It’s becoming cliché to say that the year flew by pretty fast, but that happened this year again, and I have a number of books to thank for providing a hiding place from the overwhelming nature of reality. Now, the time has come to take stock of progress and setbacks, and to reminisce about the delight that words in print provided to carry one through a tumultuous year.

(You can find my Books of 2016 here)

Here are books I read, wrote, or contributed to this year, in no particular order. Where a link is provided, it’s usually to a review of the work that I wrote.

Books I Completed

  1. Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
  2. The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo
  3. When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Popoola
  4. Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atógun
  5. A Good Mourning by Ogaga Ifowodo
  6. The Heresiad by Ikeogu Oke
  7. Songs of Myself by Tanure Ojaide
  8. Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika
  9. I Wrote This For You by Samira Sanusi
  10. The Kindness of Enemies by Laila Aboulela
  11. Slipping by Lauren Beukes
  12. The Birth of a Dreamweaver by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
  13. Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzor
  14. Níyì Ọ̀ṣúndáre: A Literary Biography by Sule E. Egya
  15. Grass to Grace by Ayọ̀ Bámgbóṣé
  16. America their America by JP Clark

I enjoyed all the books I completed this year, especially in the prose department. Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s anticipated debut blew me away in a number of ways, and perplexed me in others. I also enjoyed Mohale Mashigo’s debut which explores trauma and mental illness, Olúmìdé Pópóọlá’s delightful prose and a story of friendship, Lauren Beukes’s collection of dystopian stories, and Sarah Manyika’s beautiful and unconventional book about love in old age. I think I should read more non-conventional prose like these in the next year. Normal is boring.

I was honoured to be able to speak with Laila Aboulela in Kaduna in July, discussing her historical novel The Kindness of Enemies. I’ve always found work that incorporate elements of fact into fiction to be very engaging. That way I can pretend that it’s nonfiction when it is really not. I loved Taduno’s Song for the same reason. I look forward to reading more of such work.

Started But Not Finished

  1. A Woman’s Body is a Country by Dami Àjàyí
  2. Masks of Light by Robert Eliot Fox
  3. What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
  4. Are You Not a Nigerian? by Báyọ̀ Olúpohùndà
  5. The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes
  6. The Book of Memory by Pettina Gappah
  7. The Sellout by Paul Beaty
  8. Facade by Emem Uko
  9. The Idiot by Elif Batuman
  10. Beyond Linguistics and Multilingualism in Nigeria: Essay on linguistics and multilingualism, language in education, English language, Yoruba language & Literature by Ayọ̀ Bámgbóṣé.
  11. Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black by Nadine Gordimer
  12. In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honoré

Speaking of delightful prose, one book I can’t wait to finish is Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. It is my first time reading anything she’s written and I’m blown away. Thanks to the folks at Farafina for sending me a complimentary copy. The book is a collection of short stories each carrying a heavy punch. Her words are sweet and svelte, capable of telling a story, no matter how difficult, with care and beauty. Two of my friends, Báyọ̀ Olúpohùndà and Dami Àjàyí also published a book each this year, and I look forward to spending quality time with them. I’ve read Àjàyí’s book as a manuscript, and many of the articles in Olúpohùndà’s when they were newspaper columns. But I look forward to reading them again. I also highly recommend Robert Eliot Fox’s collection of poetry, published by a publishing outfit by Frank Chipasula whom I met for the first time in Abu Dhabi in April.

Bought But Not started.

  1. Nollywood by Jonathan Haynes
  2. Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe
  3. White Lagos by Pẹ̀lú Awófẹ̀sọ̀
  4. Al Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
  5. King Baabu by Wọlé Ṣóyínká
  6. The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma
  7. Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman
  8. Dialogue With My Country by Niyi Ọ̀súndáre
  9. The Translator by Laila Aboulela
  10. A Black Man in the White House by Cornell Belcher
  11. Kintu by Jeniffer Nansubuga Makumbi
  12. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Walk in the White House by Alyssa Mastromon

Of these twelve, the one less likely to be read in a hurry now is Al Franken’s autobiography which I was actually looking forward to. His resignation from the Senate amidst allegations, by about eight women, of sexual impropriety will certainly cast a shadow on any of the jokes he makes in the work about working with women. Not like the Letterman story will be any less cringe-inducing, but one of them managed to escape unscathed from public life. Some irony in that. Both of them, however, still occupy a very important place in American public life, as well as in comedy. I bought the Nollywood book at the Lagos Conference this summer, on impulse purchase, and because the author was there. But don’t know when I’ll ever get to it now. It does look like a good reference material on the story of Nigeria’s thriving movie industry though. I also look forward to reading Okey Ndibe’s Arrows of Rain which actually preceded his memoir published last year. Will be interesting to trace his creative development and style.

Publications my works appeared in.

  1. GENERAL NONFICTION. Saraba Magazine’s published its first print issue this year, titled Transitions. In it, I have a nonfiction piece, co-written with Tèmítáyọ̀ Ọlọ́finlúà titled “House 57”, about a house in Ìbàdàn that means a lot to me, but also carries an important story that touches more than just its immediate characters.
  2. REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS. I published a number of reviews and interviews on Brittle Paper this year, of works of writers like Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Níyì Ọ̀ṣúndáre, Chibundu Onuzor, Odafe Atógun, Lauren Beukes, Tádé Ìpàdéọlá, and Wana Udobang. I also published a couple of works on, most notably my interview with Yẹ́misí Aríbisála (February 2017) and Titilope Sonuga (July 2017). I also joined This is Africa later in the year as a resident interviewer, publishing interviews with Dami Àjàyí (October 2017), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (November 2017), and Igoni Barrett (December 2017). In Ake Review 2017, I have an interview with debut author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ on her work, her process, and on the presentation of women in fiction. It’s aptly titled “There’s Not One Way to Write a Feminist Character” — a quote taken directly from the author’s response to a question I had posed.
  3. ESSAYS. Earlier in March, my literary essay In the Shadow of Context was published in Enkare Review. It was later nominated for the Brittle Paper Award for Think Pieces. In June, I contributed an essay titled Wetin Dey? Nigerian Pidgin and its Many Pikin as a preface to Inua Ellams’s Barbershop Chronicles staged and published by the UK National Theatre. In November 2017, my essay appeared in Il Suono di Pan an anthology edited by Prof. MM Tosolini and launched at Cividale del Friuli, near Udine in November 2017. The essay was titled The Suspended Leg in the Tripod of Identity: Yorùbá Around the World Today. it was also translated to Italian.
  4. FEATURES. In January this year, Latterly Magazine’s Ashley Okwuosa shadowed me around places in Ìbàdàn where I grew up, asking relevant questions about my work as a writer and linguist. We visited Àkóbọ̀, the University of Ìbàdàn, and she met a couple of my professors. The result was a long profile titled “The Yorùbá Guardian” in the Spring Issue of the magazine. So, while this is technically not my work, it’s one I’m glad to have participated in.

Books Lost

This one is a tragedy A book I’ve had with me since 2002 was “borrowed” from me without my permission while I was attending the Kaduna Book and Art Festival (KABAFEST). Still waiting for whoever has it to send it back, graciously.

Hello 2018!

Thinking back, it’s hard to believe I read (or wrote) this much this year. My pocket certainly doesn’t believe it. There are so many more books I have bought and I’m looking forward to reading. The complete works of Nnedi Okorafor, for instance. Something tells me that the time for sci-fi and fantasy fiction is upon us. Every year I promise myself not to buy more books than I can read. I’ve failed this year, but 2018 is another year.

So, what books did you read and enjoy this year? And will you lend me to read?

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