Main Story: The book that will shape my 2021

Naisula Lesuuda, 36, Member of Parliament. Samburu West. PHOTO| POOL

What you need to know:

  • Losing yourself in a great novel is one of life's most enduring and dependable joys
  • Publishers around the world have reported a surge in sales of some titles
  • Five women tell us the book that will be impacting their 2021
  • Explore the top 10 local and international titles for the year

Books, books, books. They will increase your lifespan, lower your stress, and boost your intelligence. From the feel to the smell, there is something powerful and special about books.

One thing is certain: losing yourself in a great novel is one of life's most enduring and dependable joys. Job satisfaction comes and goes, partners enrapture and abscond, but you can always fall back on the timeless ability of literature to transport you to a different world, inspire you, and expand your worldview.

It's 2021, the year that we are hoping for some optimism in our lives after a tumultuous 2020. While publishers around the world have reported a surge in sales of titles like Albert Camus's The Plague and Stephen King's post-apocalyptic The Stand, many of us are choosing to immerse ourselves in feel-good, comforting fiction that reminds us of happier times.

We asked five women to tell us the book that will be impacting their 2021.

Esther Wangui, 31, Literacy Activist and Bookseller at Booked by Mystic Venus Book Hub. PHOTO| POOL

Esther Wangui, 31, Literacy Activist and Bookseller at Booked by Mystic Venus Book Hub

Book: The 5 am Club by Robin Sharma

"I am a reader who reads at least one book every month but it is not difficult whittling down my most impactful books to 5 am Club.

5 am Club is a work of fiction that teaches the importance of waking up at 5 am, you know commanding the morning hours in order to elevate one's experience by working on the four interiors (mind, heart, health, and soul) of the human empire.

Robin recommends that you start working on these things in the morning. I am now endeavouring to focus on habits that help elevate my life's experience. Also, I have learnt through Robin that there is no success without struggles. And what an encouragement that is to my weight loss journey! I have been trying to lose the baby weight but I have struggled with waking up early to exercise. However, the past few days have been smooth and I hope that I won't slip back as the year unfolds.

When I wake up, I don't go straight to my social media feeds like I used to do before. I arouse to things that can empower me.

I encourage women to read the book because it will help them to work on their goals while minimising distractions."

Naisula Lesuuda, 36, Member of Parliament. Samburu West. PHOTO| POOL

Naisula Lesuuda, 36, Member of Parliament. Samburu West

Book: Becoming by Michelle Obama

"Sometimes, it takes me forever to finish reading a book. One time, I will be reading two or three books at a go and another time, I will be reading one book in bits, pausing to reflect along the way.

Becoming is that book for me. Michelle takes us through the different phases of her life from childhood to being a young woman. When she starts to talk about how she got into the public space, you note she was an ordinary young woman with a goal. I found that to be super re-affirming— that it is possible for any woman to excel and lead.

However, through her narration, you understand that success and power didn't come easy. Michelle was focused, put in the hard work, and believed in herself. I admired how she dealt with critics graciously.

As a member of parliament, I relate with her on many aspects of leadership and I learnt about community engagement. This is one of the things that will be driving me this year. We are a year away from the general elections and I know it will be the focus in 2021. However, just like Michelle, I will be grounded and focused on my work— accomplishing what I am yet to and representing the needs of Kenyans in parliament.

Leadership aside, her marriage life and lifestyle is one to draw inspiration from. I am a new mum and from Michelle, I have learnt some lessons on how to balance family and public life, making sacrifices and having a positive attitude through it all."

Emily Onyango, 27, Freelance Videographer/photographer and PR officer at African Union of the Blind Student at Daystar University. PHOTO| POOL

Emily Onyango, 27, Freelance Videographer/photographer and PR officer at African Union of the Blind Student at Daystar University

Book: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

"The title of the book is a story in itself and I think this the main reason why I was captivated to read it. Paulo tells us about a woman who appears to have a perfect life but is depressed and decides to commit suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills.

She doesn't die, though. She wakes up in a psychiatry hospital where she is informed that she only has 48 hours to live. In that time frame, she is determined to do the unexpected because who will judge someone in an asylum anyway?

Through the pages of that book, I related to Veronika so much that she became a great inspiration. Her story has taught me that I don't have to be like anyone else, that it is okay to change, feel fear, and find pleasure on your own.

So this year, I have decided to go back to violin and taekwondo. I was into them sometime back and stopped. Whether I get to earn from them or not, I am giving my all. At the end of the day, what matters most is how they make me feel not the criticisms.

I would encourage women to read it because this book is a wake-up call and a reminder that what you feed your mind feeds your body, language, and character."

