Book Review

What they're reading

kochiyo

Sherphine Apiyo Kochiyo, Head Of Programmess/Co-Founder, Community Connect Cbo. PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • Reading is an educative hobby.
  • Reading is therapeutic.
  • Whatever situation you find yourself in, someone must have written documented it in a book somewhere.

Sherphine Apiyo Kochiyo, Head Of Programmess/Co-Founder, Community Connect Cbo

Why is reading important to you?

Reading is an educative hobby. Reading is therapeutic. Whatever situation you find yourself in, someone must have written documented it in a book somewhere. Whether you are falling in love or deep despair, whether you need inspiration or direction, you find it all in a book. I consider books as a hidden source of wisdom and education, especially the Bible. The more I read, the more I learn.

How did you cultivate a reading habit?

I loved Nancy Drew books by Carolyne Keene. I loved the mysteries, the connection with her friends, the secret codes, and how they understood them in a blink. By the time I completed reading her books that I could access I yearned for more. Later I discovered new mystery book authors in primary school. My love for reading made me the best in creative reading back in the days, my classmates were made to read my compositions and learn.

How did you cultivate a reading habit?

I loved reading the 'Young Nation', pullout, which was a feature in the Sunday Nation, thanks to my dad who made us read it. My mother, on the other hand, gave us weekly assignments on specific fascinating Bible stories which we would narrate to her over the weekend and state the lessons we learnt. Also, my big brother was an avid reader who used to read and narrate the stories to us, especially John Kiriamiti books. I wanted to be like him. I used to ask myself if I too will ever sit down and prowl over a big book in a week and be able to narrate it the same way he did.

Of all the books you read in high school, or university, do you have one that you went back to read?

My high school English teacher once talked about 'Who Moved My Cheese' by Spencer Johnson. I never read it until later in university. From then, I made it a habit to read 'Who Moved My Cheese' and its sequel 'Out of the Maze' every end of the year. I also reread 'The River and the Source' by Margaret Ogola.

Why do you think Kenyans lose touch with reading over time once done with school?

Kenyans read but most of them spend their free time on social media platforms. Libraries only have clients when exams are approaching. Our education system focuses on academic excellence, so most people read to excel in exams. Once there are no more exams to be done most people stop reading because the only objective for reading has been achieved. Reading non-academic books is viewed as a waste of time, even in schools by teachers. Explains why some of us read our books under the locker during prep time. It's sad. However, all is not lost; book clubs can still work when we instill and nurture this culture. Among other objectives of Community Connect, is to promote a reading culture by introducing literacy programmes for youth in school. Over the past two years, we have distributed over 500 non-academic books to five secondary schools and initiated book clubs with 30 members in each school to nurture the reading culture.

How often do you read? Do you have a favourite reading time?

I read at least two books in a month. My favourite reading time is between 12 am-3 pm.

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, how do you ensure you're able to create time to read leisurely?

I read at the wee hours of the night. I also invest most of my weekends in books. The best thing that happened to me during this pandemic was 'stay-at-home', which gave me a lot of reading time.

If the writing bug ever bit you, what kind of book would you like to devote your time to writing and why?

The writing bug did bite me some time back and it came in form of poetry. One day I will publish my collection of poems.

What\who has been the greatest literary influence on you?

Oyoo Mboya the author of 'Maiden Melodies and other Poems'. His work has influenced most of my poems.

If ever you were to share a meal or drink with your favourite author, what do you suppose you'd talk about?

David Baldacci. I'd want to know if among the characters he writes about there is any who defines his personality, what inspires him to write, and have many books published in one year.

What's the most underrated book you've read?

'The Hair Dresser of Harare' by Tendai Huchu. Tendai Huchu writes about the contemporary African states, the aftershocks of colonialism, and leaves us wondering if truly the Independence we gained is helping or damaging Africa.

Any books you wish you'd read?

'Across the Bridge' by Mwangi Gicheru, 1984 by George Orwell, 'No Higher Honour' by Condoleeza Rice, 'Behold the Dreamers' by Imbolo Mbue, and 'Behind Every Successful Man' by Zukiswa Wanner.

What book couldn't you finish?

'The Book Thief', Markus Zusak.

What are you currently reading?

'Home Going' by Yaa Gyasi.

karanja

Arnold Karanja, Partner Data Protection & Privacy Practitioner, Mwenje & Karanja Co. Advocates. PHOTO | COURTESY

Arnold Karanja, Partner Data Protection & Privacy Practitioner, Mwenje & Karanja Co. Advocates

Do you have an early reading memory? How did you cultivate a reading habit?

I had a mentor, the late Karanja Kabage. He was my senior in my profession. He was an avid reader and loved writing. He is the one who pushed me to write. He used to write for the Sunday Nation and would always call me on Sundays, like clockwork, at midday to seek my opinion on what he had written.

We shared books and journals and discussed them at his office over a cup of tea. He noticed my interest in data governance and compelled me to start writing.

Before his death, I had just gotten my first piece published by the Business Daily. He sent me a text saying, “Such writings will give you enormous leverage in the future, and above all, it distinguishes you from the normal rank. FYI people don’t have to tell u about the writing but they will know and recognise you for your contribution. Keep it up. It will pay handsomely especially intellectually. Once more hats off. Regards. KK”

My former boss, George Namasaka Sichangi also played a role. He always had a book in hand. He taught us how to think of law firms as businesses when I was still a student in 2014. Most of the things that he predicted about the future of the legal practice then have come to pass. Things to do with disruption by technology to the rise of boutique law firms.

Which book has influenced you most?

The book that has changed my view of what I do and that I refer to every other day is Harvard Professor Shoshana Zuboff’s ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.’ I highly recommend it. It makes you understand the digitalised world and how tech companies monetise your data without your consent.

Do you have a favourite reading time?

I read every morning because it’s quiet and I’m fresh, well except for Sundays when I sleep in.

If you were to write a book, what would it be on?

Technology and law. I read somewhere our laws are 60 years behind technology so we’re always playing catchup.

What’s the most underrated book you've read?

Probably ‘Audacity to Win’ by David Plouffe, the inside story and lessons of Barack Obama’s historic victory. Why? Obama made history, Obama used science to win the elections. People now started appreciating science, and that seems to be the direction we’re headed even here in Kenya, you cannot win an election without data and science.

Do you have a book wish list?

Yes. I want to read ‘The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook’ by Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson. Chief data officers are members of the C-suite, directly reporting to the CEO. As we head towards an environment where data governance is key, we’ll see more of that at in the future now that we’re a digitised economy, by hopeful end of the year.

What book couldn't you finish?

The fact that I don’t remember tells a lot. The thing I was told about developing a reading culture, is read what you enjoy.

What are you currently reading?

‘The Future Is Faster Than You Think’ by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. I am also reading ‘Donald Trump V. The United States’ by Michael S. Schmidt. I just started reading it, I am fascinated by President Donald J. Trump. He is in a hole but he keeps on digging. I enjoy politics and that’s why I read such books.

Apart from books, I have subscribed to several publications and I listen to podcasts. For example, the OECD has a good podcast on a ray of issues from the future of work to matters immigration.

Any recommendations for our readers?

‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ by Professor Shoshana Zuboff. That woman is amazing.