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[By Pelu Awofeso]

Writer, author and teacher Abigail Anaba is concerned about the decline in the number of people who read for pleasure, which was the in-thing for Nigerians, young and old, as recently as the 1990’s. At the time, the only other diversions, other than books, were terrestrial television and radio.

That habit, nurtured over decades, has lost its attraction, especially for today’s generation of youths and a good number of the older generation, who now face more demands on their time by complexities of the 21st society.  The internet and the fast-growing ownership of smart phones and other digital devices has almost killed whatever residue of interest people had for the written word in a largely analog era.

And so last August, hoping to turn the tables, Anaba — author of a “Sector IV”, a novel about love set during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war — hosted a “Grill-and-Read” book party in Lagos, featuring authors Tunde Leye (“Guardians of the Seal”) and Seun Odukoya (“Saving Dapo”); she imagined that this would help bring together two activities that often go together–eating and reading–in a fun atmosphere, where readers could connect with other readers as well as with their favourite authors.

She followed up with another reading in October, this time in Port Harcourt, guest authors including: Ifeanyi Ajaegbo (“Sarah’s House”); Franklyn Finecountry (“Avenger of Blood”); Taiwo Onesi (“Poetry The Mirror”); Othuke Ominiabohs (“A conspiracy of Ravens”); and Merit Gogo Fyneface (“White Places”).

“Our plan is to put the hip back into reading, in a way that appeals to this generation,” Anaba says, ahead of the next book party in December in the federal capital Abuja. “For this reason, the event is always held in gardens and areas close to nature. We also ensure that our guests are down to earth and ready to mix and mingle.”

The book parties, according to Anaba, is a family friendly hangout that features conversations, readings, spoken word, poetry, art, grilled food and chilled drinks.

Watch Abigail Anaba talk books, writing and penning a wartime love story.

And the attendance has been encouraging. “We planned a small event hoping for about 30 to 50 persons but both times we have had twice that number,” Anaba says. “I am more impressed that a good number of those who come are not your regular book event people.

The guest author for the Abujimg-26a programme (Dec. 3), themed “Reading in the Age of Social Media”, is Parresia Publishers CEO Richard Ali, who will read from his newly re-issued novel, ‘City of Memories’. Also expected at the event is Rudolph Adidi, Abuja Literary Society 2016 Slam winner. He will perform spoken word pieces.

For the first time since it was launched, Grill-and-Read Abuja will feature a talk by convener of Warmate Book Club, Florence Warmate, aimed at helping readers read better while also celebrating readers.

Among other attractions, attendees will also get to meet Habiba Abubakar Lawal, 30, who’s already read 65 books this year. “I love to read because it takes me away to places I wouldn’t have dreamt of going to,” the 30 year old says. “It also helps my diction.”

Lawal’s main interests stretch the gamut of fantasy, romance, fiction and thriller and she is one of the many reasons why Anaba is happy and proud to push her pet project.  “I got a mail recently from someone I’ve never met before and he said, “God bless you for this”. And somehow the sincerity of that prayer got to me.”

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