‘Books we read in the man cave’


Cornelius N'getich, Internal Controls and Projects Manager, Discount Securities on March 17, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

A quote by Victor Hugo, a French poet, and novelist, is what most men who read books define themselves with: ‘To learn, to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.’

Among these ardent readers is Cornelius Ng’etich, an internal controls and projects manager at Discount Capital, that funds small and medium enterprises, and Oscar Mbala, a technical manager at Vivo Energy.

Cornelius Ng’etich, Internal Controls and Projects Manager, Discount Capital

What's the one book that was so good that you couldn’t put down?

The Leader Who Had No Title’ by Robin Sharma. In this book, Robin breaks down the ‘essentials’ to extraordinary success. Those things we know and within reach of people.

Which books did you enjoy the most last year?

I read quite a number of books but my top picks were ‘The Power of Focus’ by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Les Hewitt), ‘The 8th Habit’ by Stephen R. Covey and ‘Upstream’ by Dan Heath. Most of these were recommendations from the Men’s Book Breakfast book club.

I also enjoyed ‘Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World’ by David Epstein and ‘The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours’ by Mathew O. Jackson.

What does your book collection say about you?

That I’m on a journey of learning leadership. As Harry Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” I believe reading widens our perspectives, especially in leadership. It is a gift I am ever grateful for.

Why did you join a men-only book club?

Leadership is a lonely journey and society has not made it easy for a man. The book club sparked a new desire to achieve a work-life balance, especially after reading ‘Win at Home First: An Inspirational Guide to Work-Life Balance’ by Cory M. Carlson. We discussed the book this year in February.

The men’s book club assures one that he is not alone, you learn how to beat the imposter syndrome- in a society where the place of man continues to be defined at a rapid pace. For example, where else would you talk and learn vulnerability other than from fellow men? It provides a safe space to share man-to-man issues about family, parenting, and also network.

How do you choose your books? What genre do you love the most?

Most of my current reading is based on recommendations. I read a lot about leadership and management theories. I also do other non-fiction and self-help motivational books.

It’s interesting how our childhood shapes our reading culture when we grow up. Did you start reading young or did the love for books grow on you when you were older?

I loved reading from a young age. However, growing up upcountry meant my access to a library was limited and I would spend most of my time reading old newspapers.

Does reading widely, from fiction, self-help to motivational books influence how good a leader you are?

Yes, without a doubt. ‘Upstream: How to Solve Problems Before They Happen’ by Dan Heath explains that when you spend years responding to problems, you sometimes overlook the fact that you could be preventing them.

Such statements prompt one to self-reflection.

As an accountant, books have helped me keep a balance and consider the human element in my spreadsheets. It is not all about the topline and bottom-line. There is more to life than just the numbers.

Do you take notes from the books you read?

Yes, I take notes from the books I read, reflect upon key lessons and apply them.

If space was no issue, what would your home library look like?

I can only imagine! Books on leadership and management, autobiographies, self-help motivation books and other non-fiction in the range of Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus and Sapiens.

You enjoy hiking and cycling as much as you do books. What is so exhilarating about climbing a mountain?

When hiking, it’s the belief in self and focus that will help you conquer the mountain. With this in mind, there is no mountain in life you cannot surmount. My recent climb was Rurimeria Hill, one of the peaks of the Aberdares Ranges.

When I’m cycling, it's all about maintaining balance and fortitude, all I need to be a champion in life. I cycled over 500 kilometres last year and this year my target is 100kms per month.

Is hiking and reading a book similar? That you’d slog up the most daunting of mountains just as trying to finish a book and liking the image of being a dedicated reader?

Yes, in many aspects. First, it is inward-looking, it is you challenging yourself, conquering your mountain. It’s demanding and once you have started, you always feel the urge to finish, just like a book.

Is there a book that made you feel like you’re hiking and hoping to reach the peak?

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead’ by Brene Brown. As a man and given where I come from, we are brought up to be manly and tough. This book threw me through various emotional ‘mountains’, made me rethink the way I live and relate. Suffice, I am still a work in progress and barely scratched the surface of the man I envision to be.

Oscar Mbala, Technical Manager, Vivo Energy


Vivo Energy Limited Technical Manager Oscar Mbala during the interview at his office in Nairobi on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Which books did you enjoy the most last year?

How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never’ by James M. Collins and Jim Collins, ‘The 5 AM Club’ by Robin Sharma, ‘Winning’ by Jack Welch, ‘Upstream’ by Dan Heath and ‘The Power of Focus’ and ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, both by Norman Vincent Peale.

What does your book collection say about you?

That I’m a reader seeking personal improvement in terms of focus, critical thinking, leadership, and sales.

Why join a men-only book club?

I joined the Men’s Books Breakfast in 2021. I read about the group on LinkedIn, I got interested and I joined. It has taught me books discipline. Now I have to wake up at 7 o’clock to read. I have managed to read more books than those recommended in the club.

We meet to discuss books and life. The discussions help one understand and solve family or work-related issues. For instance, when discussing a book called ‘Upstream’, we realised some of the problems we are facing can be solved if one digs deeper into the issue instead of thinking shallowly.

How do you choose your books? What genre do you love most?

I like books that deal with health improvement, leadership, critical thinking. For instance, there is a book that we read about the psychology of selling. It helps you understand how to relate to a customer.

Between jogging and reading what gives you more satisfaction?

Books of course! I am not a fitness enthusiast. I go jogging once a week, which my family makes fun of me but at least I am better than them. After I jog I feel good and it helps me conceptualise ideas that I have picked from a book.

Your line of work doesn't require lots of reading, so why read?

I read as much because I want to publish a book on sales, how to master the art to become an executive salesperson. I meditate and read in the mornings, before I start my day, and work on my book after work.

Our childhood shapes our reading culture. Did you start reading young or did the love for books grow on you when you were older?

I loved reading when I was young. My mum used to buy for me some magazine to read. Then, later a friend introduced me an organisation called Success University. They have so many books there that you can read.

I started with simple books like ‘Acres of Diamonds’ by Russell Conwell, and ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ by George Samuel Clason. I came to realise how important it is to read and my interest grew.

Does reading widely influence how good you are as a manager?

Actually, it has. I find myself lately engaging a lot with the youths about their career. This is because of the knowledge I have picked from books and life experiences.

Do you take notes from the books you read, like write them down? But at the same time, do you apply them or attribute meaning to them?

I have come to learn that audio is easier to use and take notes. I take notes that I refer to later.

If space was no issue, how would your home library look like?

My library will have books to do with sales, critical thinking and psychology. If I look at my bookshelf and look at my collection, I can underline the word THINK in all of them!

I do not like fiction, fiction is entertainment so I would rather watch movies.

[email protected]