What book are you reading? This used to be a reliable chat up line for college and university boys who lived in the ‘residential’ areas of big cities and towns. In those days, a residential area referred to the bungalows of top civil servants in quiet and respected neighbourhoods, usually yanked away from the tooting horns of taxies. These were boys whose parents worked as directors and engineers in government service. They had libraries in their homes and lent friends books after they had finished reading.

The bungalow boys walked around with a book or two tucked under their armpits, and a video cassette of the latest foreign movie (Ghanaian films were not recorded on tapes for sale). It was thought that either the book or the movie provided a good opportunity to strike a conversation with a girl. Like bibliotaphs, they hoarded books they never read. At least, they were not bibliophobes (people who fear books). Lady friends would borrow the books and return them later for films. Other things followed. That is how I found my way into bungalow number 27. I was not a bungalow boy but I had bungalow friends who introduced me to the ‘What book are you reading?’ chat up catalyst. Number 27 was my first real book experience. I was in love with that book.

I am not sure the chap up lines young men are using these days. Well, maybe they do not need any because social media makes chatting people up really easy–with emoticons, flirtatious prompts and other signs. Our young people have never-ending opportunities and expansive reading resources to excite themselves with a new bestseller every day–on different formats. There is always a kindle if you find the hardcover too hard. But are we reading more these days? We are certainly producing more books across traditional and emerging genres, yet our reading habits do not seem to keep pace with the new releases that hit the book shelves every day.

Loyal readers of your favourite Tissues of the Issues column will find that I am doing this year’s end of year book review too early. Every December, we dig back into time to assess how the year’s book and publishing story panned out. It usually comes under the title ‘The books we read’ followed by the year under reference. Last year, we resolved that we were trying to develop a book publishing habit but we did not write enough. I lauded the works of Nana Awere Damoah, Dr. Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe, ACOP Ampah-Bennin, Kofi Akpabli and Azumah Nelson. Of course, there were a lot more.

In the 2014 edition of the Burt Award for African Literature, Ruby Yayra Goka, David Kwaakye and Asare Adei won prizes for their contribution to literature. Believed to be the biggest literary Award in Ghana, the Burt Award, which is offered in Ethiopia, Kenya, the Caribbean and Canada, is a readership initiative that recognizes excellence in literature. It is also meant to promote reading and learning in secondary schools.

We also read President John Mahama’s memoirs. Some say the best Ghanaian book in 2014 was Anna Cottrell’s “Once Upon a Time in Ghana.” Anna’s was a masterful examination of traditional Ewe stories retold in English. It had been originally published by Matador in 2007. Taiye Selasi’s ‘Ghana Must Go’ was published in 2013 but we shall count it among the 2014 publications, because it became popular that year.

I am doing the 2015 edition of ‘The books we read’ ahead of time because of the many exciting writing stories that warmed our hearts this year. Let’s start with Nana Anane Adjei, who gave a brilliant account of the history of the people of Brong Ahafo in a good book. In the year, Afram Publications partnered with the Efo Kodjo Mawugbe Foundation (EKM) to publish two of his many writings: My ‘Father’s Song’, thought to be a story narrated to him by his father, and ‘Prison Graduates’, a political satire dedicated to Kwesi Pratt Jnr. The latter had won Efo the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition in 2009. Mawugbe has more than 19 unpublished plays.

‘Gold Coast Boy’ was also launched in 2015. This is Dr. Addo Kufour’s memoirs. Well, I don’t remember reading the memoirs of his brother John Agyekum Kufour, the former President of Ghana, except Ivor Agyemang Duah’s ‘Between Faith and History: A Biography of J. A. Kufour.’ Ah, my former Vice Chancellor, Ivan Addae-Mensah, also gave what others describe as an unmistakable account of Hilla Liman’s days as President of Ghana in ‘A Biography of Hilla Liman: Scholar, Diplomat, Statesman.’ Not many of us knew that Prof Addae Mensah had been the General Secretary of a political party–in the same position as Johnson Asiedu Nketiah or Kwabena Agyepong.

Following the pattern in the 2014 review, I monitored book reviews in newspapers and announcements for book launches as part of my assessment for 2015. I counted quite a few. Albert and Comfort Ocran did well with ‘Speak like A Pro’. I was personally invited to many book launches, including one organised by Adwinsa Publications. In the year, four young writers, including a 20 year old sophomore, submitted the first drafts of their books to me for some advice. I was astounded with the quality of their writing and their breadth of intelligence and insight into characterization. I couldn’t do it.

Last month, Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Ammisah Arthur launched a 240 page book by Colonel Dr. Emmanuel Wekem Kotia, the chief instructor and Academic Coordinator at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC). Under the title ‘Ghana Armed Forces in Lebanon and Liberia Peace Operations,’ the old soldier compares and analyses the peacekeeping dynamics, tasks, challenges and operational issues in peacekeeping assignments. The book launch was well attended but perhaps the most publicized book launch that stole the show this year was by Ghana’s Minister of Education, Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang.

In a five volume book published in both conventional reading format and braille for the visually impaired, the Education Minister tells an incredible story about culture, values, human life and the different ways of understanding other things. Incidentally, the title of the book is ‘Who told the most incredible story?’ People say the book is incredible.

In 2015, writing didn’t seem writhing enough. We are writing more these days but there is still so much reading to do to break the African reading jinx. We should by now have a popular list of books we would be reading in 2016. Well, we don’t have bestsellers here because books do not sell.

On my reading list for 2016 is Prof Addae-Mensah’s book on Dr. Hilla Liman. I have also marked Andy Osei Okrah’s ‘Transformational Leadership’ on the list. For now, I am reading an old play by Jean Anouilh, a French playwright. What book are you reading?



  1. A list of books compiled by Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin in this year’s review. Everyone should get some copies. Time to read is scarce, but these are good books!

  2. Current Reads:

    Built to Last by Jim Collins

    Kukkuu Tuntumm by Kwesi Ra Nehem Ptah Akan

    Hannibal by Jacob Abbott (A book about our Hannibal, not theirs)

    I have a large collection of physical books, Ebooks are a curse. I have so many i don’t even know where they all are on my laptop


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