Twenty Books Published in the 2010s I Loved

by - 12:03

I went back and forth on whether to do a decade in review post or not. In the end, I decided to do one focused on books I loved that have been published in the 2010s. I couldn't do a 'best of' list, mostly because I haven't read all books published this decade. So, it would be inaccurate to create a list of that nature. Lists also by their very nature are subjective. This one is not any different. This particular list is also extremely personal - while all of the books on the list are on it for their brilliant writing, some are also on it for the positive feelings I get whenever I think about them. This list was also a lot longer initially - over forty books at one point, but I challenged forced myself to narrow it down. In the end, I have twenty books - mostly novels and short story collections, although an anthology and a couple of non-fiction titles made it on the list. 

The list begins with a book that really re-ignited my love for African literature - The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin. This, along with Chika Unigwe's On Black Sisters' Street (not on this list as it wasn't published in the 2010s), were the two books I ordered online back in Autumn of 2010 when I was actively searching for books written by women writers that were African. The list ends with Afro SF Volume 1 edited by Ivor Hartmann - a brilliant collection that I truly believe is extremely significant in the contemporary African SFF canon. 

It was very difficult to narrow down the books, but here's my decade in review with twenty books I loved. I should add, not all books have been reviewed on this blog, but where they have I've shared a link. 

Twelve novels made my final list, including ones with strong feminist themes, told in hilarious ways (The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives) and epic stories of love, heartbreak, loss/sadness (What the Day Owes the Night, The Memory of Love, Stay With Me). Historical fiction in its many guises also made the list (The Moor's Account, Kintu, Homegoing), as well as SFF (Taty Went West), stories re-imagining youthfulness (Tomorrow I'll be Twenty), being elderly (Like A Mule Bringing Ice-cream to the Sun) and being an immigrant (Foreign Gods, Inc.). Here they are.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin (2010)
Absolutely loved this book when I read it in 2011 about a clueless and chauvinistic polygamist and his four wives who all share a secret, which is gradually revealed once wife number 4 - Bolanle - arrives. Check out my mini-review here.

What the Day Owes the Night by Yasmina Khadra (English translation in 2010) 
This book will forever hold a special place in my heart for the beautiful and heartbreaking way it tells the story of the relationship between Algeria and France, through the life of a young boy, who struggles with his identity as Algerian (Younes - the name he was born with) and French (Jonas - the name he is given when he moves to the European district and is raised by his wealthier uncle). Read it in 2012 and check out my review here.

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (2010)
Read this haunting story about the impact of Sierra Leone's civil war in 2012. It's told through the memory of love from the perspective of three characters: Elias Cole (a dying historian), Adrian Lockheart (a British psychologist) and Kai Mansaray (a young Sierra Leonean surgeon). Check out my mini-review here.

Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou (English translation in 2013) [honestly, everything published by Alain Mabanckou in the last decade]
This fictionalised memoir of Alain Mabanckou's childhood, which I read in 2013, is narrated by ten-year-old Michel, living in Pointe Noire, Congo in the 1970s. Through Michel, we get a sense of local and global historical events and how they are perceived through a child's eyes. Check out my review here. 

The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami (2014)
An extraordinary story! Yet, I will admit that when I first picked it up in 2017, I really wasn't feeling it. I let it go, picked it back up a few weeks later, and I Estebancio was one of four survivors of a Spanish expedition to what is now Florida in America, but being African (a Moroccan slave), his story was never told. 500 years later, Laila Lalami provides a fictionalised account of his story. I absolutely adore this book.  

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (2014)
I read this one on a flight back to London from Entebbe in 2016 following the Writivism festival in Kampala, and I was instantly sucked into the world Makumbi created. Historical fiction following a family across generations and with mythical elements and a curse. What's not to love

Foreign Gods, Inc by Okey Ndibe (2014)
Would you steal a god from your hometown in Nigeria, and bring it all the way back to America to be able to make a fortune by selling it to a museum? In Foreign Gods, Inc., Ike thinks it's a great idea. As the books reveals, it really isn't. Check out the review and write-up of my first ever in-conversation in 2014 with a writer. 

Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie (2015)
I am so glad I was invited to do a book chat with Irenosen Okojie at Ake Festival in 2015 - otherwise, I never would have read Butterfly Fish, and I would have sorely missed out on this debut from an excellent storyteller. Another intergenerational historical fiction on the list. This time set between 19th century Benin, 1960s Lagos and modern-day London. Check out my review here.

Taty Went West by Nikhil Singh (2015)
Told in 4-parts, Taty Went West is an absolutely terrifying and thrilling read. Honestly, it's bonkers and dark and twisted and fascinating. I read it in 2016, and loved it so much I read a 400+ page book in one day.  Check out my review here.

