As Nigeria commemorates its 63rd year of independence, we find ourselves at the threshold of history, reflecting upon the remarkable journey of a nation that has produced individuals who consistently exhibit resilience and excellence, even in the face of turbulent times.
The incredible achievements of Nigerians in every sector stand as a testament to our indomitable spirit, showcasing our creative and intellectual prowess. This spirit is exemplified through the works of our writers, whose globally celebrated literary creations have firmly established Nigeria on the world stage, leaving an indelible mark.
In this article, we embark on a literary journey to celebrate the accomplishments of 63 renowned books authored by Nigerians. These books have not only put Nigeria on the map but have also left an enduring imprint on the world.
- “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe:
Chinua Achebe’s debut novel greatly influenced African literature, offering a nuanced perspective on colonialism.
It follows Okonkwo, a respected Igbo warrior in the Nigerian village of Umuofia, and examines the impact of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his society. Translated into over 50 languages, it’s a rare African work with global acclaim, providing profound insights into Africa’s colonial history and culture, a must-read for diverse audiences.
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
This acclaimed novel, highly praised for its captivating storytelling and vivid portrayal of the Nigerian-Biafran War (1967-1970), is an intellectually stimulating read. It has earned prestigious awards, including the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007 (now known as the Women’s Prize for Fiction).
- Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka:
Wole Soyinka is well-acquainted with impactful writings. The play delved into the intricacies of culture and colonialism, earning him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. A must-read for all literature enthusiasts.
- The Famished Road by Ben Okri:
The book follows Azaro, a spirit child, navigating the complex and often turbulent world of Lagos, Nigeria. It explores poverty, spirituality, and the clash between the spiritual and material realms. This thought-provoking book, blending magical realism and social commentary, is captivating and rightfully won the Booker Prize Award.
- Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi
This book, honoured by the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Debut Author, weaves themes of oppression, justice, and the power of hope. It provides a captivating blend of traditional fantasy and West African mythology. Follow Adebola’s journey, a woman with magical talents, as she strives to reclaim magic for her people and topple the oppressive monarchy. I wholeheartedly recommend it to all.
- Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole:
Is a highly acclaimed novel known for its compelling narrative and insightful commentary on contemporary Nigeria. Its impact was significant in the literary world, as the book resonated with readers and critics alike for its exploration of themes like corruption, identity, and urban life in Nigeria.
- The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin:
This book, an Orange Prize finalist, provides a unique view of interpersonal challenges in polygamous marriages, notably within Baba Segi’s complex family. It delves into gender roles, infertility, societal expectations, and explores themes of love, betrayal, family, and personal identity. Highly recommended; you’ll appreciate it later.
- My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite:
The book centres on Korede, a nurse, and her sister Ayoola, who has a disturbing habit of killing her boyfriends.
It’s darkly humorous and engaging, exploring themes like family loyalty and societal expectations. Korede grapples with the moral dilemma of protecting her sister or reporting her crimes. The book won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
- The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola:
I first encountered this unique book in my junior high school literature class. Published in 1952, it offers a witty and surreal exploration of Yoruba mythology and culture. It’s celebrated for its lively storytelling, blending traditional Yoruba oral traditions with the English language.
This work has had a significant impact on African literature, inspiring later authors to embrace their cultural heritage and employ creative storytelling techniques. The book explores themes of death, life, adventure, and the repercussions of excessive drinking.
- Stay with Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀:
This book portrays the lives of Yejide and Akin, a Nigerian couple facing fertility issues. It delves into societal pressures and their hidden secrets. Shortlisted for the 2017 Women’s Prize for Fiction, it skillfully crafts human characters and addresses themes of family, tradition, and societal expectations.
- Graceland by Chris Abani:
A thoroughly captivating book that tells the tale of Elvis, a young Nigerian with aspirations of escaping the misery of his home country and becoming successful in the music business.
The book provides a fresh viewpoint on Nigerian society and illuminates the human condition, dream-pursuit in the face of adversity, and the world of political corruption and its effects on common people.
- Roses and Bullets by Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo:
An award-winning popular novel that won the prestigious Nigeria Prize for Literature. The novel sheds light on the complexities of love, politics, and societal expectations in post-colonial African societies.
Readers will find the story to have depth as a result of its themes of political upheaval, gender roles, and the conflict between tradition and modernity.
