BOOK’D| IFEOLUWA NIHINLOLA

Writer Ifeoluwa Nihinlola is one whose work I enjoy. I’ve linked to a number of his pieces in my monthly favorites posts over time. He deeply enjoys books and reading and he was high on the list of people I wanted on BOOK’D. I really love his reading philosophy and his tips for reading successfully in a danfo. His interview is in turns funny and serious and book loving doesn’t get better (or worse) than continuing to read your book when threatened by robbers. Enjoy this interview featuring Ife’s love for essays and Zadie Smith (“Time stops for Zadie”)!


(I use affiliate links and I may make a cent or two if you buy books directly off of my links. It would be a great way to support a blog(ger) you love)

1. What are you currently reading?

Started The Woman Next Door, and I’ve been reading about a story and an essay weekly from Charles Baxter’s Gryphon and Mark Grief’s Against Everything since late April. I’m also rereading the 2014 Best American Essays on my morning commute.

If you talk to the pile of books beside my bed, I’m sure there are others that still believe I’m reading them. Maybe someday I’ll get to them, but if I don’t, then they have their authors to blame for making them forgettable. I’m completely unfaithful to books these days, reading only those that compel themselves to me or that I believe are must-reads.

I’m completely unfaithful to books these days, reading only those that compel themselves to me. Click To Tweet

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?

There’s no version of myself that I’m conscious of that didn’t know how to read. Click To Tweet

There’s no version of myself that I’m conscious of that didn’t know how to read. I remember going to Sunday school in a new church as a kid and they asked me for my bible. I produced a small RSV copy and they asked why I didn’t have a bible with pictures. It was strange to me. Why would anyone want me to bring the Tawny Scrawny Lion to church? The little golden books series were perhaps the first books that I can remember reading. I had a few of them and read them till their pages came off one by one and became useless. But, the bible is the first book I remember reading extensively.

the bible is the first book I remember reading extensively. - @ifemmanuel Click To Tweet

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

I believe in reading good books wherever they may be found, not minding what their subject matter is or who has written them. I don’t think you have to finish a book, but I also believe you shouldn’t abandon every book that feels alien to you or slightly difficult to digest. (Does this count as a philosophy?) I’m a believer in returning to books when I have the required skill to appreciate them.

I’m a believer in returning to books when I have the required skill to appreciate them. Click To Tweet

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

Traffic in Lagos is something no human should have to face everyday, but if you’re one of the unfortunate beings who need to go through it’s horror, you might as well make the best of it. You can people watch till you come across as a creep. Or read a book if the person sitting beside you isn’t trying to tranquilise you with body odour, so much that you have to stick your nose out of the window. (Bonus advice: always get a window seat in a danfo, except when it’s raining.) I read everyday, any time in the day, not as much as I would want to, and not as much as I used to.

I read everyday, any time in the day, not as much as I would want to, and not as much as I used to. Click To Tweet

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

There’s nothing like a weird place to read. I spent a bulk of my teenage years on the toilet seat, a dictionary and a book in hand. It’s a perfectly normal use of what is arguably the coolest room in the house, and the only one where people are assured to knock before they enter. I once continued reading a book while in a bus going from Ibadan to Lagos as drivers coming towards us shouted “armed robbers.” In retrospect, it wasn’t the right response, but the way I saw it, the driver was the one with all the decision to make. Thankfully he was competent at his job in spite of the Yoruba women trying to dictate it to him. That’s the only situation I can think of that was weird to read in.

I spent a bulk of my teenage years on the toilet seat, a dictionary and a book in hand. Click To Tweet

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

I’ve always thought of good art as the kind that fills you with a sense of wonder, and of good books as those that fill you with an appreciation for words and their ability to mold universes. But that’s neither here nor there. Now, I think you’ll know a good book when you see it.

you’ll know a good book when you see it. - @ifemmanuel Click To Tweet

7. Who are your favorite authors to read?

Zadie Smith, George Saunders, Nell Zink, Flannery O’ Connor, Susan Sontag, C S Lewis, Anne Lamott.

image: Ifeoluwa Nihinlola

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

Perhaps Nell Zink, or Charles Baxter because I’m reading him now.

