Funlayo Akinosi: The 9 books I enjoyed reading in 2013

by Funlayo Akinosi


Reading a book is a purely antisocial pleasure. You – the reader – reserve the right to your illusions. You can rate the experience fabulous and paint the words amazing as you modestly admire your exquisite taste and selection. Of course, when one or ten grumpy people interrupt your reverie to point out how they found the book unremarkable, you get to decide on the appropriate response: contemptuous compassion for their poor judgment.

Reading lists are different. They are shared with a fervent wish to be liked. And that your listener finds the same meaning in the books you choose to love. This list of nine isn’t any different.

1. Aminatta Forna. Ancestor Stones (2007),The Devil that Danced on the Water (2002), andThe Memory of Love (2010)

I read three of Forna’s four books this year. She is perfect for anyone who wants to see how an excellent journalist carefully and clearly tells stories of our people, of Sierra Leone, and of its eleven year civil war, and for everyone who loves good writing. You should get her fourth too.

2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanah (2013)

No surprises: I love Adichie. I liked her Ifemalu, a fearless woman whose humanity made her lovable still. This book is not about hair or immigration, it is a love story – a love story for single people.

3. David Brooks.The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens (2011)

Brooks’ fascinating fiction puts together dreary scientific nonfiction you may have missed. His book reminds us of how our minds work, how we make decisions, how life maps our paths and how we can get better at living. It comes off nicely. If you liked Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge or any of Dan Ariely’s books, you should take this to read in Lagos’ traffic.

4. David Foster Wallace. Both Flesh and Not (2013)

Wallace did impossibly delightful things with letters, and words, and sentences. This collection of essays – on Federer, literature, pedantry, deciding and other nice nice things – makes you thankful that he wrote and shared what his biographer described as a “beguiling ability to make you see the world as he saw it”. Every once in a while I reread or simply listen again to the Kenyon commencement address.

5. Eghosa Imasuen. Fine Boys (2012)

I found Fine Boys very funny and really sad. I’m very sure I loved it, and Imasuen’s remarkably fluent and comprehensible Pidgin English. If you liked Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives or funny contemporary Nigerian fiction, you probably have this already.

6. Elliot Perlman. Seven Types of Ambiguity (2005)

Perlman’s psychological thriller is the type that keeps you up, and as you read, steals a spot in your mind and makes you itch for the next page when all you really want to do is slow down, savour, prolong your pleasure. It is a faster paced Open City.

7. Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai.The Accidental Public Servant (2013).

I found El-Rufai’s truth remarkable because it is a written reference work of our recent history and for the debates it has stirred. And because it helps to remember that the “deals” and midnight conversations will be told, eventually.

8. Olufemi Ogunsanwo.General Yakubu Gowon: The Supreme Commander (2009)

General Yakubu Gowon led Nigeria through a civil war. He also led at its most prosperous. I found this book as a helpful reminder of how poorly we have done (if we need reminders). It is a smaller, if slightly more condensed “version” of Max Siollun’s really good book, Oil, Politics and Violence.

9. Reverend Samuel Johnson.The History of the Yorubas: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate  (1921) was written by a man who told what he saw of the Yorubas and of the history no one mentioned to me while in school. In Johnson’s words, you will find stories of wars and of love, as well as the historian’s conflict between his Christian God and those his people had worshipped.



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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