- Eze Goes to School by Onuora Nzekwu:
“Eze Goes to School” by Nigerian author Onuora Nzekwu follows young Eze’s determined pursuit of education in pre-independence Nigeria. This classic highlights the transformative power of education and offers insights into Nigeria’s rich culture. It’s a must-read for those seeking engaging stories with valuable lessons.
- The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta:
This skilfully written book, a timeless masterpiece, tracks Nnu Ego, a Nigerian woman, as she faces motherhood’s challenges and societal expectations. It vividly depicts Nnu Ego’s struggles and sacrifices, shedding light on women’s hardships in a patriarchal society.
The book delves into themes of colonialism, tradition, gender roles, and modernity, offering fresh perspectives. “Joys of Motherhood” has earned recognition, including the Jock Campbell Award from the New Statesman. A must-read for those interested in women’s rights.
- A Popular Kind of Black Man by Tope Folarin:
The protagonist of this stimulating book is Nigerian immigrant Tunde Akinola and his quest to find his place in America. It looks at issues like family dynamics, cultural displacement, and the quest for self-identity.
Wide-ranging praise for Tope Folarin’s writing abilities has been given, including the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, a prize of the highest calibre.
- I do not come to you by chance, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani:
This best-selling book delves into the world of Nigerian email scammers. Kingsley, a young Nigerian, joins his uncle’s 419 scam operation, using deception to extract money from people. It’s notable for its deep examination of the human condition in the digital era, touching on themes of family, morality, and the struggles of young Nigerians in an opportunity-constrained society.
- Sunset at Dawn by Chukwuemeka Ike:
The novel explores the life of a rural schoolteacher, Okolo, and his experiences as he navigates the complexities of his village and personal relationships. Its rich storytelling and humour
offers a glimpse into Nigerian rural life and makes it an enjoyable and insightful read for all.
- The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka:
This engaging play, set in a Nigerian village, delves into the clash between tradition and modernity through its characters Sidi, Lakunle, and Baroka in a love triangle. It explores themes such as cultural conflict, the importance of tradition, women’s roles in society, and the power struggle between tradition and modernity in post-colonial Africa.
- The Incorruptible Judge by D.O. Fagunwa:
The book, which was one of my favourites to read in junior high school, chronicles the exploits of the brave and just Judge Akaraogun as he administers justice and battles supernatural threats in a Yoruba context. It is an educational read for people of all ages, especially kids, because it places a strong emphasis on moral lessons.
- Time Changes Yesterday by Nyengi Koin:
In the context of modern Nigeria, the book examines the complexities of identity, self-discovery, and personal transformation.
The book’s themes of identity and societal change provide an interesting look at identity and change in contemporary Nigeria.
- The Gods Are Not to Blame by Ola Rotimi:
The book is a compelling adaptation that introduces classic Greek drama to African audiences while addressing timeless themes of fate and free will.
The well-known Greek tragedy “Oedipus Rex,” which served as the basis for the adaptation, deals with eternal themes of fate and free will in a wide range of contexts and displays the writer’s imaginative storytelling.
- Last Days at Forcados High School” by A.H. Mohammed:
Jimi Solade, a young Nigerian boy, is followed throughout the book as he finishes his senior year at Forcados High School. It is a potent educational resource for teenagers and young adults because it focuses on issues related to adolescence, family dynamics, and societal pressures.
- A Woman’s Body is a Country by Dami Ajayi
A poetry collection that explores various facets of the female experience. The vivid imagery, lyrical language, and thought-provoking themes that define Ajayi’s writing.
Its exploration of themes such as love, identity, feminism, and the intricacies of human relationships allows readers to reflect on their own experiences and emotions, thereby fostering empathy and understanding.
- Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi:
“Mr. Fox” follows a writer, Mr. Fox, and his imaginary muse, Mary, exploring love and creativity. The book challenges societal norms and gender roles, making it a favourite for equality advocates.
- The Concubine by Elechi Amadi:
Set in Nigeria’s Igbo culture, the story follows Ihuoma, a beautiful woman cursed to kill her lovers. The book explores Igbo society and the role of women through folklore and oral storytelling, offering insights into tradition and the human spirit. An intriguing read.
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
Chimamanda’s remarkable book explores themes of identity, race, love, and belonging. It follows Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman’s journey in the US, offering powerful storytelling and insights into the immigrant experience. Highly recommended.