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

E-books over paper. I’ve never been able to pause a book and start writing my thoughts on it down. I sometimes use my phone to take images of pages and return to them to journal my thoughts. The right to own a book also comes with the rights to deface it. If I were any good at it, my books would be filled with marginalia. But I’m not.

E-books over paper. - @ifemmanuel Click To Tweet

10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?

Essays are wonderful and on most days I’ll take a good one over anything else. But short stories are great too, and the best ones can change the way you see the world. Poems are perhaps a step above them all. The lines between fiction and nonfiction are being blurred daily—as they should be. Unless you’re creating a record of facts that needs to be stated as such, then I could care less about the distinction. Just make it good writing.

Essays are wonderful and on most days I’ll take a good one over anything else. Click To Tweet

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

At the beginning, surprise at how it’s possible to attempt whatever the writer is doing (I’m usually more swept by technique and literary beauty at first) then a hunger to see what the writer makes of the story. Sometimes I look up to see if the world is still the same around me or if it is privy to the magic I’m experiencing on the page too.

I rarely have emotional reactions to books, but the one time it happened, I was reading Arundati Roy’s God of Small Things, and felt overwhelmed by sadness to the point where I had to stop the book. I took a break to gather my wits around me and returned to the book. After I read great books, I feel something about the way I see the world has been changed; even if it’s by a tiny bit, that’s what I truly believe.

After I read great books, I feel something about the way I see the world has been changed. Click To Tweet

12. Do you reread books? Why?

I reread essays and short stories, but rarely novels because life is short and there are too many books to read. (Zadie Smith is the exception to this; time stops for Zadie.) I return to short stories and essays a lot because reading is rereading. Good writing is like buried treasure, to be mined again and again for details one can’t get at once. If all there is to be gotten in a story is there at first glance, its goodness should be questioned.

Good writing is like buried treasure, to be mined again and again for details one can’t get at once. Click To Tweet

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

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

14. What was the last great book you read?

Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad.

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

The Bible, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’ Connor, and something by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, say Crime and Punishment.

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

In reading, there’s no shame in my game. I’m as proud of reading Dostoyevsky as I am of reading E L James’s first book to find out what the noise was really about. (Don’t read it if you haven’t. It’s as bad as they say.)

I’m as proud of reading Dostoyevsky as I am of reading E L James’s first book. Click To Tweet

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

I reckon classic literature is considered so because group of people knowledgeable about books considered reading them to be important to an education in books. I spent a part of 2013 reading English classics and enjoyed it. Some of them are really enjoyable, like say Marquez’s OHYOS, or Catcher in the Rye, or say Joyce’s Dubliners, while others can be difficult to read. But I like to see them as broccoli. That I hate how it tastes in the mouth doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate its goodness.

18. How do you feel about book clubs?

I don’t have any proper opinion of them since I’ve never been part of any. But I think it’s cool that people can read as a community. I believe there’s great value in having conversations about art, be they paintings, photographs, music, or books.

Writer Ifeoluwa Nihinlola
Portrait by Aoiri Obiagbo

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

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot: I was amazed, at the time, by how simultaneously improbable and real the characters were and wanted that feeling again.

CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity: I hope, someday, to write persuasive essays about how I see the world. When that time comes, I want to be as firm and lucid and kind as Lewis’s voice is in this book.

George Saunder’s Tenth of December: I’ve attempted crazy things in writing on account of this book, because after reading it, I believed that you could attempt anything on the page as long as you do it well. (That theory is proving false in my case, but it’s too early to give up.)

Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation and Other Essays: This book gave me the boldness to attempt cultural criticism, to try to be as brilliant as possible on the page. To fail at it, then try again. It also changed how I encounter art, taught me to focus more on the style and not just the content.

I hope, someday, to write persuasive essays about how I see the world. Click To Tweet

20. How do you choose books to read?

Recommendations from friends whose reading taste I trust.
Mentions by writers I admire in their essays or interviews.
Curated lists on the Internet.

21. What book are you currently DYING to read?

Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World.


Ifeoluwa NihinlolaIfeOluwa Nihinlola lives in Lagos, where he writes and edits essays and short stories. He blogs at ifenihinlola.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Ife:

Twitter: @ifemmanuel

Instagram: @ifemmanuel

Book’d is a weekly bookish interview seeking to foster conversation on books and reading. If you enjoyed this, please share with someone you think would too. Read the last interview with doctor, Kimeclectic.