Book Review

Men, books and Saturday meet up


Lawrence Githinji, Managing Director, East Africa, Kone during the interview at his home on February 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG


  • BDLife finds out why a bookshelf has become the new whisky cellar for the new-age man.

There are certain books that every man should read in his lifetime. Ribin Ondwari, a partner and head of real estate, banking and financial services at Ashitiva Advocates LLP and Lawrence Githinji, the managing director of Kome, East Africa are getting inspiration to read these books from a Men’s Books Breakfast forum. 

BDLife finds out why a bookshelf has become the new whisky cellar for the new-age man.

Lawrence Githinji, Managing Director, KOME

Which books did you read in 2021 and which did you enjoy most?

I read a couple of books but one that stood out was ‘The Power of Focus’ by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt.

I enjoyed it because it calls for action, and directs people to stick to habits. It encouraged me to stick to good habits, like jogging.

What does your book collection say about you?

I have books on technology, engineering, management, organisational behaviour, personal development... So my collection says I like two things; technology and people.

You are part of Men’s Books Breakfast? What is it about?

This is a forum that started in 2019 to challenge men to mentor one another, read together, sharpen our skills and gain knowledge as men. The first book we ever read was ‘The 5 Levels of Leadership’ by John Maxwell. So I figured if we meet each Saturday, we’d achieve these.

We started with ten people. Then friends told their friends and colleagues and the number grew. When Covid hit we moved online and more people got interested. Now we have 265 people, 16 groups, from eight countries. We meet from 7.15 am to 8.15 am.

How many books do you plan to read this year?

36. We picked the titles from a survey we did last year, asking the men the challenges they face or are facing. Based on that, we got books written around those topics.

What insights have you learnt from the Men’s Books Breakfast?

First, being consistent. You attend the book meetings regardless of how you feel or wake up. Second, being courageous and learning how to confront situations that are not pleasant. Third, I learnt how people behave.

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 used to go to the national library from a young age. In college, I read mostly academic books. Then later on I started reading for fun.

You run, between running and reading what gives you more satisfaction?

I started jogging when the pandemic hit. It was not fun the first time and then I became consistent. Running three to four times a week gives me joy. There is some satisfaction that hits you as you walk back to your house after a good run.

Being a managing director requires reading. Doesn’t reading become draining? Or you’ve managed to separate work reading from leisure reading?

It does not. When I am reading and I feel I am not making any progress I just stop reading.

Do you take notes from the books you read? Do you apply them or attribute meaning to them?

I don’t take notes as I read but I do while we discuss in the men’s book club. I take notes and share them online. Most of these are relatable to real life. When I started sharing them on LinkedIn, more people started joining the group.

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

I want to have a huge book collection that will always be relevant, so big that someone would spend 10 years reading the books.

Would you say books have had an impact on your success?

Yes. I have gained knowledge in terms of life, management, technology that has helped me become a better leader.

Ribin Ondwari, Partner & Head of Real Estate, Banking & Financial Services at Ashitiva Advocates LLP


Ashivita Advocates LLP partner, head of real estate, banking and financial services Ribin Ondwari during the interview at the firm's office on February 3, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Which books did you enjoy most in 2021?

I completed ten books, I had 18 ongoing. I have this habit of reading multiple books at the same time, but the ones I enjoyed most were ‘Beyond Entrepreneurship’ by James Collins, ‘What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence’ by Stephen A. Schwarzman, ‘The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs’ by Charles D. Ellis, ‘Hit Refresh’ by Greg Shaw, Jill Tracie Nichols, and Satya Nadella.

What does your book collection say about you?

That I am more intentional about my leadership journey. I want to be a better leader by picking tips from admirable people who run their businesses well and that have transformed organisations.

How has the Men’s Books Breakfast helped your reading?

In this group, we pick books that help men grow in business, family, and at the individual level. We have four seasons in a year. At the beginning of the season, you pick a book that you like and based on the selection, you are put in groups.

During the week you read the book by yourself and on Saturdays, you meet and discuss it. I picked ‘Beyond Entrepreneurship’ by James Collins, at the men’s breakfast meeting. The author gives an analogy of “the map”.

I have put the “map” in my office. It is a guide that entrepreneurs and companies can follow if they aspire to build enduring companies.

Away from the Men’s Breakfast, how do you pick your books? What genre do you love most?

It depends on the season. For instance, now I am trying to grow myself as a business leader so I’d pick a book that talks about that. Sometimes I buy a book on recommendation.

Which book made you fall in love with reading?

Our parents used to take us to the library or buy us storybooks. As I grew older, reading became a habit. After high school, there was that period when we didn’t have much going on as we waited to join university. I came across Ben Carson’s ‘Gifted Hands’. I found it insightful.

That is how I fell in love with books again. As a lawyer, you are required to read a lot. I read when I’m waiting for something or someone. When I have my book I’m okay.

You’re also a runner, between running and reading what gives you more satisfaction?

Books give me a lot of satisfaction, I run to unwind. Once a week, but this year I want to be more consistent.

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

Absolutely. Most of the things I do right now and even how I run my department borrow a lot from the books I am reading or have read.

Do you take notes from the books you read, like write them down?

I take notes on my phone. So when I’m somewhere either waiting for a meeting to start, I go through the notes to remind myself of the things that I have read.

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

I’ve actually tried to build one. Ultimately, my home library will have so many books, with some bit of fiction.

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