Book Review

Books you must read

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Lucy Mulli, Doctoral candidate at Harrison Middleton University, US and a teaching fellow of law and literature and Strathmore Law School. PHOTO | POOL

Lucy Mulli

Doctoral candidate at Harrison Middleton University, US and a teaching fellow of law and literature and Strathmore Law School

Have you achieved your set reading goals thus far?

I don’t give myself targets because I’m a bibliophile and book club facilitator. Since January I have read ‘The GoldFinch’ by Donna Tartt, ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy, ‘Divergence Trilogy’ by Veronica Roth, and ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare.

Which book(s) are you currently obsessed with?

I am re-reading ‘Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R Tolkien.

What do you think about the Kenyan reading culture?

In Kenya and indeed Africa we have many excellent literary works. My observation is that many young people have lost their passion for reading literary works and when they do read, they choose a book for sheer entertainment or self-help reasons. I imagine that the appeal of social media is a primary culprit behind this dearth of a reading culture.

Mental health is a matter of grave importance, especially now. Finding spirituality, gratitude, mental resilience and pleasure in small things help us become better humans. How do you think reading piles onto this?

Reading a good book persuades one to make positive personality changes from within. Through the narrative, the reader is better able to understand their conflicts and the story guides them.

What was your first interaction with reading a book?

The first book I ever read was ‘Janet and John’ but the best book I ever read when I was a child was an abridged version of ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte.

Is there any book that speaks to your personality, either who you are as a person or aspire to be?

There are many facets to one’s personality and I doubt that a single book can capture who one is. Books however contain lessons, which inspire us to grow. For instance, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl challenges us to find the meaning of our lives and try to live up to it. The biography of Winnie Mandela has inspired me to strive to have a big heart that embraces and helps people around me.

Most recently, Michelle Obama’s, ‘Becoming,’ reminded me that on my path to becoming a better version of myself I should never forget that it is a process of regeneration, of learning...

How do books make one emotionally intelligent?

Leaders read. A leader sets out to change the world and manage other people. To be effective in this role, they often must ponder and mature in emotional intelligence. In this regard, reading is an excellent character-building tool.

Work, family, life competes with leisure/intentional reading for your attention. How do you ensure your reading time slot doesn’t get spent scrolling through social media?

One of the members of my book club developed a reading culture by setting aside an hour every morning to read before he embarked on his office work. It’s a question of making time for the things one loves and I make the time.

Which is the one book that you'd recommend to our readers to read at least once in their lifetime?

I suggest five for 2021.

1. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R Tolkien – if you are looking for excellent writing, unforgettable characters, and deep life lessons.

2. ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport – to understand the impact of social media and how you can generate work that is value adding.

3. ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl – when you are going through tough times.

4. ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe – to understand how not overcoming weaknesses will be your downfall.

5. ‘The Dragonfly Sea’ by Yvonne Owuor – if you want a story that is magically woven in Kenya.

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Michael Flint, General Manager, Mövenpick Hotel & Residences Nairobi. PHOTO | POOL

Michael Flint

General Manager, Mövenpick Hotel & Residences Nairobi

Have you achieved the reading goals so far?

I had planned to read three books by April, and so far, everything is going according to plan.

Which literary works are you currently obsessed with?

Richard Branson’s blog “Thoughts on Rhino Conservation.” As a conservation enthusiast and previous Jane Goodall board member, I also read a lot of The Jane Goodall Institute articles. This is a community conservation organisation.

Furthermore, part of our mission as Accor is the commitment to the planet. Planet 21 Programme brings sustainability to all hotels. With 40,000 new rooms created every year, Accor aims to involve all its hotels and customers in a new sustainable development programme.

What was your first interaction with a book?

My first book was ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E.B. White. It still impacts me today, it is everlasting.

Is there a book or character that speaks to your personality, either who you are as a person or aspire to be?

I’m particularly interested in the character of Lady Macbeth. I did my university thesis on strong women in Shakespeare.

During the summer, I picked up ‘The Night Portrait’ by Laura Morelli, a story on the efforts to recover art stolen by the Nazis, and one masterpiece, Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine" painting.

Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel García Márque is a favourite, especially in this Covid-19 era.

Do you have a philosophy on books?

Books should be exciting, provide an escape or fulfil a dream. A great book should leave you with great lessons – make you look inward and learn.

Which is the one book that you’d recommend to our readers to read at least once in their lifetime?

To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.