World Book Day Recommendations: “Five Books I Love” — Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí
23rd April was World Book Day and Nigerian writer, Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí shared with us five books he loves.
Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí is a writer and editor from Nigeria. His work has appeared/ is forthcoming in AGNI, Tinderbox, Southern Humanities Review, Joyland, McNeese Review, No Tokens, among other places. He is a staff writer at Open Country.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This quiet novel by arguably the most important contemporary Nigerian novelist about a Catholic Igbo family where each member carries their own woe, set against the backdrop of a disturbing time in Nigerian history, told in the voice and from the perspective of a young girl, truly started me on the path I’m on right now. I had bought a secondhand copy from a classmate who took it from his brother who read it as part of the books recommended in secondary school. I gulped it down like a nice meal. The writing was so neat, and the blurbs blew my mind; and on the back of the Nigerian edition, published by Farafina, there are other nice titles, with tiny pictures of book covers—so I decided that I will write fiction too, publish a book with Farafina one day. How funny lol. I am grateful I found it when I did.
The Gathering by Anne Enright
This novel about a large Irish family “gathering” because of Liam, a member of the family who just passed, won the Booker Prize in 2007. The novel transverses time; it beats between the past and the present, is narrated in fragments, in the voice of a woman who believed she saw something, the bone of contention that drives the book, but who is also not sure because it was a long time ago.
A rollercoaster of a ride, this is my favourite novel by any writer. The prose is effortless but very clean. Commas everywhere but they serve their purpose. It almost reads like poetry—a very long one—or a dream, yet the style never gets in the way of the story.
Lot by Bryan Washington
A collection of linked stories that rattled me up. The stories, written in gorgeous prose with plenty of verve, are achingly tender—about love, family, Houston. The first story “Lockwood” is one of my favorite short stories—about two boys, both immigrants and from immigrant families, who share something beautifully bright but brief. Every single story in this book is believable.
I want to write like that, to weave beautiful sentences that are not empty, that carry emotion and vulnerability in a way that makes the reader believe, that makes them return and return again and to never forget.
The Captain’s Verses by Pablo Neruda
I found this book of bilingual poems—originally in Spanish, translated into English—in a secondhand bookstore in Abeokuta. It was the first time I was reading poems in which simple language is elevated to magic; and this magic is not empty, the language actually does something. A large number of the poems were written for Neruda’s wife, Matilda Urrutia, but there are also poems about the country and the natural world. These poems influenced my use of nature in my poems. The earth, birds, rivers, stones—they fill this book.
The Rinehart Frames by Cheswayo Mphanza
I just finished reading this book and it really blew my mind. Filled with astonishing allusions, sampled lines (there are many centos), fused forms, it looks at what it means to be a citizen of the world, while not losing sight of your roots or history. However, when Mphanza writes about his roots, he does it as a dreamer—seeing there even in the brutality something tender, the blooming light behind the shadows. And there are many shadows in this book. This book has taught me stuff about playing with form and intertextuality.
World Book Day Recommendations is a series of book recommendations made by African contemporary writers for World Book Day and Book O’Clock’s anniversary.