Book Review | Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole

book cover Every day is for the thief As the book begins, the unnamed narrator is arriving back home in Lagos, Nigeria after having been away in New York for many years. Maturing as an NYU student in the city has allowed for a completely new view of his home upon return. Every Day Is for the Thief traces the narrator’s encounters during a short trip home as he reunites with family members, a few old friends, the public transit system and the inner workings of Lagos, a city that is both familiar and unfamiliar to him. This slice of life novel allows the reader to watch as bribes are extorted by police officers, piracy is conducted by shop owners and everything is kept afloat by the communal belief that just the general idea of something is enough to get by.

The book consists of short chapters with black and white photographs. Most chapters tell their own short story and could stand alone. Bound together they allow the reader to see a new place through familiar glasses. While the book was fairly short (around 160 pages with generous spacing on fairly small pages, frequent chapter breaks and photos), it took me a while to get through it. Contrary to raving reviews, I found the book mostly dull and didn’t have much desire to continue. Perhaps this is partly due to the number of past African fiction reads I’ve enjoyed much more. Though not Nigerian, J. M. Coetzee, Zakes Mda, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Zoë Wicomb told stories that provided a similar slice of life perspective, but with a more interesting story to bind everything together. Check out Every Day Is for the Thief at your local library.

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About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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