NWADIGO ONYINYECHI RONNIE
- The Carnivorous City (Lagos Noir) by Toni Kan
“Gripping noir thriller set in Lagos, UK English. Follows Inspector Dapo Kolawole’s murder investigation of a wealthy businessman. Kan’s writing blends poetry and grit, with strong characters and a suspenseful plot. Awards include 2014 ANA/Atiku Abubakar Prize, 2015 Africa Regional Prize for Commonwealth Book Prize, and 2015 Nigeria LNG Prize shortlist.”
- The Smart Money Woman by Arese Ugwu
“The Smart Money Woman” is a successful novel centred on Zuri’s life in Lagos, Nigeria. It excelled commercially and won the 2017 Central Bank of Nigeria Financial Literacy Book of the Year Award. Arese Ugwu’s simple storytelling makes complex financial concepts relatable.
- The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo:
“The Sweetest Remedy” follows biracial Hannah Bailey’s journey to Nigeria after her father’s death. It explores identity, family, love, and culture, offering insights into Nigerian society. It’s a New York Times best-seller, a Reese’s Book Club choice, and a nominee for the NAACP Image Award for Fiction, making it a compelling read for all ages.
- Operation Sisterhood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich:
“Operation Sisterhood” follows four eleven-year-old girls in a Brooklyn, New York, apartment building, exploring their relationships, careers, and personal growth. It emphasizes the strength of their group support and shared commitment to empower each other. The book received accolades, including being a Junior Library Guild pick and earning nominations for the NAACP Image Award and Coretta Scott King Award.
- You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi:
This novel, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, beautifully explores the challenges faced by Feyi Adekola as she grapples with her sexuality, identity, and her mother’s passing.
The story delves into desires, transformation, and the quest for one’s place in the world, blending old legends with a touch of magic to blur the line between reality and fiction. A must-read for those who enjoy well-written and thought-provoking fiction.
- An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma:
Obioma’s masterpiece is notable for its realistic portrayal of Nigeria. The story of Chinonso, a young chicken farmer who falls in love with Ndali just as she prepares to commit suicide, is told in the book. Chinonso saves Ndali, but the two of them quickly become embroiled in a tragic love story. Love, loss, identity, and destiny are just a few of the significant themes that are explored in this Nigerian-set book.
Obioma’s use of Igbo mythology and folklore adds to the book’s complexity and richness.
It was a finalist for both the Man Booker Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It was ranked among the best books of the year by The Washington Post.
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
“Binti” is an excellent book that blends science fiction with African culture. The book tells a story about “Binti”, a young Himba woman who is accepted into Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Binti won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novella, making it the first work of science fiction by a black woman to win either award. It was also shortlisted for the Locus Award for Best Novella and the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.
- Rosewater by Tade Thompson
This is an excellent one-of-a-kind science fiction books set in a near-future Nigeria, where a mysterious alien biodome has appeared in the city of Lagos. The biodome, known as Rosewater, has healing properties, and people from all over the world come to seek its benefits. The story follows Kaaro, a government agent with psychic abilities who works in Rosewater. It is a must-read for anyone who enjoys beautifully written and thought-provoking science fiction.
Rosewater won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Nommo Award for Best Novel. It was also shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel.
- Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta
“Second Class Citizen” is an amazing book with interesting characters that talks about the challenges immigrants and women face. The book tells the story of Adah, a Nigerian woman who faces the challenges of being a female immigrant in 1960s London. The novel provides a vivid and intimate portrayal of Adah’s life, from her early years in Nigeria to her journey to England and her struggles to balance her aspirations with societal expectations.
It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1974. It has also been praised by critics and academics alike for its literary excellence and its important social commentary.
- Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John
This is a special book known for its beautiful writing, well-developed characters, and its honest portrayal of violence and extremism in Nigeria. The author, John, writes about the life of Dantala, a young boy who becomes a man during a period of political and religious turmoil. The novel addresses universal themes of identity, faith, and the search for meaning, making it accessible to a wide range of readers.
- Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
This is a well-written and engaging novel that demonstrates excellence by offering readers a thought-provoking narrative. The main character, Yinka, is a successful career woman dealing with the challenges of today’s world. She faces gossip and pressure because she’s not married, which sets her on a funny and sometimes emotional journey to find herself and be okay with who she is. Its blend of humor, drama, and cultural commentary makes it a relatable and entertaining read.