Roselynn A Omolloh, 50, Chief Of Staff, Office of the Speaker, Senate, Parliament of Kenya. PHOTO| POOL

Roselynn A Omolloh, 50,Chief Of Staff, Office of the Speaker, Senate, Parliament of Kenya

Book: The Gate Keepers by Chris Whipple

"The book is a collection of interviews with past White House chiefs of staff as well as two presidents; Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. It explores the untold story of this unique fraternity and the powerful presidents they serve. It pulls the veil on the inner workings of the Oval Office and looks at the power play in greater detail.

The "gatekeepers" wield tremendous power in Washington and negotiate with Congress to push the President's agenda. They also have unfettered access to the President. What I loved most about it is that it provides a deep understanding of how government really works, what Presidents actually do, and what is the range of 'normal' versus 'unprecedented' behaviour for these high officeholders.

The book revised my understanding of politics and power. It describes in great detail what I have always struggled to understand- the difficult part after any election: the steep learning curve that is the transition between campaigning and governing. I have come to understand so well the chasm between the campaign and the ruling- whether we are talking about a Governor, a Senator, or the highest office which is The Presidency.

The gatekeepers also taught me that to serve well in a political environment, one must maintain a servant leadership mindset. Politics is not personal but more often based on a shared vision and common goals. To work in this field, you must put aside personal beliefs. Politics is not permanent, it thrives on proximity to purpose and season.

In 2021, I will appreciate teamwork more and be even less gullible. I have always been a very trusting person and I took a lot of things at face value. Now I would say my approach is more reminiscent of "trust but verify". It is not that I am doubting but rather, I am covering all the way up; trust shows good faith, verify, well that is accountability. Also, nothing surprises or fazes me; it is all in a day's job. I will go through the most difficult of days and wake up to a new page tomorrow.

I would encourage women to read it because I can't wait for the day we will have a Female Chief of Staff. I wonder whether our failure to get the position is because we often miss the camaraderie in a largely male-dominated field. We ought to know what it would take to get us there.

Further, we need to understand the delicate balance and thin line between power and being human. We must be less judgmental, less puritan without losing what we value and stand for. Also, understand the place for emotion and decisive action because I feel women have been playing behind the scenes for too long and the retention of conquests is more difficult for women as the book reveals."

Caroline Mochoge, 26, Communications and Branding Specialist. PHOTO| POOL

Caroline Mochoge, 26, Communications and Branding Specialist

Book: Atomic Habits Club by James Clear

"I came across this book by chance. I was finishing another book by Brian Tracy and since they share similar content, it was one of the most suggested best-selling books and I must admit after reading the blurb, I was intrigued.

Atomic Habits club by James Clear is a distinctive, simple, practical, and well-written book with personal experiences that are necessary especially for people trying to break bad habits. The writer emphasizes that for you to become successful in whatever you do, you must slowly but steadily break those habits.

This book has intellectually challenged and changed my thoughts on certain habits, which I have been struggling with for some time. It made me understand the importance of building good habits, my commitment to success, time management, and the positive outcome it has on my self-development.

It has made me realise for you to become better at what you do, you require a lot of skill mastery. This is a journey that I am currently in because I am constantly learning something new every day and applying it in my daily skills. This book is also a constant reminder that even when progress feels slow, I am on the right track.

Lastly, it has made me reflect on some of the areas in my life that I require to streamline to accomplish my goals. In this New Year, I have created clear Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely (SMART) goals that include habit stacking which will help me align to my vision; improve on some of my weaknesses, which with time will result in improved habits.

I would encourage women to read this book because it builds their personal and professional growth. It helps you to be more self-aware, work on your identity, and gives you a sense of direction on what you need to work on to become better. There is a chapter that highlights the importance of designing an environment that is comfortable for you. That includes the kind of people whom you entertain within your personal space and how they shape your habits.

James also talks about the importance of exercising and what you require to do to achieve certain results."

Top local books

  1. Thursdays- Jackson Biko
  2. Drunk-Jackson Biko
  3. Of pawns & Players-Kinyanjui Kombani
  4. Making Cents- Waceke Nduati
  5. The Havoc of Choice-Wanjiru Koinange
  6. Unbowed- Wangari Maathai
  7. I'm too pretty to be broke- Joan Thatiah

-Source: Rafu Books

International top 10 books

1. The Lying Life of Adults- Elena Ferrante

2. The Glass Hotel- Emily St. John Mandel

3. My Dark Vanessa- Kate Elizabeth Russell

4. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot- Mikki Kendall

5. Temporary- by Hilary Leichter

6. The Comeback- Ella Berman

7. The Vanishing Half- Brit Bennett

8. Uncanny Valley- Anna Wiener

9. Hamnet- Maggie O'Farrell

10. Deacon King Kong- James McBride


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