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Assembling My Atheneum: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

October 17, 2010

This series grew out of my musings about my home library, and my plan is to spotlight authors whose entire works I’d buy for my shelves immediately if I won the lottery. In my first post, I featured A.S. Byatt.

Today, I am not at the Texas Book Festival. Some unexpected chaos has arisen in the house three days ago, and we’ve all been pretty much consumed by it. So since I couldn’t go hear Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talk today, I thought I’d feature her instead!

While Adichie published her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, in 2003, I didn’t discover her until 2007. It was the spring that I’d begun book blogging, and I’d joined the Reading Across Borders Challenge. Half of a Yellow Sun was getting a lot of buzz around then (it had been selected for the shortlist of the Orange Prize, which it ended up winning), so I decided it’d be great to have a Nigerian novel on my list. At the same time, I was taking a college class on the politics of west Africa (with a professor from Cote d’Ivoire), and I was halfway through the Peace Corps process and knew I’d be sent to francophone Africa (unfortunately, I didn’t get my medical clearance). So I opened up Half of a Yellow Sun with a good deal of curiousity, and Adichie’s incredible writing entranced me from the first page. In fact, you can read what I thought of the novel back then, although it feels funny linking to my early posts!

It ended up taking me a year to read Purple Hibiscus, because my various library systems didn’t carry it until I joined my Colorado public one. But when I began reading it, I knew that Half of a Yellow Sun wasn’t a fluke: the same magic was at work in this one. It’s difficult for me to pick a favourite, but if I had managed to make it to Adichie’s talk today, Purple Hibiscus is the one I would have bought a copy of so she could sign it. And I wrote quite a gushing post in praise of it.

At this point, I was a total Adichie fangirl and began reading her short stories where I could find them. I was jealous of one my friends, who had copies of a literary journal Adichie had published in, while I had to content myself with what was available online. So as soon as I heard about her short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, in 2009, I put in a request. As I said at the time, I had very high expectations, and they were met. It was interesting to see some of her stories set in the US, since both of her novels were Nigerian.

If you’d like a taste of Adichie, you can go read one of my favourite short stories by her: “Jumping Monkey Hill” or you can watch her TED talk (if you haven’t heard of the TED talks yet, you’re in for a treat). If you want to jump right in with one of her books, it’s really a toss-up where you should start (her writing style and prose is consistent), so go for whichever one peaks your curiosity the most. If you’re on the fence about short stories, though, I’d steer you to her novels first; her stories are definitely modern and literary, so if you’re not a fan of that approach it might not be the best way to meet her. ;)

I’m crossing my fingers that she publishes a new book soon, and I’ll be first in line at my new library to read it. It’s funny that I love her so much, but I don’t have her on my shelves at all! I’ve been thinking of re-joining Bookmooch (which I haven’t been on since 2008-ish), so that I can start collecting some of my very favourite authors. But it sounds like Bookmooch isn’t as good as it used to be…it seems like all I hear these days is horror stories about the condition of mooched books. Maybe I should try Paperback Swap instead? Thoughts, anyone?

40 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2010 1:05 pm

    I very much want to read something by this author!

    • October 19, 2010 4:30 am

      I don’t think she’ll disappoint you! :)

  2. October 17, 2010 1:33 pm

    I don’t have any particular thoughts on Adiche, other than to say she’s been on my list for ages, and I’m glad to know any of her books is worth starting with. I believe Half of a Yellow Sun is the one that is actually on my list.

    As far Bookmooch and Paperbackswap, I’ve mostly had good luck with both, although I’m not as active with either as I used to be. On Bookmooch, most of the books I’ve gotten have been fine to very good–or the owner has indicated that they’re beat up and I was okay with that. I’ve found people’s notes on condition to be accurate; only one or two books came worse than described. If I really want to book to be of “keeper” quality, I might not order from someone who doesn’t have detailed condition notes, just to be on the safe side.

    PBS has stricter requirements on what’s postable (no writing, no water damage, etc). Because of the requirements, you less likely to get a book that’s falling apart or written in. I’ve only gotten a handful of books that didn’t meet those requirements (less than 10% of swaps, I’d guess). And in all those cases, I’ve been able to get my credit back.

