Book Review

What they're reading


Felix Mushono, Eldoret-based advocate. PHOTO | COURTESY

Felix Mushono, Lawyer

Why do you read?

I read to keep going, to hear or rather get the experiences of those who are there now and also those who were there and have since departed. I also know that this world is very dynamic. Things are changing rapidly. How will one get informed of those changes if not by reading? It has also been said that this world is a small village.

You can know about what Elon Musk is doing at Tesla right from the comfort of your place.

How did you cultivate a reading habit?

My siblings and I were raised by parents who were teachers. That meant books were always around.

When I was in Class 6, my mother transferred me from a village school to one in Mumias town. In that school, you developed a reading culture by force. We had a library and you were required to read a book for one week only. From Friday to Saturday, you were tested by the English teacher on the level of your understanding. He would demand you name the characters, narrate the summary, or sometimes the teacher would randomly open a page in that book, read a certain paragraph while skipping some words in which you were expected to fill the blanks. I wouldn't want to say what happened to these pupils who could not do all that. What do you expect from a pupil who is exposed to this kind of environment for three years?

In High School, the habit had already been sown. I also interacted with the newspapers for the first time. I would read sports, some politics here and there until one day I stumbled upon Dr. Wale Akinyemi who used to write articles in Daily Nation. His articles were mostly about personal development. This is how I developed my love for newspapers. Even after leaving high school, I never used to miss the Friday daily. He shifted his platform to books which I am looking forward to buying.

After high school, my big brother Edward who is an avid reader would come home with at least one book he was reading while travelling. He would reach home tired, take his meals then go to bed leaving the book on the dining table. The first book was 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' by Robert Kiyosaki. That night I schemed through the book and loved what I was reading. The book planted a seed in me about money. The next time, it was 'The Monk who Sold his Ferrari ' by Robin Sharma. Then, he showed up with 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ' by Stephen Covey, 'The Secret ' by Rhonda Byrne.

Later on, I would visit him in the city and realised how big his bookshelf was. His bookshelf motivated me. He always allowed me to pick the books I wanted as long as I didn't lose them. Then I joined law school. We had heard or rather been told that in law school you read and read. So we went there and read and read. After law school, I started buying my books the first being 'Think and grow rich' by Napoleon Hill, then 'The Lincoln Lawyer ' by Michael Connelly.

Ever gone back to re-read a book you read in high school?

Yes, 'A Man of the People' by Chinua Achebe. After school, and now well versed with the politics of the day, I realised that book was scripted based on the politics of most African countries. The politician, the big man in the society who is associated with all the ills in society.

Would you write a book?

Yes, a motivation book because I have had enough of that stuff.

Later on, I will do a book in line with my profession once I have grasped and mastered a particular field in the legal profession.

Have you ever received a book as a gift?

I am yet to meet someone to gift me a book. Who knows my likes anyway? We don't shout to the whole world the kind of books we like. The folly of someone gifting you a book is that it may just be outside your realm. If there is someone who may gift me a book, is my big brother Edward. He has a rough idea of the stuff that breaks me.

Any book on your wish list?

'From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, from 1965 to 2000' by Lee Kuan Yew. It was suggested to me by a friend.

Do you read for comfort?

Yes. The first book I got my hands on the moment the pandemic hit was 'My Story' by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The book took my mind to Dubai and I feel like I've been there and back. That is what reading does to you.

Which book couldn't you finish?

'The Fornicator' by Philip Etemesi. I tried but it dawned on me that I was reading the wrong book, I let it go.

What are you currently reading?

'Elon Musk' and 'The Art of Creative Thinking' by John Adair.

Which book are you looking forward to reading?

'The Huawei Way' by Yang Shaolong.

Any recommendations?

Just one: 'Eat That Frog' by Brian Tracy. At one point, we all deal with that elephant in the room: Procrastination. The book will help you deal with the problem.

Catherine Mutisya,

Advocate, Miller And Company Advocates, Mombasa


Catherine Mutisya, advocate, Miller and Company Advocates, Mombasa. PHOTO | COURTESY

What are you currently reading?

I've just finished reading "Of Pawns and Players" by Kinyanjui Kombani.

How did you cultivate a reading habit?

My dad used to bring me storybooks when he got home from work and we would read together. Once the training wheels came off (so to speak) I developed a voracious reading appetite ever since and for as long as I can remember I have always had my nose in a book.

In what ways do books shape your outlook in your area of expertise?

It certainly makes reading a whole lot easier that is with my reading speed. I can sit down and finish a 500-page book in hours with no interruptions so that certainly helps when I have bulky documents to get through at work.

Also, working as an advocate, we do heaps of writing. The writing should be succinct, clear, and well-argued. Thus by reading diverse books, I have managed to pick up these tips but I also keep on improving on the same the more I read.

How do books help you navigate the current pandemic and your career?

For the pandemic bit, it provides some relief. If I get a good book, I will not put it down till I am through.

Career-wise, the more I read the more knowledgeable I get. It is an area of constant improvement and I like the challenge of it all.

Are there any books on your shelf that speaks to your personality or the person you are becoming?

I have the entire collection for Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Gossip Girl, and the Inheritance Cycle Series. So I can see that I like continuity and the fact that I read some of these when I was younger and now have them in my library dictates that the past is part of who I am now.

What\who is your greatest literary influence?

I would have to go with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald broke ground and paved way for new artistic influences I believe, and personally the more I know about the author the more his writing(s) resonate with me. So for those who have not read any of his works, just pick up the Great Gatsby and you will not regret it.

Covid-19 is teaching business resilience and adaptability among other lessons. Which books do you recommend for your fellow advocates to read in navigating this season?

Well, I am a big believer in "laissez-faire", so I would tell them to read whatever brings them the most joy because the taste is relative and I would not want to recommend Harry Potter or the Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi and be judged harshly for it.

If ever you were to share a coffee with your favourite author, who would it be and what do you suppose you'd talk about?

I am quite torn, to be honest, but I guess I will have to go with James Patterson. I would ask him what inspired him to write, any challenges he faced in life and in literary circles and how he handled them. Then ask for an autographed hardcover copy of "Murder Thy Neighbour."

What book have you read that you thought was amazing but find most underrated?

"Eleven Minutes" by Paulo Coelho. People tend to write him off but I love his writing style and resonate with some of his experiences, they speak to me.

Do you read hard copies or Kindle your way through your book selection?

I mix them up a little bit. It depends on the mood I am in at that particular moment. So I have a tidy book collection at home, on my kindle, and also on Scribd and Audible.

Any books on your wish list?

Yes. I would certainly like to get my hands on a first edition of the beautiful and the damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A paperback copy of Confessions of a Male Nurse by Michael Alexander. A hardcover copy of Sir Alex Ferguson's Biography. A Kindle version of Janelle Brown's Pretty Things.

Lastly, I would have loved an autographed copy of the 'Concubine' by Elechi Amadi. The copy I have is nearly tattered from the many times I have read it.

Which would be your most favourite pick: drama, fiction, Africana, biographies?

For me, undoubtedly it would have to be fiction. Specifically mystery, crime, and thriller genres.

Do you consider yourself a book hoarder, or you consider that you're building a collection? Just how do you organize the books to avoid clutter?

My friends will say I am a book hoarder. I have an expansive collection of hard copies at home. Nearing 900 books at the moment (Mary of Inama and Rafu Books helped me get here). Books give me comfort, when I read I feel like I am transported to this whole other realm, and having my library in my own home would be a dream come true. Plus who does not love the smell of books? At the moment, I arrange them in terms of size.