The year 2019 was full. In December, we released our list of The Notable Books of 2019. In January, we released our list of The Top 15 Debut Books of 2019. Now we look ahead into 2020 with our list of the most anticipated books of the year in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. The buzz begins. Please pre-order or buy the books.
THE DRAGONS, THE GIANT, THE WOMEN BY WAYETU MOORE
GRAYWOLF PRESS | JUNE 2, 2020
Following the outbreak of the First Liberian Civil War, a five-year-old girl and her family are made to undergo a treacherous journey in the bid to escape to a better life in the West. There, they discover it was not at all what they have been made to believe. Wayetu Moore’s memoir, the follow-up to her debut novel She Would Be King, is at once a documentary of the indignities synonymous with refugees and a testament to the redemptive power of love and family.
TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM BY YAA GYASI
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE | JULY 14, 2020
Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to the multiple award-winning Homegoing is a powerful, raw, and layered novel about depression, addiction, and grief, seen through the lens of an immigrant Ghanaian family in Alabama.
THE DEATH OF COMRADE PRESIDENT BY ALAIN MABANCKOU
SERPENT’S TAIL | MARCH 12, 2020
When Comrade President Marien Ngouabi is brutally murdered in Brazzaville in 1977, young Michel’s otherwise uninteresting life is changed in ways beyond his expectation. Alain Mabanckou’s novel is a powerful examination of colonialism, decolonization, and dead ends in the African continent.
AN ORDINARY WONDER BY BUKI PAPILLION
DIALOGUE BOOKS | APRIL 9, 2020
In her debut novel, Buki Papillon navigates a relatively uncharted territory—the life of an intersex African. The book is at once a resistance and a protest to the many narrowly-defined ways of being.
RIOT BABY BY TOCHI ONYEBUCHI
TOR.COM | JUNE 21, 2020
Young Ella has an extraordinary gift that allows her to see into the future. Her brother Kev is determined to protect her from herself. When Kev is incarcerated, Ella is left with the option of watching her brother suffer while holding the ability to wreck cities in her hands.
BLACK SUNDAY BY TOLA ROTIMI ABRAHAM
CATAPULT | FEBRUARY 4, 2020
Following their parent’s bitter divorce, twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike, along with their younger siblings, are put under the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable under their parent’s care, the girls are increasingly confronted with the reality of estrangement under their grandmother. Black Sunday follows the lives of two women as they come to terms with the loss of what once held them together and the many paths they have to navigate in the quest to find themselves and gain their individual independence.
AFTERLAND BY LEUREN BEUKES
MULLHOLLAND BOOKS | JULY 28, 2020
Blending a pulsating narrative with sensitive intimacy, Afterland is the shocking but familiar story of the lengths a mother could go to protect her child.
OUR RICHES BY KAOUTHER ADIMI
NEW DIRECTIONS | APRIL 28, 2020
Our Riches interweaves two lives: that of a bookstore owner and a young man coming into his love for books, all set against the backdrop of tumult in their country’s histories. While engaging larger themes of politics and religion, Our Riches is a tribute to the wondrous delights of reading.
EMBRACING MY SHADOW BY UNOMA AZUAH
BEATEN TRACK PUBLISHING | MARCH 12, 2020
Unoma Azuah’s long-awaited memoir, the first Nigerian memoir focused on lesbian experiences, bares it all with moving sensitivity. It is at once a manual in understanding the trauma of lived queer experiences, told from the perspective of one of the pioneering queer voices in Nigeria, and a woman’s story of her journey to self discovery.
ADDIS ABABA NOIR, EDITED BY MAAZA MENGISTE
AKASHIC BOOKS | AUGUST 4, 2020
In the tradition of Akashic Books’ noir series, Adis Ababa Noir focuses on the lives of ordinary Ethiopians, showcasing the country’s finest literary talent. Contributors include Sillerman Prize winner and Brittle Paper Award for Poetry 2018 finalist Mahtem Shiferraw, Silence Is My Mother Tongue author Sulaiman Addonia, The Atlantic staff writer Hannah Giorgis, Caine Prize 2019 finalist Meron Hadero, Brittle Paper contributor Linda Yohannes, Mikael Awake, Lelissa Girma, Rebecca Fisseha, Solomon Hailemariam, Girma Fantaye, Teferi Nigussie Tafa, Adam Reta, and Bewketu Seyoum.
SENSUOUS KNOWLEDGE: A BLACK FEMINIST APPROACH FOR EVERYONE BY MINNA SALAMI
AMISTAD | MARCH 31, 2020
In her collection of thought provoking essays, Minna Salami poses and addresses the realities of sexism and racism and the bigger concepts of Afrofuturism and gender politics. Sensuous Knowledge is a glorious addition to the many feminist manifestoes we live for.
WE UNBURY OUR DEAD WITH SONG BY MUKOMA NGUGI
CASSAVA REPUBLIC PRESS
We Unbury Our Dead with Song centers on four competing Tizita musicians and a US educated Kenyan journalist covering the competition. Set in Kenya and Ethiopia and exploring themes of love and longing, it is a love letter to African music, beauty, and imagination.
HOW BEAUTIFUL WE WERE BY IMBOLO MBUE
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE | JUNE 16, 2020
How Beautiful We Were is the heartfelt story of a small community’s resistance to the intrusion of a Western oil company. With poignant sensitivity, Imbolo Mbue’s second novel explores the evils of exploitative capitalism and neo-colonialism.
