Book Review

What they're reading

wanjiru

Wanjiru Koinange, Writer. PHOTO | COURTESY

Wanjiru Koinange, Writer

What is your earliest reading memory?

Winnie-the-Pooh, for sure. I was madly in love with that semi-naked bear and his sweet tooth!

How did your parents create in you a reading culture?

My dad used to make us read the newspaper to him. And my mom always made sure we had as much reading material as we could devour. This was also helped by the fact that we had a library hour in primary school that for me was the most magical hour of my entire day.

Which books have changed you the most and why?

· 'Purple Hibiscus' by Chimamanda Adichie because as soon as I finished it I knew that I had to pursue my writing more deliberately.

· Milan Kundera’s 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting', because it reminds me of the joys of play.

· 'Swallow' by Seffi Atta is still the most beautiful book I have ever read.

The knowledge industry has also moved to the digital era. Do you subscribe to any reading apps or stick to the traditional book flipping?

I consume stories in whichever way they are available. So I read and listen to them everywhere. I’m not too stucks on the format.

Which books are on your bedside table or Kindle tab for consumption at the end of the day?

1. ‘Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality’ by Eric Klinenberg

2. ‘Through My African Eyes’ by Jeff Koinange

3. 'Nairobi Noir' edited by Peter Kimani

4. And my book because I cannot stop holding it in my hands!

How can we encourage young ones to keep reading?

I resent the assumption that Kenyans, young and old, don’t read. It's not fair to just make that statement without questioning its reasons or validity.

Perhaps if we produced more content in which Kenyans could recognise themselves then they would pick them up more often. Kenya has some of the highest taxes on books of all the countries in the world. So even if we created Kenyan stories, they are often priced too high. How can we encourage the younger ones to take up and keep reading as a discipline? Abolish value-added tax (VAT) on books! That’s a good place to start.

Which author or title speaks the most about your personality?

Wanjiru Koinange in 'The Havoc of Choice'

Do you have a system or pattern of organising your book collection?

I don’t keep books that I don’t love, so my beloved collection has about 150 books and is colour-coded on my bookshelves. I have about 100 more on Kindle.

Top recommendations to our readers?

Yes, my book! And anything other Kenyan authors have recently put out like the literary works of Makenna Maganjo, Yvonne Owour, Nanjala Nyabola, Peter Kimani, Kinyanjui Kombani. I also just picked up ‘The Old Drift’ by Namwali Serpell.

nancy

Nancy Nyambura, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Psychologist. PHOTO | COURTESY

Nancy Nyambura, Psychologist, Médecins Sans Frontiéres/Doctors Without Borders (Msf)

What is your earliest reading memory?

Whenever I would be sent to the shops by my parents, the goods would be wrapped in a newspaper. I used to unwrap the paper carefully and read every article. I learnt new English words from the newspaper wrappings and Kiswahili by reading the kamusi.

In school, whenever there was an essay to read as a group, I would enthusiastically volunteer to read it for the class. I used to borrow every novel, magazine, and storybook I came across in school. Most of my childhood friends had books.

Books allow a person to transcend time and space. Nothing else can offer a transpose as potent as that of a good book, my own personal my opinion.

My love for reading made me an exceptionally good actor (albeit short) in primary school; as I would embody the characters extremely well.

How did your parents create in you a reading culture?

I remember my mother buying the newspaper every day. I used to look forward to her coming in the evening, so I could read the paper. She would also buy storybooks for my sibling and me.

She also read a lot during her free time. It is one of my most memorable and treasured moments, mother and daughter times. We would sit for hours, each of us reading the literature of our choice, with occasional conversations.

Which books have changed you the most and why?

I am inclined towards books that have practical wisdom, revolutionary, and offers me an opportunity to experience alternatives.

'Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor Frankl is one of the books that influenced my thinking and how I interpret my experiences. I first read it as a psychology student. I have since kept a copy that I have read several times.

The key concept from the book is resilience and the meaning we attach to our experiences. A sense of purpose in life can serve as an anchor and a lighthouse in the most turbulent crisis a human being can experience. It's a powerful book for anyone who abhors victim mentality.

The knowledge industry has moved digital. Do you subscribe to any reading apps or you have stuck to the traditional book flipping the pages?

I have listened to a few audiobooks. I also like listening to podcasts. I have a few books on my Kindle. However, I am keen on reducing my screen time. I have permitted myself to have a bit of both world.

Which books are on your bedside table or Kindle tab for consumption at the end of the day?

I prefer reading not more than two books at a time. However, I do place several copies by my bedside that I intend to read once I am done with my current reads.

I have just started reading 'The Dragonfly Sea' by Adhiambo Owuor and so far it is captivating and she writes very well.

I am also reading, 'The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's by Bruce D. Perry. These are psychiatrist notes sharing what children can teach the world on love, loss, and healing.

Besides that, I have two other books by my bedside. 'Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect' by Christine Musello and Jonice Webb and Jeffrey Archer's 'Path to Glory', a true story of an exemplary hiker and mountain climber.

On my Kindle, I have loads of books, however, I have been leisurely enjoying Khalil Gibran's poems from 'The Madman'.

How can we encourage young ones to take up and keep reading as a discipline?

We can model and create spaces for reading. Also cultivating reading traditions such as bedtime stories at home from a tender age has proven to be one of the most effective ways of promoting learning culture.

Which author speaks the most about your personality?

Relatable content appeals to me most, though when I was younger fantasy fiction had me read books by Stephen King, Fredrick Forsyth, and all Harry Porter series by JK Rowland.

Currently, I gravitate towards books that stimulate me mentally, show me practical yet different alternative perspectives, solutions, and ways of being.

How does reading help you keep up in the psychology field?

Human beings are dynamic creatures. As such, there will be evolving ways of life that calls for adapting my interventions with my clients. It also helps me become more versatile in my interaction as I have a diverse clientele (age/gender/socialisation/race/and spirituality amongst other aspects that defines us as human beings.

Reading also helps me keep updated on new findings in the field and social-economical and political issues.

Do you have a system or pattern of organising your book collection? And what's the size?

Honestly, my organisation is ever-evolving. Currently, my tiny library is arranged in an eclectic manner. The intention was for an aesthetically appealing look. I have worked with size and colour.

Any recommendations you can offer our readers?

Research has indicated the immense benefits of reading. In the current times, we are dealing with globally, reading makes for an excellent and practical coping strategy. Reading is beneficial for our mental health. People can find additional tips in the mental health tool that MSF recently launched to help people to cope with the stresses of Covid-19. The tool makes for an easy and quick read that one can access even on their mobile phone.