Chinua Achebe Best Books 📚

Chinua Achebe’s status as a leading African writer does not only owe to the success of ‘Things Fall Apart,’ but also to that of other works which are just as masterful.

Chinua Achebe

Nigerian novelist, poet, and critic

Chinua Achebe’s reputation as a serious writer rests firmly on his five serious novels. ‘Things Fall Apart’ is lauded for its importance, but Anthills of the Savannah and Arrow of God saw him go for a more complex style and a bigger scope. ‘No Longer at Ease‘ and ‘A Man of the People‘ deal with contemporary Nigerian life and examines issues of corruption and temptation.

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Digital Art
Things Fall Apart Digital Art

‘Things Fall Apart’ is Achebe’s very first and most critically acclaimed novel. It is also his most widely read and commercially successful. It is a book that established his reputation as Africa’s single leading writer. The book follows the story of Okonkwo, who rose from nothing to become an influential member of Umuofia.

However, Okonkwo’s failure to accept the White man’s suzerainty over him and his community leads to a tragic outcome for him. ‘Things Fall Apart‘ is one of the first works to tell the story of Africa’s first contact with the Europeans from a point of view of the Africans. Widely read around schools all over the country, it represents most young people’s first introduction to the culture and traditions of Africans.

Arrow of God

Published in 1964, ‘Arrow of God’ is Achebe’s third novel. The book sees Achebe return back to the setting of ‘Things Fall Apart’ to concentrate more on Igbo religion and politicking. It tells the story of how Ezeulu, priest of the Ulu deity, which the villagers had turned to in their time of need, attempts to secure the primacy of the god he represents over other competing deities in the village. 

The situation is further complicated by the arrival of White colonialists who wish to position Ezeulu as community head within the British’s indirect rule system, as well as the arrival of Christianity. Ezeulu’s pride and unbending will in the face of serious opposition eventually bring about his ruin. It is a remarkably complex work that confirms Achebe’s status as a great writer. The work won the inaugural Jock Campbell/New Statesman Prize for African writing. It was also on the “Big Jubilee Read” list of 70 books by Commonwealth authors selected to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II. 

A Man of The People

First published in 1966, ‘A Man of the People’ is set in a fictional African republic that satirizes the dishonesty and corruption in Nigeria’s governance and politics.  It concerns the political rivalry between the charismatic and popular Chief Nanga and the young upstart, Odili. The rivalry is ostensibly about political ideals pitting old-order corrupt politicians on the one hand, as represented by Chief Nanga, and young revolutionaries on the other, represented by Odili. However, a deeper look at the characters reveals that, in the end that Odili is every bit as cynical and as self-serving as Chief Nanga and that their rivalry owed much more to their dispute over a woman than political ideals. The work not only satirizes several features of Nigerian politics, such as sycophancy and the huge popularity of corrupt leaders that indicts the mentality of the Nigerian masses, but it is also prophetic of the political disasters that soon followed in Nigeria, such as a massive political crisis and the overthrow of the Nigerian government in a military coup carried out by self-styled revolutionaries in the military. 

No Longer at Ease

No Longer at Ease‘ is a continuation of the story in ‘Things Fall Apart,’ with events jumping ahead of Okonkwo’s son Nwoye and unto the time of his grandson, Obi Okonkwo. Obi Okonkwo is an England-educated young man who holds a post in the Nigerian civil service in Lagos. The book reflects on the clash between Western values, as represented by the values of materialism and individualism rampant in Lagos, with that the traditional African values of kinship and communalism, as embodied by the people of Obi Okonkwo’s native Umuofia.

Obi’s status as a social climber in Lagos and a son of the Umuofian soil pits him at the center of this clash, with these competing values creating a dilemma within him. Having contributed to his education, the people of Umuofia felt they are due some favors from Obi, who himself is trying to uphold high anti-corruption ideals. Together with his determination to marry from the prohibited Osu caste, Obi is inevitably drawn into a conflict with his people, and his failure to fit into either the Lagos world or his Umuofian worldview leads him to succumb to bribery, causing his eventual downfall. 

Anthills of the Savannah

Published in 1987, ‘Anthills of the Savannah’ is lauded as Achebe’s most stylistically complex novel.  This complexity arises from the author’s combination of African oral narrative tradition with more modern Western literary devices. Achebe’s most political novel, it explores the complexities of post-colonial African politics. Utilizing multiple narrators and set in the fictional African Nation of Kangan in the wake of a military coup, it grapples with wider political issues through a focus on the stories of several important characters like Christopher Oriko, the Minister of Information of Kangan, Ikem Osodi, a poet and the editor of the Kangan National Gazette, and Beatrice Okoh, Senior Assistant Secretary to the Minister of Finance in the Kangan government.

Written at a time when Achebe was becoming disenchanted with Nigerian politics and the failure of governance, this work deals primarily with Nigerian political issues. In the book, Achebe provides a detailed sketch of the mechanics of nation-running and its far-reaching effects on both the rulers and the led   It examines how power brokers and other important stakeholders within government react to this undemocratic military regime and how much effect this reaction has.  The death of a prominent journalist and critic of the administration led to a tense situation that eventually culminated in the overthrow of the military dictatorship. 

FAQs

What is Chinua Achebe’s best novel?

Things Fall Apart is often regarded as Achebe’s greatest work. However, ‘Arrow of God’ is also sometimes considered a better work.

Which of his novels is Achebe fond of the most?

Although Achebe claims not to have a favorite among his novels, he nevertheless admits that he returns to ‘Arrow of God’ much more than the rest.

Is ‘No Longer at Ease‘ a continuation of Things Fall Apart?

Yes, ‘No Longer at Ease’ is a sequel to ‘Things Fall Apart,’ although one that is at least two generations away from the events of ‘Things Fall Apart.’

Israel Njoku
About Israel Njoku
Israel has a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication. He loves entertainment, pop-culture and the arts and tries to extract themes with wider reaching implications from them through rigorous analysis.
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