- Vagabonds! by Eloghosa Osunde
This is an outstanding book known for its beautiful writing, creative storytelling, and its exploration of deep ideas. This book tells the story of a Nigerian family over many generations. The story is told from different viewpoints and time periods, covering many years and different places. It shows how family members deal with moving, figuring out who they are, and holding onto their cultural roots.
It was a finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. It was also named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR.
- Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta
This book comprises of collection of short stories that look into the lives of Nigerian women as they navigate the complexities of their society, relationships, and personal aspirations. The stories are interconnected by the common thread of female protagonists facing challenges and seeking happiness in a world marked by cultural expectations and social norms.
Happiness, Like Water was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. It was also named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times.
- Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
Butter Honey Pig Bread was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, and the Lambda Literary Award.
This book is a masterpiece praised for its beautiful prose, complex characters, and evocative writing. It tells a story about three Nigerian women – a mother named Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Taiye and Kehinde. The story takes us on a journey through time and different places, from Nigeria to Canada, as it explores the connections and conflicts within this family. At the center of the story is a painful separation between Kambirinachi and Taiye, caused by a deep betrayal that has troubled them for a long time.
- Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
The book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. It was also adapted into a critically acclaimed film in 2015.
It tells the story of Agu, a young boy who is forced to become a child soldier in an unnamed West African country. Agu is trained to kill and rape, and he witnesses and commits horrific atrocities.
The book is a harrowing account of the dehumanizing effects of war, and it is a powerful indictment of the use of child soldiers. It is also a story of hope and resilience, as Agu eventually finds the courage to escape from the army and start a new life.
The excellence of “Beasts of No Nation” lies in its compelling prose, well-crafted characters, exploration of profound themes, and its ability to elicit emotional responses from readers.
EKEMINI ESEME FRANK
- The whispering trees by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a brilliant collection of short stories that talks about the complexities of human relationships in a Nigerian society. The book which won the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2016 was first published as a short story before it expanded into a full-length novel.
43.Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a highly popular novel that has received numerous awards and accolades including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 2005. The book was praised for its lyrical prose and compelling storytelling. The novel’s well-crafted characters and intricate plot contributed to its literary excellence
- The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is an exploration of Nigerian society and culture on themes of family, superstition, sibling relationships, and the consequences of a single tragic event. The novel was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.
- Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta is an impactful novel that explores themes of love and identity in Nigeria’s social and political landscape. The book was a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and stands out for addressing the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in a conservative society.
- Seasons of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a novel that received numerous awards and recognition, including the prestigious Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2016 and was praised for its exploration of taboo subjects in Nigerian society
- Open City” by Teju Cole:
The novel follows Julius, a Nigerian immigrant and psychiatry resident, as he navigates the diverse neighborhoods of New York City and reflects on his past and present. The thought-provoking book has been widely praised for its introspective narrative style and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
- Welcome to Lagos” by Chibundu Onuzo:
The book explores themes of corruption, social justice, survival, and the power of human connections and follows a group of diverse characters as they navigate the challenges of life in Lagos, Nigeria. The novel is notable for its portrayal of the complexities and contradictions of life in Lagos, one of Africa’s largest and most dynamic cities. It provides a glimpse into the struggles and aspirations of its inhabitants.
- The Spider King’s Daughter” by Chibundu Onuzo:
This novel explores themes of class, love, identity, and the clash between tradition and modernity in contemporary Nigeria. It tells the story of Abike, a privileged girl, and Runner G, a street hawker, whose lives become intertwined.
Its exploration of the disparities between social classes in Nigeria and its portrayal of a complicated love story make it a compelling read.
The Spider King’s Daughter was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction and the Dylan Thomas Prize.
- Butterfly Fish” by Irenosen Okojie:
The book delves into themes of history, identity, love, and migration. It weaves together the stories of characters from different time periods and locations, including 19th-century Benin City and contemporary London.
Butterfly Fish won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Edinburgh International First Book Award. It received acclaim for its innovative storytelling.
- A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe:
a satirical novel that tells the story of Odili, a young schoolteacher who becomes disillusioned with Nigerian politics and the corruption within it.
The novel humorously critiques the post-independence political landscape in Nigeria and explores themes of power, greed, and betrayal.
- The Slum” by Alkali Mustapha:
The book portrays the lives of people living in impoverished urban areas, often referred to as slums.
