What does it mean when a book changes your mind?
The first book I can remember reading was a collection of short stories for children. The book was a gift from my father. I read that book a lot—and this is quite evident because while I still have my copy of the book, its cover page is now faded. Though I cannot remember the author or title of the book, the book has stayed with me for one major reason: in the book is a standout story that highlighted the importance of rest.
Simple as it might seem, the book featured a short story about a boy who loved to play with his friends. One thing was constant about him: after every football game (or whichever type of game he played with his friends at home or at school), he always returned home to rest and sleep. Often, my parents used the fact that they saw me read this story countless times, to lure me back home from my usual outings with my childhood friends. It was in that stage of my life that I got familiar with the concept of rest, sleep, and relaxation after doing too much.
Reading has a way of challenging one’s thinking. Yes, that includes reading romance novels and non-academic or non-professional books. Reading can help us with navigating our everyday lives. I have read books that improved how I communicate just by seeing characters use conversations to navigate complicated situations. Reading has also helped me form views on societal and historical events.
Groundwork of Nigerian History, edited by Obaro Ikime, for instance, opened my mind to how the loopholes of constitution making are not only prevalent in post-independence Nigeria. Although the 1980 book covers almost all the vital aspects of Nigerian history, the 26th chapter, ‘Constitutional Developments in Nigeria, 1861-1960’ by G. O. Olusanya, made me realize that the mistakes of numerous British colonial governors in Nigeria reflected in the constitutions that they developed and implemented. However, the leaders of post-independence Nigeria did not learn from these mistakes and continued this trajectory. According to Olusanya: ‘Nigeria entered upon her independence with a constitution unsuitable for a country with such a diverse group of peoples who has not yet attained full national unity.’
Have you read a book that changed your mind about something? Has a book inspired new thoughts and ideas that have left you curious? Here are some of my favourite responses on the subject from The Republic’s First Draft:
GROUNDWORK OF NIGERIAN HISTORY (AVAILABLE HERE)
HEBN PUBLISHERS, 1980
THE FATHER’S DAUGHTER (AVAILABLE HERE)
HANNAH AZIEB POOL
THE FATHER’S DAUGHTER – HANNAH AZIEB POOL
‘It’s a beautiful book, and powerful in more ways than I can begin to describe, but it also changed my mind in that it was my first real introduction to Eritrea. Before reading the book, I knew enough about Eritrea to confidently point it out on a map—I knew the flag, the capital city and the official language—but to know a country is to know stories from that country.’ — Nancy Adimora
Last month, The Republic spoke to the founder of AFREADA literary magazine, Nancy Adimora. When asked the last book that changed her mind, Adimora mentioned My Father’s Daughter by British-Eritrean writer and journalist, Hannah Azieb Pool. The 2005 autobiography follows the life of Hannah who was adopted as a child, and her journey back home in Eritrea where she meets her biological family for the first time.
THE STRANGER (AVAILABLE HERE)
GALLIMARD PUBLISHERS, 1942
YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY (AVAILABLE HERE)
ATRIA BOOKS, 2022
SEASONS OF CRIMSON BLOSSOMS (AVAILABLE HERE)
PARRESIA PUBLISHERS, 2015
THE STRANGER – ALBERT CAMUS
‘This novel made me realize how even very deeply flawed, highly unlikeable characters can have an important role in literature and in society’s understanding of itself.’ — Chinelo Okparanta
In Camus’ 1942 novella, The Stranger, we meet Frenchman, Meursault, living in French-occupied Algeria. The book follows the life of Meursault as he responds to events, reacts to relationships, and deals with isolation with little or no emotional attachment. As Okparanta puts it, unlikeable characters are also important in literature as they exist in reality.
While The Stranger might be a difficult read for some, it compels readers to think critically and to open up to viewpoints on life that they may have never encountered before. The book, in my opinion, is enlightening in that it presents a new challenge and an important reminder on subjects such as the inevitability of death.
YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY – AKWAEKE EMEZI
‘I recently read You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi—it explores an unconventional love story that though I may not choose for myself, I found myself utterly seduced by, broadening my conception of love and romance.’ — Bolu Babalola
While I couldn’t connect with the characters and plot of this book, I clearly understand why You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi is the book that changed Bolu Babalola’s mind about human relationship. The 2022 novel follows Feyi Adekola, a Nigerian-American visual artist as she heals from the trauma of widowhood. Feyi’s life as depicted by Emezi is one that is brave and tangled with situations that are unconventional and not your typical love story.
SEASONS OF CRIMSON BLOSSOMS – ABUBAKAR IBRAHIM
‘It tells the captivating story of an illicit affair between a young gang leader, Hassan Reza, and a 55-year-old widow and grandmother, Binta Zubairu, who craves for intimacy after the sexual repression of her marriage and the pain of losing her first son. The setting is a conservative Muslim community in Nigeria. It ruined my innocence.’ — Sangu Delle
Reading Seasons of Crimson Blossom was a memorable experience for me, too. It felt like I was exploring a new world. Abubakar Ibrahim’s debut novel explores the relationship between 26-year-old political thug, Reza, and 55-year-old widow Binta Zubairu. Set in conservative society, the novel analyzes the facade of rigid morality. It does a fantastic job of weaving a tale that is exquisitely written and effectively dispels common misconceptions held by outsiders.
READING AND ITS INFLUENCE
How is it possible for a book to change one’s mind? Perhaps, it is because readers attempt to put themselves in the characters’ shoes, gaining a greater understanding of other people’s experiences. This also goes for situations and events expressed in books. When a writer paints an objective picture of an event, it is only normal for the reader to reason from multiple perspectives. This does not necessarily mean the acceptance of the writer’s thoughts, but an avenue for productive discourse.
Indeed, reading holds the power to influence how we think about the world and our perspectives of life. Whether it’s a book of literary fiction that includes inspiring characters or a professional text that promises to teach you something new, there is some power in consuming words written by others. It could also be a well-researched academic piece that helps develop knowledge or gives room for further research. However, one must be cautious. Readers also tend to reflect less critically on the happenings in a book when they allow themselves to become completely engrossed in it. We become, therefore, more open to influences—both good and bad—as a result⎈
Here are some Republic articles to read for more context on reading culture and African literature:
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