LOUD WHISPERS: Thirty Of My Favourite Books

‘A reader lives a thousand lives before s/he dies, the one who never reads lives only one’

                                         George R.R. Martin

I won a prize when I was eight years old for being ‘the best read student in the school’, going by the number of books I took out of the library, so this means  I have always been a bibliophile- a lover of books. It is no surprise that I met (and married) another bibliophile, guess where – in a library! As we celebrate World Book Day on April 23rd, I thought I should share a list of some books that have influenced me over the years. In compiling this list, I tried to stay away from books we all had to read when we were in school, because I wanted the focus to be on books I chose to read other than those I had to read in order to get through school. This is why the books of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Orwell, Jonathan Swift, Alexandre Dumas and many of the famous books from the African Writers Series are not on this list.

In the good old days of the original Heinemann African Writers’ Series, we used to compete with each other over how many we had read, it did not matter if the books were recommended school texts or not. We grew up seeing the contestations of an Africa finding its way in a changing world, through the eyes of Ngugi wa Thiong’O, T.M. Aluko, Elechi Amadi, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ama Ata Aidoo, Denis Brutus, Ayi Kwei Armah, Okot p’Bitek,  Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta and so many others. We also invested heavily in James Hadley Chase, Harold Robbins, Nick Carter and Jeffrey Archer novels. I did not care much for Denise Robbins and Mills and Boon romance novels, but, hey, a young girl needs to dream about love, so I did have a lengthy relationship with Barbara Cartland’s fairy tale-ending novels. As a young adult in my early twenties, I acquired a taste for the steamy ‘bodice-ripper’ genre through the novels of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers.  My mother picked up one of my ‘bodice rippers’ once, she started to read it, and then asked me when I would be buying another one! When I was young, we read because we knew no other way of exploring the world. Yes, we had television, but our viewing window was restricted to the two hours between after we had finished our homework and we heard Dad’s car turning in.

A good book took us back in time to ancient lands around the world.  We could take part in treasure hunts, wars, death defying stunts, exciting car chases and high wired schemes of clever criminals that writers such as James Hardley Chase liked to champion. We could also acquaint ourselves with the constant struggles between tradition and modernity, through the lives and choices of Chinua Achebe’s Okonkwo and Flora Nwapa’s Idu and Efuru. Whether we were looking for action, drama, history, romance, sex (yes, we read those too!) or fables as our means of escape into another world, there was a book we could read. Fast forward to now, we are literally begging our children to read something that goes beyond 140 characters. Everything is now  ‘too long’, ‘too intense’, ‘too deep’.

When I was in my first year at University of Ife (now OAU), 1980/81, I was in the History department and I took an elective, the History of Theatre in the Drama Department. My lecturer, Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi asked us one day if any of us had read Walter Rodney’s ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’. None of us had. Dr Ogunbiyi proceeded to declare all of us illiterates who had somehow managed to impersonate their way into his classroom posing as students. ‘How can you be in University and you have not read Walter Rodney’s book’? he asked. After the lecture we all fled to look for the book and we made sure we read it before we presented ourselves in his next class. In our day, it was not that our parents and teachers did not make us feel like idiots every now and then. The difference is that it mattered to us. We did not think that being called ‘illiterates’ while we were in a University was a good thing, so we went out of our way to prove them wrong and fix the problem. Even though it is currently difficult to get hold of certain books, now we have the internet which provides access in ways we could only dream of then.
A book from my school days did find its way on to this list – Chinua Achebe’s ‘Man of the People’. You might wonder why I did not choose ‘Things Fall Apart’ because not only was it a compulsory literature text when I was in high school, it is one of the greatest books of our time. I loved ‘Things Fall Apart’, but ‘Man of the People’ resonated with me more, as a frank tale about political power, ethnicity, gender, caste and class in a post-colonial State. I found to my relief – thanks to Google and Amazon, I no longer need to labour to find  an exact publication date and name of publisher, it has been made easy, thanks to ‘new school’! I hereby present my list, in no particular order, and I hope it inspires you to draw one up too. These are just a few of the books that helped shaped my thinking in the fields of history, cultural studies, feminism, Diaspora politics, Pan-Africanism, development and human rights.
1. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney‘, 1972
2. Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon, 1952
3. Man Of The People by Chinua Achebe, 1966
4. The Joys Of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta, 1979
5. Efuru by Flora Nwapa, 1966
6. So Long A Letter, by Mariama Ba, 1981
7. Jagua Nana by Cyprian Ekwensi, 1961
8. The History Of The Yorubas by Samuel Johnson, 1921
9. Black Feminists Speak Out: Feminism And Oppression In Black Africa by Awa Thiam, 1978
10. Ain’t I A Woman? by Bel Hooks, 1981
11. Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2007
12. You Must Set Forth At Dawn: A Memoir by Wole Soyinka, 2006
13. Daughters Of The Goddess, Daughters Of Imperialism: African Women, Culture, Power And Democracy by Ifi Amadiume, University of Chicago Press, 2000
14. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer, 1970
15. Women, Race And Class by Angela Davies, 1981
16. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (the first of a six volume autobiography) by Maya Angelou, 1969 onwards.
17. Anything We Love Can Be Saved by Alice Walker, 1997
18. The Bandit Queen Of India: An Indian Woman’s Amazing Journey From Peasant To International Legend by Phoolan Devi, with Marie-Therese Cuny and Paul Rambali, 2006
19. One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 2006
20. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Martin’s Press, 1997
21. The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, 1982
22. Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo, 1977
23. Integrative Feminisms: Building Global Visions 1960s-1990s by Angela Miles, 1996
24. What I Hope To Leave Behind: The Essential Essays Of Eleanor Roosevelt, 1995
25. Omoluwabi 2.0: A code Of Transformation In 21st Century Nigeria by Adewale Ajadi, 2012
26. NGAMBIKA: Studies Of Women In African Literature edited by Carole Boyce- Davies& Anne Adams Graves, Africa World Press 1986
27. Speak Rwanda, A Collection Of Short Stories On The Rwandan Genocide by Julian Pierce, 1999
28. Part Of My Soul Went With Him by Winnie Mandela, 1984
29. The Thing Around Your Neck, a short story collection by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2009
30. Beasts Of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala, 2005

