BOOK’D| PAMELA NAAKI TETTEH

Pamela is an amazing writer and lover of books and words in general. I enjoyed reading her interview! Also, I think fiction lovers will enjoy her fantastic recommendations. She shares what three books changed her life and what they taught her. Enjoy!


1. What are you currently reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?

I am currently reading George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, which is an odd, phenomenal book. I feel that every book I decide to read deserves all of my attention, so I don’t read more than one book at a time. I do read a lot of essays and stories alongside whatever book I happen to be reading.

2. Have you always been a reader? What is the first book you remember ever reading? What drew you into reading/why do you read?

Yes. I don’t remember the very first book I read, but I definitely read a lot of Enid Blyton books as a child. I do however remember the first non-Enid Blyton I read, and that was Camara Laye’s The African Child. My father gave it to me when I was seven. As a child I was very skinny and accident prone, so books were a way to keep me entertained without causing myself grave injury (I got hella paper cuts though). My father kindled my love for reading. Every Friday evening he would bring me a brand new book that I’d spend the week reading, and then he’d discuss it with me when I was done. It made me feel very adult-y. Now, I read because I have always read, because I can’t resist the magic.

I read because I have always read, because I can’t resist the magic. - @Naakiichan Click To Tweet

3. What is your philosophy on reading? (for example, some people have to finish every book they start)

I used to believe I had to finish every single book I started (what a weird sense of loyalty) and it made for a very miserable reading experience. Now, I understand that some books may simply not be right for me, or right for me at a particular time. Sometimes you need to be in a different place or time to truly understand and enjoy a certain book. So no, I don’t finish every book I start (but I try to finish as many as I can).

Now, I understand that some books may simply not be right for me, or right for me at a particular time Click To Tweet

4. How often do you read? And how do you fit it into your day?

Reading isn’t an *event* for me, so it’s hard to say how often I read. I like to think I’m always reading. I like to take breaks in between books though, particularly if the last book was really long/emotionally draining or intense. Giving my brain time to recalibrate, so to speak. I mostly read at night before I go to sleep, or in the morning just after I wake up. If I’m in the middle of a really good book, I read it at every single chance I get.

5. Where do you like to read? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?

I like to read where I’m comfortable; I don’t really like to associate books (which I love) with uncomfortable/dirty places (which I hate). So I mostly read in bed, alone. The weirdest place I’ve ever read a book was at a wedding.

I don’t really like to associate books (which I love) with uncomfortable/dirty places (which I hate). Click To Tweet

6. What makes a good book, in your opinion?

Different things can make a book good. A fantastic plot, incredible writing style, exploring material in a new way.  For me, a good book is one that I cannot tear myself away from, one that haunts me at every minute of the day, one that I need to recover from when it’s over.

a good book is one that I cannot tear myself away from, ... one that I need to recover from when it’s over. Click To Tweet

7. Who are your favorite authors to read?

Favorite authors: first and foremost, all due respect must be paid to the queen of my life (and yours): Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I also really like Taiye Selasi, the dreamy, butter soft, unbroken stream of consciousness way in which she writes. I love Sefi Atta, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Díaz, Marian Keyes, Haruki Murakami and I’ve recently become enthralled with Ken Liu and how he can make beautiful literature out of boring science.

8. What is a book or who is an author you feel is very underrated?

Maybe not underrated but I think a book that gets a lot of undeserved slander is Ghana Must Go. I avoided this book for years because of all the flack it was catching from people whose literary opinions I really respect. When I finally couldn’t avoid it anymore (I had to read it for one of my literature classes) I could not. Put. It. Down. The book was amazing, like really amazing. Of course I respect (healthily formed) oppositional opinions on this book, but I’d really like more people to give it an open minded try.

I think a book that gets a lot of undeserved slander is Ghana Must Go. - @Naakiichan Click To Tweet

9. E-book, audiobook or paper? How do you feel about making notes/highlighting books?

I mostly read e-books, simply because they’re (for the most part) easily accessible. I like paper books as well; there’s a familiar warmth that comes from feeling the weight of a book in your hands. I usually purchase the paper/hardback copies of books I really love. I’ve never tried an audiobook, but I don’t think I have the attention span for it. Highlighting or making notes in books is fine, unless the book isn’t yours, in which case, do better.

there’s a familiar warmth that comes from feeling the weight of a book in your hands. Click To Tweet

10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?

I’m naturally biased towards fiction, but I have to admit here that there’s an unexpected magic in non-fiction that is hard to ignore.

11. What happens to you when you read a good book? (at the beginning, during and after the experience?)

Reading a good book is really a very intense experience for me. When I start the book, I usually pause after the first few pages to take a deep breath and make sure I’m ready for all the glory I’m about to experience. During reading? I turn into a maniac, basically. I have to tear myself away from the book, and when I’m not reading it I’m constantly thinking about it and talking about it to everyone who will listen. When I finish the book, I have to convalesce, and then send the book to all my friends.

12. Do you reread books? Why?

There are certain books I try to reread, the Harry Potter series for instance. I recently decided to reread Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go. There are some books that beg a return, and I believe that these books do. Also, Chimamanda’s entire corpus, and I’ve read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart at least a gazillion times (for all my literature classes in the university).

13. What book do you wish you could experience again for the first time?

The entire Harry Potter series. Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come.

14. What was the last great book you read?

The last great book I read was Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a New Name, the second book in her Neapolitan Series. I think the entire series is stunning, and I am dreading the day I finish it.

The last great book I read was Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a New Name. - @Naakiichan Click To Tweet

15. If you had to choose three books that everyone should read, what would they be?

This is difficult. But I would say Chimamanda’s Purple Hibiscus, Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

16. What book(s) are you embarrassed to have read? What books are you embarrassed to still not have read?

I feel like I should regret all the romance novels I’ve ever read, because it’s a somewhat prevalent notion that reading romance novels belies a certain lack of intellectual sophistication, whatever that is. (can I just state here that this notion is rubbish). But that would be regretting a huge chunk of my reading life. And also quite insincere because I do love romance a lot. I’m however embarrassed that I haven’t read anything by Zadie Smith, and also that I haven’t finished reading Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex.

17. How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature?

I’m not particularly enamored by it. The only classic literature book I’ve successfully completed reading is Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (which is one of my favorite books, now that I think of it).

The only classic literature book I’ve successfully completed reading is Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Click To Tweet

Naaki Tetteh

18. How do you feel about book clubs?

I think the idea is great, but I’ve never been in one, so I can’t say if I’d enjoy the actual experience.

19. What book(s) have changed your life, and how?

Chimamanda’s Purple Hibiscus made 12 year old me (who was writing stories about green-eyed girls named Opal) see that stories about dark-skinned, dark-eyed, kinky-haired girls were valid and necessary, almost painfully so. Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come taught me that it is okay (and sometimes best) for trauma to be processed and dealt with through humor. It also taught me the insult ‘penis like bic biro’ which I still use till this day. George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo is currently reiterating for me the fact that there’s no one way to tell a story.

20. How do you choose books to read?

I read anything that catches my fancy really. Sometimes friends recommend and send books to me, or I see people tweet about books they’ve enjoyed and I look for them and read them too.

21. What book are you currently DYING to read?

Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties. I am OBSESSED with her short story ‘Help Me Follow My Sister into The Land of The Dead’ and I just know her collection is going to be amazing. Also, Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu, which I’ve heard excellent things about.


Pamela is a reader and an occasional writer. You can see what books she’s read this year by following her Twitter thread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book’d is a weekly bookish interview series seeking to foster conversation about books and reading. Read our last interview with writer and engineer Osemhen Akhibi here.