Kerry’s Note: This week in the Reader’s Nook, I am glad to be hosting fellow Book blogger, Diana Gitau of A Haven for Book Lovers. I came across her blog on my WordPress feed when I was searching for consistent Kenyan book bloggers. Let us get to know Diana.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your reading habits/ reading journey.
I am Diana Gitau, a Kenyan bookworm. I have been reading ever since I was a kid. My first books were the LadyBird fairytales series. My parents bought me all the books from Cinderella to Snow White and I read and reread each one of them. I started ready the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley series in my early teens. However, the most memorable first novel that I read was The River Between by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. I was only 13 years old but that book is what got me started on reading novels.
Which books are you currently reading?
I read Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) mostly. These are books that I receive from publishers for review purposes. The last book that I finished reading last night was Dark Water by Robert Bryndza. It will be published on October 20th. I just started reading The Killing Game by J. S Carol after which I will read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah which is set for release on 21 November 2016.
Which books have been on TBR (to be read) pile for over one year?
I have quite a number of books that I have had for so long. My bookshelf has about a hundred books that I have not yet read. I tend to read more ARCs than my own books hence the overflowing TBR. Here is a list of some of the books that I have:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon), The Choice (Nicholas Sparks) Twenties Girl (Sophie Kinsella) Lucky (Alice Sebold) Atonement (Ian McEwan) Five Days (Douglas Kennedy) The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne) Dust (Yvonne A. Owuor) When It Happens (Susan Colasanti) Looking for JJ (Ann Cassidy)
As a bibliophile, how do you deal with reading FOMO?
I am not dealing with this very well. Currently my TBR is out of control while my NetGalley shelf has 15 books for review which all these have deadlines. Sometimes the pressure gets to be too much especially with the ARCs and we can’t forget the Book Club picks too. I have tried to ban myself from buying new books and requesting for ARCs but I have a serious addiction for books.
Which book do you read at least once a year?
I don’t usually re-read books but I have a daily devotion called Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach that I have been reading each year since 2012.
What are your thoughts on Goodreads?
I love Goodreads. Whenever I get a new book, I usually rush to the site to read the book’s reviews. However, I still need to learn more about how to use the site, especially as a reviewer. I don’t have many friends on the site and I am yet to participate in any group reads. I took the Goodreads reading challenge this year though. My target was to read 50 books by the end of the year but I am currently at 92 books. I also participate in Top 5 Wednesday but still, I really need to learn how to use the site more.
Hard copy vs e-book vs audiobook?
I have never listed to an audiobook. I do like both e-readers and hardcopies so that’s a tough choice. E-Readers are convenient in many ways. For instance; it is easy to check the meaning of words while reading the book. It is also easy to read at night whether in bed or while travelling. Nothing beats the smell of old or new hard copy books, though.
How has reading influenced your journey as a writer?
As a book blogger, I have to read and write reviews. This has helped me learn how to express my feelings about books and also know how to balance my reviews. I used to write short stories and I do believe that my love for books is what helps enhance my creativity.
Please tell us about your book blog A Haven for Book Lovers?
I have been blogging on and off since 2012. Initially, my blog was called Voices in my Head and I used to share personal updates and fictional short stories. The blog wasn’t doing so well and by December 2016, I had only 43 followers. However, I soon discovered the book blogging community and my blogging changed. I started reading more and posting more reviews and interacting with the community. It is then that I decided to change the name of my blog to A Haven for Book Lovers and turn the blog into a book blog. The blog has been a blessing. I have met readers all over the world and ended up making some great friends. I have also interacted with authors such as Lola Shoneyin, Maria Padian, Mary J. Riley and Robert Bryndza who have given me feedback on the reviews I wrote for their books. I still get shocked when authors contact me asking if I’d like to read their books for review. The blog also led me to the world of ARCs so now I get new releases months before publication date. It still feels surreal.
A Haven for Book Lovers now has 632 followers (yeah from 41 followers in January) and averages at about 150 views daily. Being a book blogger has been one of the highlights of my year.
Do you have any tips for acquiring books (buying or borrowing)?
If you are a book blogger and you want to get ARCs for review then I suggest that you join the sites for reviews like NetGalley and Edelweiss. You will get access to books from all over the world but you have to read and review them. You can also opt to borrow books directly from publishers by emailing them.
If you are an ardent reader and you want to add more books to your shelf then I suggest that you make use of Inama Bookshops. These are the street vendors in Nairobi (I have heard that they are in other towns too). I have gotten a number of gems from these vendors including new books. They are quite affordable too.
I also borrow books from the library at my place of work so if you have access to a library then definitely make use of it.
If you want to borrow books from friends then please take care of them (I’m talking about the books) and give them back.
Is there a book (or books) that you are constantly referring to or that you have gifted your friends or family over and over again?
Interestingly, I have gifted a number of friends and family members, The Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma. I have never read the book since it is not a genre that I read but it is so widely acclaimed so I always get it for others especially if they like motivational books. Luckily, my workplace has a bookshop that always has a copy in stock so it is easy to get it.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article on “The Classic Books that You haven’t read” in which people confessed which famous books they have not read. So confession time: which famous book haven’t you read?
There are so many. I don’t read classics as much as I’d like to. For instance, I have never read any of the Jane Austen books (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion). I have also not read any books by George Orwell (Animal Farm and 1984) and I am reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for the first time. I definitely need to read more classics.
What is your definition of being “well-read”?
Anyone who has gained knowledge from reading a lot. It could be any form of literature and in any genre. Knowledge is not just about acquisition skills but also mastery of language use.
Please share your favourite quote from one of your favourite books.
This is not really from my favourite book but it is one of my favourite quotes.
There are as many Africas as there are books about Africa — and as many books about it as you could read in a leisurely lifetime. Whoever writes a new one can afford certain complacency in the knowledge that his is a new picture agreeing with no one else’s, but likely to be haughtily disagreed with by all those who believed in some other Africa. … Being thus all things to all authors, it follows, I suppose, that Africa must be all things to all readers.
Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, a hunter’s Valhalla, an escapist’s Utopia. It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just ‘home.
― Beryl Markham, West with the Night
Any more questions for Diana?
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