Book Review

Quarantine reading

Nanjala Misiko
Nanjala Misiko. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Nanjala Misiko

Head of Strategy & Operations, Marketing - Sub-Saharan Africa, Google

What type of reader are you?

I prefer non-fictional literature. I read to learn about things I am curious about but I do not have the expertise or time to research on. I love writers who write from facts. Most of the books I read are about human behaviour.

Which book(s) are on your reading list?


I’m reading three books and listening to one audible book.

· Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I am curious about how humans think and make judgments.

· Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. I just started reading this one, it was highly recommended by a friend so I will give it (fiction) a try.

· HBR's 10 Must Reads: The Definitive Management Ideas Of The Year from Harvard Business Review, 2020. One must keep oneself up to date on the most cutting-edge thinking that is driving business today.

· I’m rereading (listening on audible) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Next up on my reading list:

· Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. I think everyone who can, should get James Baldwin’s books. I have also read The Fire Next Time. It was brilliant and relevant to what is happening today.

· What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

· There Was A Country by Chinua Achebe. I have a goal to always have at least one book in my reading list by an African writer.

Do you bulk buy books, say during past travels, for future reading or did you specifically buy new books recently?

I always stock up books for future reading. I have enough to last me a year or two.

Between the traditional hard copy books and digital/audiobooks, which are you go-to and why?

I prefer hard copies. I think it’s a habit plus I just don't do well multitasking. I don't enjoy listening to an audiobook and doing something else at the same time (like being in traffic). When reading a hard copy book, I have the same concentration as studying for exams. I don't achieve this with audiobooks.

Are there books you would say speak to the person you are becoming? Do you believe books change people?

Yes, books have and continue to change my thinking, my judgment, and they help me re-evaluate my preconceived opinions. Yuval Noah Harari’s books for example speak to how history evolves and how norms change through generation. In the 14th Century, King Henry VIII proclaimed that “No carpenter, smith, weaver or women shall practice surgery.” Today, we have many women doctors and surgeons and this is not considered abnormal.

Which are your earliest reading memories?

This would be “Kadogo at School.” My father bought me this book and I read it, and memorised it by heart and recited to him word for word, which earned me a new storybook. I was five years old, and I remember my dad being very impressed!

How else have you been passing the time?

I am learning basic Origami. I have managed to make a swan and a crane. For anyone interested, I would recommend “Learning from Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art” by Robert J. Lang.

Have you been binge-watching anything?

No, but I am watching new episodes of Billions Season 5 and just started The Morning Show Season 1.

Have you found new hobbies/passions at this time?

Yes, walking and cycling. Because I’m working from home, I get to spend my evenings either walking or cycling. The newly built lanes make cycling more fun! I’m working on now is improving my average cycling speed and walking which helps me build endurance. Walking was never in the plan though. I was looking for a place with mountain bike trails. My first experience was Ololua Ridge. I then went to the Nairobi Arboretum with my bike and friends but because cycling is not allowed, we walked.

Our goal is to walk seven minutes/kilometre.

Barbara Omondi.

Barbara Omondi. PHOTO | COURTESY

2.Barbara Omondi - Banker, Standard Chartered

What type of reader are you?

I am a repeat reader for authors who write excellent books. As soon as I finished reading the book, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, I ended up being a loyal reader to his other books like "Talking To Strangers". I'm loyal to authors who capture storytelling through case studies, real situation examples, and research. Equally, I also try to be a book clubber by reading books decided by a book club. Prominent figures and self-development books are usually recommended in book clubs as a 'must-read'. If you are having a rough time deciding which book you would like to read, ask a book clubber.

Which book(s) are on your reading list?

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown has challenged me to do truly important things and prioritise what is essential from what is non-essential. I am enjoying reading this book during the Covid-19 period where I have challenged myself to have clarity of my purpose in life. The truth is if you don't prioritise what is essential in your life, someone else will. We become distracted by producing our highest level of contribution if we cannot differentiate what is essential from non- essential. To fully understand this concept, you just need to read the book and probably reread some chapters to fully grasp the concept of essentialism.

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

I always try to read one book a month at the bare minimum in depth. I like to think through what I am reading and sometimes take notes based on new concepts or tips that I learn. This could either be through audio or physical reading. I am not a fan of bulk buying books.

What I choose to read every month depends on the season, the zeal to learn new ways of working, re-engaging with individuals in different styles as well as the mood I am in. During this stay-at-home period, I wanted to read a book that would inspire me to keep up with my daily motivations of actually being energetic in accomplishing tasks and coping with many things at the same time.

Between the traditional hard copy books and digital/ audiobooks, which are your go-to, and why?

I prefer digital and audiobooks to traditional hard copies because of environmental efficiency and also because I am a minimalist and prefer a shelf to be highly decluttered with only including the most essential of decorative pieces.

I also like to listen to audiobooks when it comes to self-help books during my early gym sessions or when getting ready to prepare for the day. You can also multitask while listening to an audiobook. Technology is enabling us to access and read as many books as possible from any location which is what digital/audiobooks have enabled.

Are there books you would say speak to the person you are becoming? Basically, how do you reckon reading has changed you? Do you believe books change people?

In 2020, one of the books that have spoken to me is 'Own Your Morning' by Robin Sharma. Robin Sharma challenged me to be up by 5 a.m. and build a morning routine that would help me to improve myself to be successful. I would recommend this book to an 18-year-old who has a lot of ambitions as well as to an individual in their 30s or 40s looking to climb the ladder as well as increase their performance levels.

What are your favourite reading sections in a book?

The mid chapters of the book. I call it the sweetest spot of a book because that is where the authors tend to delve into their stories, tips, case studies that tend to be more interactive or more emotional and sometimes deep-thinking

Which are your earliest reading memories?

At 5 to 6 years, I was the only child for some time and my parents would buy storybooks for me and my cousin during the holiday periods. At the beginning of developing a reading culture, I was always fascinated by the pictures until I learned how to read storybooks through the help of my parents and school teachers. As I grew older, I recall watching cartoons and asking my parents to purchase storybooks that I would see in a book store related to the cartoon movies I watched. That experience enabled me to love reading books on up to date.

How else have you been passing the time? Have you been binge-watching anything? Have you found any hobbies or rekindled past hobbies?

I have been reconnecting with my childhood and university friends and extended family through safe modes of communication via technology. Additionally, I run a forum on my Instagram page known as the" Inspire Africa Forum" that connects women to webinars and events that help in personal development, mental health, and financial education awareness. I also like to be abreast of what is happening in the world so you can say that I am a news junkie.

I have been binge-watching on documentaries on Netflix and enjoyed watching the first episode of the Last Dance featuring Michael Jordan and Becoming by Michelle Obama that showcases what one can achieve when passion is combined with hard work.

I have also enjoyed watching Netflix's original African series, Blood and Water that has already climbed to Netflix's Top 10 charts across many countries including Kenya. During the homestay period, I have developed new hobbies in baking and I recently shared my cakes during the celebration of Eid Mubarak and my friends' birthdays'.