Charles Mudiwa, Chief Executive Stanbic Bank
What is your first interaction with reading a book?
The first interaction with a book was listening to my grandmother telling me stories. In an African context, my grandmother was an audiobook; me listening to her stories around the fire from age five or six.
From then, I read Ben and Betty series storybooks and Shona novels, which is my native language.
One of my earliest adult reads were Weep Not My Child and the Trial of Ngugi wa Thiong’o by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe.
One of the things I did when I came to Kenya was to go see where Dedan Kimathi comes from. I met the widow, donated a wheelchair, and went to the Dedan Kimathi University. This was one of the early memories of tracing African literature.
What do you think about Africa’s literature scene?
There’s a lot of African literature coming up. We now have younger writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who are world-class.
African theatre has also evolved. We no longer just write novels but we do films that tell our stories we’ve seen that transition from just writing novels, narrating our stories.
However, I think the reading culture has sadly changed. I’m not sure young people read as much as we did. Part of that is because of social media, which has destroyed reading. People want very short stories.
The knowledge industry has also moved digital. Do you subscribe to any reading apps or love flipping physical pages cover to cover?
I do both. For news content and current affairs, I use digital platforms. But when I want to read a book, or a full-length story, I pick a hardcopy.
Do you have a book reading culture?
Everywhere I go I carry a book. There is always a book around me.
What are you currently reading?
A book about South Sudan by Dr Lam Akol. There are many books that I’m currently looking at. This one is sitting at my office that’s where I’m reading it from. There is also, Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are by Geoffrey G Parker” It is an interesting book that deals with this crisis we are in.
I’ve also been reading the The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma and I like this quote in the book “own your morning elevate your life.” It resonates a lot.
Is there any book that has impacted you or helped you understand the current environment or help relate with people better?
There are about three books that have resonated with me through this period.
1. Legacy by James Kerr, which talks about the All Blacks, how they would lose games, fight back and it talks about resilience. The book resonates with me a lot, it speaks about resilience, how you prepare but you don’t know what the outcome is, just like in a rugby game.
2. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. It speaks a lot about pandemics, how they spread and the tipping point.
3. Platform Revolution by Geoffrey Parker. It is on how you deal with digital capabilities and build them during this period.
Is there any book that speaks to the person you want to be?
The Bible. It gives you grounding. It reminds you that whatever you’re through this too shall pass.
How would you say you arrange your books?
They’re more arranged according to the themes. I don’t read a lot of novels, or as you call it fiction. I read a lot of social commentaries so I have a lot of those. Then I also have technical books on banking or digital transformations, leadership and people relationships and of course spirituality.
If you like order, the most popular book a lot of people have spoken about The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren.
If you’re a strategist The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Then, of course, Malcolm Gladwell’s books, because they kind of give you situations and he skillfully writes them to read for people to understand technical subjects.
One thing I’d tell young people is, “He who runs the meeting sets the agenda”. A lot of people think that by setting the agenda you run the meeting. They forget that when running the meeting you set the agenda.
Muthoni Wachira, Head of Communications and Projects, OPPO Kenya
What is your earliest reading memory?
I remember that my very first chapter book was of the Magic Tree House series. There were these two siblings, Jack and Annie who lived a normal life. Then this treehouse appears out of nowhere. The kids get curious and they find a strange magical woman…
2020 was the year of the pandemic, what book changed you the most?
A Promised Land by Barack Obama. There are the two major lessons on leadership and life lessons I took with me:
1. Surround yourself with people you trust. Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, President Joe Biden served as his vice president, and over their eight years in office, the two formed an unbreakable bond and friendship.
“I liked the fact that Joe would be more than ready to serve as president if something happened to me and that it might reassure those who still worried I was too young,” Obama writes in the book. “What mattered most, though, was what my gut told me — that Joe was decent, honest, and loyal. I believed that he cared about ordinary people and that when things got tough, I could trust him. I wouldn’t be disappointed.”
2: Hope for a better tomorrow
A Promised Land ends in 2011, however, towards the final moments of the book Obama takes a step back from the time frame and acknowledges the current climate, revolving around the recent US election and the coronavirus pandemic. He writes about his hope for the future, stating he is “convinced that the pandemic we’re currently living through is both a manifestation of and a mere interruption in the relentless march toward an interconnected world, one in which peoples and cultures can’t help but collide.
Which book(s) are you obsessed with currently?
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. The movie was released recently. This is a story of hope, challenges and new beginnings. Lessons learnt include:
1. Standing out can be good; it is important to leave a positive memorable impact. Be the person in the room that is different.
2. Take risks and don’t let fear stand in your way. Steve Jobs or Ruslan Kogan did not let fear stop them from achieving their dreams; otherwise, they would not be where they are today. Both men had a vision and passion that helped them in the process of overcoming their fear.
3. Some of the most wonderful things happen in your life when you least expect them. Louisa was working at a café for many years when she was fired. When she went looking for another job, the role of a caregiver for Will Traynor had opened up. She decided on a whim that she would at least interview for the position. Had Louisa not been fired and taken a chance on this job, her life would have turned out much differently.
4. Always be kind. Despite the number of times, Will was unreasonably rude to Louisa.
5. Be better than who you were yesterday.
This is not only important to personal growth but in the workplace as well. Taking little steps each day will allow for growth and you will be surprised by how much can change.
Which reading apps have you subscribed to?
Amazon Kindle offers a wide selection of books, magazines, and newspapers, making it one of the most popular eBook reader apps for smartphones and tablets.
You don’t have to own a Kindle device, It is available on Android and iOS devices. The Kindle app provides access to Google search and Wikipedia features that enhance your reading pleasure.
How can we create a thriving reading culture among the younger ones?
Sharing books and joining book clubs. My first book was a borrowed book. My sole source of books was friends, we exchanged them.
Which author or title speaks the most about your personality?
Jojo Moyes is empathetic, and I am one.
Any book recommendations you’d like to share?
Developing the Leader Within You and Leadershift by John C. Maxwell. He is talks of how leaders can prepare themselves to implement what he calls “leader shifts”.