Happy World Book Day!
In honour of this auspicious occasion, I reckoned it would be fun to share where I find new reads or at least recommendations. Most
book hoarders bibliophiles will tell you that aside from being asked where they find the time to read, they are also asked to recommend on what others should read next. This request in itself can be tall order if you are not Anne Bogel (a.k.a Modern Mrs Darcy) from the What Should I Read Next podcast. So here are where I source my books…
Browsing Bookstores and Local Libraries
This is most common and easiest thing for anyone to do. Being a native Nairobian, I feel pretty ashamed that I only got my national library card in December 2017. Nonetheless, I am glad that I finally did it after being prompted by my increasing interest in minimalism and #theunreadshelfproject2018.
My favourite pastimes thing is to buy second-hand or pre-loved books along the streets of Nairobi, which Kenyan bibliophiles call inama bookshops (loosely translated- ‘bend over’ bookshops). As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. *wink*.
I am cognizant of the fact that purchasing second-hand books and clothes (which we also fondly call mitumba) can evoke a lot of debate around trade imbalances caused by buying discarded items from the developed world. For now, pre-loved books are the most viable option since most of these books retail at around $1-3. Also, this reduces the likelihood that they do not end up in landfills. Plus, I am not too crazy about shipping from Amazon. I prefer using it as a last resort and Book Depository does not ship to Kenya.
Kenyan booksellers, do not worry. I will continue to purchase books from you and to support both local and international authors. You have been there for me through the years but I would like to take my reading life a little slow.
Browsing and/or Re-arranging My Own Shelves
Browsing and re-arranging my bookshelves has shown me how much my reading tastes have evolved over the years. There are books that I procured because I wanted to be perceived as “well-read” but today I can not bear to look at them.
I am looking at you, Walden and you too Anna Karenina
There are others that I had underestimated and put-off reading for a long time and they eventually found a special place in my heart like Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising.
Taking up Reading Challenges
These days there are so many reading challenges out there. Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. Pop Sugar, Modern Mrs Darcy, Mount TBR … you get the drift. This year, I am only doing the Modern Mrs Darcy and the Unread Shelf Project so that I can be able to kill two birds with one stone. But I am always looking for recommendations on Book Riot’s Youtube channel and similar channels to widen my bookish awareness and keep promising titles on my radar.
One Word: Netgalley
I never thought that I would say this but Netgalley has made an e-reader convert. I have managed to save on valuable shelf space and if I hate the book, I don’t have to keep it. In some way, I have been able to deal with the keeping up with the Joneses syndrome for the books and it has also helped me hold me rein in my book budget. Also, I feel that in a way that I will give back to the community.
You can see the books that I have reviewed for Netgalley here.
Movie Trailers and/or Actual Movies or TV shows
I was intimidated by Les Misérables. C’mon that tome is well over 1000+ pages but watching Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, so I made the effort and read the abridged version of the title which reinforced my love for this story. I am really looking forward to reading the unabridged version in 2018.
In a similar vein, I have always disregarded The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society until I saw the book was constantly appearing on the streets of Nairobi but could not bring myself to buy it. Then I watched the movie trailer (hello, Matthew Goode) and it seems to have all the elements that I would love in a book- WWII, books, community and self-discovery. With the movie coming out in April 2018 I am keeping my eyes peeled for both the book and the movie. Pun not intended.
Being Part of the Online Reading Community
I have been a part of the online reading community as a content consumer, a lurker and a creator on a number of platforms for a few years and it has been like a double-edged sword. I am encouraged to seek diverse books and genres, though sci-fi and fantasy are still not my jam. They have also been helpful in helping me to rethink book titles that I had previously brushed off or a topic that I wanted to research and completely forgot about. Refer to the earlier point on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (What a mouthful!)
For instance, in February 2018, one of the challenges for the unread shelf project was to read a book by a person of colour. So I examined my shelves and realised that I did not have many Christian titles by people of colour especially in the fiction sub-genre- which led me to go on the hunt- that’s when I got a hold of Patrice Gopo’s All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way from Netgalley (review coming soon). I have only dipped into this piece of creative non-fiction but already I can predict that which her beautiful language and timely content, I will give it at least a 4-star rating.
However, the dark side of having an online reading community is getting caught up in the reading rat race and picking popular titles in order to remain popular and relevant. Popular booktuber Ariel Bisset eloquently tackled some of these issues in her videos on reading becoming a competitive sport and not being “proper” video. Steve Donoghue another booktuber has provided some response videos on these ideas but I would like to highlight his video on The Seven Deadly of YA which can be juxtaposed on other genres and is worth mulling over.
Old School Bibliographies
From my reading experience, I appreciate renown author and marketer Ryan Holiday ‘s lists because I am curious about Ancient Greece and Rome but too intimidated by the number of books out there. In a recent post, he advises:
This is a little rule I try to stick with. In every book I read, I try to find my next one in its footnotes or bibliography. This is how you build a knowledge base in a subject–it’s how you trace a subject back to its core.
Though he quotes numerous anecdotes in his books Ego is the Enemy and Obstacle is the Way, he’s succinct bibliography is less intimidating. (Plus he has an occasional book recommendation mailing list on his website if you are interested in American history and stoicism and their application in 2018).
Any author will tell you that any title that is worth its salt is based on tonnes of research. For a person who loves historical fiction and creative non-fiction (especially in business, economics and investing genres), I appreciate the bibliographies and additional notes that authors provide at the beginning and end of their books in order to give context. These booklists are normally quite helpful in reading more on a particular subject.
The Conclusion of the Matter
In future, I would like to participate in book swaps within Nairobi so that I could meet more bookish people and know their bookish tastes.
I am slowly finding my “reading peace” as I try to balance both inner and outer expectations.In long run, I decided that there’s no one to compete with since reading is one of my earthly first loves. Plus, life is not too short to read horrible books.
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