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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Book Recommendations


Welcome to Shelf Life,’s book column, where authors share their most memorable books. Whether you’re looking for a book to comfort you, touch you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’ve been here), love books holds. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours.

We Should All Be Feminists: A Guided Diary

If, like Beyoncé and Maria Grazia Chiuri, you were inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2012 TEDx talk, “We Should All Be Feminists” — the speech sampled on “Flawless” and adorning Dior T-shirts — it became a book out. 2014 and Now We Should All Be Feminists: A Guided Journal (Knopf).

Adichie is the author of three non-fiction works, a collection of short stories and three novels, including the Orange Prize winner Half of a Yellow Sun (won best book in the past 25 years, now known as the Women’s Prize) and the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Americanah.

The Nigerian-born, US-Nigeria-based author studied medicine for a while before moving to the United States to study at Drexel University and then Eastern Connecticut State University. She has a master’s degree in African studies from Yale University and a master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University. (Her book was taught in one of her classes.)

She started writing poetry and plays; was a MacArthur Fellow, on the list of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, an interlocutor of Michelle Obama (on Becoming) and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel (on politics and feminism), and a Boots No7 face; leads her annual Purple Hibiscus Trust creative writing workshop; once lived in a house where Chinua Achebe lived; and is a NYPL Literary Lion. Her first name is Ngozi Grace (Grace was also her mother’s name); her Catholic confirmation name is Amanda, which she then changed to Chimamanda (Igbo for “My God Will Not Fail”).

She can’t swim or dance and likes art, flowers and movies, but doesn’t care much for American comedies. Below are books she does.

The book that:

… made me cry uncontrollably:

Zain E. Asher’s Where the Children Take Us because it’s so heartbreaking to tell the tragedy of a family and the resilience of a remarkable mother.

… I recommend again and again:

The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta as it is a fast moving and complex novel about the realities of working-class life in British colonized Nigeria.

…I would like to become a Netflix show:

Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns highlights the great migration of African Americans with true stories and would be both entertaining and enlightening as a TV series.

…I recently bought:

Hunting Evil by Guy Walters because I am deeply fascinated by Germany during World War II and still can’t believe how easily – and needlessly – so many Nazis got away with war crimes.

…has the best title:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez because there is a nostalgic quality in the title that I find unbearably moving. I also have great admiration for Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous title.

…has a sex scene that makes you blush:

I’m not sure if I should blush, but Kate Christensen’s The Great Man has a sex scene between two 80-somethings, which is unusual, and I found it believable and charming.

… describes a house I would like to live in:

I would like to visit the house in Reef by Romesh Gunesekera, in Sri Lanka.

…should be on every college syllabus:

Carol Anderson’s White Rage should be on every American college syllabus because it tells the many forgotten stories of American history in a captivating way.

…I reread the most:

I dive in and out of Elizabeth Hardwick’s beautiful and unique novel Sleepless Nights, which I read as I would read good poetry, with utter awe.

…I never returned to the library (mea culpa):

It’s been at least 30 years now, but I don’t think I’ve ever returned Esther Hautzig’s The Endless Steppe to the children’s library on the University of Nigeria campus where I grew up.

… a friendship sealed:

My dear friend the late Binyavanga Wainaina and I met on a writer’s website and when it turned out that Camara Laye’s The African Child was important to both of us as children, we knew our friendship was made forever.

…everyone should read:

Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God, because it is simply one of the best novels ever written.

…fills me with hope:

Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby, because it introduced me to many talented writers I might not have read otherwise, and it reminds me with gratitude of the women who came before me.

…Surprise me:

Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women surprised me, because while I know the world is male-dominated, I’ve never presented the arguments for data bias so convincingly and thoroughly (and with personality!).

Bonus question: If I could live in any library or bookstore in the world, it would be:

I don’t know what it’s like to live in as I like a little more space, but Jazzhole, the lovely eclectic bookshop in Lagos, is well worth a visit.

Read Adichie’s picks:

Where the children are taking us

Where the children are taking us

Zain E. Asher


The joys of motherhood

The joys of motherhood

Buchi Emecheta

The warmth of other suns

The warmth of other suns

Isabel Wilkerson

Chasing evil

Chasing evil

Guy Walters


One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

On earth we are simply beautiful

On earth we are simply beautiful

the big man

the big man

Kate Christensen



Romesh Gunesekera


white anger

white anger

Carol Anderson

Sleepless nights

Sleepless nights

Elizabeth Hardwick


The endless steppe

The endless steppe

Esther Hautzig


The dark child

The dark child

Camara Laye


Arrow of God

Arrow of God

Chinua Achebe


New Daughters of Africa

New Daughters of Africa

Margaret Busby


Invisible Women

Invisible Women

Caroline Criado Perez

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