BOOK’D: DAMI AJAYI

Dami Ajayi wears many hats. He is a writer, a critic, a poet and a medical doctor. His latest collection of poems has received rave reviews. In this interview he shares his favorite place to read, the 80’s Nigerian writer he wishes more people read and his apt thoughts on classic literature. Enjoy this short and sweet interview!


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

A number of books actually. Terrence Hayes’ fourth collection of poems, Lighthead and Wole Soyinka’s Green Cards, Green Gods.

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 honestly can’t remember my first book but it may have been something from the Lady Bird Series or some children’s book. I read because reading is quite enjoyable. It takes you out of your life into the lives of others.

Dami Ajayi

I read because reading is quite enjoyable. It takes you out of your life into the lives of others. - @ajayidami Click To Tweet

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

I am not compelled to finish any book I start. I read what I like and what interests me. There are just too many books around to be suffering over one book.

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

I read all the time. I carry a book around and there is the phone too. A lot of good stuff like poems and essays come to us via hyperlinks highly recommended by friends.

I read what I like and what interests me. There are just too many books around to be suffering over one book. Click To Tweet

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

The bathroom of course. I read there all the time. But everywhere really from inside my car to the bistro.

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

Depends on the kind of book really, there are many kinds of books. But I guess good writing is a more universal concept. Good writing is crisp prose that entertains and informs. It works at the level of the sentence, so that every single sentence is a well-articulated unit of thought.

Good writing is crisp prose that entertains and informs. It works at the level of the sentence, so that every single sentence is a well-articulated unit of thought. - @ajayidami Click To Tweet

7. Who are your favorite authors to read?

You want a list? John Irving. John Steinbeck. John Updike. A lot of Johns on this one.

8. What is a book or who is an author you wish more people knew about/read?

Hansen Ayoola. Nigerian writer from the 80s. He wrote a good book called, She Died Yesterday. I once wrote a fascinating piece about how I was re-united to this book after a friend misplaced my battered copy.

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

All of the above, but really I like the old-school paper. Makes notes and highlight if you must, but please own the copy you violate.

Dami Ajayi

Makes notes and highlight if you must, but please own the copy you violate. Click To Tweet

10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?

Poetry !

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

I share the experience with my friends over, beers.

12. Do you reread books? Why?

Oh yes I re-read books. To feel the exact way I felt the first time I read it.

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

None, really. I own all the books I re-read often.

14. What was the last great book you read?

Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal.

Dami Ajayi

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

John Irving’s A Widow for One Year.

Wole Soyinka’s Poems from Black Africa.

Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place.

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

I read a number of Janet Dailey Romance trilogy back in the day. Cowboy romance with raunchy sex scenes happening in horse stables. I am yet to read Ulysses.

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

There are cannons and canals. There are regulatory bodies. There are books that are true classics in the sense of their durability through time. There are books that are foisted on us.

@ajayidami on classic literature: There are books that are true classics in the sense of their durability through time. There are books that are foisted on us. Click To Tweet

18. How do you feel about book clubs?

I love book clubs!

19. What book(s) have remarkably changed your perspective on a given subject or life in general and how?

That would be one of them Dan Brown books. I noticed how bad writing could be handsomely rewarded.

Dami Ajayi

20. How do you choose books to read?

Recommendations come handy by way of reviews, friendly suggestions and what I stumble upon when I am doing my own rounds in the library.

21. What books are currently on your to-be-read list?

John Ashbery’s Confessions in a Self-Portrait

What it means when a man falls from the sky by Leslie Arimah

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

Are You Not a Nigerian? by Bayo Olupohunda

Niyi Osundare: A Literary Biography by Sule E. Egya


Dami AjayiDami Ajayi is a poet, short story writer, essayist and medical doctor. His debut book of poems, Clinical Blues (WriteHouse Collective, 2014) was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize. His poems featured on BBC Radio 4, Prosopisia, World Poetry Book, Badilisha Poetry X-Change, Enkare Magazine and elsewhere. His fiction has been widely anthologised in both print and online journals like Kalahari Review, Afreada, Jalada Africa, Gambit: Newer African Writing and ITCH Magazine. His non-fiction has been published in the Guardian UK, Chimurenga Chronic, Die Zeit, Wawa Book Review, OlisaTV, and Bakwa Magazine. His latest book, A Woman’s Body is a Country (Ouida, 2017) was selected by Quartz Africa as one of best books of 2017. He is a Senior Registrar of Psychiatry at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba.

Connect with Dami

Website: damiajayi.com

Twitter: @ajayidami

*Black and white photos via damiajayi.com

Book’d is a weekly bookish interview series seeking to foster conversation on books and reading. Read our last interview with writer and editor, Olubukola of The Lit Yard.