I interviewed my friend, Damilola for the blog. I’ve known Damilola from secondary school. We discussed books, reading and accessing books in Nigeria.
How did you get into reading?
I like to believe I learnt to read pretty fast. As a child, I read mostly storybooks with the popular children’s fairytales like The Princess and The Pea and Cinderella. The primary school I attended used to give us storybooks as birthday presents. Through my adolescence, I wasn’t much of a reader as most of my classmates were, but when I started doing literature in high school, I began to really like reading fiction mostly because of all the places I could go to through different books, and even then I was very picky. One of the first books I remember really enjoying was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
What were favourite books as a child?
As a child, I had this collection of books with some of the Grimm’s fairytales and a bunch of other children tales which I loved so much because there were many books in it. I can’t pick a favourite there. I don’t remember what I spent my childhood doing but I don’t think I read a lot.
Do you have a favourite genre of literature?
I do have a favourite genre of literature. Prose over all! To be more specific, I really like historical fiction. I read a few historical fiction books last year and I really enjoyed them.
How do you balance reading alongside other interests? For example, I like podcasts and sometimes it’s a struggle for me to decide whether to spend my time listening to a podcast or to a pick up a book instead.
Hmm. Balancing reading with other interests can be tricky sometimes. I love music, and I’ve found that reading while listening to music is not a bad idea. Especially, relaxed or wordless music. I find it hard sometimes to read while I’m commuting because I like to just look at the road, the other vehicles, the billboards and people walking on the street. Generally I just like to be aware when I’m in a moving vehicle. So sometimes it’s hard to make a decision between people-watching and picking a book from my bag to read. But when I’m at home or by myself, I’m usually drawn to read something.
Which authors stand out to you?
There are a lot of authors I’d like to read more from particularly because of the topics/issues they portray. I’d read anything by Chimamanda N Adichie, Marlon James, Taiye Selasi, Sefi Atta and many others I can’t remember right now. I’d definitely read anything they write or listen to any speeches they give.
What books would you recommend to people who are new to reading or want to read more but don’t know where to start?
The books I’d recommend are based on my taste and books I’ve really loved. One book I’ll always recommend is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s one of the most widely acclaimed books by an African writer, and for very good reason.
If you’re not really into African Literature, Gillian Flynn has brilliant thrillers and Jodi Picoult is also very good. You should read Dark Places. I’m trying to read more non-fiction this year. One non-fiction book I would recommend is Freakonomics by Stephen J Dubner and Steven D Levitt. It’s one book that has really opened my mind to a different way of thinking and of viewing human behavior and incentives.
*If you’re looking to read more non-fiction, I recommended some in this post.
Has living in Lagos affected your ability to access books you are interested in?
Because I’m a lot more interested in African Literature and writers, it hasn’t really been difficult finding the books I want to read in Lagos. Publishers like Kachifo and Cassava Republic are here in Nigeria and they have taken on the job of publishing the works of talented writers from across Africa. Also there are a few, but still well-stocked bookshops in Lagos that sell ‘African fiction’. Even when I can’t find a book I want, there’s such a large community of readers and writers in Lagos that there’d definitely be someone who can lend or barter a book with you.
Do you read e-books? Do you feel reading e-books in Nigeria would provide more people with access to reading books in Nigeria?
Yes I read e-books. I’m hardly against it, but I also really love the smell and feel of physical books. I feel publishing e-books will give a lot of people access and exposure, especially to books from countries or writers who aren’t as popular over here. There are a few sites that sell e-books and many people download books using torrents.
What books do you hope to read in the near future?
Towards the end of last year, I made a list of books I was looking forward to reading as soon as I can get my hands on them. There’ll be more through the course of the year but here is my list for now.
- Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra
- Swing Time by Zadie Smith
- Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
- American Street by Ibi Zoboi
- Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi
- The Art of Language Invention by David J Patterson
- There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
Where can we find you on the internet?