Book Review

Top books to read this year


Dr Julie Bageine, a dental surgeon. PHOTO | POOL


  • ‘The Smart Money Woman’ by Arese Ugwu is about an African girl who lives nothing short of a fabulous life, a life most (if not all) young women dream to have as they climb up the corporate ladder.
  • The book looks at debt and money management.

Dr Julie Muheirwe Bageine, Dental Surgeon at The Dental Practice

What is your earliest reading memory?

As far back as I can remember, I was a precocious child, who was an extreme chatterbox (I still am) and loved to read. I won whatever award there was going for reading.

My mother was a senior lecturer of literature and a talented actress, with a love for reading and writing, so our house was and still is a book haven.

However, it is my father who fashioned my passion for books. He has the most voracious appetite for the reading of anyone I know. To this day, I can barely keep up. When I was doing my Levels, he would come to visit me in school, where we would go over Julius Caesar books just for fun, to discuss and emulate the wit. Please note, I wasn’t studying literature.

To this day, I make sure I get him the latest and most popular books. He reads any genre, so do I.

What book changed you the most in 2020, the year of the pandemic?

Contrary to most people who stayed at home and had more time to read, I had more work pressure. I did however manage to read a few: ‘Msungu Jim and the Great Chief Tuloko’ by Patrick Neate; ‘My Sister, the Serial Killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite; ‘One Day I Will Write About this Place’, by Binyavanga Wainaina and ‘North of South’ by Shiva Naipaul.

However, the books that changed me the most, which I read earlier than in 2020, were ‘My Mother, Myself’, by Nancy Friday. It helped me navigate my conflicted relationship with my mother. ‘Love and Respect’ by Dr Emerson Eggerichs. I apply the lessons I learnt from this, every day, in my life. ‘The Dance of Anger’, by Harriet Lerner helped me delve into the futility and toxicity of anger. I’ll also sneak in ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg; ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’, by Spencer Johnson, and ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’, by Mark Manson.

What book have you been reading recently that you couldn’t put down?

‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ by Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie, ‘The Empty Chair’ by Jeffrey Deaver, ‘Histories of the Hanged’ by David Anderson, ‘The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives’ by Lola Shoneyin, ‘Riotous Assembly’ by Tom Sharpe, ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ by John Kennedy Toole, ‘Tick Bite Fever’ by David Bennun, ‘A State of Blood’ by Henry Kyemba and ‘The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide’ by Douglas Adams. As you can see, I have eclectic tastes. I could go on and on.. This list makes me feel like I’m being unfaithful to those that I haven’t mentioned.

The knowledge industry has also moved digital. Do you subscribe to any reading apps?

I use Goodreads to set reading goals and attain them. I also subscribe to Google audiobooks to listen to books when driving. I initially got into audiobooks to help my dad keep up his erudition due to his low vision in old age. I find now that I use it too; currently listening to Obama’s ‘A Promised Land’. Podcasts are another way to read on the go. I was recently introduced to this, as I hadn’t really paid it much mind. I’m listening to ‘The 200-year-old’. It is fascinating. But I am still truly old-school and nothing beats the smell and feel of immersing oneself in a physical book, thumbing through paper.

Which books are on your bedside table or Kindle tab for night reading?

I always have a puzzle book at my bedside. I’m currently doing logic puzzles. I am also about to start ‘On Black Sisters’ Street’, by Chika Unigwe.

It's been said readers are leaders. How can we create a thriving reading culture among the younger ones?

—Minimise electronic viewing time and replace it with reading activities e.g., Kindle, audiobooks. For those with short attention spans, alternate between print and screen which helps them retain more and make them more analytical. —Encourage book clubs interspersed with activities they enjoy, say food and drink from the country the book is set in. Keep it fun, make it social. Make games out of reading books, like prediction boards (where will the story go next?), or make quiz nights out of a particular book being read. —Lead by example. Read and be vocal about it. Get them hooked on stories, pique their curiosity/inquisitiveness. Offer books as treats. Set up award schemes to reward those that excel in reading as they get older. —Read and write each other’s, work within your family and/or encourage it between your children and others. —Bring books to life. Act out plays, read or even modify what has been read into a skit or recital of sections during family gatherings.

