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6 Tips on Reading Classical African Literature Books

African classical literature books is an important part of Africa’s history, culture and future. It is important to note that the literary art works which constitutes this group referred to as classical literature have treated issues concerning the African society which are still relevant in modern times. The importance of these African writers and their literature to the African society and the world at large cannot be over emphasized; still, a lot of young people find it difficult to connect with these ageless literary works. This article is to help you better read the African classics, follow the tips provided below and thank us later.

We also recommend our guide to 10 books by African writers you have to read.

Background research on the author

This is a very important pre-reading activity. In order to best understand the book, it is key that you have a background knowledge about the author of the book. More than half of the time, an author’s life and personal experience influence their writing. During your research you are bound to come across any important life experience that might have influenced the author’s writing style. Look out for relevant information like the author’s country, date of birth, marital life, educational life and career etc.
This research is going to help you understand better the writer’s approach to certain subject matters and his stand on important issues addressed in his work.

Background research on the book

This second pre- reading activity is as important as the first. This gives you an opportunity to gain background knowledge on the book. Watch out for important information as when the book was published and the category the book falls under in African studies.
The African society has gone through a lot of prominent stages and the African literature encapsulates all these important stages of the society. The publishing date of the book would give you an idea of the subject matters portrayed in the book.
Generally classical African novels act as a watch guard of the society and so these authors use their books as a way of pointing out the ills and correcting these moral issues. Themes like cultural nationalism, the struggle for independence, post independence disillusionment, military dictatorship, civil war etc. Ideologies like feminism, Marxism etc are also a prominent feature of classical African literature. It is important to note which prominent theme the author features in the book.

Notes: Always read with a pen and a pad

This is a very important reading habit, especially if you do not like to write in your books. You might come across relevant quotes in the book that you’d want to jot down. The book might also trigger thoughts and start up conversations that you immediately want to write down or raise questions that you might want to answer later. Keeping a pen and pad close is always a good initiative.

Read reviews, articles and criticism on the work

African classical literature always acts as a catalyst for discussions, these books raise important questions and every reader has a unique perspective that is relevant to the discussion of these books. Having read the book and gained adequate knowledge which helps form a personal opinion because of your viewpoint, it is always advantageous to read others view of the literary work. It exposes you to different angles of the work; aspects that you might have missed or not deemed important.

Look for study questions on the book and answer them as best as you can

Study questions helps one understand the book better, you can find study questions on some publisher’s website or on some literature websites/blog. They draw your attention to important societal questions raised by the book, it gives you the opportunity to think deeply on these moral issues and form your own opinion.

Read the book again!

It is advisable you read the book again; this helps you pay more attention to aspects of the book you might have neglected. You might even find something you missed the first time.
I hope this tips would help you read better, happy reading.

Olivia Sose


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