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B Side, Culture

10 Contemporary Nigerian Literature Books to Get into

Nigeria’s literary scene is brimming with powerful narratives told by contemporary voices. Here are ten remarkable works to settle in with now.

  • Chinonso Nzeh
  • 11th January 2024
10 Contemporary African Literature Books to Get into

Nigerian literature experienced its rise in the 50s towards the end of the British colonial administration. Writers like Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola, and Wole Soyinka shifted paradigms with their art, capturing pre-colonial Nigeria and the political portrait of colonial Nigeria.


In the 70s and early 80s came postcolonial writers who mostly turned to the topic of political corruption and violence: Cyprian Ekwensi, Elechi Amadi, Chukwuemeka Ike, Chris Abani, and around that period came a surge of women who birthed a more intimate representation of womanhood in Nigerian literature amid the political narrative: Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, Adaora Lily Ulasi, Helen Obviagele, and  Zeynab Alkali.


In the early 90s and 2000s came the birth of contemporary Nigerian literature, with writers like Ben Okri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helon Habila, Chika Unigwe, and Nnedi Okoroafor, carrying the obligation of history. 


Over the years, newer voices have sprung out and are telling important stories about modern-day Nigeria, recounting the past, blurring peripheries and shaping worlds with the power of language. 


Here are ten contemporary and remarkable Nigerian literature to settle in with (in no particular order):

  • A Spell of Good Things by Ayobámi Adébayò:



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Ayobámi Adébayò’s rousing sophomore novel, set in Osun state, probes Nigeria’s paradoxes and unevenness.
A Spell of Good Things braids the destinies of two families and illustrates how political declines—even as backdrops—affect their lives and lead to personal cataclysms. Ayobami’s language is masterful and succinct, and what makes the novel even more remarkable is how she weaves the personal and the political. 

  • I Am Still With You by Emmanuel Iduma:



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In his lyrical memoir, Emmanuel Iduma recounts being named after an Uncle who left for the Nigerian Civil War in 1967 to fight on Biafra’s side and never returned. Many years later, Iduma travelled from New York to his hometown in Afikpo, Ebonyi State, southeastern Nigeria, in search of resolution. This memoir is an incisive and visceral image of the past and present. 


  • Don’t Answer When They Call Your Name by Ukamaka Olisakwe:



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Ukamaka Olisakwe explores Igbo mythology in her new novel set in a multiverse. A child chosen by the oracle has to be sent into the forest to pacify an unsparing deity for past sins. Adanne, a young girl, is chosen for the task, but she decides to rebel and take back power instead of yielding to the god’s rules. This book is largely described as a mix of Ben Okri’s The Famished Road and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Olisakwe also takes up the task of burning the patriarchy to the ground in this spellbinding novel. Olisakwe’s writing is a blessing. 


  • God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu:



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With his collection of short stories, Arinze Ifeakandu examines the lives of queer men living in Nigeria, struck with longing, and, amid homophobia, finding love. This collection answers what it means to find love in a place where your existence is in rebellion with society. The stories are rich and poignant; they contain so much depth. Critically acclaimed, 2020 Booker Prize winner, Damon Galgut, has
said that his “voice is sensually alert to the human and universal in every situation.”

  • An Unusual Grief by Yewande Omotoso:




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Yewande Omotoso offers a relatively new arc of grief. Mojisola starts to unravel new knowledge of her daughter after her death; she embarks on a journey of self-discovery. When her daughter Yinka dies, she is finally forced to stop running away from the intricacies in their relationship, and also come to terms with Yinka as an adult. She moves into her daughter’s apartment and begins to unearth the life Yinka had built for herself there, away from her family. Through stepping into Yinka’s shoes, Mojisola comes to a better comprehension not only of her estranged daughter, but also herself, as she learns to etch a place for herself in the world beyond the labels of wife and mother. It is a bold and unwavering tale of one woman’s unconventional approach to life and loss. This novel is a tender, urgent, and careful meditation on child loss; the prose is sharp, and the plot is well-wrought. 

  • Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi:



In their Black Spirit Memoir, Emezi writes about the queer identity from an Igbo spiritual perspective, recounting their loneliness and uniqueness in this loud world; their spiritual identity as an ogbanje and a god; their struggles as a writer; their friendships. This memoir is instructive, prophetic, and deeply moving. 

  • The House Woman by Adorah Nworah:



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Adorah Nworah delves into thriller, which is remarkable and somewhat new. This novel is about crimes perpetrated in the name of male supremacy. It zooms into immigration, the American dream, and the idea that leaving home truly allows one greater possibility to thrive. House Woman is about a woman trapped in a perilous quagmire of clashing desires. 

  • Vagabonds! by Eloghosa Osunde:



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In this genre-bending novel, Eloghosa Osunde tackles the stealthy nature of Nigerian capitalism, subversion and oppression, and offers a defiant, joyous and inventive paean to all those for whom life itself is a form of resistance. This book is unflinching and rebellious; Eloghosa Osunde truly is an artist, in James Baldwin’s words, that points society to the unconscious. 

  • Harry Sylvester Bird by Chinelo Okparanta: 



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This novel explores racism, microaggression, xenophobia, and white supremacy, and other robust themes about modern-day America. The book’s premise is the eponymous character, Harry Sylvester Bird, a young white man who pictures himself as Black. Okparanta entwines delicious punches of satire in the novel. 


  • New York, My Village by Uwem Akpan:



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In this novel, Ekong travels from Nigeria to New York City for a fellowship at a small publishing house. There he plans to learn about the publishing industry and edit a collection of stories about the Biafran war, but his journey is dented with outrageous barricades starting with the American embassy in Lagos, Nigeria.

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