Every year, choosing the ideal present for our families and friends becomes more challenging closer to the festive period. This is a reminder that books can be the best gift to give a loved one.
Typically, some people are easier to gift than others—like the friend who enjoys beauty and skincare products or the friend who is always informed about the newest tech gadgets. Others? Not so simple. What do you give someone who loves reading or one open to new book recommendations? Fortunately, you won’t need to worry anymore. Books make the perfect gift for those who enjoy reading or those interested in picking up reading as a new hobby. But why is giving the right book important?
Books, either fictional or non-fictional, contain ideas that help us understand our past and potential future. They offer unique experiences and tranquillity that commands the reader’s patience and attention, especially in today’s increasingly noisy digital environment and books can be fun! As such, they can make such wonderful presents.
I, for instance, would recommend The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin. It is perfect for readers as it spans through the domestic life of a polygamous family. In this book, Shoneyin offers a fascinating and thought-provoking tale on polygamy in Nigeria. The conflicts, rivalries, complex family politics, and interactions between different personalities and relationships that take place in the private world of a polygamous partnership. Best part, the nature of the plot and character makes for a great conversation starter.
Ace of Spades, a young adult thriller novel by British-Nigerian writer, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, is another book I would recommend. In this book, we meet Chiamaka Adebayo and Devon Richards—two Black students who attend predominantly white Niveus Private Academy—whose future is under threat by an anonymous person seeking to reveal their darkest secrets. To emerge triumphant over their collective misery, both had to work together and figure out their common enemy. Although this book is a page-turner, it contains relevant messages that depict the realities of Black people.
There is a story for every mood. In this guide, we have compiled recommendations from The Republic‘s First Draft Interview authors and in-house editors. Cheers to giving and reading!
ACE OF SPADES (AVAILABLE HERE)
FEIWEL AND FRIENDS, 2021
THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES (AVAILABLE HERE)
WILLIAM MORROW, 2010
DELE WEDS DESTINY by TOMI OBARO
‘I’m starting a book club next year, and Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro is the reason why. It’s the story of three once-inseparable college friends who reunite in Lagos for the first time in thirty years for the wedding of one of their daughters. I read this book, and I immediately needed to discuss it with someone, anyone, because it’s the kind of story that frames the way you understand life. It also serves as a beautiful reminder of the multidimensional lives women have before they become mothers.’ — Nancy Adimora
In this book, three once-inseparable college friends reunite in Lagos for the first time in 30 years. Obaro’s exciting debut novel explores the relationships between mothers and daughters, culture and class, sex and love, and the incredible tenacity of female friendship. The timeline jump from the present to the past is excellent for the nostalgia that comes with the end of the year.
OPEN WATER by CALEB AZUMAH NELSON
‘The book I’d recommend is Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson. It’s a book about love in many forms—love of a partner, love of friends, love of self and love of life. So I think it’s the perfect book to give at season that’s about spending time with loved ones.’ — Ore Agbaje-Williams
Open Water by Ghanaian-British author Caleb Azumah Nelson and the winner of the Debut of the Year at the 2022 British Book Awards, follows the relationship of two young Black Britons who meet at a pub in Southeast London. Both creatives—one a dancer and the other a photographer—attempt to leave their imprint in a community that alternately accepts and rejects them. But even when two people appear to be meant for each other, fear and violence have the power to separate them. This book is perfect for the season because it highlights the power of love in various forms.
NERVOUS CONDITIONS by TISTI DANGAREMBGA
‘I recently recommended Nervous Conditions by Tisti Dangarembga to a friend and I think this could be a good holiday read for someone who is interested in African literature, history and fiction that has a feminist objective.’ — Zainab Kuku
First published in the United Kingdom in 1988, Nervous Conditions by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga, was the first book published by a Black woman from Zimbabwe in English. It follows the life of Tambu, a little child living in colonial Rhodesia, and her struggle to obtain an education. Tambu yearned to learn throughout her childhood, but the men in her life prevented her from doing so. Tambu ultimately receives the education she longs for, as well as an introduction to a wealthy, more Western lifestyle when she moves in with her uncle. But her new life with him is anything but perfect as we learn about her upbringing, daily activities, and perspective on gender and society.
The book opens with a captivating sentence: ‘I was not sorry when my brother died.’
