In the last decade, events such as the advent of modern technologies like audiobooks and e-books and the global success of Nigerian books and their authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elnathan John, and Nnedi Okoroafor, to mention a few, rekindled the reading culture in Nigeria. Hardly a year goes by that publishers such as Masobe Books, Ouida Books, Cassava Republic, and Paressia Publishers don’t bless several hands with exciting titles to look forward to and scintillating reads to get lost in.
2023 is no exception, as many book releases and events cemented this year as a special one for lovers of African and Nigerian books. As we take steps closer to bidding this year goodbye, it’s a great idea to reflect on the African literary masterpieces that have graced our sights and nourished our minds.
We’ve compiled 20 excellent Nigerian books published this year that you should read before the end of 2023, carefully curated by us. These books provide something for every reader, regardless of whether your objective is reaching the reading targets you set for yourself earlier in the year or losing yourself in these fantastic stories.
- A Spell Of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyọ̀
There are only so many Nigerian books published this year that have caught the attention of many readers all over the world, and Ayòbámi Adébáyọ̀’s second book, A Spell Of Good Things, stands proudly among them.
Longlisted for the 2023 edition of the prestigious Booker Prize, A Spell Of Good Things weaves a revealing and contemporary story of two Nigerians. A Spell of Good Things, set in Ilesha, Osun State, contrasts Eniola Oni’s and Wuraola Makinde’s lives to illustrate the reality of socioeconomic injustice. Eniola Oni, 13, was born into a household plunged into extreme poverty when his father lost his job. Conversely, Wuraola, a 28-year-old physician, endures a string of mistreatment at the hands of her fiance.
These Nigerian books touch on poverty, abuse, poor leadership, political thuggery, love, and sisterhood. With the help of a first-person narrative expressed by some of the characters, Adébáyọ̀ brings out the rawness in many themes shown in this book.
- The Middle Daughter by Chika Unigwe
Different writers, over time, have rewritten classics and injected their voices into these fan favourites in a way that shows their culture and divulges interesting nuances and numerous points of view. Prolific author Chika Unigwe takes this path in her 2023 novel, The Middle Daughter.
The Middle Daughter retells the famous tale from the perspective of a young Nigerian woman named Nani who lives in Enugu. Her story is profoundly encouraging. She is enticed into the arms of a charming preacher named Ephraim at her most vulnerable moment. In no time, Nani and Ephraim’s relationship swiftly deteriorates, and Nani catches herself cut off from her family and bound to her violent husband by children she loves but cannot quite understand. Without losing what she values most, she must muster the bravery to break free and take control of her life.
A powerful tale of family, sisterhood, abuse, and marriage, this book’s writing draws the reader in and helps them feel rooted in the many scenarios.
- And Then He Sang a Lullaby by Ani Kayode Somtochukwu
Set in Enugu and around the premise of a radically anti-gay Nigeria, And Then He Sang a Lullaby follows the story of two young men, August and Segun, in university in Enugu City, simply trying to survive. Following the passage of a significant anti-gay law by the Nigerian government, their odd connection results in a heartbreaking survival story that begs the question of what it means to love—as a queer person and, more importantly, as a human being—in the face of apparently unfair obstacles.
- Dazzling by Chikodili Emelumadu
Magic meets mystery in Chikodili Emelumadu‘s astounding literary debut, Dazzling, which provides a fresh outlook on West African mythology. This book takes us on a journey into the lives of Treasure and Ozoemena, two girls who are torn between an obligation to a spirit and a duty to a Leopard.
The girls’ choices and destinies have put them on a dangerous collision path. They have to question themselves, in the end, what must two young girls give up in a world that consistently rejects women to obtain what is rightfully theirs?
- Shigidi: And the Brass Head of Obalufon by Wole Talabi
The debut fantasy book by Nigerian novelist Wole Talabi tells the story of Shigidi, an unhappy nightmare god whose life changes when he encounters Nneoma, a lady with a mysterious background. Together, they try to overcome their limitations, become independent, and enjoy life as they see fit.
However, Shigidi’s senior gods have other ideas, and leaving the Orisha spirit corporation is more complex. For Shigidi and Nneoma, the chairman has one more task that will take them right into the heart of the British Museum.
- Don’t Answer When They Call Your Name by Ukamaka Olisakwe
The fantasy book Don’t Answer When They Call Your Name delves into Igbo mythology and was released by Masobe Books on April 24. It narrates the tale of a little girl named Adanne who, as a penance to the god for a transgression done years prior, was selected as the Aja, a child sent by the Oracle to enter the terrible forest.
- Daughter in Exile by Bisi Adjapon
The critically acclaimed author of The Teller of Secrets, Bisi Adjapon, dazzles us this year with a heartbreaking yet endearing comeback with this tale of Lola, a young Ghanaian woman’s struggles and obstacles in her quest to establish herself in the US.
- I Am Still With You by Emmanuel Iduma
After spending years living in New York, author and Windham-Campbell Prize laureate Emmanuel Iduma recounts his journey back to his birthplace of Nigeria. His namesake, Uncle Emmanuel, vanished during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s, and he set off on an illusive journey to discover what became of him. The war is still little mentioned in history books, although it destroyed countless families.