Like A Mule Bringing Ice-Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyinka (2016)
Dr. Morayo Da Silva is the coolest soon-to-be 75-year-old on the block. A Nigerian woman living in San Francisco, she drives a Posrche (Buttercup), wears toe-rings and wants a tattoo. I'm not even as cool as Dr. Morayo right now, but maybe something will change. So much life in this short, slim book. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)
Another book I couldn't put down, and read in one sitting on a flight in 2016 from London to Kathmandhu. I remember I planned to read a couple of chapters, watch a movie during the flight, and then sleep. That didn't happen. Homegoing packed so much history, richness, complexity and honesty in 300 pages. 

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (2017)
I was fortunate enough to get a proof of Stay With Me prior to its publication and this became my last read of 2016. A heartbreaking story centred on a Nigerian couple - Yejide and Akin - and the depths people go through to have a child, particularly with pressure from family and society. Beautifully written, real and honest debut.

Short Story Collections
If you ever said to me short stories would be my go-to form of literature, I would have said "nope," but over time I have come to appreciate and respect the art of the short story. Five collections made it on my list, starting with A Igoni Barrett's Love is Power or Something Like That (My Smelling Mouth Problem has lingered on with me all these years). The rest are all either heavily fantasy or science fiction or draw on those themes (Speak Gigantular, What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky, Friday Black, Intruders).

Love is Power Or Something Like That by A Igoni Barrett (2013)
I remember reading this in 2013, and thinking "Am I starting to like short stories?" Nine short stories, with Nigeria forming the backdrop, and revealing to us that love is power, or something like that. Check out my mini-review here. 

Speak Gugantular by Irenosen Okojie (2016)
I read Ireonsen Okojie's Speak Gigantular late 2016, while in Jos for work. It felt like Speak Gigantular was written for women like me who love reading about weird and twisted things. After reading it I posted on instagram that it was "without a doubt ... now one of my favourite short story collections. It's so so so good. It's also really disturbing, but I like my oh so very weird and wonderful reads."

What It Means When A Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah (2017)
What a remarkable debut! This I read the summer of 2017, and if it's not clear that I am a fan of writing that is surreal, here's another a writer that speaks to my heart. 

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (2018)
I didn't want Friday Black to end when I read it late last year (2018). It's dark, it's strange (noticing a theme), it's raw and it's so honest. A mini Twitter thread on it. 

Intruders by Mohale Mashigo (2018)
A really clever collection. Be advised, this isn't 'Afrofuturism' because as Mashigo writes "Afrofuturism is not for Africans living in Africa," as "Africans, living in Africa, need something entirely different from Afrofuturism." Mashigo didn't coin a phrase for the kind of speculative fiction she writes, which draws "from South African folklore and urban legends," but Mashigo gives us the license to do so - as long as we don't call it "Motherland Futurism." As I wrote on Instagram when I first read this book last year, "I leave the naming of things to the experts, but what I will say for now is that the stories in Intruders puts 'ordinary people' in not so ordinary circumstances and we get to see how they react in these situations." Also a mini twitter thread here.

Short books (non-fiction)
This list is heavily fiction-based (I am completely aware), but two standout books for me this decade were published in 2018 - A Stranger's Pose and These Bones Will Rise Again.

These Bones Will Rise Again by Panashe Chigumadzi (2018)
"There are many questions and I am looking for answers. The kind of answers that slip past the facts of history books or analysis by pundits and experts." Brilliant writing in Panashe Chigumadzi's long-form essay.

A Stranger's Pose by Emmanuel Iduma (2018)
There really is only one word in my vocabulary I can use to describe A Stranger's Pose - "beautiful". I savoured every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every image. My review here.

AfroSF Volume 1 Edited by Ivor Hartmann (2012)
All I can say is thank you to Ivor Hartmann for editing this collection said to be the "first ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers." It has previously unpublished works established and emerging writers, with stories from Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz, Tendai Huchu, Nick Wood and Tade Thompson. My review here. 

Honourable Mentions
My original list had over 40 books on it. So, it's only right that I mention some of the books that were on in it including Fine Boys by Eghosa Imasuen (2011), Onion Tears by Shubnum Khan (2011) (Khan also did the illustrations in Intruders), and Tade Thompson's horror novella, The Murders of Molly Southbourne (2017). 


Finally, I also want to mention a couple of brilliant books (not including in this list) that were shared with me via Instagram - Beneath the Lion's Gaze (2010) by Maaza Mengiste and Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma (2017). 

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