BOOK’D| UCHE OKONKWO

Uche’s storytelling is engrossing without being superfluous, very simple stories that go straight to your heart. I prowl her blog looking for new stories, both truth and fiction. I’m honored to have her talk about books and reading on my blog today! If you didn’t know, Uche’s story Neverland won the Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize in 2013. You can purchase her latest (long) short story, The Girl Who Lied for $1.99. PLUS, remember the Uche who’s one of Edwin‘s favorite writers (from our last BOOK’D interview) ever? Yep, this is the one. Enjoy!


*I use affiliate links so if you purchase a book I’ve recommended directly from these links, I might make a few cents. This would be a great way to support a blog(ger) you love.

1. What are you currently reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?

I’m currently reading Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag and Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. At the same time I’m about to begin The Vegetarian by Han Kang. I’m also about to begin rereading Wild Swans by Jung Chang.

Uche Okonkwo by Pemi Aguda

I used to only read one book at a time, but in the last year or two this has changed. Often I’ll read one book of fiction and one of non-fiction at the same time, dividing my time between chapters of each book. Get in Trouble and The Vegetarian are both fiction, but since the former is a collection of short stories it is easy to take breaks between the stories to read other stuff. I’ve completed at least four different novels while reading Get in Trouble.

2. Have you always been a reader? What is the first book you remember ever reading? What drew you into reading/why do you read?

I have no memory of the first book I ever read, but I did start reading at a very young age. My parents bought books for me and my sister. Also, my parents both studied English at university and so the house was filled with their school books, many of them not age-appropriate (but that never stopped me), and often two copies of the same book, one for each parent.

my parents both studied English at university and so the house was filled with their school books... Click To Tweet

3. What is your philosophy on reading? (for example, some people have to finish every book they start)

I can’t say I have a philosophy on reading; I just really want to enjoy whatever it is I’m reading. I used to feel compelled to finish every book I start, but this too has changed now – I figure life is too short. Now I’m more likely to stop reading if I am not enjoying a book.

I used to feel compelled to finish every book I start, but this too has changed now – I figure life is too short. Click To Tweet

4. How often do you read? And how do you fit it into your day?

I read almost every day. When I had an office job I would read during my commute to and from work, and sometimes at break. Now I’m able to be more flexible with my reading time.

5. Where do you like to read? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?

I like to read in quiet spaces, preferably at home in my bedroom. I used to read under the dining table at home when I was a child.

I used to read under the dining table at home when I was a child. Click To Tweet

6. What makes a good book, in your opinion?

I like books that are entertaining or that teach me something new. Preferably both.

Uche Okonkwo
Uche Okonkwo by Ashiwel Okang
I like books that are entertaining or that teach me something new. Preferably both. Click To Tweet

7. Who are your favorite authors to read?

Chimamanda Adichie and George Saunders are among my favourite more established authors. Lesley Arimah is one of my favourite emerging authors.

Lesley Arimah is one of my favourite emerging authors. - @ucheanne Click To Tweet

8. What is a book or who is an author you feel is very underrated?

Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is absolutely brilliant, and I feel like it hasn’t quite gotten the acclaim it deserves. But this might happen yet. The book is set to be published in Nigeria, and I think it has been released in the US as well. Now, at the very least, more people will get to read it.

9. E-book, audiobook or paper? How do you feel about making notes/highlighting books?

Mostly e-book and paper. I tend to buy e-books because of the ease of delivery. So I’ll buy an e-book on Kindle especially if I’m buying a foreign author or a book that might not be available in a bookstore around me. Paper books are great, and I love browsing through bookstores. I like the smell and feel of paper. I like that paper gives my eyes a break from screens.

I tend to buy e-books because of the ease of delivery. Click To Tweet

I hardly ever do audiobooks, but I listened to Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime on Audible. So I guess for books (non-fiction especially) by authors like Noah – comedians or other kinds of performers that I like to listen to on a normal day – I could see myself going for audio.

I like the smell and feel of paper. I like that paper gives my eyes a break from screens. Click To Tweet

I make notes mostly when I’m reading a book to discuss it, or when I’m doing a study of it for personal reasons. I highlight passages that I find particularly compelling.

10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?

I read both, but I definitely have a preference for fiction.

