20 Of The Best Nigerian Books You Should Start With

This list is for those interested in reading Nigerian books.

These are 20 books you should read if you are new to Nigerian authors.

It doesn’t matter what you like: mystery, romance, adventure, or sci-fi. You will find something for you on the list.

The major thing about the list here is to welcome you to Nigerian authors’ styles, creativity, and the way they blend their backgrounds and history into their art.

20 Of The Best Nigerian Books (for people who are new to Nigerian Literature)

1. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

The Death of ViVek Orji is set in the 80s and 90s and explores Nigerian culture through the eyes of a man called Vivek Orji. What strange being he is? He was born on the same day his grandmother died and then had the same tattoo-like thing the older woman had. Sometimes later, when he had become a little older, he told his friends they could call him a he or her.

As usual, Emezi tells a thematic story that transcends beyond what you read. She implores us to see beyond the characters’ bodies, that the body is just a tool, not what people are really made of.

2. A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

This is one of the Nigerian books about class. It is set in Nigeria. Ayobami’s novel gives a lot of depth or understanding of what it is like to be divided by class. The main characters are Wuraola (girl) and Eniola (boy). They are on the side of the elite class. All things start to fall apart when a wealthy politician takes an interest in Wuraola.

3. Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola

Honey & Spice is a Romance novel & one of the best Nigerian books to come out in 2022. It is poetic in style. The author is romantic in sentences and descriptions. From the first line, you can feel the author is a big creator fan of sweet-sweet sentences. She is an artist-writer. The book is about Nigerian characters in a ‘situationship,’ but it’s more than that. It explores gender, society, food, music, sex, and, of course, romance.

4. What It Means When A Man Falls From Heaven by Lesley Nneka Arimah

This book is about how hard it is to blend into a new culture. We have characters doing their best to belong in a new country, but they have their heritage and a different background. To belong, they have to give up what they are and how they have been molded. How hard could that be? Lesley explores these difficult possibilities and how some of the characters get to realize — sadly — that they can not belong no matter how hard they try.

The Best Nigerian Books

5. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This book starts like this: One morning, an older sister gets a call from her younger sister; the younger woman has committed murder. But this isn’t new. She usually does kill people. In fact, I suggest you reread the title: My sister, the serial killer. The book is set in Lagos, and yes, some of the bodies were dumped in the lagoon.

6. Nearly All The Men In Lagos Are Mad by Damilare Kuku

Nigerians love humor; this author is one of those to read if you want a good laugh. It is a collection of short stories narrating women’s experiences and what they have gone through with Lagos men. It’s funny.

7. Americanah

How can we make a list of Nigerian books without including Adichie? She is talented, writes intelligent prices, and describes details with the keen interest of a baby looking at everything as new.

Americanah is one of Chimamanda Adichie’s books. Unlike her other books, this is set in Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

This book tells the story of Obinze and Ifemelu. They started as kids in Lagos, sought greener pastures, and returned to start where they left off. But things were not the same again.

I wrote a review of Americanah.

8. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okarafor

“Who Fears Death” is an Igbo translation of Onyewosu. Onyewosu is the female main character of this book, which is set in a futuristic world that looks like the current modern Sudan. It is sci-fi. It is an adventure, too, with the character going on a journey to seek vengeance against her biological father. The themes include tribalism, feminity, war, and more. The book won the Nebula Award in 2011.

9. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater is Akwaeke’s first novel, published in 2018. It’s about a girl called Ada, who has multiple spiritual entities (Ogbanje) inside her. Want to read about the intersection of Igbo culture and the belief around spirituality? You should check the book out.

10. Fine Boys by Eghosa Imasuen

The book is about the coming of age of three teenage boys who met in school in Lagos. At the university, they enjoy their newfound freedom from home. Then, political unrest ensues and changes everything they are familiar with in terms of freedom and where they can hang out. They have to be careful, or they will end up becoming part of a cult group.

11. Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli

This is an emotional book. If you have experienced the loss of someone dear to you, this book will feel like it touches a wound and takes you through the pain again. It is a masterpiece of how losing one’s significant other feels. It’s about a woman. Her husband died on New Year’s Eve, and she would take us through the emotional troubles that followed.

12. Vagabonds! Eloghosa Osunde

A ‘religious’ country like Nigeria frowns at the topic of LGBTQ, which is one of the things Vagabonds explores as a novel. The book is set in Lagos, a collection of short stories with other themes like corruption and patriarchy.

13. Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

As the title says, it is a book about the pressure of getting married, narrated by a Nigerian who graduated from Oxford.

14. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This is the first fantasy recommendation on the list. Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone is a series with female leads. In this fictional world, magic no longer works in a kingdom called Orisha, so Zélie decides to do something about it. The conflict is in the fact that the ruling class actually suppressed the magical. (Orisha is the Yoruba word for gods.)

15. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Baba Segi is polygamous. He already has three wives but decides to have one more. This time, he chooses an educated, young, and intelligent woman. The story, house drama, and funny events that follow are narrated from multiple points of view of all the wives and Baba Segi’s wives.

16. Seasons of Crimson Blossom by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

When a widow gets into a relationship with a younger man, a few people might raise an eyebrow. When the man is 26 and the woman is 55, then a few more will raise eyebrows. Then, it happens that the man is a drug dealer and the leader of a notorious gang. The whole town might writhe in their seats or pause to stare weirdly.

In this book, the relationship is set in Northern Nigeria, one of the most religious areas of the country. All of that sounds like an exciting read, plus Abubakar’s excellent writing style.

17. The Mechanics of Yenogoa by Micheal Afenfia

The book also explores the class differences in the country. It is a special kind of book not because it is narrated from the perspective of ‘mechanics’ or because it is set in Yenagoa in Bayelsa states, but because of the main character, Ebinmi, and the challenges he faces every day. He has two difficult apprentices to work with: a handful preacher, who comes around, and his sister is in a relationship with a man of many horrible habits.

18. Becoming Nigerian by Elnathan John

If you are new to Nigerian books, this is probably the best book to start with. Everything you want to know about the country and culture, you can learn from a satire writer, Elnathan John. But brace up. You either laugh too much and don’t finish it. Or you laugh and cry from too many laughs.

To begin, this is what it’s like ‘becoming a Nigerian’ writer:

The African Writer’s Look:”

First, you must look the part. It is important to look like an African writer. Find multi-coloured kampala fabric and use it to sew shirts which you’ll wear to all writers’ events. Or an old t-shirt. You shouldn’t look like a model or banker. Your precious time is spent thinking of plot and theme and words, not on dress and grooming. Your hair needs to be unkempt. However, nothing says authentic-tortured-African-writer like dreadlocks. Please, note that in Nigeria there is a difference between dreadlocks and ‘dada’. Dada is less refined, naturally matted coils of hair due to superstitious neglect. Dada is uncool. Dreadlocks are deliberate. They are cool. They make you look wildly creative. If someone asks; no, you are not a Rastafarian. You are an African writer.

Becoming Nigerian, Elnathan John.

19. Everyday Is For The Thief by Teju Cole

Teju Cole is a talented author. I like his style. When it comes to bringing the description of a city to life using all the elements of great storytelling, he is one of the best.

20. I Do Not Come To You Chance By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

After graduation and there is no job in sight, a young man decides to learn email scamming from his uncle. This book won The Commonwealth Prize for first book in 2010.

Notable mentions:

  • Things Fall Apart
  • Chronicles from the Happiest People on Earth
  • Stay With Me

Please check out my book (A Nigerian-chick-lit and romance book) about a lady who wants to live a quiet life in London after partaking in a crime and running away from her accomplice. Falling in love in her new location will slow her down, but can she help it? Get a copy: The Mystery Around Lola.