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Book Review

Quarantine reading

Philip Muema  Founder & Partner Andersen Tax
Philip Muema Founder & Partner Andersen Tax. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Philip Muema

Founder & Partner Andersen Tax

What books are you currently reading?

The Operator by Robert O’Neill. The author’s claim to fame was that he was the man who fired the shots that ended Osama Bin Laden’s life. It’s fascinating to read about the intensity of training that Navy Seals go through and how that shapes their mind to attain the ‘impossible.’ I’ve not reached where he shoots the famous shot, so please do not spoil the ending for me.

The second book is Ikigai by Hector Garcia. I have found simplicity and calm in reading it. It encourages us to quiet our striving and listen to what the world needs and respond to the need with our expertise and gifts.

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Ikigai lead me to Less: A Visual Guide to Minimalism by Rachel Aust. However, as I read, I struggle with the minimalism concept. I admit I enjoy the finer things in life.

The other book is Ngugi wa Thiong'o’s Dreams in a Time of War. We need to know the truth as told by ourselves, appreciate the pain and struggle, to ensure that we protect our sovereignty and participate in nation-building. We cannot sit back as decisions are made about the future of our country without us being involved. Ngug’s literary works tend to put a fire in my belly.

I’m also listening to Blink by Malcolm Gladwell on Audible. I use my commute time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I’m always intrigued by Malcolm’s take on human behaviour, and this book, in particular, helps me answer questions about the decisions I have made in the past.

Do you buy books for future reading, during travels?

I hardly buy books abroad, since a lot of my travels have been work trips and I’m usually holed up in meetings with minimal time for shopping. I mainly buy from Kenyan bookshops. However, I have received numerous books as gifts. I think a book is the best gift. I also enjoy gifting books.

I am eagerly awaiting Barack Obama’s post-White House memoir as the 44th USA President. I will take time off to read the book!

Is reading for leisure or to add to your work?

I declutter my mind and wind down by reading. In the world of consulting and advisory services, I have to read to keep abreast of different industry and political situations to help clients envision different scenarios and develop mitigating strategies or take advantage of opportunities. For leisure, light reads help to engage my weary mind and revitalise my thinking.

What do you make of reading and mental health during this global pandemic?

At the beginning of Covid-19, I assumed the pandemic would be over in two weeks. But now that it has taken longer, my reading for work has multiplied tenfold with the regulatory changes being made and the fact that I sit on advisory boards that provide expert opinion on the legislation.

I have to keep up with the changes and numerous opinions by industry heads. Even amid this whirlwind, I must find time to ‘declutter’ my mind.

If I don’t read, my mind would be constantly abuzz with thoughts of tax and problems of the economy. They are my release and safe escape. I advise everyone to pick up a book; a kind of writing that allows your brain to wander in a direction different from what life's challenges.

Ibrahim Kitoo,

Senior Legal Officer – Kengen

Ibrahim Kitoo

Ibrahim Kitoo, Senior Legal Officer – Kengen. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What book(s) are on your current reading list?

Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance: It Can't Happen to Us-Avoiding Corporate Disaster While Driving Success

Book by Richard Steinberg, the founder, and CEO of Steinberg Governance Advisors, Inc. He is a former senior partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

It is a masterpiece in the governance, risk management, compliance. and a must-read for anyone in these three areas. The book explains how to protect a company from financial and reputational risk, litigation, and government intervention and avoid the kind of disasters that can befall any organisation no matter how big it is.

Any specific one(s) on your bedside table that you must read before calling it a day?

It may sound cliché but the one book on my bedside and which I can't have enough of and must repeatedly read every day is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. This is one book that gives a revolutionary yet refreshing titbits to anyone who wants to understand the world dynamics of power and power relations.

Do you bulk buy books in advance say during past travels, for future reading, or did you buy new books for this period?

I am a 'spendthrift' when it comes to books. I bought a book last year and had never got time to read but it has come in handy during the Covid-19 period. The Boards That Dare by Marc Stigter and Sir Cary Cooper looks at how board cultures and behaviours should change for companies to thrive.

Which books would you say, shaped your life and career?

Rules of Work by Richard Templar. This is a simple book but done with exceptional creativity. It is an eye-opener for all those who looking to rise to the top, but cannot seem to find a bearing. It comes in handy to complement what one may have missed out in Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work by Dr. Paul Babiak and Dr. Robert D. Hare.

How did you develop a reading culture? And how do you fight to maintain it given the intensity of your work?

I started when I was young, in Class 3. By the time I joined the University of Nairobi for my first degree in law, I knew that reading and writing were embedded in me. The reading culture has come in handy to instil the much-needed discipline in my work and other roles as a member of audit and risk committees and the editorial board of the Law Society of Kenya.

Which books can you recommend?

(i) The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results by Stephen Bungay;

(ii) Rules of Work by Richard Templar; and

(iii) Boards that Dare: How to future-proof today's corporate boards by Marc Stigter & Sir Cary Cooper. These books leave a mark on anyone keen to deliver, manage work relationships well and also disrupt the conventional way of doing things.

Robert Belle, Author, Speaker & Ceo - Smip Consultancy

Robert Belle, Author, Speaker & Ceo - Smip Consultancy. PHOTO | COURTESY

Robert Belle,

Author, Speaker & Ceo - Smip Consultancy

What book(s) are on your current reading list?

5AM Club by Robin Sharma, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe. After finishing this list, I will read Limitless by Jim Kwik, alone.

Any specific one(s) on your bedside table that you must read before calling it a day? Recommendation, or random pick?

The 5AM Club for sure. The importance of waking up early (and especially now when mostly at home and you're tempted to sleep in) is critical. Staying in sync with your circadian rhythm boosts productivity and enhances creativity. According to Sharma, you need to have a balance of your four interior empires; mindset, heartset, healthset and soulset.

Do you bulk-buy books in advance say during past travels, for future reading, or did you specifically buy new books for this stay-at-home period?

I buy books throughout the year. I got the 5AM Club online and the other two have been in my library.

Do you have a favourite genre?

I like self-help books. I am a self-starter and enjoy getting a blueprint of how others have done it and how to keep improving all aspects of my life. I want to learn from great thinkers and achievers so that I can propel my progress.

Why do you read?

As a transformational speaker and consultant I need to constantly learn so I can teach and deliver value to my clients. Reading is also my way to escape the pressures of life and recharge after a long day, priming my mind to be creative and find solutions to problems I might be stuck at.

What do you make of reading and mental health during this pandemic period?

Thoughts are the language of the brain and reading during this pandemic is a great way to think and come up with ideas.

So much of our lives have shifted online due to a lack of physical meetups with family or friends. Even worship has gone virtual. Thus reading gives us a chance to go offline.

Reading books like self-help can help translate you from being a victim of circumstances to being a creator of your life, teaching you to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Thus you need to read widely and not just in areas that you are comfortable with. Then follow up with action through note-taking.

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