“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”
― Christopher Hitchens
If Hitchens said so, it must be true. I don’t know what he would’ve thought of Sam Manicom’s Into Africa, the simple writing style of that book is very different from the way Christopher wrote Hitch-22, the Cambridge and Oxford education that he absorbed seems to have forced him to always write in circles.
He may or may not have liked the booked, but he certainly wouldn’t have challenged its right of existence.
Into Africa is the first book in a series of 4 by Sam that chronicle his travels across the world. This is the only physical book of the 4 that I read, the other 3 were finished off on Audible. That’s one of the reasons why it took so long to finish.
I’m very greedy as far as books go. One book a month is usually the least I read, it frequently boils over to 3 and sometimes even 4. People go to malls and get confused about what t-shirts to buy, spending hours trying and asking for opinions. I do exactly the same thing, but in book stores.
This greed is easy to satisfy with audiobooks, I can listen to them while walking to and from office, when I’m trying to sleep, and while making breakfast. Not everyone approves of reading a book like this, Hitchens certainly did not. At the end of Hitch-22 there’s an interview with him in which he confesses that he never really liked the concept of audio books, because books are meant to held in one’s hand, properly focused on, and imbibed. He had opened up to the concept of audiobooks at last, but even with them he said strictly “You must sit and listen”.
I get that, the concept is similar to the reason why we enjoy riding motorcycles. We rarely do only one thing at a time nowadays, we are self-trained rats that have forced multi-tasking on ourselves. The act of concentrating on a book, holding it in your hands, flipping the pages, and letting imagination take you places, is a form of meditation. So is riding a bike, but in a different way, you are alone with your thoughts.
The point is that audiobooks are not perfect, you definitely end up giving less attention to the words than they deserve. However, for someone like me they are everything. I struggled for years with physical books, for one reason or another I never got around to reading them, and then months would go by without me having finished a single one. With Audible, I have finished some 50 books in the last 2 years. It may not work perfectly, but it works.
If I’m not talking too much about the book, that’s because I don’t really need to. It’s a masterpiece, and you should read it. I’d ordered the book from his own website, and he sent me a signed copy. That man is somehow able to find time for all the right things.
Into Africa is a beautiful presentation of what adventure really is all about, a man with little riding experience deciding to take on some of the harshest conditions on the planet, and making it. He crashes, he gets sick, but he also gets an offer to sleep with someone’s wife, from the husband, while the wife stands close by. It’s a beautiful story that shows the reality of adventure travel, it’s a daily struggle against the world, and that’s part of the charm.