11. What happens to you when you read a good book? (at the beginning, during and after the experience?)

I go into every new book I start with some uncertainty: will I like it? Will it be a chore? Then there’s a feeling of settling in, when I start to enjoy this world and the people that inhabit it. The characters become familiar and I get immersed in their world. And I think that really good books – or I should say the books that I really like – manage to keep me in that world, such that even when I’m away from it I cannot wait to delve back in. And then as I near the end there’s a feeling of sadness and dread because I don’t want it to end but at the same time I cannot stop reading. And when I inevitably reach the end my next thought is: gosh I hope the next book I read is this good! 

when I inevitably reach the end my next thought is: gosh I hope the next book I read is this good! Click To Tweet

12. Do you reread books? Why?

I do reread books. I mostly reread books that I enjoyed but whose details I might have forgotten. Other times I reread just to relive the experience. Two books come to mind here: Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Wizard of the Crow and Wild Swans by Jung Chang.

I mostly reread books that I enjoyed but whose details I might have forgotten. Other times, just to relive the experience. Click To Tweet

13. What book do you wish you could experience again for the first time?

I don’t think I’ve ever had this feeling. Perhaps this is because I’m happy enough just rereading a book I love.

14. What was the last great book you read?

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, an amazing novella recommended to me by a writer friend. It’s short and tight, an expertly woven story about newly acquired wealth and the insidious decay that it wreaks upon a family.

15. If you had to choose three books that everyone should read, what would they be?

So many to choose from… Well, you can’t go wrong with these:

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Kintu by Jennifer Makumbi

16. What book(s) are you embarrassed to have read? What books are you embarrassed to still not have read?

I’m not embarrassed to have read any books. The closest thing to this feeling, I would say, is going back as an adult to a book I adored when I was much younger and finding my adult self not quite as taken with it, to the point where adult me is unable to complete the book. I’ve had this experience, this disappointment, a few times.

I’m embarrassed to not have read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (though it is on my Kindle), and many of the ‘classics’.

I’m embarrassed to not have read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (though it is on my Kindle) Click To Tweet
Uche Okonkwo by ROHAN KAMICHERIL

17. How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature?

The above answer should lend a clue.

18. How do you feel about book clubs?

I think book clubs can be a good way to experience books, share said experience with others, and possibly gain new insights. But I feel like a book club can only work for me if or when I don’t have too many demands on my time. The last time I attempted to join a book club I found myself unhappy with the book choices, and I wasn’t willing to spend my limited reading time on books that I was not particularly interested in, and so I ended up not joining at all.

The last time I attempted to join a book club I found myself unhappy with the book choices Click To Tweet

19. What book(s) have changed your life, and how?

The countless books I read in my formative years changed my life. They made me want to write, and somehow they made me believe that I could.

Uche Okonkwo by Pemi Aguda

20. How do you choose books to read?

I tend to go by recommendations from friends. I also buy books by authors whose previous work I have enjoyed.

21. What book are you currently DYING to read?

The yet uncompleted, untitled work of a certain writer friend.


Uche Okonkwo has an MA in creative writing from the University of Manchester, and has worked as managing editor at leading Lagos-based independent publisher, Farafina. Her stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Per Contra, Ellipsis and others, and her 2016 essay, “What the Road Offers”, was published by Invisible Borders as a limited-edition chapbook. She was a spring 2017 resident at Writers’ Omi, Ledig House. 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Uche

Twitter – @UcheAnne

LinkedIn- Uche Okonkwo

Blog – Yourstruly-Uche



  • Really enjoyed reading this interview, we have a lot in common haha. I used to read under my dining table when I was younger and I also can’t be bothered with finishing a book if I’m no longer enjoying it. I think rereading books is great because most times you pick up tiny details you din’t notice the first time. Love the questions you asked Afoma and her responses. Will certainly check out her blog. xx
    Coco Bella Blog

    • Thanks Demilade! Uche’s blog is fantastic! I’ve never read under the dining table so I’m truly always confused when people say that, but apparently its a real thing! lol! I’m also not a re-reader. The only books I’ve re-read are Purple Hibiscus and Ghana Must Go. I think I just don’t have that much time and I get bored, really when I know how the story ends. Thanks for your lovely comment! x

  • Debby Adebayo

    I enjoyed reading this. A certain simplicity shone through

    • That’s exactly Uche’s trademark, simplicity.