    So my experience has been mostly even between the two. I *love* Bookmooch for the opportunity to get UK books that aren’t published here yet (including some Persephones!). PBS, on the other hand, has a super-easy mailing system and the condition is more consistent. So it’s all in what’s most important to you.

    • October 19, 2010 4:31 am

      Thanks for giving me such an awesome break down! I popped over to BM, and none of the authors I’m interested in are available in their system, so that’s making me lean towards PBS…things to think about at least.

  3. October 17, 2010 1:46 pm

    Adichie is one author that I really want to read. I’ve been hearing the buzz around her books for some time too, but I haven’t been lucky enough to get a copy yet. I’ll keep looking though.

  4. October 17, 2010 2:31 pm

    Sorry about the house chaos! Hope everything has settled down now. I can’t believe I still haven’t read Purple Hibiscus. Thanks for the links, TED is one of my favorite places to visit.

    I haven’t tried PBS but I quit Bookmooch because I kept sending out books and never found books I really wanted in return.

    • October 19, 2010 4:33 am

      Thing’s are starting to settle down. :) Isn’t TED lovely?

  5. October 17, 2010 3:06 pm

    I’ve gone past Yellow Sun so many times in stores but it’s only since reading your blog that it’s interested me because I’d heard nothing of Adichie before then. I want to get to it soon.

    An interesting background story, hope you’re able to collect her work!

    • October 19, 2010 4:34 am

      That’s music to my ears Charlie! :D

  6. October 17, 2010 4:25 pm

    I used to be a member of SwapTree, but I hear it’s really changed since then. I can’t help you on Paperback Swap or Bookmooch.

  7. October 17, 2010 4:40 pm

    Yet another author that you are recommending that I haven’t taken the time to try as of yet. I look forward to reading her in the future.

    • October 19, 2010 4:37 am

      There are so many authors out there, aren’t there? And so little time!

  8. Wendy permalink
    October 17, 2010 5:40 pm

    Although I can’t comment on Bookmooch, I love Paperback Swap. I’ve had only good luck with them. And thanks for the TED link–I’ll check it out right away.

  9. October 17, 2010 6:28 pm

    I’m on BookMooch, and I haven’t had any particularly bad experiences. I’m not looking for books in collectible condition, though. Some of the books I’ve received are older (because they are 1950’s sci-fi) and, therefore, yellowed with age. But, other than that, I haven’t received any that are falling apart or marked up. Most of them are actually in really good, like-new condition!

    • October 19, 2010 4:38 am

      I didn’t have any bad experiences when I was on BM either, but I didn’t know if it had changed over the years. I’m glad you’ve had such good luck!

  10. October 17, 2010 8:53 pm

    she sounds really interesting but i’m coming back for your as byatt post! :-)

    • October 19, 2010 4:38 am

      I published my Byatt post last month. :) Link’s on the top of this post!

  11. October 18, 2010 1:39 am

    I think I missed your Byatt feature. Haven’t read a book by Adichie yet but I do see the titles you mentioned in bookstores here. I love TED!

    • October 19, 2010 4:39 am

      I talked about Byatt last month, so perhaps you were busy? I love TED too; whenever anyone rants about how the internet is making people stupid, I bring it up.

  12. October 18, 2010 1:55 am

    Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for this author! I think I will have to try and read something by her! If I could buy the entire production of an author, it would have to be Iris Murdoch

    • October 19, 2010 4:40 am

      I’ve only read one of Murdoch’s (The Bell): I really need to try more of her! She’s got quite the backlist for you to collect, right?

  13. October 18, 2010 4:01 am

    I am a total Adichie fangirl. She is my favorite author, and I was upset to not be able to get to the Texas Book Festival too. I guess that says a lot about my fangirl-love – I was trying to get from PEI to Texas for a weekend!! lol.

    Anyway, I have been saving Purple Hibiscus, because I just don’t want nothing left to read by her! I will read it soon, but it is scary having nothing left :) I do hope she publishes something new soon!

