‘Tis book review time. And this time I’m featuring books I’m positive you’ve never heard of. Why? Because I read some off-beat books.
See my ongoing list of the 100 books I’m reading in 2012, and check out their (sometimes) pretty covers on my Pinterest board, cryptically entitled: The 100 Books I’m Reading in 2012. As always, if you’ve got a book you want me to read/review/spill tea on, just drop me a line.
And now, for some irreverent book reviews.
I have long been obsessed with missionaries, expat aid workers, humanitarians in far-off bushes, Peace Corps volunteers, and really anyone living in strange (to them) places for unusual jobs or callings. I even did a master’s degree in cultural anthropology studying these folks — because I’m that obsessed. If there is a nonfiction book about someone’s experience doing any of the above, I have a) already read it or b) am crying because I don’t know about it.
So when I stumbled upon All That You Can’t Leave Behind on Kindle, I was able to look past the cover (yikes!) and read some of the Kindle reviews — which were alarmingly positive. Let’s be honest, though: the premise had already sold me, and the three dollar price tag made it that much sweeter.
I loved this simple, honest memoir.
For all the reasons above, and because it took place in the region of Kenya I lived in, and at a school (Rift Valley Academy — rumored to be the best boarding school in all of Africa) that has long fascinated me. In the book, a young San Diego couple decides to sell their house and move to Kenya — for a short twenty years or so. It’s a great, truthful insight into what it’s like to swap your life for another, and to make a home in a strange new place.
When Erik Hersman (aka @whiteafrican), one of the founders of an incredible nonprofit technology company – Ushahidi — told me he went to Rift Valley Academy and that the author Ryan Murphy was his teacher, I well, flipped. Erik swears he’s going to find me Ryan Murphy’s email, and I can guarantee I’ll be stalking him until he does.
I’ll get it out of the way immediately: this book could use some more editing. In both the areas of word choice (read: cussin’) and content (read: overly descriptive scenes that feature the author and girls), this book might benefit from a less is more approach. That said, I admire the author’s ability to “let it all out” — and to know he’s doing that. He tells the world that he’s going to tell it like it is, and he does.
I told you above why I loved reading about people who do strange cultural exchanges to far-off lands, and one of my favorite demographics to obsess over are current and retired Peace Corps volunteers.
Andy Chrisofferson is the textbook Peace Corps volunteer: a newly minted college grad who has never left the country before, plopped down in Africa with no idea what on earth he should be doing. And for this exact reason — and because Andy knows his charming uselessness in a strange land and is candid as can be about it all — this is a great narrative.
Also — this guy is funny.
I had many a serious laugh-out-loud moment. And not just because I share so many shudder-worthy whitey-person-in-East-Africa mishaps in my not-so-distant memory.
Have you read either of these books?