World Book Day Recommendations: “Five Books I Love” — Chukwuebuka Ibeh
For World Book Day, 2021 and #365DaysOfBookOclock, we asked Nigerian writer, Chukwuebuka Ibeh to share with us five books that have either shaped his writing or he generally loves.
Chukwuebuka Ibeh’s writing has appeared in McSweeneys, The New England Review of Books, Lolwe and elsewhere. He lives in Nigeria.
I think this is a double-packaged question- because not all the books I really enjoy(ed) necessarily shape my writing, and vice versa. It also feels a bit unfair to have to pick just five because they’re so many. I owe so much to all the books I read back as a child and continue to read, even the badly written ones, because if anything they taught me how not to write. For this list though, I’ll stick with the ones I love.
1. Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta
I love every single thing written by Ms Emetcheta, but my favorite would be-with lots of love to Joys of Motherhood- Second Class Citizen. I first read it all those years ago, in primary school and remember being moved by Adah’s suffering, but all the more by her resilience in the face of a world that was out to cage and narrowly define her. I also haven’t forgiven her husband. Part of me still wants to break his head.
2. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Yet another instance where my love for everything an author has written makes it difficult to choose a favorite. However, I think the novel by CNA that has most shaped my writing -especially my early work- is Purple Hibiscus. The lead narrator Kambili’s introspective silence is used as a tool by the author to further elevate the narrative.
I knew I always wanted to tell stories but I would never forget that moment in my secondary school library when I first opened the pages of the worn-out copy sliding off the shelves, and later when I read the last words on the acknowledgment section. I knew for certain that there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life.
3. The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny
I think Stef Penny is probably tired of me at this point, judging by how many times I’ve had to re-read her novel. The fact that it is a debut offering makes it all the more astonishing. Set in 19th century Canada (or the New World as it was then known), this enthralling novel follows the lives of several character as they navigate through life in the aftermath of a sudden and violent murder in their small, otherwise peaceful town. I was captivated by the storyline itself, it’s messy, yet carefully-laid out plot, it’s graceful storytelling. I can’t seem to get the characters out of my head after all these years.
4. Together by Ingeborg Pertwee
Yet another book I’ve read too many times to count. Together centers Anna, a middle-aged woman, a domestic-abuse survivor, now partnered with a famous actor in London. Trouble starts when Anna’s teenage daughter from her previous marriage comes over to spend a holiday with Anna and her new partner, and ends up staying longer than planned, ultimately getting pregnant for the partner. It’s a Nollywood kind of “gbam-gbam” but has none of those unrealistic theatrics. It is in fact a very touching and hilarious read with a lot to take away from, including Ms Pertwee’s expert intersection of humour and pain, and her commendable control over a character as complex as Anna. The book also manages to provide very interesting feminist insights into the concept of infidelity. I think Anna is probably the funniest and at the same time most heartbreaking character I’ve read in a long while.
5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Gyasi took the literary world by storm when she released this magnificent debut, winning everything there was to win at the time. And yet I find myself being personally outraged on her behalf for the very fact that the book has not won enough -where’s her Booker? Her Women’s Prize? Her NOBEL if possible! There are some books that supposedly take an author years to write and when you read them, you understand why. I think Homegoing is one such book. What an accomplished offering. I love and respect this novel so much. It’s easily the best thing out there.
World Book Day Recommendations is a series of book recommendations made by African contemporary writers for World Book Day, 2021 and Book O’Clock’s anniversary.