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Every Day is for the Thief

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  6,489 ratings  ·  819 reviews
A young Nigerian writer living in New York City returns to Lagos in search of a subject-and himself. For readers of JM Coetzee and Chimamanda Adichie.

Visiting Lagos after many years away, Teju Cole's unnamed narrator rediscovers his hometown as both a foreigner and a local. A young writer uncertain of what he wants to say, the man moves through tableaus of life in one of t
Hardcover, 165 pages
Published March 25th 2014 by Random House (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
An essayistic novel about Nigerian identity, Every Day is for the Thief surveys the social and cultural life of the West African nation. The book follows a young Nigerian writer as he returns to his homeland after coming of age abroad, but neither plot nor character is the author’s main focus; Cole instead prioritizes sketching an empathetic portrait of Nigeria over the course of twenty-seven fast-moving chapters. In each chapter, or essay, the narrator, a clear stand-in for the author, describe ...more
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
(Thank you Goodreads giveaways!)

This is called 'Fiction' but don't believe it. It seems to parallel the author's own life: born in the U.S., raised in Nigeria, back to the U.S. and then a return to Nigeria. So it has a Memoir quality. There is nothing of a novel about it which would require: a) plot; b) character development; or c) both a & c. This has d) none of the above.

Instead, this has a travelogue feel to it. There is fine, minimalist writing and really artful black and white photos taken
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Since the publicist’s blurb is misleading, let me first define what Every Day Is for the Thief REALLY is. It’s an older work by Teju Cole, published in 2007 in Africa. It’s fiction only in the loosest sense; in reality, it’s a short book (the size of a novella) that reads partially like a travelogue or an analysis of the Nigerian psyche

What the publicist gets right is that it’s very, very good. As Teju Cole displayed in Open City, he definitely has writing chops. His seamless insights, well-craf
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, read-for-uni
"The mind roams more widely in the dark than it does in the light."

Every Day is for the Thief reads like a tourist guide that tells you to better stay far away from Lagos. There is corruption at every corner, everybody wants your money, thieves at the market are either kicked to death or burned, and the museum isn't worth visiting anyway. What makes all of this even more strange is that the main character is Nigerian-born who left to study and work in the USA. When he returns to Nigeria many yea
Julie Ehlers
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Friend of My Youth, which I read earlier this year, Every Day Is for the Thief is autofiction (seems like nonfiction, but it supposedly isn't, but might be anyway) about a writer who returns to the homeland he left behind years before. In both books the narrator spends his time revisiting places from his younger days, reminiscing about an often sad past, meeting up with old friends, and despairing at all that has changed (mostly as a result of capitalism). As with Friend of My Youth, it ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe this is the third book in the last two weeks that I have read that featured an unnamed narrator. So our unnamed narrator returns to his home city Lagos, after a fifteen year absence and he finds so many things that are different. He meets a first cousin, a young lady who was born just before he left the country and he hopes that the country stays together for her sake. He is amazed at the corruption going on everywhere, where people who have jobs are either never paid or paid so little ...more
Lee Klein
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly compelling, quick, episodic, autobiographical reportage. I wasn't able to make it through the author's first novel -- thought it was too mannered, too falsely Sebaldian. But this, addled with facts and photos, feels absolutely real, albeit not a proper novel. A labyrinth (not a maze) in which the author finds himself and his home city in its center. Worth it for the chapter on the ubiquitous Nigerian e-mail scam and the OMG immolation of a young thief. Loved the assertion that if Jo ...more
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: afro-lit
I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. After all, Teju Cole is an impressive writer, and when I read an excerpt from this work a couple of years ago, I was swept along on a tide of awe. Teju could write. What precise descriptions! What elegant sentences!

