From chart-topping fantasies taking the world by storm to eyewitness accounts of a slice of Nigerian history, these are the 10 most notable books of the year. Arranged in ascending order.
On a Platter of Gold: How Jonathan won and lost Nigeria – Bolaji Abdullahi
On a Platter of Gold is solid as a profile of power and all the ways that power corrupts absolutely. Former Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Bolaji Abdullahi pretty much covers the basics of President Goodluck Jonathan’s rise and fall. Written in simple, engaging language with the occasional catchy turn of phrase, and melding the author’s journalistic eye for detail with his insider’s advantage, On a Platter of Gold, has a central, almost instinctive simplicity that appeals to readers from all walks of life.
She Called Me Woman: Nigerian Queer Women Speak – Eds, Azeenarh Mohammed, Chitra Nagarajan and Rafeeat Aliyu
This compendium of 30 personal accounts by individuals from Nigeria’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) communities presents first hand narratives that capture the realities of being queer and female in Nigeria. These accounts cover an array of experiences, from the joy and excitement of first love to the tortured agony of lost love as well as the sometimes-fraught relationship between sexuality and spirituality. She Called Me Woman is bold, stirring and challenging.
My Transition Hours – Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
My Transition Hours is former President Goodluck Jonathan’s attempt at re-centering the narrative of the events that immediately followed the anxiety filled moments in 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari was announced winner of the hotly contested presidential elections. Jonathan wants to be the hero of his story and casts himself in that role while detailing the rationale behind his actions and his uncommon ability to maintain courage under fire. It is no wonder that the book has been hijacked by the political system with every party offering up their own interpretation.
Lives of Great Men – Chike Frankie Edozien
Winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Memoir/Biography, Chike Franke Edozien’s Lives of Great Men is an intensely personal series offering contemporary snapshots of same-gender-loving Africans, unsung men living their lives and finding joy in the face of great adversity. Edozien explores the worsening legal climate for gay men and women on the continent and the impact of homophobic evangelical American pastors.
A Stranger’s Pose – Emmanuel Iduma
Emmanuel Iduma’s luxuriant A Stranger’s Pose is a weird mix of memoir, travelogue, and photography in one slender package. Based both on personal experiences and stories gathered on the road, Iduma sharply observes fleeting encounters and tries to understand how loneliness remains a constant in a world where a social connection is merely a click away. A Stranger’s Pose is the story of the world told through the eyes of people and photographers.
Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines – Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala
Fighting Corruption is Dangerous is former Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s answer to those who have dismissed her second coming as finance minister, this time serving in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, as largely ineffectual. If the title of the book sounds just a tad self-congratulatory, it is only because sometimes setting the record straight and rolling out a list of one’s achievement aren’t mutually exclusive.
Embers – Soji Cole
Winner of the $100,000 Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) prize for literature, Embers is intensely dramatic, metaphoric and largely relevant. Embers is a drama focusing on the lived-in experiences of survivors in an Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp in Northern Nigeria. The characters that make up Embers, give testimonies of their ugly encounters in Sambisa Forest, as well as their painful discovery of life in the IDP camp which isn’t quite what they expect.
My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
Braithwaite’s debut novel, already optioned for the big screen by British giants, Working Title is a playful and affecting examination of sibling rivalry, the legacy of abuse and the shallow sexism of Nigeria’s patriarchal society. What’s not to love? As the title suggests, My Sister, the Serial Killer is the story of Korede, a woman whose younger sister, Ayoola has an inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends. An exciting romp, the book has been hailed as perfect for these #MeToo times.
Freshwater – Akwaeke Emezi
Freshwater is the story of Ada, a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief. She is born “with one foot on the other side and begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallises into something more powerful. Written with style and wit to burn, the often challenging Freshwater is based on the author’s realities and plunges the reader head long into the mysteries of self.
Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
For her New York Times bestselling debut, Tomi Adeyemi borrowed heavily from Yoruba culture and West African mythology, as well as from Western fantasy fiction like Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender and the American Black Lives Matter movement. The first in a planned trilogy, Children of Blood and Bone follows Zélie Adebola, the young heroine who sets out on a task to restore magic in the country of Orïsha.
On our radar…
When Trouble Sleeps – Leye Adenle
Edwardsville By Heart – Kola Tubosun
We Won’t Fade Into Darkness- TJ Benson
Dust to Dew – Betty Irabor
Speak No Evil – Uzodinma Iweala