- When We Were Fireflies by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
This book, which is mainly set in Abuja, Kafanchan, and Jos, centres on Yarima Lalo, an artist who starts to realize that this existence is not his first or second while visiting a train station. His earlier experiences of being slain repeatedly begin to unnerve him and give the impression that he is going insane. He first meets Aziza, a single mother, at the train station. Aziza will be more than just a supporting character in his attempts to assemble the past to make sense of the present.
- God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu
From a man returning to the college campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then, to a young musician’s rise to fame at the cost of pieces of himself and the man who loves him, Arinze Ifeakandu delicately and gracefully dissects the central question of the heart in several stories in his award-winning book. God’s Children Are Little Broken Things ultimately answers questions on how true love and hope can endure in the face of overwhelming adversity and societal expectations.
- The House of Shells by Efua Traore
The House of Shells is a book that is both profoundly moving on an emotional level and a perspective on culture. The narrative, set in a little West African hamlet, centres on a young child named Kiku as she navigates the challenges of superstition, friendship, and family. Readers are taken to a world where the supernatural and the commonplace coexist via Kiku’s eyes, a world that is both familiar and alien.
- Onyeka And The Rise Of The Rebels by Tola Okogwu
The plot of Okogwu’s second book is centred on Onyeka, a British-Nigerian girl with psychokinetic abilities due to her Afro hair. It expands upon the events of Tola’s best-selling first book, Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun. In this gripping follow-up, the heroes are on the run and looking for a rebel organization to assist them in foiling Dr. Doyinbo’s sinister plans.
- House Woman by Adorah Nworah
As Ikemefuna leaves Lagos for Texas, she imagines herself living a joyful, typical American life filled with dancing lessons, a gorgeous mansion, and a handsome husband. However, her in-laws’ plan for her is even more wicked and dark. A marital union beset by intergenerational cycles of suffering and secrecy must be abandoned when family secrets come to light, and Ikemefuna tries to flee. House Woman is a psychological suspense novel that tells the story of a lady imprisoned in an arranged marriage.
- The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro
Stephen Buoro’s debut book, The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa, tells the story of Andrew Aziza, who was given the moniker “Andy Africa” by one of his instructors as he grew up. Andy is an adolescent Nigerian who grew up in the volatile Muslim-majority area of Kontagora, Rivers State, where riots, bloodshed, intercommunal struggle, and death are the norm. Andy has a penchant for blonde, white girls and is obsessed with Western literature and culture.
- Forged by Blood by Ehigbor Okosun
Forged by Blood, Ehigbor Okosun‘s debut novel blends fast-paced fantasy with Nigerian folklore. Forged by Blood, the first book of a duology, takes place in a magically recreated Ife where Dèmi, a young lady, has lost everything necessary to her because of the white colonizer rulers. Dèmi’s people have been exterminated and banned due to their magical abilities and dark complexion. Dèmi doesn’t hesitate to team up with dubious allies, both current and old when she has the potential to deal the King a direct blow.
- The Bishop Prodigal’s Daughter by Timendu Aghahowa
Unprepared for her mother’s unexpected heart attack and irresistible offer, Elo’s homecoming causes significant upheavals in her relationships with her neglected sister Zino, her prospective soulmate Didi, and her nascent religion. The Bishop’s Prodigal Daughter is a heartwarming, captivating, and motivational tale about second chances in family, faith, and love.
- Small by Small by Ike Anya
This medical memoir describes the narrative of Ike following his successes and setbacks from his time as a student to his first challenging year as a house commander. Many describe it as a book unlike any from the West, vibrant and colourful, and captures the colour and energy of turbulent Nigeria in the 1990s, a time when political upheaval, societal transformation, and deteriorating economic conditions made a doctor’s job especially difficult.
- Rose and the Burma Sky by Rosanna Amaka
Obi was raised in rural poverty in eastern Nigeria. Unlike his companions, he doesn’t particularly question the colonial powers; instead, he accepts how things are. He enlists in the army in 1938 to win over Rose, his beloved companion from childhood. But she doesn’t want to be married, so she relocates to Lagos to study nursing. She can pursue her work after Obi’s brave intervention when she becomes pregnant. In this book, Rosana Amaka skillfully weaves together the agonies of unfulfilled love, the horrors of war, and the idea that maybe it’s not the most incredible idea to follow one’s heart.
- The Cabal by Odafe Atogun
Bako Thomas is a lone man who maintains composure in an increasingly volatile environment. The city outside his flat is rapidly devolving into a dystopia due to a fuel crisis that is holding people hostage. His relationship with his neighbours, The Law, Gebu, and Mimi, is tense and anxious, and he is nearing the end of his time with Avé, his two-year girlfriend. He is forced to flee after a tragedy, and before long, he is drawn back into the shadowy world of politics and corruption that he had thought he had left behind.
- Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold by Umar Turaki
Umar Turaki’s debut book, Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold, is set in the small Nigerian village of Pilam and follows a group of young people as they navigate a world plagued by a sickness known only as “the Grey.” The compelling book by Umar Turaki tells the tale of survival, love, and the enduring ability for awe in the human spirit.