I have wanted to do a recap of what is perhaps a great year for the books and publishing ecosystem in Nigeria but didn’t know where to start until I joined forces with the team at Rovingheights to compile the bestselling books of 2021. Beyond just chronicling what would have been a biased selection of what I thoroughly enjoyed reading in the past year, I thought it’d be better to have some data and numbers to empirically show what Africa’s most populous country cared to buy and read the most in 2021.
From my experience, a book is considered to be a bestseller when its first print run of 2,500-10,000 copies is sold out within the first month of release. Although this is a marginal success to an international bestseller, it is worth mentioning that the book buying and reading culture in Nigeria isn’t where it used to be. Nigerians are reading. Their book taste, however eclectic, is open to more dazzling and revelatory works.
In no particular order, the books I’ll be sharing below are the 30 bestselling books of 2021 as compiled by Rovingheights – Nigeria’s most vibrant bookstore chain.
In 2021, Nigerians were quite excited to read a memoir by one of its most respected business tycoons. Released in May, Leaving the Tarmac by Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede flew off the shelves with over 15,000 copies sold in its first few weeks of release. As at December, 2021, a total of x,000 copies were sold. For the ambitious professional and the ever-resilient entrepreneur in Africa, this is an inspiring read.
Akin Alabi had hinted at a second book in 2020. We waited with bated breath for the release of How to Sell to Nigerians and wondered if it would live up to expectation. It sure did as it is on the way to beating the resounding success of his debut Small Business, Big Money. The founder of Nigeria’s first sport-betting company, NairaBET, has Nigerians wrapped around his fingers. He has the wand to make a bestseller out of anything he writes. Best to say, whatever Akin Alabi writes, Nigerians will read.
It was a filled year for the quintessential Nigeria history buff. Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation by Feyi Fawehinmi and Fola Fagbule as well as Max Sioillun’s What Britain Did to Nigeria were great conversation starters for the political conscious on Nigeria Twitter space. Steeped in meticulous research and riveting narratives, both books present the facts and often neglected truth about Nigeria’s antecedence.
What’s a year without a confessional, tell-it-all autobiography that stirs controversy in the country’s political scene? The former governor of Osun State and former interim chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande’s My Participations made the news and effortlessly topped the most-purchased book chart within a short span.
The official release of Bayo Omoboriowo’s Discover Nigeria was one of the major highlights of Nigeria’s 61st Independence Day celebration. The stunning photobook which pays homage to the obscure and magnificent beauty of Nigeria has since become a treasure for arts and culture enthusiasts.
We all can’t wait to read the next novel by Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie. While we wait, Nigerians will devour voraciously anything written by the literary icon. Notes on Grief is a compact, short read. It is an ode to a doting father and the cultural nuances of grief.
Will Smith is a force. His first book, WILL, becoming an instant international bestseller is another testament to this. Like Michelle Obama’s Becoming in 2018 and her husband’s A Promised Land in 2020, an iconic autobiography by Will Smith literally shook the world in 2021 and Nigeria is not exempt.
How did a contented mom, fitness and weight loss coach make a bestseller out of a food journal? We should all ask Lola Fatusin of April Laugh whose 365 Days Food Journal sold out in a matter of days after running an unprecedented sale in the last quarter of 2021.
Committing to an astute service to a country like Nigeria surely comes at a price. With an astounding profile and experience that cut across various sectors including journalism and more recently NEITI (Nigerian Extractive Industry Transformation Initiative), Adio’s The Arc of the Possible in a true confessional fashion expands on the possibilities and perils of service in Nigeria’s public sector.
Call it a compendium of the visible deeds of God in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit and you wouldn’t be far from correct. Polymath and bestselling author of Beyond My Dreams, Olajumoke Adenowo in the first volume of Acts of the Holy Spirit evokes unrelenting faith in the hearts of many readers this last year.
The world needs more books like Women and Leadership by Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Julia Gillard to help bring about the much-needed gender parity we merely pay lip service to. Get fact-based perspective from the less than 10 per cent women who have made it into corridors of power and how far we still have to go in closing the gap.
Two years after publication, The Prosperity Paradox by Clayton M. Christensen, Efosa Ojomo & Karen Dillon made the Rovingheights bestselling book list for the second. Perhaps, the chronic state of sapa in 2021 created a renewed yearning to learn more about how innovation can help solve global poverty.
The audacity of the title largely prepares you for what you will experience with every turning page of this book. The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah heralds a new era where African women are owning their sexuality. No longer will they be hush or allow conversations about sex be held behind closed door.
There you have it, our best selling nonfiction books of 2021, look out for the Rovingheights bestselling fiction of 2021.