It delves into the challenges, dreams, and resilience of individuals trying to make a life in challenging circumstances.
- The Familiarity of Strangers” by Tolu Ogunlesi:
The Familiarity of Strangers is a collection of essays that touches upon various aspects of Nigerian society and culture, as well as the author’s experiences as a traveler and observer.
These books cover a wide range of themes and styles, from political satire and social critique to intimate portrayals of life in different cultural contexts. Each offers a unique perspective and storytelling approach, making them valuable additions to the world of literature.
- COCONUT: A BLACK GIRL, A WHITE FOSTER FAMILY, AND THE SEARCH FOR BELONGING AND IDENTITY BY FLORENCE OÒLAÌJIÌDEÌ
Set in the 1960s, the family-based memoir follows the childhood of Florence who grows up in London. Her parents, both Nigerian, relocated for work to give their family a better life. However, with her parents working, she was placed with a foster family and saw her parents only occasionally. When her parents decided to move back to Nigeria, Florence didn’t feel she fit in because of her English mannerisms and her inability to speak Yoruba. Her memoir showcases her struggles with trying to fit in in different cultures despite both of them being her own.
- HOPE AND GLORY BY JENDELLA BENSON
Glory is a British Nigerian who has been living in Los Angeles living her best life. But once she gets word of her father’s death, she’s finds herself flying back to Europe. Once she arrives, her family drama is on full display. There’s a deep, dark secret that’s been brewing in her family and Glory has the ability to keep her family from drifting apart.
- A COASTLINE IS AN IMMEASURABLE THING: A MEMOIR ACROSS THREE CONTINENTS BY MARY-ALICE DANIEL
This beautiful and poetic memoir follows the journey of Daniel’s family from Nigeria to England and America. Daniel recalls the culture shock she endured leaving Nigeria for England. From the weather changes, the cultural differences and the racism, Daniel felt she would never fit in. But Daniel found love and home in America when she traveled to California. Her resilience to life her life as a Nigerian, British, and American girl growing up under fundamentalist Christian and Islamic cultural influences gives hope to all Black diaspora people who want to take their culture to new places to call home.
- THE LEGACY OF MOLLY SOUTHBOURNE (THE MOLLY SOUTHBOURNE TRILOGY BOOK 3) BY TADE THOMPSON
This bloody sci-fi horror thriller is the conclusion to the Molly Southbourne series. If you haven’t read the first two, don’t worry because these novellas are a scary delight to get through. In this conclusion, Molly Southbourne is gone, but her spirit and sisters are still wandering about as they try to find peace and move on from their deadly past. However, the truth lives in Molly’s blood and there is no escaping no matter how hard they try.
- Women of Owu by Femi Osofisan
Like numerous other Nigerian writers, the work of Femi Osofisan focuses on colonialism and its impact on Nigeria. Even though Nigeria is an independent country, the legacy of colonialism still runs deep. He focuses on the complex history of his country and uses powerful metaphors to communicate his point.
- Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta
Everything Good Will Come takes place in Nigeria when the military was in charge and ran the country as a dictatorship. It discusses what it is like for a girl to come of age in such a challenging environment.
- Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila
it focuses on a variety of narratives that focus on what life is like for someone living under the dictatorial rule of the military government in Nigeria. The book won the Commonwealth Writers’ prize, launching his career as a writer.
- Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Onyesonwu embarks on a quest to confront a powerful sorcerer and confront the deeply rooted prejudices and conflicts in her society.
- What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arima.
A collection of captivating and thought-provoking short stories that explore various themes, including family, identity, immigration, and the supernatural.
Each story in the collection is distinct and often set in a world that blends the ordinary with the extraordinary, creating a unique and imaginative narrative. Many of the stories are centered around female protagonists and delve into their experiences and challenges in a changing and sometimes surreal world.
- Measuring Time by Helon Habiba
This novel tells the story of two brothers, Mamo and LaMamo, growing up in a small Nigerian town. It delves into their individual journeys and the impact of their choices on their lives.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Nigerian authors and their literary excellence that has continued to make the Country a celebrated nation worldwide. These curated books by these exceptional writers have not only entertained readers but also shed light on Nigeria’s history, culture, and societal issues. As we celebrate Nigeria’s 63rd year of independence, let us continue to support the Country’s brilliant creatives whose works are vital in shaping the narrative of Nigeria on the global stage and play a crucial role in its ongoing development and progress.