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Yaa Gyasi’s novel Homegoing.

In 2017, I set out to read 50 books. I am currently at 42. I hope to close at 45, which is not so shabby. I am counting down to my best books of 2017—books I read in 2017, because not all of them were published this year.

10. WHAT HAPPENED BY HILLARY CLINTON

In this raw memoir, Hillary Clinton discusses the most divisive election in modern U.S. history, approaching it with a brutal honesty not typical of politicians. Hillary is often known to be guarded, but this time, she let her guard down and spoke from her heart. This is a book worth reading—there are lessons in it for everyone but especially for women who want a career in public life. Tip: read it alongside Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

9. BEHOLD THE DREAMERS BY IMBOLO MBUE

A Cameroonian couple in pursuit of the American dream. The story is laid out beautifully, the characters as well, and Imbolo’s use of imagery is fantastic. I typically roll my eyes at immigration stories written by Africans but I really loved this one. Warning: there is a lot of humor.

8. CITY OF MEMORIES BY RICHARD ALI

I bought this book on a whim; I was not familiar with both the writer and the book, but it turned out to be a good story. It is set in the city of Jos, in Northern Nigeria. It tugged at my heart: his characters are strong and recognizable. A readable book.

7. WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY BY LESLEY NNEKA ARIMAH

Many short story collections typically run along common themes, but Lesley delivered a collection of diverse stories, which all tie in beautifully. Lesley is an expert in character development—some are so vivid, you think someone in your life inspired them. “Wild” is my favorite story. I couldn’t stop laughing.

6. INDIGO BY MOLARA WOOD

This book was a pleasant surprise, as I have had it for two years but never came around to reading it. Molara Wood is a Story Teller. I really liked “Night Market,” and found the collection effortless despite having very strong themes. I finished this book in one sitting while waiting for a flight.

5. STAY WITH ME BY AYOBAMI ADEBAYO

Ayobami tells the story of a Nigerian family struggling with childlessness and all the issues that come with it. The characters are masterfully done, even the minor characters are well developed.

4. LONGTHROAT MEMOIRS BY YEMISI ARIBISALA

Guys, this is not a cook book. I repeat: this is not a cook book. It is a collection of layered, nuanced and interwoven conversations centered around Nigerian food. There is a sprinkling of recipes but the dominant theme is the character of Nigerian cuisine and its soul. It reads like a conversation with an eccentric aunt over a bottle of wine. I sampled the puff-puff recipe, by the way.

3. DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS BY CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE

I kept screaming throughout this book that the lover had to check a few times if I was okay. I honestly wish I could hand this book to every Nigerian parent. Adichie doesn’t approach it from a place of superiority. She shares her insight and acknowledges that it may not work, but encourages her friend—and all of us—to try.

2. HOMEGOING BY YAA GYASI

This is the best book of fiction I have read in a very long time. It is like a short story collection. Each chapter flowed easily into the next, with such effortlessness that you do not realize you are reading many different stories. Stories from three hundred years ago, right down to our present day, woven around colonialism and America’s institutionalisation of racism.

1. THE POWER BY NAOMI ALDERMAN

This book is electrifying. Naomi Alderman creates a picture in which women suddenly have the power and are fighting patriarchy strongly. Eventually some of them become the very same thing they were fighting, and all of this is painted with such vivid imagery that I had to put the book down at some points to catch my breath. This is a provocative and important story.

 

About the Author:

Franklyne Ikediasor lives in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where he runs The Portharcourt Bookclub. Typically found running, cycling and getting together with friends to share bouts of wine fueled laughter. He wants to get as many Nigerians as possible reading literature again. He tweets @thatPHCboy.

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OTOSIRIEZE is a writer, literary journalist, former academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. A judge for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award, he is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective which has published two volumes: WE ARE FLOWERS and THE INWARD GAZE. He is the curator of ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness: ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016) focuses on cities in Nigeria; WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017) focuses on professions in Nigeria. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition, and has been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship and the Gerald Kraak Award, both in 2016, and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, the boy just Googles Rihanna. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts editing and writing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze.

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