But I have endured a mounting dismay as I’ve read this book. The premise is that a young Nigerian emigrant returns to Nigeria after fifteen years away in order to recapture some of his past. He toys with the idea of making his return permanen
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in two days, I was so addicted to it. It reads more like a travelogue and isn't big on character development, but what an honest full-bodied portrayal of Lagos, Nigeria. It had me laughing hard, sucking my teeth with annoyance, and blushing with pride, and one scene had me crying (it touched on a painful memory of something I have witnessed in Nigeria, as well). I want Teju to write more stories set in Lagos. I'd LOVE to see him write that story set in a Lagos 50 years from now. ;-) ...more
Imade (Bridge Four)
I came into this book, expecting little and I was not disappointed. Throughout this book, it felt like the writer was trying too hard to be both an observer of and a participator in events, without really being either. The moments I enjoyed in the story where when the narrator was most authentic and vulnerable, without being so eager to pass judgement and preach from his soap box of privilege. I wish there'd been more moments like that. ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I previously read Open City and really liked it, and this book seems new but was actually published in Nigeria back in 2007, and pre-dates Open City. I think you can tell. There are moments of really great writing but the story of returning home to Nigeria is told in fragments and snippets, illustrated by photos that were taken at a later date by the author. Some of it used to be on the author's blog, from a trip he took back to Africa a few years ago.

The story is likely semi-autobiographical a
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-novellas
While I cannot say I liked having to constantly remind myself that this was fiction and not some sort of nonfiction travelogue, I give kudos to both the author and publisher for giving us a creative publication. Each chapter presents a separate experience a young man has while visiting his native Nigeria several years after emigrating and studying in the United States. Anyone who visits a childhood home they have not seen for a period of time can relate to the narrator's feelings of detachment, ...more
Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
3 stars is generous. A unnamed narrator returns to his native Nigeria having fled his country for the U.S. following a long, self-imposed absence. He finds a country wallowing in economic stagnation due to corruption everywhere because workers do not earn enough from jobs to survive. The story is told in a series of vignettes as the narrator travels in his former homeland. Sadly, Cole does not develop his protagonist (the narrator) enough, and what little is conveyed is done via his reconnecting ...more
Yair Ben-Zvi
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Teju Cole's greatest achievement in this novel is a pitch perfect mastery of passionate interaction and cool, almost professorial, detachment. Cole's connection to his homeland is one of love and trepidation; his Nigeria, as specified through Lagos, is a nation brimming with untapped potential, superseded only by the nation's lachrymose history and corrupt modern leadership. Cole shows us perfect reasoning for the hopeful dread he creates.

The only thing that keeps this novel from a five star is
May 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole is the story of a Nigerian who has emigrated to the United States (New York City, to be specific)to become a doctor. He returns to visit family and friends and is faced with a country he both is deeply attached to and repelled by. He laments Nigeria's chaos, corruption, refusal of history while he is pulled by his past and his connections to this country. He admires the people, struggling with tremendous economic difficulties but impatient with the replace ...more
A while ago, I read Teju Cole's American debut, Open City, and remember thinking of it as the work of a young writer with a lot of interesting ideas, but a fundamentally immature voice. Turns out his ideas were developed much better and in a more interesting fashion in this earlier work, published in Nigeria. Maybe this says something about the American publishing industry. Maybe it says something about sophomore slumps. But I do know that I liked Every Day Is for the Thief significantly more, a ...more
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, library, 5-stars
4.5 rounded up

This was unlike anything I've ever read -- it reads like a non-fiction account of the narrator returning home to Nigeria after 15 years in the US and his observations as someone who has gained an outside perspective of the country but with an inside background knowledge with which to analyse it from.

I don't know if this is autobiographical at all, and I kind of don't want to, as I enjoyed this unique reading experience of a (perhaps) fictionalised travelogue. The narrator recounts
More a photojournalistic essay or travelogue than a novella, but no less insightful for it. Though released after Open City in the West, this is actually Cole’s first book, published in Nigeria in 2007. The narrator (never named) is a mixed-race psychiatry student in New York City who travels back to Nigeria after 15 years. “Each time I am sure that, in returning to Lagos, I have inadvertently wandered into a region of hell, something else emerges to give me hope.” That ambivalence animates the ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Teju Cole is a magnificent writer. With his revised version of Every Day is for the Thief, now released as a first edition in the US and UK from its previous 2007 publication in Africa, Cole has established himself as a leading voice in contemporary literature. In the same fashion as his first book, Open City, this work of fiction is gorgeously written and full of brilliant, alarming observations and profound ideas. But what draws me to Cole’s work, above all else, is the compassion he generates ...more
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've never read Cole before even though I saw that his later work has drawn much attention so I thought this would be a good introduction. However, it doesn't quite work. It quite often turns to rather preachy tone all with exact percentages, not to mention that some remarks (about how music piracy stifles creativity (seriously?!)) are borderline ludicrous given that a couple of pages before or after he writes about how people are being killed in the middle of the street, burned to death even. I ...more
I've seen criticism that this wasn't "enough of a story" - it doesn't have a plot, or much characterisation, or even (perhaps) a point. And yes, I can see that those are very fair points but for me this made it that much more engaging, that much more readable.