SEX AND LIES BY LEILA SILMANI
FABER AND FABER | FEBRUARY 6, 2020
Sex and Lies is a collection of nonfiction examining the dynamics of sexual politics in conservative Morocco, told from the perspective of Moroccan women themselves.
NAIROBI NOIR, EDITED BY PETER KIMANI
AKASHIC BOOKS | FEBRUARY 4, 2020
Drawing from some of the country’s finest talents, Nairobi Noir pays tribute to one of the most important cities in Africa. Contributors include Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Stanley Gazemba, Ngumi Kibera, Winfred Kiunga, Kinyanjui Kombani, Caroline Mose, Kevin Mwachiro, Wanjikũ wa Ngũgĩ, Faith Oneya, Makena Onjerika, Troy Onyango, J. E. Sibi-Okumu, and Rasna Warah.
AN ACT OF DEFIANCE BY IRENE SABATINI
THE INDIGO PRESS | MARCH 19, 2020
This novel introduces us to two middle class millennials at dead ends in their respective careers, and their sacrifices to make a relationship work despite the pressures they continue to face.
SACRAMENT OF BODIES BY ROMEO ORIOGUN
UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS | MARCH 2020
With poems as ethereal as they are sublime, Romeo Oriogun lays down the question of how much affliction the body is able to withstand before it gives way. Sacrament of Bodies examines queerness in Nigerian society, masculinity, and the place of memory in grief and survival.
THE RETURNEES BY ELIZABETH OKOH
HODDER AND STOUGHTON | MAY 28, 2020
In The Returnees, three strangers temporarily bond while waiting to board a flight to Lagos, each with their distinct background and peculiarly complicated history. After the plane lands, they all go their separate ways, but their lives will intertwine again.
WE ARE ALL BIRDS OF UGANDA BY HAFSA ZAYYAN
PENGUIN BOOKS | JULY 23, 2020
Hafsa Zayyan’s debut novel follows the lives of two distinct characters, generations apart, as they individually struggle to find themselves. It explores generational love, loss, and what it means to find home.
THE DEATH OF VIVEK OJI BY AKWAEKE EMEZI
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE | APRIL 4, 2020
Akwaeke Emezi’s new novel, funded by their 2015 Miles Morland Scholarship, details the troubled, short-lived existence of a young man in southeastern Nigeria. It is a novel about family, loss, and the redemptive power of friendships.
THE MADHOUSE BY TJ BENSON
MASOBE BOOKS |
TJ Benson’s debut novel, set across four decades, follows an unorthodox couple and their two children, and an abandoned house which becomes both a place of refuge and a place of torment for them.
EXODUS BY ‘GBENGA ADEOBA
UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA | MARCH 1, 2020
Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, this debut collection of poetry explores forced and free migration, recollection, and transition, questioning the juncture between the imagined and the historic.
DELUGE BY LEILA CHATTI
COPPER CANYON | MAY 12, 2020
Chatti’s debut collection of poetry investigates faith, shame, grief, medical treatment, and gender through the lens of an Arab-American woman suffering from an extended period of bleeding.
FACING YOU BY UCHE NDUKA
CITY LIGHTS | JUNE 16, 2020
These poems of love and desire investigate what goes into fabricating the public and private selves in the face of war, exile, protest, and police violence.
EFO RIRO AND OTHER STORIES BY IQUO DIANABASI
PARESSIA | JANUARY 2020
Set primarily within Nigeria and exploring spousal abuse, religious dogma, love, bravery, betrayal, and vengeance, Efo Riro speaks of the untamed resilience of the everyday Nigerian who is faced with the vicissitudes of life.
COLOURS OF HATRED BY OBINNA UDENWE
PARESSIA | JANUARY 2020
Obinna Udenwe’s second novel is a complex web of plots detailing a woman’s journey from childhood through the fire and anvil of love, loss, betrayal, lust and duty.
OVERCOMING BOKO HARAM: FAITH, SCARCITY AND ISLAMIC RADICALIZATION IN NORTHERN NIGERIA, EDITED BY ABDUL RAUFU MUSTAPHA & KATE MEAGHER
Using Boko Haram as a case study, this book addresses the larger question of radical Islamism in Nigeria and Africa.
CHARLOTTE BY HELEN MOFFETT
MANILLA PRESS | MAY 14, 2020
The editor Helen Moffet’s Charlotte, a re-imagination of the 19th century classic Pride and Prejudice, spotlights a woman in charge of her own life and determined to carve a place for herself in the world.
IKENGA BY NNEDI OKORAFOR
VIKING BOOKS | AUGUST 18, 2020
Nnedi Okorafor’s first novel for middle grade readers—and her 16th book—introduces us to Nnamdi, a young boy who, following the murder of his father, obtains magical powers during a mysterious nighttime meeting. The novel follows his journey to getting justice for his father.
THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE BY ABI DARE
DUTTON | FEBRUARY 4, 2020
Abi Dare’s novel is a moving portrait of a young girl’s ambition, and the many setbacks she suffers in her quest for a good life.
CONJURE WOMEN BY AFIA ATAKORA
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE | APRIL 7, 2020
Afia Atakora’s brilliant novel, set in pre- and post-Civil War America, is the story of three women. It is the heartrending detailing of their friendship, desires and the lengths they would go to save themselves and each other.