Let us bring back a culture of reading. I could have shared my favourite 100 books, or given reasons why I like each these 30 titles, but then that would have been ‘too long, too intense and too deep’! Happy World Book Day!


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com



Source: abovewhispers.com

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14 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Thirty Of My Favourite Books

  1. gloria Ogunbadejo April 24, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Books I have read:

    Tapping The Power Within _ Iyanla Vanzant
    Peace From Broken Pieces
    One day my Soil Opened Up
    Daily Devotions for Spiritual Growth

    The Undertakers Daughter _ Kate Mansfield

    The Psychopath Test _ Jon Ronson

    To kill A Mockingbird _ Harper Lee

    Game of Thrones _ George R Martin

    So Long a Letter _ Mariama Ma

    A New Way of Thinking, A New Way of Being _ Dr Wayne Dyer

    Seven Thousand Ways To Listen _ Mark Nepo
    The Book Of Awakening

    Simple Abundance _ Sarah Ban Breathnach

    Vagina _ Virgina Wolf

    The Gift _ Hafiz

    On Death and Dying _ Elizabeth Kubler- Ross

    The Seven Spiritual Laws and Success _ Chopra Deepak

    The Prophet _ Khalil Gibran

    Half of a Yellow Sun _ Chimanda Adiche

    The Alchemist _ Paulo Coelho

    Healing The Wounds of the Past _T D Jakes

    The Flipside of Feminism -Suzanne Venker, Phyllis Schlafly

    Audre Lorde _ Zami

    Toni Morrison _ Beloved
    The bluest Eyes

    It’s all in your head _ Suzanne Osullivan

    Stop Walking on Egg Shells – Paul Mason, M Randilinger

    Lay My Burden Down _ Dr Alvin Palsana

    Toni Cade Bambara _ Black Woman

    Ntozake Shange _ The Art of Ntozake Shange

    Books I want to Read

    Their Eyes are Watching me _ Zora Neal Hurston

    Toni Cade Bambara _Gorrilla My Love
    The Salt Eaters

    Ntozake Shange _ For Coloured Girls who have considered suicide
    Some Sing, Some Cry
    Betsy Brown

    Toni Morrison _ Tar Baby
    God Help The Child

    Helen Oyeyemi _ Mr Fox
    Boy, Snow Bird

    Sarah Hepola _ Black out

    Caitlin Doughty _ Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

    Tamara Winfrey Harris _ The Sisters are Alright

    Abigail Thomas _ What to do Next and How To like it

    Gloria Ogunbadejo

  2. Utibeabasi Akpabio. April 24, 2016 at 9:40 am

    A) Books I’ve read that have
    impacted my life
    -Danielle Steele’s The Long Road
    -John Green’s The Fault In Our
    -Chinua Achebe’s There Was A
    -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s
    Purple Hibiscus
    -Frank Peretti’s The Oath

    B) Books I would like to read
    -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We
    Should All Be Feminists
    -Nelson Mandela’s The Long Walk
    To Freedom
    -Barack Obama’s Dreams From My
    -Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will
    -Danielle Steele’s Echo

  3. ogunsakin Taiwo Helen April 24, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Five books that have had impact on me
    1. Mandela’s long Walk to freedom-Nelson Mandela
    2. The 7 habits of highly effective people –Stephen R. Covey
    3. Richest man in Babylon- George S. Clason
    4. Purpose driven life- Rick warren
    5. Things fall apart- Chinua Achebe

    Five books that I will like to read
    1. Speaking for yourself- Erelu B. Fayemi
    2. Speaking above whispers – Erelu B. Fayemi
    3. Half the sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide- Nichole D. Kristof
    4. How giving can save the world- Mattew Bishop, Micheal Green, Bill Clinton
    5. Women, culture and development: A study of human capabilities- Jonathan glover;

  4. Detutu April 25, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Happy world book day everyone. so, here are the list of my favourites books., Though 5 is too small but i will try.

