2016 was a very eventful year, for me, for the people around me and for the world in general. The whole world needs to exhale one collective sigh of relief now that it is coming to an end. However, 2016 was a very good year for the arts, there were amazing new TV shows (Atlanta, Designated Survivor, Insecure and This is Us were my faves), great albums, excellent books and dope movies. Don’t even get me started on the short stories. Because I love you guys, and because I love recommending great stuff, I’ve put together a rather long list on some of the things I loved the most in 2016. As always, the list is mostly made up of content created in 2016, but not limited to that. If it was made earlier, but I discovered and fell in love with it in 2016, it can make the cut.
Ladies and gentlemen, the great loves of 2016.
Sometime in 2016, I became very interested in reading about friendships. Reading about the intricacies and intensities of real life friendships was one of my favorite things to do this year. I have compiled a list of 10 of the most profound things I read about friendships this year, some stories, some articles.
- I’m having a Friendship Affair by Kim Brooks – About the (often times scary) intense intimacy of female friendships.
- On Being a Surrogate by Megan Cahn – Would you help carry your best friend’s baby?
- What it means to fall in friend-love in your 20s by Rumaan Alam – “That a friendship ends doesn’t mean it was weak from the outset; that it ends says nothing about its importance. A friendship like this is love without the prospect of sex, and perhaps the purer for it.”
- Reclaiming Friendship by Maria Popova – This will make you rethink just how easily you refer to someone as your ‘friend’.
- This is Us, This is our 30s by Ozzy Etomi – The prospect of turning 30 with my friends has never seemed so appealing.
- The Encyclopedia Reader by Daniel A Gross – For over a decade, their friendship happened through phone calls and letters, after being brought together by the most unlikely of books.
- Showing Up: The Single Most Important Thing a Friend Can Do by Wendy Atterberry – On the importance of being there for your friends. “The key to long-lasting friendships, particularly for the introverts who guard their personal time like it’s the last Twinkie on Earth — is to say no to enough things that don’t matter so that you have the energy and time to say yes to the stuff that does matter. Quality is better than quantity.”
- Reflections on True Friendship by Andrew O’Hagan – “Is childhood the golden era of friendship?” A consideration of the importance of undocumented friendships.
- What we mean when we say ‘I love you, man’ by Rembert Browne – Because I think that male friendships aren’t documented enough in their raw form.
- A Dear Friend by Crissy Van Meter – “I think we are all slightly in love with each other, and in fleeting moments and heart thumps and twitches of eyelids, well that love is romantic too, for a few seconds. Isn’t that the joy of it?”
- Say by Akindamola Akintola – Great story, great storytelling.
- My Purple Scented Novel by Ian McEwan – This story will surprise you.
- A Swahili Love in Ten Fragments by Idza Luhumyo – A love lost in translation.
- The Arrangements by Chimamanda Adichie – I almost like fictional Ivanka Trump. I’m also here for the “Mrs Dalloway” style first line.
- Amsterdam by Junot Diaz – “Some relationships snap like bones, otherwise go into long slow Byzantine declines.” Junot tells of a breakup in his usual compelling style.
- His Middle Name was not Jesus by NoViolet Bulawayo – An unusual infatuation, a pleasant character.
- The Digital Afterlife of Lost Family Photos by Teju Cole – I found Teju Cole’s essay about his collection of found photographs to be a great read. What do you think your pictures will say about you if they found their way into a stranger’s possessions?
- My Father’s House by Reggie Ugwu – “I could see clearly that the comfort in “Thank God it’s not me” was a delicate self-deception. A lie that warms and embraces us like swaddling clothes. A mirage in the desert. I knew that just as God had not spared us, He would spare no one in the end. That infirmity and death await each of us and each of the ones we love. That everything can change in an instant.” A beautiful homecoming story.
- Of War, Photographs and Memory by Chibuihe-light Obi – Memories from the Biafran war.
- Africa’s Future has no Space for Stupid Black Men by Pwaangulongii Dauod – “Fear dehumanizes. Fear of being caught as gay in Nigeria demeans one’s humanity. Fear of Nigeria’s police arresting you for being homosexual crushes every gut you have.” One of the most moving pieces I read this year.
- Her Secret History: I discovered my mother’s digital life after her death by Kate Brannen – Her dead mother’s bookmarks become a sort of roadmap for her.
- Borders within by Various Creatives (For Invisible Borders) – A group of writers and photographers (including three of my faves – Yinka Elujoba, Emmanuel Iduma and Eloghosa Osunde) went on the road and created this project called ‘Borders Within’ and it was one of my favorite things this year. It is made up of amazing photographs, honest stories and searing conversations. You won’t regret going through the entire site and reading all the stories in the project. My favorites were In True Form and There is a Fear that Binds.
- No Sound, No Fury, No Marriage by Laura Pritchett – When silence turns a marriage into co-habiting.
- Love will be the Death of Us by Ian MacKenzie – Honestly, Truly. Notes on the end of a marriage.
- The Reluctant Writer by Soniah Kamal – “Is it ever too late to live some version of your dreams?” A childhood dream crushed by parents who lived in a time where dreams were unreasonable.
- I’m a Previvor by Jean Hannah Edelstein – An interesting story about a hereditary health problem.