As a reader, you are never quite sure at what point the fiction slips into fact, the story slips into elegant recounting of the narrator's own - no, author's own - life.

(post-reading reminder to myself to find Cole's most recent collection
Patrice Hoffman
I finished Teju Cole's Every Day is for the Thief about a week ago. Before I dive into my review of this title I will lay down a little background for how I got here, to this title. I'm currently a working adult, part-time student that is basically starting over, beginning from the ground up to obtain an Associate's degree and then a Bachelor's degree. I'm super late in attempting this arduous journey but I need my receipts. My current employer is amazing and I have worked my way up. I love what ...more
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title comes form a Yoruba proverb, Every day is for the thief, but one day is for the owner. I can't think of a more apt title for this book. Although billed as a novel it reads more like a memoir. And I suspect that a lot of the contents are akin to the author's actual life. The book is narrated in first person as the unnamed protagonist takes us on his journey back home to Nigeria after being away, mostly in NYC for the last 15 years. I like his writing, and you will feel like a friend tra ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absurdity, irrationality, and inconsistency reign in Nigerian-American Teju Cole’s 2007 novel Every Day is For the Thief. The reader follows a young Nigerian man who had emigrated to the United States, sick of the lack of opportunities and the chaos that plague his hometown of Lagos. He comes back for the first time to visit family and analyzes how the city has (and has not) changed in past fifteen years. In a direct writing style, Cole explores insecurity, religious escapism, corruption, and br ...more
Apr 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-books
3.5-stars, really.

so apparently this book is the result of teju cole's visit to lagos back in 2005/2006. it was his first time back in 13 years. cole wrote 30 blog posts in 30 days - documenting his experiences in a way that seems more personal and biographic than fiction. while this exercise was going on, cole wrote Open City. it was published to great acclaim. Every Day Is for the Thief finally made it into north american readers' hands in 2014. (it was published in nigeria in 2007.)

in the new
Jeff Scott
An alternative title for this book could be, “Do You Have Anything for Me?”, as our unnamed narrator goes back to his native Nigeria and discovers how much it has changed since he has been gone. The rampant corruption and bribery are at every turn. Instead of taxes people show up and obstruct progress by asking, “Do you have anything for me?” asking for a bribe. It’s how anything gets done. At one point the narrator jests that even anti-corruption billboard was established through bribery. It’s ...more
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Every Day is For The Thief is a good book. The protagonist of this novella or travelogue is a Nigerian born, now naturalized American resident medical officer in New York with a calm demeanor, giving the book a progressive, logical flow. I actually read the book thinking the protagonist was Teju Cole himself… just because readers don’t get much detail on the protagonist- like his name, stature etc.

A lot of what Cole writes about seems common to Ghana but
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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Michael Livingston
A short, meandering, brilliant book as the unnamed narrator (Cole? Much like Open City this feels barely fictional) explores Lagos after many years away.
Amanda Alexandre
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cult
1. This is not exactly fiction.

2. It's all about Nigeria.

3. It has a few over 100 pages. You can read it in a day, but I wouldn't recommend. This baby needs to be flavored, not just churned.

Religion, corruption, happiness. Why, if so religious, so little concern for the ethical life or human rights? Why, if so happy, such weariness and stifled suffering?

In my college days, I took Ethics lessons. The professor, a very interesting little man with an international PhD, told us about what was wr
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I was born to Nigerian parents and grew up in Lagos. My mother taught French. My father was a business executive who exported chocolate. The first book I read (I was six) was an abridgment of Tom Sawyer. At fifteen I published cartoons regularly in Prime People, Nigeria’s version of Vanity Fair. Two years later I moved to the United States.

Since then, I’ve spent most of my time studying art histor

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