Nigerians are expert storytellers, no doubt about it. This fact is evident in our largely oral history. But over the decades, our oral history began being recorded into stories that are as timeless and relevant – if not more than sef – as all the Shakespeare and Grimm Brothers’ fairytales.

Here are 16 timeless Nigerian books that the rest of the world ought to gather, sit down and read in much the same fashion as we used to read all their tea-sippin’, cookie-lovin’ stories:

1. God’s Big Toe by Obii Nwachukwu-Agbada

This story is about how one spoiled rich boy, Onwubiko’s life changes when his father dies. An important universal tale for all those privileged kids that forget to wake up grateful every morning.

2. Without a silver spoon by Eddie Iroh

From a book about a boy who had it all, to a book about a boy who did not really have anything to begin with. Without a silver spoon teaches that honesty is indeed the best policy; a universal lesson for everyone.

3. The Second Chance by Nyengi Koin

This is a story of how love conquers all. Move over Romeo and Juliet, come see how real romance plays out.

4. The Passport of Mallam Ilia by Cyprian Ekwensi

It is a story of betrayal and revenge told in such a way that keeps you captivated to the end. It also shows a glimpse of the Northern Nigerian culture and history.

5. The Drummer Boy by Cyprian Ekwensi

This is a very touching story of Akin, the blind drummer boy, and all the many people he meets on his rigmarole sojourn in the world. It’s a touching tale of what blind trust looks like – both figuratively and literally.

6. Dizzy Angel by Grace Nma Osifo

What’s it like being an ogbanje? I will never forget that scene where she describes making herself faint. This one is just a beautiful story of how in spite of tradition and superstitious beliefs, Ogbanje was still able to choose her own destiny. It has everything you will love in a good story, action, drama and yes, what is a good African tale without a bit of magic?

7. The Bottled Leopard by Chukwuemeka Ike

This epic novel will open your mind to the mystical realities in such a way that you have never experienced it. You will wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if you are really alone in the world. The spirit world will join with the real world. You will learn that before there were aliens, there were spirits.

8. The Incorruptible Judge by D. Olu Olagoke

Just like it’s title, this book is about a judge that simply refused to take bribe. Not quite like some real life judges today. But it just goes to show that there is no “fantastically corrupt” nation, only people. And also that corruption can exist in the most seemingly insignificant and subtle of places.

9. Efuru by Flora Nwapa

This is a pioneer story which features a Nigerian heroine that blazed the trail for many future novels with heroines. It will change everything the world thought it knew about women in historically patriarchal Nigeria.

10. The Stillborn by Zaynab Alkali

Yet another book that addresses the female reality in historically and traditionally patriarchal Nigeria. For all those who think feminism is a western construct, think again.

11. The Concubine by Elechi Amadi

This strong debut novel does what most novels of that time did; it explored the power of the spiritual in Nigerian culture. It will also teach you how to know if you have spirit husband.

12. Toads For Supper by Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike

A complicated tale of love. Inarguably a classic. Which should be more than enough reason to read it.

13. The Last Duty by Isidore Okpewho

The writing style isn’t the only thing to love about this book, there’s also the strong themes and characters. It’s a powerful book about war and the emotional and psychological consequences of war and it should have it’s place up there right next to A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

14. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

This story takes you through the life of Nnu Ego and shows you every woman, or female, you have ever known. And the beauty of it is, this story is not just a depiction of a Nigerian reality, it shows a glimpse of a worldwide reality. Pretty heavy stuff!

15. & 16. Eze Goes to School And Eze Goes To College

Co-authored by Onuora Nzekwu and Michael Crowder, is there any book more iconic than these two? It is the story of a boy who is determined to go to school despite the many challenges on his way.

And now, here’s a list of Nigerian novels that will make pretty awesome movies:


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