From award-winning sprawling depictions of infertility and feminism, to non-fiction accounts of winning elections in Africa, these are the YNaija2017Review’s definitive list of the most notable books of the year. Arranged in ascending order.
10. The Pressure Cooker – Nkiru Olumide-Ojo
Marketing, PR and Communications executive, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo arrives with a timely account of her journey to the peak of her profession with a soft focus, easy to approach narrative of her leadership journey. Olumide-Ojo who also runs a female networking initiative, appreciates the challenges peculiar to the woman in the workplace and writes about them with candour, deploying relatable stories and practical solution that could serve as guides and pointers to early and mid-career women. Her book bravely blazes the path for memoirist essay driven literature from women in professional fields and we’re here for it.
9. Welcome to Lagos – Chibundu Onuzo
With her second novel, Chibundu Onuzo attempts to grapple with the big, bad, monster that is the city of Lagos and comes forth with interesting results. The five central characters of Welcome to Lagos arrive the big city with little prospects, no money and plenty of baggage. Thankfully, Lagos is one of the few places on earth that offers a shot at redemption and an opportunity to make something out of nothing. Onuzo’s plot is a little on the nose and her outlook is quite naïve, but this relentless optimism is indicative of the centre of excellence.
8. A Woman’s Body is a Country – Dami Ajayi
The second collection of poems by author/psychiatrist in training is a deeply observed interrogation of human relationships; both intra and interpersonal and the ways in which people relate to the world around them. Published by Ouida books, A Woman’s Body is a Country isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, pursuing romantic affections and grappling with what it means for human beings to fall in love with themselves.
7. Love Does Not Win Elections – Ayisha Osori
Love Does Not Win Elections is Ayisha Osori’s dispatch from the frontlines of partisan grassroots politics. A revealing snapshot into how the cookie is baked and a detailed, almost cynical, autobiographical account of her foray into the murky waters of politics when she took the plunge and contested for the primaries for the AMAC/Bwari constituency at the Federal House of Representatives. The Harvard trained lawyer lost the ticket but her experience and insight, distilled into this confection of a book is a rewarding side effect.
6. When We Speak of Nothing – Olumide Popoola
It isn’t often that the lives of LGBT persons of African (Nigerian) origin are depicted on the page with a tenderness and empathy that Olumide Popoola manages with her debut novel. Set in the United Kingdom and Nigeria, this vivid, colourful and often musical narration takes advantage of the curious case of two best friends, Karl and Abu, to study how people learn to stay above water when faced with the peculiar challenges of a constricting, hypocritical society.
5. How to Win Elections in Africa: Parallels with Donald Trump – Chude Jideonwo and Adebola Williams
How to Win Elections in Africa is the direct result of authors, Chude Jideonwo and Adebola Williams’ work with StateCraft Inc, their political communications agency that helped deliver electoral victories to three West African presidents, Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghana), Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria within the space of five years. The work of non-fiction situates the relevance of this work in terms of elections and governance and draws parallels with Donald Trump’s surprise American win.
4. Blind Spot – Teju Cole
Award-winning author, essayist, thinker, photographer and critic, Teju Cole transfers all of these gifts to Blind Spot, an impressive, often confounding journey through about 150 of Cole’s full-colour original photos,’’ each accompanied by his lyrical and evocative prose, forming an immersive multimedia diary’’ of his years of near-constant travel. The experience of Blind Spot runs the gamut from a park in Berlin to a mountain range in Switzerland, a church exterior in Lagos to a parking lot in Brooklyn.
3. What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky – Lesley Nneka Arimah
The fabulous, occasionally heartbreaking and ultimately arresting dozen stories that make up the debut collection by Lesley Nneka Arimah are set in either Nigeria or the United States (where Arimah lives presently.) Featuring mostly female protagonists (and antagonists), What It Means explores femininity and the many ways women are forced to engage with the world. The stories are rooted in reality and in front page news, but the author finds, magical, fantastical ways to let her writing- and characters- soar.
2. Against the Run of Play – Olusegun Adeniyi
Olusegun Adeniyi’s inside account of the final days of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency was so feverishly anticipated, online pirates descended upon it immediately upon release. In twelve extensive chapters, Adeniyi, himself a former presidential spokesman, speaks with the key players and principal actors – including President Jonathan himself – who were responsible for the historic, un-Nigerian feat of upsetting an incumbent presidency.
1. Stay with me – Ayobami Adebayo
When you are Michiko Kakutani, revered book critic at the New York Times and you have carte blanche to publish your final book review at the paper before retiring, what do you do? You enter a glowing review of Stay With Me, the Baileys prize shortlisted, debut novel of Nigerian author, Ayobami Adebayo, declaring it, ‘’powerfully magnetic and heartbreaking.’’ Stay With Me details the dissolution of a Nigerian marriage and perfectly captures the loneliness and despair of infertility among other themes.
The writer tweets from @drwill20
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.