- The Very Quiet Foreign Girls Poetry Group by Kate Clanchy – “When Kate Clanchy began teaching the children of refugees, she sought out those silenced by trauma and loss. Their weekly session released a torrent of untold stories.
- When Love isn’t as Simple as Standing by your Man by Eirik Gumeny – When “in sickness and in health” becomes impossible.
- The Lover who always stays by Sara Corbett – The dead writer, Anaïs Nin had a double life, complete with two husbands. Iconic.
- Speak, Memory by Casey Newton – “When her best friend died, she rebuilt him, using artificial intelligence.” Like an episode of black mirror, but real life.
- You have to be a Selfish Woman by Timehin Adegbeye – “Did they love you at all? Who did they think was holding your hand?” I read this piece by Timehin several times this year, and it made my chest ache every single time.
- An Unbelievable Story of Rape by Ken Armstrong and T Christian Miller – A truly unbelievable story. I saw this story going in a certain cliché direction, and all of a sudden, plot twist.
- The Dark Side of Dubai by Johann Hari – This journalist unveils the side of Dubai we don’t see on social media. Truly sad to read.
- The Family is a Curse by Edouard Louis – “The family is a curse, and like all curses, it arouses passions in you that are not you own.”
- The Real Heroes are dead by James B Stewart – Two strangers meet in a very unlikely way and find love at an unlikely age, but wait.
- Fugee by Hawa Jande Golakan – This Liberian writer documents her life during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
- The End of Empathy by Stephanie Wittels Wachs – On the lack of empathy in today’s society.
- My Bloody Valentine by Monica Mark – “What do you do with your life after you’ve already been the world’s youngest dictator?” Read this dope piece about the mysterious and feared recluse who was once the world’s youngest dictator, ruling Sierra Leone for 4 years.
- The Unmothered by Ruth Margalit – How do you survive the Mother’s day ads, posts and social media buzz when your own mother is dead?
- Joanne the Scammer Lives for Drama. Branden Miller is Just Trying to Live by Patrick D. McDermott – You probably know the 2016 internet sensation, Joanne the scammer. This interview reveals the man behind the blonde wig and fur coat, and he is a remarkable one.
- This is Not a Feminist Poem by Wana Udobang – A truly amazing piece of poetry.
- Here’s What Helps by Kind Stranger – Someone created this spreadsheet that allowed others to anonymously write the things that help them feel better in dark times. I can’t tell you how many awesome songs and poetry I found here.
- How to Maintain Control of the Shared Armrest by Mallory Ortberg – Have you ever had to fight the silent armrest fight at the cinema or on a flight? Here are tips on how to fight better.
- The Tail End by Tim Urban – “When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life” TIME IS RUNNING OUT, AND YOU RIGHT ALONG WITH IT.
- Everything Doesn’t Happen for a Reason by Tim Lawrence – No, this bad thing didn’t happen to me for the purpose of a greater good. Sometimes, bad things happen simply because, shit happens.
- Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist manifesto in 15 Suggestions by Chimamanda Adichie – My fave teaching us how to raise feminist daughters. Saving this brilliant piece for the future. You should too.
- A Question of Audience by Eghosa Imasuen – If you are a writer, this piece may leave you shouting “yasssss sir, start a workshop and take all my money” as it did me.
- The Urban Poor You Haven’t Noticed: Millennials Who’re Broke, Hungry, But on Trend by Gayatri Jayaraman – “I quickly learned that with each salary hike, the price of earning it goes up.” This writer may as well be writing about Nigerian millennials. A sad reality.
- 10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings by Maria Popova – On the 10th anniversary of her site, Maria Popova offers ten solid pieces of advice.
I read 22 books in 2016. 14 of those are African literature and 8 are foreign. 20 of the books are prose, and the other two are collections of poetry. My top five books of the 22 I read this year, in no particular order, are:
- Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
- Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta
- Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika
Worthy mentions include Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John, Imagine This by Sade Adeniran and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
Music is probably the only thing I enjoy more than reading, and 2016 was also a great music year. Here are my favorite 2016 albums in no particular order.
- The Human Condition – Jon Bellion
- Purpose – Justin Bieber
- Major Key -DJ Khaled
- This is Acting – Sia
- The Life of Pablo – Kanye West
- 25 – Adele
- The Hamilton Mixtape – Various Artists
- Light and Darkness – John Legend
- Klitoris – Brymo
- Chemistry – Falz & Simi
There you have it.
Personally, 2016 was a year of growth. I started my NYSC and moved away from home with my sisters. I’m now living in a new city for the first time ever. I started saving like an adult, I attended and wrote about Ake Festival. I made amazing new friends and visited amazing places. I didn’t shy away when I was appointed a leadership role and I got (a little bit) better at public speaking. I didn’t write as many fiction stories as I wish I did, but that’s fine. However, I wrote a number of articles. I also dabbled into conducting and writing interviews for publication, and I wrote three major ones. I published two short stories this year – Love Was and Sister Stranger. I also turned one of my journal entries into a post Finding my Way Back to Prayers and got the most amazing feedback from so many truly awesome people. I didn’t succeed at journaling, again, writing only 31 out of 365 days. I will try again next year. My sister started her travel and lifestyle blog and I am looking forward to traveling with her in 2017. As bad as 2016 was generally, I managed to have a pretty good year and I’m grateful for that.
Here’s to an overwhelming 2016, and hopefully, a much better 2017.