Which author or title speaks the most about your personality?

I’ll pick a female and a male. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who though slightly younger than I, has grown up in the same era, as an African and a woman. I also feel that she speaks with the command of pertinent with gravitas and conviction. I aspire to be like her.

Tom Sharpe, a hilarious Englishman with such uproarious wit. I admire his amazing talent. I like to think I can laugh at myself and be funny with the kind of perception with which he looked at the world.

How does reading help you keep up in your industry/trade?

As a dentist, there are a lot of cutting-edge developments, occurring all the time, new materials, new equipment, new treatments, new technology...One must not only read but attend incisive courses to keep one’s fingertips on the pulse.

Do you have a system or pattern for organising your books? And what's the size?

I stack my books by size to appear aesthetically pleasing. I have never counted my collection. I have lots of books! I still have a couple of trunks in storage in my father’s house in Uganda in addition to what I have here.

Any top recommendations? —‘I Do Not Come to You by Chance’ by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani —‘Princess: More Tears to Cry’ by Jean Sasson —Any book by PG Wodehouse —‘Sushi for Beginners’ and ‘Lucy Sullivan is getting Married’ by Marian Keyes —‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ and —‘Made in America’ by Bill Bryson —‘Hold’ by Michael Donkor —‘Desert Flower and Desert Dawn’ by Waris Dirie —‘Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote’ by Ahmadou Kourouma —‘The Official Wife’ by Mary-Karooro Okurut

Again, this list is not in any particular order of preference and is most certainly not exhaustive, but I have to stop somewhere!


Juliet Karanja, Skanem Interlabels Nairobi - Planning, Customer Service & Procurement Manager (Supply Chain Manager). PHOTO | | POOL

Juliet Karanja, Skanem Interlabels Nairobi - Planning, Customer Service & Procurement Manager

What book changed you the most in 2020?

‘The Smart Money Woman’ by Arese Ugwu. This book spoke to me because it was quite relatable to my life. It’s about an African girl who lives nothing short of a fabulous life, a life most (if not all) young women dream to have as they climb up the corporate ladder; amazing clothes, designer shoes, and bags, a statement car...The book looks at debt and money management.

What book couldn't you put down?

‘The Smart Money Woman.’ I remember having dinner with my friends and I was busy matching the characters based on how I felt we lived, the steps we each take, and why we are where we at. We discussed the book, now we somewhat have a book club in addition to game nights.

How do you intend on making reading intentional this year?

I haven’t always been an avid reader. I used to prefer podcasts and audiobooks, but now I have set out a personal goal of reading two books a month. I am big on inspirational and coaching books. This month I’m reading ‘Successful Women Speak Differently: 9 Habits That Build Confidence, Courage, and Influence’ by Valorie Burton.

Is there any author living or dead, you'd like to converse with over a leisurely meal or drink?

Arese Ugwu. I would love to understand what drove her to write. She seems like an exceptional woman. Her writing not only shares a life experience but also provided a platform for coaching.

How did you become a reader?

My friend is obsessed with novels, and she kept insisting I try books, I started reading and soon realised that it not only helps me improve my grammar but also engages my mind.

It's been said readers are leaders. How can we create a thriving reading culture among the younger ones?

I feel like the 8-4-4 system does not support reading beyond school books. I would suggest the introduction of book clubs in schools. What I do with my five-year-old son Jabarri is, we read a book together. We go through pictorial books and he derives stories from it.

Which books can you recommend for our readers?

‘The One Minute Manager’ by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson and ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Spencer Johnson. This is always a good book to start for people are looking to start reading.