Loved It Because: it gives you the inside scoop on the culture and politics of Madagascar. Soamiely is the rare Malagasy author who writes in (great) English about these things. I lived in Madagascar for three years and often read Soamiely's posts on Medium but it was only once I was back stateside that I realized that he'd written two books (his other: Ambony-Ambany (Upside Down) is available to purchase on Lulu.com).
Vakio Milamina (i.e., A Quiet or Smooth Read) lays out the author's thoughts on life in Madagascar through a series of very loosely related essays. In particular, I loved "It's All Part of Growing Up" which is basically a 6 page rundown on the political history of Madagascar. Other essays like "Fiadanana and Moramora" made me laugh--moramora IS the quintessential essence of being Malagasy (from a vazaha aka foreigner perspective). It captures the incrementalism of progress (or de-evolution) and a peace with slowness that one notices even after only a few days in the country. Perhaps most useful for any visitor/tourist is his essay "Our Unambiguously Ambiguous Art of Conversation" in which the author lays out why a Malagasy will seldom ever say 'no'. If I had realized this early on I would have saved myself a lot of stress and frustration. But there's no reason to read just one essay--Vakio is the wonderful book that can be read in a single sitting or on a short plane ride. You'd also be well served to follow him on twitter at @soamiely
*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
***Want to read more on Madagascar, check out my compilation of posts from our three years there here.
NOTES:18 reciprocity ingrained in Malagasy culture
21 why there is the cycle of Malagasy political violence: 2 options for presidents
22 'in politics I have no relatives'
40 art of conversation--not every saying outright 'no'
42 until society explodes
44-7 Embracing a culture of failure in policy-making
68-74 Great summary of Malagasy political history
79-83 fiadanana and moramora!
83-87 How to make change and progress
98 TNR airport