NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY DWIGHT GARNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY San Francisco Chronicle | NPR | The Root | The Telegraph | The Globe and Mail
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • FINALIST, PHILLIS WHEATLEY BOOK AWARD • TEJU COLE WAS NAMED ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL AFRICANS OF THE YEAR BY NEW AFRICAN MAGAZINE
For readers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Michael Ondaatje, Every Day Is for the Thief is a wholly original work of fiction by Teju Cole, whose critically acclaimed debut, Open City, was the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named one of the best books of the year by more than twenty publications.
Fifteen years is a long time to be away from home. It feels longer still because I left under a cloud.
A young Nigerian living in New York City goes home to Lagos for a short visit, finding a city both familiar and strange. In a city dense with story, the unnamed narrator moves through a mosaic of life, hoping to find inspiration for his own. He witnesses the “yahoo yahoo” diligently perpetrating email frauds from an Internet café, longs after a mysterious woman reading on a public bus who disembarks and disappears into a bookless crowd, and recalls the tragic fate of an eleven-year-old boy accused of stealing at a local market.
Along the way, the man reconnects with old friends, a former girlfriend, and extended family, taps into the energies of Lagos life—creative, malevolent, ambiguous—and slowly begins to reconcile the profound changes that have taken place in his country and the truth about himself.
In spare, precise prose that sees humanity everywhere, interwoven with original photos by the author, Every Day Is for the Thief—originally published in Nigeria in 2007—is a wholly original work of fiction. This revised and updated edition is the first version of this unique book to be made available outside Africa. You’ve never read a book like Every Day Is for the Thief because no one writes like Teju Cole.
Praise for Every Day Is for the Thief
“A luminous rumination on storytelling and place, exile and return . . . extraordinary.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Cole is following in a long tradition of writerly walkers who, in the tradition of Baudelaire, make their way through urban spaces on foot and take their time doing so. Like Alfred Kazin, Joseph Mitchell, J. M. Coetzee, and W. G. Sebald (with whom he is often compared), Cole adds to the literature in his own zeitgeisty fashion.”—The Boston Globe
Novelist Cole's Open City brought him international attention, but this novel, first published in Nigeria and now currently being republished in the U.S. and the U.K., was actually his first. Set in contemporary Lagos, Nigeria, the novel follows a nameless narrator's visit to his homeland after a lengthy stay in the United States. Estranged from his mother and unemotional about his father's death, the protagonist seeks his humanity and redemption in art. Cole's crisp language captures how Lagos the home of numerous Internet scams and frequent power cuts possesses a violence that both disgusts his protagonist and fascinates him. With journalism-like objectivity, Cole by way of his narrator details a Nigeria that is violent and corrupt, but also multi-cultural and alive. This pared-down writing style comes at the cost of character development. (For example, the narrator's training as a psychiatrist is never really explored.) As a result, the novel reads more like a beautiful work of creative nonfiction. The structure is loose, a collection of observances of daily life in Lagos in which Cole presents the complexities of culture and poverty. In addition, Cole sprinkles dramatic black-and-white photos throughout the book, but it's his willingness to explore so many uncomfortable paradoxes that sears this narrative into our brains.