Some of these books you might already have heard about, but they deserve a mention over and over again. If you haven’t read any of these, you should ASAP. They are definitely my best Nigerian books to read.
I won’t be giving you full reviews today, so, no spoilers.
Books, are a very good way of discovering the world, as cliché as that sounds. Today I could be in south side Chicago with the Youngers and next week in Terrasen with Aelin Galathynius. Yes, fictional locations too.
Books help us discover love, experience pain, visit places we might never go to, gives us a front seat to what other people’s lives are like. Because no matter how fictional a book is, it reflects who we are as humans. These reasons why I love reading are part of the many reasons why acting is my passion.
Here are the 5 books by Nigerian authors that you should read as soon as you can, in no particular order:
WELCOME TO LAGOS
By CHIBUNDU ONUZO
I picked this book because of the title and I haven’t regretted it. Set mostly in Lagos, an overpopulated and one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
This book follows the journey of Chike Ameobi, Yemi Oke (both deserted soldiers), two young people, fineboy and Isoken, also Oma, a woman on the run from an abusive husband.
The story begins in Bayelsa and the ragtag group arrives in Lagos together, the city of opportunities.
The future seems bereft of opportunities though, as the characters navigate through the city of Lagos.
The author explores rebellion, politics, corruption, powerless patriotism and more in this engaging read.
She exposes us to the difference in class, the hopelessness of the people who lack and can’t get hold of the opportunities in this city that is meant to be full of it.
By SARAH LADIPO MANYIKA
As much as I had to read this book the first time as an exam prerequisite, picking it up so many times after was solely because of how good a read it is. In dependence is a book spanning 4 decades from the 60s to the 90s.
The book follows the love story of Tayo, a young Nigerian Man who earns a scholarship for Oxford University in the 1960s and Vanessa, the daughter of a former colonial master.
As an interracial couple in the sixties, they face racism, and self-doubts about acceptance from each other’s families.
Fate, family, politics and miscommunications get in the way of their romance and Sarah Ladipo uses this to take us exploring through the character’s developments and also a few African countries. She also takes us through the progression of Nigeria’s post-independence optimism to cynicism as a result of internal corruption.
STAY WITH ME
By AYOBAMI ADEBAYO
Stay with me follows the relationship and eventual marriage of Akin and Yejide whom he met in university (OAU y’all! – that’s my school btw) while she was still a student there.
The book at first potrays the usual Nigerian relationship stereotype where the male takes on the caretaker role, the relationship progresses smoothly into marriage and the familial pressures to bear a child begin. The couple is faced which childlessness and we can see how this makes the society consider the union a failure. We see how the burden of childlessness is placed on Yejide and how heavily it weighs on her.
Stay with me highlights how we manifest what is being fed to us as we grow, how we try to carry out the expectations placed on us by society as individuals.
The book revolves around the importance of children and childbearing in Nigerian families and how the value of a woman is tied to how well she carries out this duty. Stay with me sensitizes you, and that’s why it’s one of my best Nigerian books to read.
SECOND CLASS CITIZEN
By BUCHI EMECHETA
This book, based partially on Buchi Emecheta’s life herself, is a struggling, without self-pity story of Adah Obi. A young girl that gained education through sheer force of will and with further ambitions to study more and also travel abroad.
As an orphan with an inability to live alone lest be labelled a prostitute, she gets married to Francis Ofili. Francis and his family, I will generously refer to as leeches. With her help, she and her family relocates to London. In England she goes through a myriad of degradations and turmoil by the virtue of being black.
All through this, she struggled for her family and for her unsupportive husband who studied off her back. Which is why to me, Adah is not just a second class citizen but a third class citizen, a second class citizen by race and a third class citizen by gender.
Buchi Emecheta decribes and unfolds the story in a griping way that makes you want to go into the story and right the wrongs yourself. This book kept me at the edge of my feet as I kept wondering when a great intervention would happen. The book opened my eyes to a lot of situations and was a really enlightening read. It’s why it made it onto this list of my best Nigerian books to read.
By CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
Reading this book for the first time as a 15 year old, I was hooked. What captivated me the most was how real Chimamanda’s style of writing is.
Americanah is a story about ifemelu and Obinze who fell in love as teenagers in Nigeria. Due to the failing economy, many Nigerians started relocating to other countries, including ifemelu who relocated to America. Obinze tried to follow her but all efforts proved abortive.
In America, Ifemelu goes through varying experiences as she tries to find her feet in a foreign country. She also discovers race, something which she didn’t have to deal with in her home country. 13 years later, Ifemelu returns to Nigeria as a strong willed, smart woman and outspoken as ever while Obinze is a wealthy, charismatic Lagos magnate. Here, their story begins anew.
While reading Americanah you feel transported and it is as though the events are unfolding right in front of you. I’ve reread the book a lot of times (I can’t even keep count) and when I read it now, what grips me is how relatable most of Ifemelu’s story is to my present day life. This book is romantic as much as it’s a social satire.