#YNaija2015Review: The Fishermen, BlackAss, Under the Udala tree… The 10 most notable books of 2015

It is the end of the year once again and YNaija presents the annual list of the top 10 books released in 2015.

From trusted hands knocking it out of the park as expected, to relative newcomers displaying stunning depths of talent, our notable books are an interesting bunch.

Go set a watchman- Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize winning first- and only novel for 55 years- is a modern American classic. Its humane treatment of rape and racial politics is centralized around the hero, Atticus Finch a white man who is appointed to defend a black man accused of the rape of a white girl in the racially splintered South. The polarising not quite sequel, Go set a watchman, set 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird reintroduces the hero Atticus Finch as racist. This revelation caused a lot of controversy and made GSAW perhaps the most talked about book of the year.

On the bank of the river- Ifeoluwapo Adeniyi

On the bank of the river, a chronicles a young girl’s search for love. This quest makes her flee into the comforting embrace of a beloved aunt as she struggles to understand love, life and the inconsistencies of human relationships, even as she attempts to come to terms with a terrible family secret. On the bank of the river has been shortlisted for the 2015 Etisalat Literature Prize.

Baron of Broad Street- El Nukoya

The author of the well-received Nine lives returned this year with Baron of Broad street, a pulpy thrill ride through the city of Lagos. Exploring the class, cultural and identity conflicts that present themselves to inhabitants of Nigeria’s most important city, Nukoya zeros in on the lives of two brothers struggling to make it in the big city and unspools a big broad canvass of ambition, greed and persistence.

Of Broken men who cross often- Efe Paul Azino

This powerful poetry collection is officially Farafina’s first poetry publication. No surprise that the publishing giants would choose to take this journey with Efe Paul Azino, one of the most popular spoken word artistes in the country. Of Broken men… is filled with sharp, witty but moving reflections on what it is to be human in today’s world. Some of his most popular poems (Justice has been kidnapped) is reflected here, alongside mother meditations on grief, patriotism and death.

Born on a Tuesday- Elnathan John

Elnathan John debuts with Born on a Tuesday, the beguiling and breathtaking story of a young almajari boy, Dantala, who runs away from home and is forced to take up residence in a mosque. Dantala slowly embraces the Salafism preached by his new benefactor, and becomes increasingly involved in the extremist politics of the northwest. Earning ecstatic praise from big guns like Taiye Selasi and Uzodinma Iweala, Born on a Tuesday is an unsparing but dignified look at the effect of the insurgency up North.

A brief history of Seven killings- Marlon James

The third novel by Jamaican author, Marlon James- all 704 pages of it- was awarded the Man Booker Prize this year. Published by Riverhead books, this epic multi character narrative can be read as an important piece of alternate history, spanning several decades and revisiting the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in Jamaica in 1976. James’ novel also deals with the aftermath through the crack wars in New York City in the 1980s and a changed Jamaica in the 1990s. A brief history has been optioned by HBO for a planned television series.

BlackAss- A. Igoni Barrett

Kachifo publishers (under its imprint, Farafina) is responsible for BlackAss, a riotous riff on Kafka’s metamorphosis that plays with heavies such as race, gender and other time bombs. Written with a heightened display of passion and creativity by A. Igoni Barrett, BlackAss is a commentary of modern Nigeria as seen through the distorted lenses of 33 year old Furo Wariboko who goes to sleep an unembloyed black man but wakes up, born again as a white man.

 

Under the Udala trees- Chinelo Okparanta

Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and a devastating civil war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly. Okparanta writes fearlessly of forbidden passions and the ties that bind. Her heroine, Ijeoma is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced girl child from a rival ethnic community and they fall in love. How can such a love blossom? The New York Times Book Review observes, Chinelo Okparanta continues to distill “experience into something crystalline, stark but lustrous”

Between the world and me- Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coate’s unflinching meditation on race, unequal rights and police brutality in America, written in the form of a letter to his teenage son has been called required reading by Toni Morrison. Borrowing from a structure that has served James Baldwin in the past, Between the world and me is in turns bleak and sobering but laced with the faintest bit of hope for a better way of life for the black man in America. Coates received the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction for his troubles.

The Fishermen- Chigozie Obioma

Chigozie Obioma’s multi-layered interrogation of the coming apart of a once happy family following the prophecy of a mad man in nineties Nigeria has beguiled readers and critics alike. Taking the global literary community by storm in ways that no other writer since Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has quite managed, Obioma’s book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and emerged victor at the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer awards.

 

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