Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Books of My Life
She's adored by critics, fans, and even Beyoncé, who recently sampled one of her lectures; to mark the paperback debut of her novel ''Americanah'' — up for a National Book Critics Circle award — Adichie talked about the books she loves
My favorite childhood books
The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. I was entranced by the children who had these wonderful adventures and who were always magically at the right place at the right time. They go off to an island on a picnic, for example, and it turns out there’s an old dungeon there used by smugglers, and they, of course, solve the crime.
The book I enjoyed most in school
Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe. It’s not as well-known as his classic, Things Fall Apart, but it is complex and funny and interesting, the kind of book that both instructs and delights — and that, to me, is what all good literature should do.
My favorite movie versions of great novels
I loved The Remains of the Day. It’s a stunning book, and the movie came close to being just as stunning, with the most beautifully restrained acting by Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. I also loved Doctor Zhivago.
The classic I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read
I’m not entirely embarrassed, because I think a book either speaks to you or it doesn’t, and I don’t approach books as if they are medicine — tastes bad but drink it anyway because it’s good for you. The classic I am supposed to have read but have had difficulty getting past the first page is Moby-Dick.
A book I consider grossly overrated
The last book that made me cry…and the last one that made me laugh
I am drawn to a certain kind of sadness and nostalgia and melancholy in fiction. Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost made me cry. It is such a moving book, told with such heart and grace. Eghosa Imasuen’s Fine Boys made me laugh. It’s a brilliant novel about contemporary Nigeria.
A book I read in secret
I read many books in secret. I remember reading — and I now don’t know where I got it — a history of pornography, which was disappointingly not titillating; it was actually quite interesting. But I was 10, and it said “pornography” on the cover, so I wrapped it in newspaper so my parents wouldn’t see the title.
A book I wish I’d written
One Hundred Years of Solitude. I think it’s glorious.
What I’m reading right now
I read more than one book at the same time, which is proof of the short attention span I have developed: a very sharply observed, brilliant, beautiful novel about life in postapartheid South Africa by Zoë Wicomb called Playing in the Light, and also George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.
The time I bought my own book
I recently saw Americanah in a supermarket in small-town Nigeria, displayed next to Bibles and business management books. It was the only novel there. I was so foolishly thrilled by this that I bought a copy.