TBB Recommends: The Best Reads of 2022

This month, I have rounded up some of my favourites of 2022.

Coincidentally, this list is comprised of entirely debut novelists or writers. Catching up on some reading or looking for the perfect gift, these five books are a testament to the wonderful future of Black British literature. 

Vagabonds! by Eloghosa Osunde

Vagabonds! blends the fantastical and the real, presenting how subversive and underground cultures exist in Nigeria alongside the ancient and traditional. Osunde is a fresh voice in literature, and it is wonderful to read a piece of fiction about Nigerian culture that is rooted in its Nigerianness. 

Èkó, the spirit of Lagos, and his loyal minion Tatafo weave trouble through the streets of Lagos and through the lives of the ‘vagabonds’ powering modern Nigeria: the queer, the displaced and the footloose.

With Tatafo as our guide, we meet these people in the shadows. Among them is a driver for a debauched politician, a lesbian couple whose tender relationship sheds unexpected light on their experience with underground sex work, and a mother who attends a secret spiritual gathering that shifts her reality. As their lives begin to intertwine – in markets and underground clubs, in churches and hotel rooms – the vagabonds are seized and challenged by the spirits who command the city. A force is drawing them all together, but for what purpose?

In her debut novel, Vagabonds!, Eloghosa Osunde tackles the insidious nature of Nigerian capitalism, corruption and oppression, and offers a defiant, joyous and inventive tribute to all those for whom life itself is a form of resistance.

An Olive Grove in Ends by Moses McKenzie

I loved this bold and powerful novel by debut novelist Moses McKenzie. He brings the streets of Easton, Bristol and his characters to life on the page, and you are completely immersed in their world from start to finish. I look forward to seeing what else is to come! I chatted with Moses in April, have a listen to the interview here

Sayon Hughes, a young Black man from Bristol, dreams of a world far removed from the one in which he was raised. Far removed from the torn slips outside the bookies, the burnt spoons and the crooked solutions his community embraces; most of all, removed from the Christianity of his uncaring parents and the prejudice of law-makers.

Growing up, Sayon found respite from the chaos of his environment in the love and loyalty of his brother-in-arms, Cuba; in the example of his cousin Hakim, a man once known as the most infamous drug dealer in their neighbourhood, now a proselytising Muslim; and in the tenderness of his girl, Shona, whose own sense of purpose galvanises Sayon’s.

In return, Sayon wants to give the people he loves the world: a house atop a grand hill in the most affluent area of the city, a home in which they can forever find joy and safety. But after an altercation in which a boy is killed, Sayon finds his loyalties torn and his dream of a better life in peril.

Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola 

I haven’t read anything that has given me the same warm and fuzzy feeling since Bolu Babalola’s last offering Love in Colour. Filled with romantic tension and misunderstanding, and an irresistible love interest, Honey & Spice is the perfect antidote to all woes. Never cynical and always loving, Bolu Babalola is a real gem!

I interviewed Bolu this summer, read it here

The sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo is an expert in relationship evasion and likes to keep her feelings close to her chest. As the host of the popular student radio show, Brown Sugar, it is her mission to make sure the women who make up the Afro-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University also do not fall into the mess of ‘situationships’, players and heartbreak.  

But when Kiki meets the distressingly handsome and charming newcomer Malakai Korede—who she has publicly denounced as ‘The Wasteman of Whitewell’—her defences are weakened and her heart is compromised. A clash embroils them in a fake relationship to salvage both their reputations and save their futures, and soon she finds herself in danger of falling for the very man she warned her girls about. 

A funny and sparkling debut, Honey & Spice is full of delicious tension and romantic intrigue that will make you weak at the knees.

None of the Above by Travis Alabanza 

Described as an anti-memoir, None of the Above is an outstanding and radical look at what it is to live beyond the binary. Their confident voice challenges the reader and unveils flaws at the root of society. 

After reading it, it felt as though there was so much more to reflect on than the way in which we view gender, but also how we view and contribute in a society which limits any scope for difference. 

In None of the Above, Travis Alabanza examines seven phrases people have directed at them about their gender identity. These phrases have stayed with them over the years. Some are deceptively innocuous, some deliberately loaded or offensive, some celebratory; sentences that have impacted them for better and for worse; sentences that speak to the broader issues raised by a world that insists that gender must be a binary.

Through these seven phrases, which include some of their most transformative experiences as a Black, mixed-race, non-binary person, Travis Alabanza turns a mirror back on society, giving us reason to question the very framework in which we live and the ways we treat each other.

Hope and Glory by Jendella Benson

Hilarious and heart-warming in equal measure, this novel is centred around a family struggling to cope with loss, buried secrets and collective trauma. At times, I felt genuinely concerned for Glory, her family and the status of her new romantic relationship. I was completely absorbed in Jendella Benson’s Peckham, and loved her unique narrative voice. 

Glory arrives back in Peckham, from her seemingly glamorous life in LA, to mourn the sudden death of her father and finds her previously close family has fallen apart in her absence. Her brother, Victor, has been jailed, her sister, Faith, appears to have lost her independence and ambition and their mother, Celeste, is headed towards a breakdown. Glory is thrown by their disarray, and rather than returning to America, she decides to stay and try to bring them all together again. However, when she unearths a huge family secret, Glory risks losing everyone she truly cares about in her pursuit of the truth.

Hope and Glory is a rich, heart-warming story of loss, love and family chaos and marks an exciting new voice in fiction.


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