Reader’s Guide to Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole


The Voyage Out Book Group’s Reader’s Guide to Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole


Book Information:


Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole

Random House

162 pages





Nigerian Literature


Other books in this region:


Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Icarus Girl, Helen Oyeyemi


Author Bio:


Born June 27th, 1975


Writer, photographer, and Art Historian.


Born in Kalamazoo, MI to Nigerian parents. The youngest of 4 children. He moved back to Nigeria shortly after his birth. Remained in Nigeria until he was 17. Received his bachelors degree from Kalamazoo College, went on to drop out of UM medical school, received a masters from Univer of London in African art history, pursued a doctorate in art history from Columbia.

Although he travels extensively, his home base is Brooklyn.


He has published two novels, Every Day is for the Thief and Open City. EDFT was pub’d in a different version in Nigeria in 2007, and pub’d in it’s current edition in the US in 2014. Open City was pub’d in the US in 2012.


Asked: Why did you choose to become a writer?


TC: The good fortune of publication


Questions/ Tangents/ Topics:



  1. The title… we don’t usually start with the title, but I think this might be a book to do that with. Who is the thief? What is stolen? Who is it stolen from? Owner?


  1. Is this book an image, or is it a response? How does the creative nature of the writer live within the text? Or, does Cole live within the narrator?


  1. What is the danger of assuming things about the expertise of, or the validity of a fictional character?


  1. The novel is obsessed with signs. How are they working on the world in which they live?


  1. The simple style may lead to simple conclusions, but the book demands the next thought. What are the next thoughts in terms of bribes, returning home, art in Nigeria, Nigerian art in the world, piracy or laws in general…


  1. Epigraph – oddly vague. Can we work them into the big ideas of the novel?


  1. Photographs, how are they working?


  1. First person, present tense, how does the way it’s told reflect the plot of the story?


  1. What do we do with the problematic aspects of the story? If it was told by someone else, what would we think?


  1. The most memorable scene was of the boy in the market. How do we interact with this story? What is our concept of justice? What do you do when there is only one way to create deterent? How can we look at this with Western eyes?


  1. Walking through the stores, how are these scenes problematic?


  1. In the book we see the whole thing through the narrators eyes, but what do we know about the narrator?


  1. In what way are confines freeing?


  1. How is the book more than an illustration of Nigerian problems? (I think it is… what’s the next thing)




What We Talked About When We Talked About This Book:


  • We talked about the formal aspects of this book. Is it a collage? How is the formal art of curration involved?
  • If we are so sure that we should not equate the author with the work or narrator, what does it mean that if Teju Cole was not Teju Cole then what would we think about the novel’s problematic parts.
  • The use of photographs is not unique to this book: Sebald, Ondaatje, Holy Terrors –Cocteau -, William Blake… How does Cole fit into this tradition?
  • The book can be seen, through formal convention, as a collage piece.
  • There is an active historical genre of Westerners traveling to the ‘Third world’ and walking around, how does Cole fit it, stick out, honor, and problematize this genre?

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