Reading in Mokhotlong

This past month has been a mix between the mundane and the heartbreaking, which, as it turns out, doesn’t provide much blog fodder. The babies in the safehouse are doing well and we will be updating soon on Mokete’s reunification, slated for next week, but in the meantime I thought I would talk about my favorite pastime (some might say, perpetual obsession): reading. At its most boring, Mokhotlong is a bookworm’s paradise. When, in your entire life, does the average weekday afford an hour in the morning, several hours in the afternoon, and a bit of time before bed for reading? (School doesn’t count—something about the forced nature). And this without the weekends—hour upon hour stretching out with LITERALLY nothing else to do but plow through books. It’s fantastic.

Thankfully, between Will and Ellen, past volunteers, and the books we managed to cram in our suitcase, we have a pretty well-stocked shelf in the common rondavel. This is particularly fortunate since, so far as I can tell, there is not a book to be found in Lesotho, or even in some mid-size South African towns. (Slight exaggeration–there is a library here, with a strange assortment of discarded English language titles, but you aren’t allowed to actually remove them from the premises). The entertaining part of living with four people who have very limited access to reading materials is that when you want to talk about a book you can pretty much guarantee everyone you know has read the same one. The downside is that when you really want to tell someone about this fascinating story or idea you read about, they’ve already heard about it. This goes for People magazines as well as Dickensian three-deckers.

I’ve been keeping a record of my reading since I got here—especially since one of the Peace Corps guys told me that he read 100 books last year. I’m sure that those of you who know me are SHOCKED that I took that as a challenge. I’m not quite on pace for that yet, but I’m thinking with winter coming on our daytime activities will be restricted, giving me a fighting chance.

So, here is the list of books I’ve read so far in Mokhotlong—my favorites are in bold. Feel free to weigh in with suggestions!


True at First Light, Ernest Hemingway
Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson
Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl
Comfort me with Apples, Ruth Reichl
The Little Book, Selden James
Mansfield Park, Jane Austen


The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens


Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut
Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
The Sea, John Banville


The Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie
A Fine Balance, Rohan Mistry
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead, Jeffrey Eugenides, ed.
Islands in the Stream, Ernest Hemingway


People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks
Twilight, Stefanie Meyers
The Given Day, Dennis Lehane
The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
The Final Solution, Michael Chabon


American Wife, Curtis Sittenfield
Rabbit, Run, John Updike
Unless, Carol Shields
Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
Moo, Jane Smiley
White Noise, Don DeLillo
Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy


Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen


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