BY THE BOOK: Tom Mwiraria

Tom Mwiraria is storyteller and social justice lover. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • I sank into depths of wisdom when I read James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh.

  • Dante Alighieri’s Inferno: The Divine Comedy is my literary treasure.

Tom Mwiraria is storyteller and social justice lover. His work has been featured in various journals including Kasoma Africa, Hekaya Review, Writers Space Africa, and Sustainable Tourism Agenda. He writes for Daily Nation’s Life & Style, Kasoma Africa and Impact Voices. He is a member of the Writers Guild of Kenya (WGK), Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and International Journalists Network (IJnet).



Tell me the three books that excited you the most in 2017?

I sank into depths of wisdom when I read James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh. It deals with the power and application of thoughts as seeds of action to enhance one’s quality of life. By thinking shrewdly and taking action, one may mould character, reinvent and turn around their circumstances. It is ‘A book that will help you to help yourself’.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, a philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde is my old doll. I peeled through its pages greedily. It provokes thinking. Dorian, a flamboyant, handsome and narcissistic young man tastes every pleasure and virtually every ‘delicious sin', studying its outcome upon him, which eventually leads to his death.

Screwtape Letters, a Christian apologetic novel by C.S Lewis. The novel portrays human weak spots, from the devil’s point of view. The letters between a senior and junior demon strategise on undermining faith and promoting sin.


Which two books do you hold so dear that they can’t possibly be lent out?

Dante Alighieri’s Inferno: The Divine Comedy is my literary treasure. Taking it away would mortally injure my heart. Maybe I’d not eat for days.

Your favourite childhood books? Why?

Vintage books from my father’s bookshelf; my mother’s Home Science books, safari books, TKK series and vernacular short stories such as Johana Muritu (Johana the idiot). I liked the Kenya’s People series. The books taught me Kenyan cultures and folklore.

If you were to dine with three writers dead/alive, who would they be and why?

Prof. Katama Mkangi: A genius and an unsung social justice enthusiast. His Kiswahili fiction novel Walenisi, centred on social justice, was an eye-opener.

Charles Bukowski: He taught me to invent myself.

Sylvia Plath: I would dissuade her from taking her life and discuss mental health with her.

Which book do you wish you had written and why?

The Biography of Uhuru Kenyatta.

If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?

The Holy Scriptures for replenishing my thirsting soul and two philosophical works by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Do you think book festivals, literary prizes and writing workshops are important to a writer’s growth?

Very helpful. Networks are wealth and open up opportunities. Prizes affirm a writer and build confidence.

Most unforgettable character from a book? Why?

Sir Reepicheep, Chief Mouse, Knight of the most Noble Order of the Lion from C.S Lewis: Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of dawn treader. A descendant of dumb mice. For his kind act of eating a net that held Aslan captive, the King restored his lost tail and ability to talk albeit in a shrill voice. Reepicheep taught me the ageless qualities of loyalty, selflessness, courage and bravery.

Tell me about the last book that made you cry?

Africa kills her sun by Ken Saro Wiwa.

Among your contemporaries, who do you consider the most exciting newcomer in the writing world and why?

Munira Buzunesh, an author of a bold anthology named Unfit for Society, which tackles challenges in Northern Kenya such as forced marriages, religious prejudice, youth radicalisation, domestic violence and rape.

What are you currently writing?

The land of Bones, an anthology. It tackles issues of corruption, extrajudicial killings, environmental degradation, bad governance, grabbing, social decadence and trampling on rights of minorities. It is lightly punctuated by short proses, memoirs and poetry.


BY THE BOOK is a literary series that covers authors, bloggers, actors, academics and poets of note in the African continent. For comments or inquiries, e-mail: [email protected]