Rediscovering Nigerian Literature: A List of Must-Read Books and Their Authors

by Oghenechovwe Eghwrudjakpo
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literature books

Nigerian literature encompasses a wide range of diverse narratives that reflect the country’s rich literary heritage. Nigerian literature grasps its inspiration from our traditional storytelling system, with central themes on culture and societal happenings. It reflects social realities and the average Nigerian human experience.  

Today, we shall examine some popular Nigerian novels and their authors. These books are indeed a must-read for any bibliophile reading this.

The Evolution of Nigerian Literature: A Brief Account

A significant body of interesting and vibrant blend of literature has been instrumental to the art of storytelling. Nigerian authors incorporate folktale stories, traditions, myths, language and cultural heritage creating a perfect blend of traditional and Western storytelling.

In recent years, interest has been resurgent in our literary landscape, as many people seek to rediscover this cultural tapestry. From fiction to poetry, non-fiction to prose and drama, there have been classic masterpieces that have reshaped the Nigerian literature world. 

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8 Must-Read Nigerian Literature and Their Authors 

Now, let’s explore some interesting Nigerian books and their celebrated authors:

  1. “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe

This Nigerian book remains a classic masterpiece. Achebe captures a blend of culture, tradition and its attendant colonial effect. Here, Achebe tells the story of Okonkwo, a man whose life was centred on the traditions of his people and the invasion of Western influence through colonialism. 

The values that bound our people slowly became shattered and the centre could no longer hold, hence “things fall apart.” This novel was published in 1958 and it quickly became a sensation around the world. 

Achebe weaved into his writing, the Igbo oral culture and art of conversation. Proverbs, tales and customs of the Umuofia clan, where Okonkwo hailed from including the traditions of the Igbo culture were well portrayed.

  1. “Purple Hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tagged as Achebe’s 21st-century daughter in Nigerian literature, Adichie takes us on the journey of family, colonialism and religious fanaticism in Purple Hibiscus. Kambili and Jaja struggle to be free from their devout yet violent father. 

We see a little bit of history in this story, Chimamanda in this novel tells us about how things changed with the coming of the white Man. Sons abandon the culture and traditions of their fathers to follow the white man’s religion, causing a strain on family relationships. 

In Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Eugene wants nothing to do with his father because he refused to convert to Christianity. Here, Adichie portrays the irony yet reality of our society. Eugene is a successful businessman and devout generous catholic member who always helps outsiders, but on the inside an abusive, perfectionist father and husband.

  1. “The Joys of Motherhood” by Buchi Emecheta

A classic story centred on motherhood and the patriarchal society. The journey of Nnu Ego as she struggles to be a mother, unable to conceive in her first marriage. As a woman whose life revolved around children in a society where women were expected to give birth to children. We see her struggle to live through cultural differences when she finds herself in Lagos. This piece of Nigerian literature embodies marriages, customs, traditions and women’s roles in society.

  1. “The Palmwine Drinkard” by Amos Tutuola

Nigerian literature saw a different narrative in this story that centred on travelling and a drunkard’s dedication to his palm wine tapster. His palm wine tapster dies and the drunkard goes on a quest into the dread town to find him and bring him back. This interesting book is set in Nigeria’s folkloric past with different cultures and civilizations. Amos Tutuola takes us on an adventurous journey of a man who confronts death.

  1. “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi Wives” by Titilola Shoneyin

This book portrays polygamy and its effects on society. An impotent man marries up to 4 wives and constantly blames them for their inability to conceive. His wives turn to adultery to enable them to bear children and preserve their marriage. We see the effects of polygamy, lies and patriarchy. This interesting Nigerian novel is a must-read.

  1. “The Fishermen” by Chigozie Obioma

This Nigerian novel set in the 1990s during Sani Abacha’s regime is about four brothers who set out to fish after being forbidden by their parents. They receive a prophecy from a madman that turns them against each other and unties their family bond. This piece of Nigerian literature is a must-read. It centres on family, Nigeria’s political structure and culture.

  1. “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This Nigerian novel is set in post-colonial times, capturing the Nigerian civil war and the secession of Biafra. The novel pictures the bond between the sisters, the love and betrayal among lovers and family. Adichie reminds us of the war in a subtle way that makes us understand what happened at that time. Families breaking up, children enlisting for war, hunger, starvation and the death of loved ones.

  1. “Death and The King’s Horseman” by Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel laureate for literature, tells a story set in the ancient city of Oyo that depicts ancestral Yoruba culture where Elesin Oba – the King’s Horseman, has to come to the reality of completing his duty by following the king to the land of the dead. 

The play gives a blend of traditional religion and Western culture. The influence of colonialism pertains to the character of Elesin Oba having to commit suicide as his final duty to the king. Elesin’s retreat at the point of death led to the death of his son as a hero of circumstance.

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Nigerian literature has a golden heritage of interesting novels that reflect her linguistic diversity. No one can tell our story better than us and these stories have stood the test of time. As we continue to rediscover the vast landscape of Nigerian literature, it becomes a powerhouse of storytelling and cultural preservation, inspiring readers all over the world. 

From the classics to contemporary writers, Nigerian authors continue to dish out interesting, must-read Nigerian novels. This list is not exclusive as other timeless literary pieces have shaped our literary heritage.

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Edited by Priscilla Ajayi.

About Author

Avatar of Oghenechovwe Eghwrudjakpo
Oghenechovwe Eghwrudjakpo
Chovwe is content writer and a Fashion Designer. She's also a Chartered Mediator and Conciliator. She's an advocate for peace and loves art. She owns a fashion brand and is very passionate about what she does.

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