Thursday, March 29, 2018

#ReadICT Are Words that Mean a Thing

A few years ago I was messaging a friend from out of town and I absent-mindedly referred to "ICT." "What's that?" she wanted to know. It's the code for the Wichita airport, which has somehow become local shorthand for the city itself. Do people in Kansas City refer to their town as "KCI"? Do Los Angelenos talk about the city as "LAX"? I kind of doubt it. It's weird. But it's everywhere, including in the name of this year's reading challenge put together by Suzanne Tobias of the Wichita Eagle and supported by the Wichita Public Library.

The challenge requires 12 books from 12 categories to be read any time during 2018. I, of course, am enthusiastically participating--so enthusiastically, in fact, that I locked a co-worker in a supply closet so I could take her spot in the library's online book club, which you can watch here if you haven't already deleted your Facebook account. (She wasn't really locked in a closet. She was stuck in the Chicago airport during a snowstorm. That's almost the same thing, though.) 

I'm three books into the challenge and so far there hasn't been a dud in the bunch:

Murder and Other Acts of Literature is filling slot 8 for an essay or short story collection. The variety in this collection was entertaining and writers who normally don't tickle my toes made me sit up. Virginia Woolf made me laugh! I mean really. Should I reassess Mrs. Dalloway? No, of course not, don't be silly. But the short stories in this collection were a fun read.

Leopard at the Door is my category 4, "a book set somewhere you've never been." Set in Kenya, Leopard is narrated by the adult daughter of an British colonial planter during what the British referred to as the "Mau Mau uprising" and Kenyans referred to as the "Mau Mau rebellion." These words matter. Americans may not be familiar with the history described here, which complicates the pastoral images we have of colonialism that we get from works like Out of Africa. I'm looking forward to following this one up with A Grain of Wheat, by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, a Kenyan writer who fictionalizes events from the same era.

And of course, Magpie Murders is filling category 2 for a detective novel or true crime book. If you watched the video linked above, you already know how I feel about this book, which is a detailed homage to the British murder mystery beginning with the genre's progenitor, Sherlock Holmes, through the present-day craze for police procedurals, with particular emphasis on Agatha Christie's country house murders. 

Twelve books in twelve months? You can do it! I can do it! Find the categories and sign up on