Two authors recommend their best books on Nigeria. The poet and novelist Helon Habila chooses his favourite memoirs and novels about the country and Michael Peel, the Financial Times’ former West Africa correspondent, talks us through the five books that helped him understand Nigeria. He includes Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes and The Trial by Franz Kafka.
We have other interviews with Nigerian authors not exclusively focused on the country. Chigozie Obioma recommends his best books on boyhood and growing up and David Olusoga, the historian and writer, chooses his best books on race and slavery.
The Ghanaian economist, George Ayittey, in his interview on Africa through African Eyes, looks at African “development” in general but touches on Nigeria. He argues that a new paradigm is needed to tackle the ill effects of poverty and corruption and improve the effects of Western aid across the continent. The author Adam Haslett, in his best books on evil, chooses Crude World by Peter Maass, which details how various countries including Nigeria have been negatively affected by the oil industry.
A number of interviewees chose books set in Nigeria, or by Nigerian authors. The South African writer, Justin Cartwright chooses Mister Johnson by Joyce Cary as one of his best books on Being White in Africa. Michelle Jana Chen, on her best books on Displacement chooses Half of a Yellow Sun by Chiamamanda Ngozi Adichie. John Kampfner, the former CEO of index on Censorship chooses another novel by Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck as one of his best books on Freedom.
The Zimbabwean novelist, Tendai Huchu chooses Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, a novel set in the Nigeria of the 1890s for his best books of Historical Fiction. Another Zimbabwean writer, Ellah Allfrey recommends Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters Street and a collection of short stories, A Life Elsewhere by Segun Afolabi. Marina Warner on her best books of fairy tales chooses a collection of short stories by the Nigerian writer, Lesley Nneka Arimah, What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. Nnedi Okorafor's YA novel Akata Witch is chosen as one of the best boarding school novels and chosen by Nigerian author Efua Traoré as one of her best West African fantasy books for teenagers.
Fantasy inspired by West Africa is taking the literary scene for teens and young adults by storm. These books have strong world-building and all the usual fantasy ingredients. At the same time, drawing on rich seams of mythology and magical traditions such as juju, they bring something entirely fresh to the genre. Author Efua Traoré talks us through her pick of West African fantasy novels for teenagers.