‘Tis the season to be merry, to be with friends and family, and to buy gifts (for your loved ones – or yourself). I’m sure many of you have already started wondering: ‘What am I going to get aunty Josephine for Christmas?’ Or: ‘Oh no, I still don’t know what I should get my brother!’.
Fear not! You just got your idea for this year: BOOKS! I love gifting people books – and not the usual fancy cookbook that you’ll pay £30 for and nobody will ever use because the ingredients needed will have you applying for a mortgage… (not that anything is wrong with that, it’s just not my style and I think that money can be invested in better ways). That is why I have put together a list of book recommendations that I think would make great Christmas gifts. As a general tip, if you buy someone a book for the holidays (or any other occasion), I would recommend you stick to hardbacks. Yes, they are a little pricier than the paperbacks, but they look much better, last longer, and they just make for a more substantial and ‘giftier’ gift, if you know what I mean.
This list is only suggestive and by no means exhaustive. Let me know in the comments or on social media which books you’ve been gifted or have gifted someone, and which books you might be planning on buying for someone (or yourself) as a Christmas present.
‘Black and British: A Forgotten History’, by David Olusoga
This book, written by the award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga, gives us a rich and revealing account of the extraordinary and long relationship between the British isles and the people of Africa. This book clears up the common misconception that black people first appeared in England with the ‘Windrush’ generation, and that the black people who were in the UK before then were slaves or servants and extremely scarce in numbers. It unflinchingly confronts taboos, misconceptions and reveals hitherto unknown facts and scandals. This book is paramount for the understanding of Black British history, it is beautifully written, packed with interesting facts and a must-read for everyone.
‘Stay With Me’, by Ayobami Adebayo
‘There are things even love can’t do . . . If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love . . .’
‘Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, appeals to God. But when her relatives insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.’ (Amazon)
It’s hard for me to give an objective description of this book because it’s by far been my favourite book of 2017. To me, ‘Stay With Me’ is more than a family drama, and it is much deeper than the ‘Nollywood’ story many seem to see in it. It explores deeply rooted misogyny in both Nigerian and global culture. It unflinchingly exposes the consequences of living in a society where women are valued according to the fruit of their wombs, and of being a woman in a world where she does not have full ownership over her own body. Read the full Review here.
‘Homegoing’, by Yaa Gyasi
‘Jo used to worry that his family line had been cut off, lost forever. He would never truly know who his people were, and who their people were before them, and if there were stories to be heard about where he had come from, he would never hear them. When he felt this way, Ma Aku would hold him against her, and instead of stories about family she would tell him stories about nations. The Fantes of the Coast, the Asantes of the Inland, the Akans.’
If you’re looking for beautiful fictional writing, based on historical facts, and which can teach you something both about history and its lasting impact on future generations, then this book is for you. It’s more than a beautiful and heart-wrenching story of a family, it is also a lesson in understanding the lasting impact of colonialism and slavery on families till this day; and it turns into a tale of reconciliation and ‘homegoing’.
‘Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.’ (Amazon)
Other worthy mentions:
If you still have some money left or your list of names is on the longer side, ‘The Underground Railroad’, by Colson Whitehead, which is a fictional account of the long walk to freedom of American slaves that might as well have been true, is another great option. ‘Hidden Figures’, by Margot Lee Shetterly, the story of three black women challenging gender and racial stereotypes by putting the first American man on the moon is another great book, and you can even get the film version of it on DVD as well. For someone who has great aspirations for the new year, ‘Year of Yes’, by Shonda Rhimes would make a great gift, since it’s not your average self-help book, exploring what it means to take charge of your own life and destiny. Reni-Eddo Lodge’s ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ would make a great gift as well, it’s a personal but widely relatable exploration of race relations in the United Kingdom. Fiction lovers are certainly going to appreciate Chika Unigwe’s ‘On Black Sisters’ Street’ which is a heartbreaking story about four African women hoping for a better life in Europe ending in tragedy. Last year’s Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty and his satirical novel ‘The Sellout’, which offers a funny and painful look at what it means to be a black man in America, is another fabulous gift-idea and a stand-out addition to anyone’s book collection. Last, but certainly not least, is Barack Obama’s ‘Dreams From My Father’, a personal look at his life before the presidency, and maybe, for some, a nostalgic look back at his presidency.