 1950’s. He is sent to cover Africa as the continent unravels from colonialism, providing him with insight into a continent where he has witnessed firsthand more than 38 revolutions. His knowledge of this period in Africa’s history—and the journalistic integrity of his descriptions of the events and people he meets—has been invaluable for me, this first-time visitor to sub-saharan Africa.)

Ishmael Beah (2007) A Long Way Gone: memoirs of a boy soldier — non-fiction/memoir/Sierra Leone — isbn 978-1-55365-299-1 (A Long Way Gone is similar to What is the What, which tells the story of childhood as affected by war. Where Valentino escapes being absorbed into the rebel military as a soldier, Ishmael Beah is not so lucky. the killing he has witnessed and committed has not left him unblemished and his recovery is not easy. A fascinating read for anyone going to visit Sub-Saharan Africa!)

Comic Books:

These are some of my perennial favourite comic books. I have a particular interest in non-fiction and comics journalism.

Guibert, Lefèvre & Lemercier (2003) Le Photographe — non-fiction/comics/photo journalism — isbn 2-8001-3372-4 (This excellent book follows photographer, Didier Lefèvre, on his first major photo assignement following a Médecin sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) team through Afghanistan in 1986, during the war between the Soviet Union and the Mujaheddin.)

Guy Delisle (2005) Pyongyang: a journey in North Korea — travel/comics/memoir — isbn 1-89659-789-0 (An unfamiliar, inside view of North Korea from the perspective of Delisle who is sent to the reclusive communist country to supervise the work his French animation studio subcontracted to a North Korean firm. It is a rare glimpse inside a country at odds with itself and the world.

Jason Lutes (2004-2008) Berlin: City of Stones — history/comics — isbn 1-896597-29-7 (This first of a trilogy that is published in individual comic books with eight more issues to come, is set in the twilight years of Germany’s Weimar Republic. With meticulous documentation, the book covers the struggle between the communist Left and the rise of fascism in a late 1920’s Germany.

Rash & Tamada (2007) Chroniques du proche étranger en Tchétchénie — history/comics — isbn 978-2-84999-046-9 (In July 2000, nine months since the beginning of the second Chechnya conflict, a young French doctor and his driver  attempt to deliver medical aid to refugees. The country is administered directly from Moscow and its residents live in constant terror. Thousands of civilians have sought refuge in neighbouring republic of Ingoushetia, which is where the aid is to be delivered.)

Joe Sacco (2000) Safe Area Gorazde: The war in Eastern Bosnia (1992-95) — history/comics/journalism — isbn 1-56097-470-2 (Cartoonist/reporter, Joe Sacco, traveled four times to Gorazde in late 1995 and early 1996. The area was a U.N.-designated safe area during the Bosnian War and was always on the brink of extinction during that period.)

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