Expert’s view

Chibundu Onuzo: my five best books

The award-winning Nigerian novelist shares the books she most recommends

Chibundu Onuzo's debut, The Spider King’s Daughter, won a Betty Trask Award. Her latest, Sankofa (Virago £16.99), about a British woman’s search for her African father, is out this week

1

Sefi Atta, 2005

Everything Good Will Come

Everything Good Will Come

If you liked Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, then you’ll love this novel, following Sheri and Enitan from their girlhood to adolescence to womanhood. They love each other; they fight each other; they choose different paths in life. Nobody does female friendship and all its glorious complication like Sefi Atta.

2

Penelope Lively, 1993

Penelope Lively

Cleopatra’s Sister

I think this novel should be more famous. It’s a love story, but told in such an unexpected way. You wait half the novel for the lovers to meet and when they do, the suspense of “will they, won’t they” is as gripping as any boxset.

3

Rumaan Alam, 2020

Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind

An affluent white family rents a beautiful Airbnb in the countryside. On their second night, an elderly black couple knocks on the door seeking shelter and claiming to be the owners. Will they let them in? A mix of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Get Out and your worst dystopian nightmare.

4

Frederick Cooper, 2002

Africa Since 1940: The Past of the Present

Africa Since 1940: The Past of the Present

This book changed my life. Why did so many African countries crumble shortly after independence? Because in many ways, they were set up to fail. Cooper’s masterful work is easily accessible to historians and non-historians alike, and will give you an alternative view of Africa in the 20th century.

5

Suyi Davies Okungbowa, 2019

David Mogo

David Mogo, Godhunter

What if the gods and goddesses of the Yoruba pantheon walked the streets of Lagos causing havoc? And what if one David Mogo, a demi-god himself, was charged with capturing them when they ran amok? I love a fantasy novel, and the world-building in this one is spectacular.

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