NERVOUS CONDITIONS (AVAILABLE HERE)
THE WOMEN’S PRESS, 1988
POWER OF THE POWERLESS (AVAILABLE HERE)
M. E. SHARPE, 1985
OPEN WATER (AVAILABLE HERE)
CALEB AZUMAH NELSON
VIKING PRESS, 2021
DELE WEDS DESTINY (AVAILABLE HERE)
KNOPF PUBLISHERS, 2022
GOD OF SMALL THINGS (AVAILABLE HERE)
RANDOM HOUSE, 1997
GOD OF SMALL THINGS by ARUNDHATI ROY
‘I recommend God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy because it is an infinite treasure chest. It is devastating and stunning—I disappear into it and never want it to end whenever I read it.’ — Natasha Chilambo
God of Small Things is one of those books that gets you into your feelings. Set in Kerala in the 1960s, this Booker Prize winner follows Ammu’s family through both routine and tragic events, including the drowning of a visiting relative. The story is told through a mix of vivid encounters and descriptions that are well written. It tells the injustice of caste-phobia, a problem that persists in contemporary India. Though God of Small Things is a tale of love—between lovers, between parents and kids, and between siblings—it is also a story of bereavement, revenge, and injustice.
POWER OF THE POWERLESS by VACLAV HAVEL
‘The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central Eastern Europe by Vaclav Havel is a book I recommend. Its interrogation of totalitarian systems is so astute. Havel uses a simple story to illustrate the mechanics of oppressive systems. This makes the text so accessible—so many books about totalitarianism are so dense—and ultimately leaves the reader realizing that they too can resist oppression. It’s such a hopeful book, which I think we really need at this time.’ — Natasha Chilambo
A sweeping political essay, The Power of the Powerless, was written by Czech playwright, political dissident, and later politician, Václav Havel, in October 1978. The essay analyses the characteristics of the communist dictatorship of the time, life under such a regime, and how such regimes might naturally produce dissidents among regular citizens. Just like Chilambo asserts, in the chaos of world political systems, this is a hopeful read.
HONEY & SPICE (AVAILABLE HERE)
HARPER COLLINS PUBLISHERS, 2022
HIS ONLY WIFE (AVAILABLE HERE)
PEACE ADZO MEDIE
ALGONQUIN BOOKS, 2020
FOR WHAT ARE BUTTERFLIES WITHOUT THEIR WINGS (AVAILABLE HERE)
MASOBE BOOKS, 2022
VAGABONDS! (AVAILABLE HERE)
RIVERHEAD BOOKS, 2022
Here are more recommendations from our in-house editors:
HIS ONLY WIFE by PEACE ADZO MEDIE
There’s nothing like a good contemporary African drama that opens with: ‘Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.’
Set in Ho and Accra, Ghana, His Only Wife follows the life of Afi, who got married to Elikem through an arranged marriage. The novel is packed with drama and dodgy yet interesting characters that will keep you hooked. From the powerful matriarch who wields so much control, to pretentious siblings, an inconsiderate uncle, a pushy mom, and a naive protagonist, His Only Wife promises nothing short of literary enjoyment. Best part, the events in this book stem from existing culture and realities in today’s Ghanaian society.
HONEY & SPICE by BOLU BABALOLA
Honey & Spice is a spicy recommendation for this holiday season. The story follows a young Black-British woman, Kiki Banjo, who has little interest in romantic relationships. She suddenly finds herself involved in a phony relationship with the man she warned other girls about. Honey & Spice is passionate, funny, and heartfelt. With this book, you’re in for an inventive take on the enemies-to-lovers trope, strong bonds, and reminiscent university scenes.
FOR WHAT ARE BUTTERFLIES WITHOUT THEIR WINGS by TROY ONYANGO
In For What Are Butterflies Without Their Wings, a collection of twelve short stories, Troy Onyango explores the endless complexities of daily life while also making brilliant insights and revelations about solitude, loneliness, intimacy, loss, and love. Reading through this collection of twelve stories is a great way to end the year.
VAGABONDS! by ELOGHOSA OSUNDE
The fiercely inventive novel by Eloghosa Osunde follows a wide range of characters for whom life itself is a form of resistance: a driver for a corrupt politician with the ability to command life and death; a lesbian couple whose tender relationship unexpectedly sheds light on their experience with underground sex work; and a wife and mother who attends a spiritual gathering that changes her world. Vagabonds! are contested by spirits who control the dark energy of the city as their lives mingle in crowded markets and clubs, churches, and hotel rooms. It is a great choice to gift a loved one this holiday season as it offers a perfect blend of realism and fantasy that is sure to spark one’s imagination⎈
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