A while back, some  friends and I went on an out of the city weekend road trip to visit the legendary Lord Egerton Castle in Nakuru. While on our way, I discovered that one of  my friends had carried her copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s  (face book COO)  recent book ‘Lean In’. Inevitably, during our three days there, I stayed up late after the others had retired to read this amazing anecdotal inspirational book that I believe every working woman needs to read.

Having worked in the corporate world for a while after graduating from college, I nodded and was thrilled to find out that I, and my friends too, could actually relate to most of the issues and challenges Sheryl encountered at  her workplace even though we are continents apart; the issues mentioned therein included lacking self confidence, not speaking up(especially when in the company of very loud and aggressive  colleagues who technically take over the meetings) and even settling for lesser pay than  the male counterparts in exactly the same job position(because women, having been raised to care for others first, find it selfish  and improper to ask for a higher pay). With each chapter I read, not only did I discover my blind spots, but also  felt better knowing exactly how I could work on my weak areas , progress in my career and even achieve an amazing   work and family balance.

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The StoryMoja Hay Festival was founded in 2008 in collaboration with the Hay Festival UK. It is a four day celebration of our stories and culture through storytelling, books, live discussion forums, workshops and music. This year marks the 5th annual event and will be held at The Nairobi National Musuem from 19th September to 22nd September. The theme is ‘Imagine The World: Waza Dunia’.

The festival is a 4 day celebration of our stories, our contemporary culture through story telling books, live performance and music. It will bring together novelists, poets, storytellers and other literary minds for a chance to explore and promote the reading culture in Kenya. This year will feature various guest who will seek to share their experiences. Teju Cole, Paula Kahumbu and Clifton Gachagua are among expected guests.

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Contemporary literature in Kenya from Kenyan writers is hard to come by. It’s a sad reality. The truth is that it’s difficult to get published especially locally. Most writers opt to self-publish which is an expensive venture. That being said, it is always welcomed news when a Kenyan writer publishes a book. It is even more welcome when the said book is a collection of poetry.

In 2011, a few poets met at Central Park to discuss the putting together of their poems in a book. The idea was spearheaded by an ambitious young man, Chris Mukasa, who fronts Kenya Poets Lounge.  The community of poets involved in the project grew with most conversations happening via email. Almost three years later, the project has finally seen the light of day. The book has been published and is titled, ‘The Power of Words.’

The Power of Words was launched at Memorial Park on Saturday June 8th in a simple but wonderful event. There were poets reading their work from the book as well as speakers giving motivational talks. Music from upcoming and talented artists and a generally relaxed ambiance made for an enjoyable event.

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Authors Buffet

The writing space in Kenya has seen a bit of growth in recent years with the introduction of new writers . There has also been renewed interest by Kenyan readers in Kenyan literature. This has led to conversation on literature powered by book clubs, commentary in newspapers and blogs, and writing competitions geared towards discovery of new writers.

In the spirit of this new interest in literature, a group of writers have put together a joint book signing event dubbed the ‘Authors’ Buffet’. The event is scheduled to be held on Saturday 18th May at the Junction from 11am to 4pm.

The aim of the event is to give readers a chance to meet some of their the favourite authors. It also aims to create an opportunity for authors to share experiences and best practices especially with up and coming writers.
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When I returned to Lagos, Kafiyah, who knew how stressed I was over the wedding, insisted that we needed a movie night. On our way to Silverbird Cinemas, she said we had to make a quick stop at her house. I had no idea that she had other plans.

“Surprise!”

Startled, I took a step back from the doorway. Kafiyah laughed as she gently pushed me into the room. Eniayo and a beaming Ekanem were among the small group of women. Balloons with wedding bells and streamers were everywhere. Eniayo handed me a sash with “Mrs. Nwosu” printed on it to wear over my clothes. Kafiyah had organized a surprise wedding shower.

