2016 has been a particularly dramatic year but we like to live in a bubble of amazing books sometimes. In that regard, it has been amazingly overwhelming(if that is a thing) for books by African authors. Yes, we are not getting into the African literature discussion today please and thank you. We talked favorite reads of 2016 with our favorite readers.
Sweet Medicine – Panashe Chigumadzi
Let’s face it; heroines rule the literary world. Set at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, this deliberately feminist book deals very elegantly with Tsitsi and the decisions she has to make to survive.
Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
Still on strong female characters. I like that she writes about something that people deem so mordern and recent in such a way that the story is set way back in the Biafra war. Her style is refreshing. It’s like she wrote first draft and it was perfect.
-Kearoma Desiree Mosata reviews at Struggling Bookworm.
Nwelezelanga: The Star Child – Unathi Magubeni
If there ever was a book that challenged literary norms in this country this year, it was Nwelezelanga: The Star Child. From the format in which it is written, to the writing style, to the storyline, to to the story behind writing the book itself. Nwelezelanga is a book that has turned the literary landscape, in my opinion, upside down. It was a breath of fresh air and I have never enjoyed a fiction book as much.
Exit! – Griezelda Grootboom
This book was more of a wake-up call than anything else for me. It proved to me how detached I am from the realities experience by people, especially women, in my own country. To be honest, before reading this book I never thought of things like sex slavery and human trafficking as realitiies that people in South Africa lived, and this book gave me a shock I am yet to recover from. If anything, this is a book I hope will inspire others to write their own stories.
My Own Liberator – Dikgang Moseneke
Besides being one of the most celebrated intellectuals in the country, Justice Moseneke has played his role in helping to liberate this country from the oppressivee times of Apartheid – only for it to be turned into the organized mess that it is today. It was an interesting read, and is one of those autobiographies that will remain in the concioussness of South Africa, and the rest of the world and will inspire future generations for many years to come.
-Thato Rossouw reviews at Decolonising Literature.
Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue
This book broke my heart; I was so rooting for the characters to bring their dreams to life and I’m a little upset with the author for giving me so much hope. I loved the simplicity of the prose, the way African Immigrants were portrayed, the Nigerian Lawyer, Cameroonian Lingo and of course, the food. Frankly any book that has puff puff served more than once, is a winner in my view.
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
This was an easy pick… This book was basically a course in history, a character driven course in history. Seeing life as an African over such a long period of time and realising that while so much has changed, so many things are still basically the same. This book is a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit and our hope that we’ll always find our way home in the end.
29, Single and Nigerian – NaijaSinglegirl
A debut novel by my favorite blogger, I found this book relatable on several levels. As a Single, underemployed, 20 something Nigerian, this book hit so close to home, If you took out the naivety and boy craziness of Edikan; It could be my life story. 29SN takes you through the journey of a young woman from a poverty stricken background trying to make her future as bright as she dreamed: With the perfect job, perfect man, perfect life… Only reality had different plans for her. This book has to be the funniest book i read this year and it definitely made August one of the best months of 2016.
Flame and Song – Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa
I love how the writer negotiates the literary terrain between prose and poetry. I actually first read it on independence day this year. It gave me feelings of nostalgia. A weird deja vu of events I didn’t experience but happened in my home.
-Carol, writes at Mental Stroll.
The Happy Marriage – Tahar Ben Jelloun
I feel so bad for just discovering this author and even recently found out he is a contender for the Nobel. I think we need to read more books from North Africa.
This book tells the story of a painter who was confined to a wheelchair after suffering from a stroke allegedly caused by his wife. As his wife reads his version of the story, she gives her version of the story.Although this is a translated book, the writing and diction is so beautiful.
Carnivorous City – Toni Kan
I may be a little bit biased but this is one of the best crime fiction from Africa. Set in Lagos, this book is about a man who suddenly disappears and his car is found in a ditch blaring music from the speakers.
The struggle to find him in a carnivorous and busy city like Lagos made the book such a page turner.
Known and Strange Things – Teju Cole
Teju Cole has finally discovered his calling; writing non-fiction. This is one of the most beautiful collection of essays I have ever read.
It turns the conventions of an essay inside out. It is more than the portrait of an unusual photographer or writer, it is an exploration of why arts/books are important, how we are made and unmade in the stories we tell about our lives.
The Face: Cartography of the Void – Chris Abani
Chris Abani is half white, half Nigerian, this book explores his mixed heritage, mixed feelings, his face, hiistory, stories with great insight and compassion. Recommended for lovers of good simple writing.
-Zaynab, harsh critic of bad books on bookstagram.
The Headline that Morning – Peter Kagayi
If you have by any chance heard of the Lantern Meet of Poets, or The Poetry Shrine, or generally are in any of the poetry circles of Kampala, then you have heard of Peter Kagayi, his audacious words as well as his impassioned performances. A man possessed by the richness of the world of artistic words, Peter delivers in this book some of his best work to date.
-Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa reviews at nevender.com
…on about the same old things – Katlego K Kol-Kes
In reading …on about the same old things, it is required of us to shed our skin and cast away our eyes momentarily so that we may wear the skin of the poet and in so doing become the poet and see and experience the world the way she sees it. Some people might call this Empathy. I would prefer to call it Humanity.
100 Days – Julianne Okot Bitek
100 Days is a deserving tribute to a time when humanity forgot what it meant to be human. Reading the poetry collection is a humbling experience. Bringing these demons back to life is a necessary evil, lest we forget the lessons of our past. Reading 100 Days is a guilty pleasure.
-Sydney Mugerwa reviews at She Made Me Do It.
We are All Blue – Donald Molosi
I feel like it is a book you are supposed to chance on really early in life. We are all Blue is a collection of two mastermind plays that explore well, what it means to be African? I think that’s it. It is required reading.
Questions for Ada – Ijeoma Umebinyuo
This is one of those books I’ll forever go back to and recommend to anyone and everyone because wow. It is a collection of such brave human poetry. Everybody needs a little light in their life sometimes(or a lot of it). This book is light.
What is not yours is not yours – Helen Oyeyemi
I like that Oyeyemi writes stories that are stories. Does that make sense? Her imagination literally, and I mean literally, catapults you into another world altogether and I find that really beautiful. The book is a collection of these stories.
-Esther Mirembe reviews at Subtle Royalty.
Kintu – Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Sigh. We tried to leave this book out but Zaynab and Esther and Kirabo and Carol insist it should be on this list.It also won the Readers’ Choice Awards at the 2016 Writivism Festival so clearly, there is something about it and we are not fighting it anymore.
And of course, Birth of a Dream Weaver – Ngugi Wa Thiong’O.
Main picture photo credit: @zaynabtyty