Nigerian author E. C. Osondu is the featured author in our series on what African writers are reading. Osondu, a Caine Prize and Pushcart Prize winning author, teaches creative writing at Providence College in Rhode Island. This year, he has published two books: Alien Stories (BOA Editions Limited) and When the Sky is Ready the Stars Will Appear (Ouida Books). Osondu tells us what he is currently reading but also shares his to-be-read list, in addition to recommending books he’s read in the past and really loved. If you’re interested in learning more about each book or would like to buy a book, there is a list below with each book mentioned, the synopsis, and buy link.
I am intrigued by the story collection from the mononymously named Kasimma. I read a story from the collection titled “Ogbanje,” and the ancestry of the protagonist in the story can be traced to Ezinma in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Wole Soyinka’s poem “Abiku.” I am even more intrigued by the book’s title—All Shades Of Iberibe. There is something unabashedly Nigerian and African about the title. I can’t wait until November to read it.
I am also curious about a novel by the Egyptian writer Noor Naga titled If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English. The title alone makes me curious to read the book. Since I finished Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy, I have been looking forward to returning to the land of the Pharaohs.
I enjoyed Travelers, the latest offering from Helon Habila who is obviously incapable of writing anything boring.
In the thick of the pandemic, I turned towards books that helped me travel vicariously—these ranged from travel books to novels that read like travel books. Interestingly, the first book I distinctly remember reading as a child was the book My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, one half of the creative Durrell brothers.
I highly recommend In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut the South African writer.
I recommend Deep South, a sprawling travel book through the southern United States by the indefatigable Paul Theroux.
Two travel books by the late VS Naipaul remain great favorites: Among the Believers and Beyond Belief.
A writer who is no longer in fashion but who I return to his short stories for their brilliance and what they tell us about human nature and the world in general is William Somerset Maugham. So, I highly recommend his collected stories including his classic story “Rain.”
Because I adore short stories, I will also include The Collected Stories of William Trevor.
For staying in the ring and refusing to hang up his gloves/boots, I recommend Wole Soyinka and his new novel Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth.
Perhaps, I should also give a nod to the grand dame of science fiction Octavia Butler whose classic novel Kindred I just bought and plan to read even though I am coming late to the party.
Helon Habila recently recommended The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, so I recently acquired that too and plan to read.