    ALSO Carin, at A Little Bookish, got me a signed book while at the festival… so once I get that in the mail, I can send you my previous copy! I don’t need two copies lying around, and I’d love to pass on some of the awesomeness that Carin is showing me :) If you email me your mailing address at amy[dot]mckie[at]gmail[dot]com I will send it on! (

    Oh, and I still love BookMooch! I got one of my Adichie books there.

    • October 19, 2010 4:43 am

      That’s so sweet of you! And awesome of Carin! :)

  14. October 18, 2010 12:14 pm

    We missed you at the Book Festival Eva! I was so hoping you’d make it to finally meet you. Another time though!

    I love Adichie – she’s wonderful. I didn’t get to see her at the festival but I heard she was great.

    On BookMooch… I can’t complain about the books I’ve received but my problem is that I can’t ever find anything anymore. It’s been a while since I mooched any books. I hear good things about PaperBackSwap but have yet to try them.

    • October 19, 2010 4:45 am

      I was so sad I couldn’t meet you, since you were my blogging inspiration! But once I’m making some money, I’d love to take a trip up to Austin anyway and maybe then we can meet up. :) After your comment on BM, I went and looked up the authors I’d want to get, and none of them had anything available! So it looks like BM probably isn’t the way for me to go either.

  15. October 18, 2010 5:54 pm

    I am in the middle of HALF OF A YELLOW SUN and I do very much like the writing.

    I found bookmooch by the end to be lacking in books. I think most people switched to paperback swap a year or two ago, so all the desired books are not available. And that is exactly what I’ve done. I know the quality will be better — no writing is allowed in books — but it also has far more variety of books. I like it better — and if they have a book you really want, you can always buy a credit for $4 and then request it (alternatively, shipping a book to get a credit costs $2.33 on average).

    • October 19, 2010 4:45 am

      That makes sense: I think I’ll be joining PBS too! I’m so glad you’re enjoying Adichie’s writing. :)

  16. October 18, 2010 8:14 pm

    Well I can’t say that I’m GLAD you’re not at the festival, but I’m not there either. Blah! Craziness abounds.

    Must read some of her stuff! I’m clueless.

    • October 19, 2010 4:46 am

      When I saw your post saying you couldn’t make it, I had similar feelings! Although your reason is much more serious than mine. :(

  17. October 19, 2010 8:55 am

    I use both Bookmooch and PBS and agree with what Theresa had to say about them. What I like the most about belonging to both is that there is a better chance of finding a book, and I’ve gotten lucky finding books on Bookmooch that I haven’t been able to get on PBS.

    I also like that Bookmooch allows you to post books that are not in the best condition as long as it’s noted. It gives me a chance to post some older books that I wouldn’t be able to post on PBS.

    I also managed to snag an ARC from Bookmooch the other day and PBS doesn’t allow ARCs to be traded (I actually haven’t found an explicit policy about this on Bookmooch – I would love to know if they have one).

  18. October 19, 2010 9:42 am

    I’m all in Aidichie books too! I read them both last year and enjoyed them very much. I liked Half of a Yellow Sun a bit more though. I think it had some more to it as it describes the political situation in Nigeria when there was this other state Biafra, too.

    I’m on BM as I can’t participate in PBS as I’m an international reader and it only works in the US. That’s sad as I know that there are more books I actually would like to read.

  19. Marg permalink
    October 20, 2010 8:27 pm

    I really enjoyed Half of a Yellow Sun, but despite that haven’t read any more of them. I think I had the short story collection out of the library at one point, but never got to read it.

    I really should read her again. I have been meaning to read Purple Hibiscus since it first came out!

    Too bad you didn’t get to go to the Texas Book Festival. Hopefully you will get to go next year.

  20. October 21, 2010 8:00 am

    I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and have read all of her books so far, in order of publication. I discovered her back in ’04, I think through Purple Hibiscus featuring on the Orange Prize shortlist; I read the book and loved it then ended up writing on it at uni along with Things Fall Apart. She’s definitely an author (like Sarah Waters) whose books I preorder and read as soon as they are published.

    Speaking of assembling your atheneum, you may want to check out my next post (which will appear later today, I hope) as it kinda mentions one of your favourite authors…


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  4. Book, Books…y libros « Simpler Pastimes

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