    1. Everything good will come- Sefi Atta.

    2. Secret lives of baba segi’s wives- Lola soneyin.

    3. The power of being woman- Michelle Hammond.

    4. Alapata Apata- wole soyinka.

    5. There was a country- Chinua Achebe.

    Books i would love to read.

    Think big- Ben carson.

    Americana- Chimamanda Adichie.

    we should all be feminists.- Chimamanda.

    The bride price- Buchi emecheta

  5. xasie April 25, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    My list…

    1. joys of motherhood- Buchi emecheta.

    2. sons and daughters-JC de graft

    3. so long a letter-Mariama ba

    4. The thing around your neck.-chimamanda Adichie

    5.The palmwine drinkards- Amos Tutola.

    Books i would love to read.

    The farmished road- Ben okri.

    Oba ko so- Duro ladipo.

    a month and a day- Ken saro wiwa

  6. Olakunle Olajide April 26, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Wow!! I haven’t really developed my reading habits that well, though i have seen some adaptations of some books in movies and of course the compulsory books i had ro read in school. But with the posts i have read and still reading on this platform, i feel my appetite for reading is growing. So if you would allow me ma, i will like the book titled “What i hope to leave behind: The essential essays of Eleanor Roosevelt 1995. And if possible Chinua Achebe’s Man of the people. Thank you ma. More grace to you.

  7. Mr George April 26, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Top 3 books I’ve read
    Purple hibiscus- chimamanda
    The watch- olusegun obasanjo
    There was a country- China Achebe

  8. Bambo Adesanya April 26, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    My list:
    Chimanda Adiche – Purple hibiscus, Americanah
    Dan Brown – The Da Vinci Code, Inferno
    John Grisham – The client, Rainmaker, The Partner, The Street Lawyer
    Elizabeth Gilbert- Eat, Pray, Love
    Durgesh Satpathy – Equating the Equation of Insanity: A journey from grief to victory
    Markus Zusak – Book thief
    William Shakespeare – Julius Caesar, Twelft night, Macbeth

  9. Kimora April 26, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    i am definitely not the biggest reader but i would say:
    1:straight talk no chaser. Steve harvey
    2.48 laws of power
    3.Act like a lady think like a man. Steve harvey
    4.the world in my pocket. James hardley chase
    5. The guilty are afraid
    I could go on but then that would be too long,too deep and maybe too intense

  10. Femi Diipo April 27, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    From your amazing list of books read, would love to read these ones too. How Europe underdeveloped Africa, So long a letter, You must set forth at dawn, History of the Yotubas, Part of my soul went with him and Beasts of no Nation.

  11. Nkem Lola April 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    OK, now this is one very smooth article!

    This line, “Dr Ogunbiyi proceeded to declare all of us illiterates who had somehow managed to impersonate their way into his classroom posing as students” got me laughing out loud…

    I can really relate with your words ma, we need the book part of our world reliving in the hearts of many.

    OK, I am an adventurous person as much as I am a poetry and story lover!!! (good Lord!) and I always like to help people walk the adventure through my words. Also, most books turned movies help me see the light in the author’s view whether or not I have read the book.

    OK, I can’t really remember a whole lot of all I have read but these two I can never ever ever forget!! (please exclaim with me lol):

    *The woman, the lover and her Lord by T. d Jakes

    *Your best life now by Joel Osteen

    (errr, I will now cultivate the habit of familiarizing with publication dates. THANKS ma’am 🙂 ).

    OK now to the ones I yearn to read

    1. I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
    2. Speak Rwanda by Julian Pierce
    3. Part of my soul went with him by Winnie Mandela

    Thank you

  12. DSEED April 27, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    My list:
    * Equipping – John C. Maxwell
    * The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John C. Maxwell
    * Power of Positive Thinking – Norman Vincent
    * Think Big – Ben Carson
    * The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
    * Walking In The Miraculous – David Oyedepo
    * The Believers Authority
    * The Threshing Floor – Juanita Bynum… And many more.
    The books I will like to read are your books ma. Have not be opportuned to have access to one.

  13. Iribiri Osetemega April 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Wow…I am challenged….amongst books read asides literature text include:
    1. Purple hibiscus,Americanah and the thing around your neck- Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
    2. Waiting and dating- Myles Munroe
    3.Secret lives of Baba Segis wives- Lola Shoneyi
    4.The Family- Karen Kingsburg
    5.The Diva Principle-
    Michelle McKinney Hammond
    6. Heart Matters- Juanita Bynum
    7.The Girl Entrepreneur – Ibukun Awosika
    Those I would love to read:
    1. The accidental civil servant- Nasir El-rufia
    2. There was a country – Chinua Achebe
    3.Half of a yellow sun- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  14. Bamisebi Toluwalope April 28, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Woah…..A reader is a leader. As for me am a very lazy reader but have be trying my best to at least read a book every month.. I read inspirational books, story books, etc. D more books u read d more knowledge u acquire nd d more expose u ar. Well done readers. More grace.


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