5 books by African writers to add to your autumn TBR

Need a good read? Lola Shoneyin, the woman behind Africa’s biggest book festival, reveals her essential reading list


Stuck for reading ideas? If the colder weather’s got you craving a good book to curl up with, then we’ve got a sizzling list for you – picked by none other than the literary powerhouse Lola Shoneyin.

Author Lola Shoneyin
Author Lola Shoneyin

If you haven’t come across Lola’s name before, here’s the deets: she’s a British-Nigerian author, poet and publisher (and all-round champion of African literature) – and this week on 24 October she’s opening doors to Africa’s biggest book festival in Lagos, Nigeria.

The glittering names in attendance will include Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Oyinkan Braithwaite who wrote this summer’s smash My Sister, the Serial Killer, and last week’s Booker joint-winner Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other (see our report on her win here!)

Shoneyin is seriously book smart, and what her festival reflects is an incredible growth in books by black people, about black people. She says: “People within the black community are reading more and therefore more engaged; so there’s a thirst for literature that reflect the lives of the black experience in the UK.”

So, what’s worth looking out for? “Watch out for more genre fiction,” Shoneyin answers, “including crime, sci-fi and Africa futurism. I love that black writers are looking inwards for their stories. They no longer depend on or dictated by who has passed the litmus test in the West. We’re now creating our own heroes.” Hear hear!

Ready to buy up all the books? We quizzed Shoneyin the brilliant reads by African authors to pile up on your bedside table now…


Mannequin the Nude by Logan February (PANK Books)

“This is a collection of poems by a young man who has the soul of someone 100 years old! It’s searing and affecting. I don’t know anyone who’s read his work who hasn’t been stunned by his talent.”

The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls

The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy (Beacon Press)

“I would whole-heartedly recommend this book by the queen of feminism.”

The Boko Haram Doctrine by Abdulbasit Kassim and Michael Nwankpa (Ouida Books)

“This traces the journey of the people who we now understand to be Boko Haram. It tells the story of the group’s doctrine, which has devastated so many parts of Nigeria through a campaign of religious extremism.”

Waterbirds by the Lake Shore, edited by Zukiswa Wanner (Goethe-Institut)

“It’s the first collection of stories specifically for the young adult market on the African continent. The anthology features 17 stories, and we’ve just published the English edition, alongside two other editions in French and Kiswahili. The official launch for the book is at Ake Book Festival!”

Travellers by Helon Habila (Penguin)

“Lastly this novel is essential reading, telling the stories of migrants from African to Europe from this brilliant Nigerian writer.”

Follow Lola Shoneyin on Instagram here.

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