Ekanem and I flew into each other’s arms. I had not seen her since her own wedding. She was glowing. Continue reading

This is part 2 of a list of great Kenyan fictional books that lovers of literature would definitely enjoy. Read part 1 here.

11. The Promised Land by Grace Ogot

This story alludes to the Biblical Promised Land. We are introduced to two individuals, Nyapol and Ochola, a young couple from the western part of Kenya, Nyanza. Tired of living the tyrannical life of frequent taxation and political feuds and competition Ochola, Nyapol’s husband, is convinced that moving to Canaan, Tanzania in this case, will guarantee them greener pastures. Nyapol is opposed to this move but eventually has to oblige because as it was she had no say as is the position of the woman. The story explores the personal jealousy that overcomes the couple and the tribal hatred that ensues as they finally realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Continue reading

In my experience, music and film have the ability to alleviate or crystallize unhappiness. While literature, among other wonderful things, has always shown me that I am not the only one who suffers. How comforting.

This year I had the great fortune of reading three amazing books. These are Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi”, J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas”. Let me admit something first, I will read anything except sordid chit-lit, horrors or annoying American crime/action novels.

I like stories driven by strong characters and with social commentary. I like a little philosophy and books that give general insight into the Human Being and what makes him/her tick. I enjoy a good laugh too.

So, I was overjoyed at coming across these wonderful books this year. Luckily purchasing “Cloud Atlas” and “The Hobbit” off the streets and receiving “Life of Pi” as a birthday gift. I was even more excited to find out that all three books would be adapted into films set for release in 2012!

Now having completed the book/film combos, I can finally share my thoughts on the six creations in the order in which I watched the films.

LIFE OF PI

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This was such a special book. It told the story of a young man who survives a shipwreck only to be trapped on a lifeboat for 227 days with a Bengal tiger, Richard Parker. Already that premise had me intrigued. Continue reading

A review of the best reads of 2012 from selected readers. Read part 1 of this series here.

Michael Onsando: 1Q84 – by Haruki Murakami

The first thing that caught my eye when the short dark man at text book centre told me to buy the book was 1Q84, what an odd title. Was it going to be a book on economics? Or maybe some ancient phrasing in Japanese. An inside joke of the far, far east coast? I parted with the money though, and I never, for a single second, regretted that I did.

The book takes you through the life of Aomame, a lady whose name means green peas, and bothers everyone. From the mystery of a world with two moons to the present world, to little people the book is just, beautiful. There’s no other way to put it, the tale Murakami tells is beautiful. Continue reading

A review of the best reads of 2012 from selected readers.

Maximilus: The City of Dreaming Books – by Walter Moers

By a wonderful serendipitous occurrence my bank is right across the National Library in Upper-hill. After the frustrations of a sad bank statement I like to walk across and immerse myself in a cathartic process I simply call “book gazing”. This particular day I took a friend along and as we walked by the fiction section he pointed to a book. I didn’t recognize the author or the name of the book but the story seemed interesting enough at first glance. I started reading it that evening. I couldn’t put it down and I probably cried a little bit at its brilliance.

The story is set in a fantastical world of Zamonia where the main trade is books. Everyone reads, writes or in someway earns a living from the book trade. The main character is a young author known as Optimus Yarnspinner from Lindworm Castle. His godfather Dancelot (who spent three months believing himself to be a cupboard full of dirty spectacles) dies and leaves him a short story that he describes as “the most magnificent piece of writing in the whole of Zamonian literature”. Sometime ago a young Zamonian writer had sent him a manuscript just a few pages long, the best story he had ever read. His dying wish was for his godson to read the story, be inspired and go to Bookholm to find the author and learn from him. Continue reading

LailaNdinda and I are working on setting up a book sharing initiative where people can come and pick a book they like in exchange for a book they own.
The intended goals of the initiative are:
1. To promote reading.
2. To expand the base of books available to Kenyan readers.
3. To provide a platform where readers can share the books they love with other bibliophiles.
4. To bring the reading community in Kenya together.
The initiative will be based at the Ihub. Continue reading