Category Archives: About Reading

My Book Wish List

Since my focus has been on reading more books by women, for women and about women, I’ve noticed how lacking my bookshelf is. It’s really not supporting my mission, so my collection is about to change. Some of the authors I’m adding to my wish list are popular and some I discovered through research.

Here are some of the books I want to add to my reading list.

Sojourner Truth

She was a women’s rights activist and abolitionist, who was born into slavery but managed to escape. The book I’m adding is The Book of Life.

“You may hiss as much as you please, but women will get their rights anyway”
― Sojourner Truth

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a civil rights activist, feminist, poet and essayist. Some of her titles that I wish to read are; Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, and The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde.

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
― Audre Lorde

Alice Walker

Alice Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, poet, essayist and activist. I want to read her famous book The Color Purple and some of her other works, Possessing the Secret of Joy and In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose.

“Resistance is the secret of joy!”
― Alice Walker

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler was a science fiction author and from her list I’m adding, Kindred, Parable of the Sower and Bloodchild.

“I found that I couldn’t muster any belief in a literal heaven or hell, anyway. I thought the best we could all do was to look after one another and clean up the various hells we’ve made right here on earth.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

Nawal al Saadawi

She is an Egyptian writer, feminist and psychiatrist. I want to read God Dies by the Nile, Woman at Point Zero and The Hidden Face of Eve.

“She is free to do what she wants, and free not to do it.”
— Nawal El Saadawi (Woman at Point Zero)

Roxane Gay

She’s a feminist, social commentator, editor, professor and writer. I am adding Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and Ayiti.

“I believe women not just in the United States but throughout the world deserve equality and freedom but know I am in no position to tell women of other cultures what that equality and freedom should look like.”
— Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist: Essays)

Betty Friedan 

Betty Friedan was a women’s rights activist, feminist and writer. I have always wanted to read her book, The Feminine Mystique and I am definitely adding it to my wish list.

“Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to become themselves? Who knows what women’s intelligence will contribute when it can be nourished without denying love?”
— Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique)

Ama Ata Aidoo

She is a playwright, poet and author. I’m adding The Girl Who Can and Other Stories, Changes: A Love Story and An Angry Letter in January and Other Poems.

“Humans, not places, make memories.”
— Ama Ata Aidoo

bell hooks

bell hooks is a feminist, social activist, professor and author. I want to read Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, and Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood.

“No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”…No woman has ever written enough.”
— bell hooks (remembered rapture: the writer at work)

Virginia Woolf

Woolf was an English 20th-century author and I’m adding A Room of One’s Own to my list.

“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”
— Virginia Woolf 

Janet Mock

Janet Mock is a transgender rights activist, director, producer and writer. I want to read her book Redefining Realness.

“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. – Janet Mock

Zora Neale Hurston

She was a writer and anthropologist, and it’s definitely time for me to read her book Their Eyes Were Watching God.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
— Zora Neale Hurston

Margaret Atwood

She is a literary critic, essayist, novelist, poet and activist. I also want to hop onto that The Handmaid’s Tale train, and add The Testaments while I’m at it.

“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.”
— Margaret Atwood

There are more authors I want to add, but as I keep reading and learning, I’ll keep adding more to my shelf. One can never read too many books. I’m excited and can’t wait.

What are you adding to your wish list?

I Am So into Women

Exploring Women in Literature

I recently visited one of my favourite bookstores (where they’re a quarter-to giving me a mattress and a blanket), looking for non-fiction books by women. Bookstores are usually therapeutic for me, but this time I left frustrated and disappointed. In 2020, a lot of books I find by women are mostly fiction books. I don’t know how the stats stand but I later went to a bigger store, that has way more titles and I had the same experience.

I was looking for female non-fiction because I wanted to hear the voice of someone whose experiences I can relate to. We know that historically women have been kept out of everything and have had to fight to break down walls and burn gates. We’ve been misled to believe that men are the ones who created and shaped the arts, and well, everything in this world. It’s not that women never had anything to contribute, they were just not allowed to do it, they were not allowed to even dream of doing anything but stand and watch.

I spent a little time in the Classics section and was surrounded by Plato, Aurelius, Homer, Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Twain, Salinger, Orwell, Achebe, Mphahlele and many others. Yes, there was Shelley, Woolf, the Brontës, Rand, Dickinson, and a few more, but the gap was still big. Male authors still dominate bookshelves. Even when I moved to business and self-help, the highly praised books are from names like Kiyosaki, Carnegie, Hill, Gladwell, and a million others. This is also frustrating because as great as these books are, when we women read them we often have to find ways to alter the message to make it apply to us, and sometimes, given the challenges we have, it is close to impossible.   

So all this frustration led me to think about what it is I want to read, what kind of messages I want to collect, what kind of solutions I’m looking for, and who I should get them from. I do not disregard men’s work, not at all. I have read many books by men that have helped me improve my life in tremendous ways.

However, I love the voice of women. I want to hear women and I want to hear about them. I want to read women. Give me women, please! I have read so many books by men with families whose success stories show that they were able to do things, have the time and energy to do them because their partners were taking care of everything else. I want to read about that woman, with kids and a home to run, and how she did or does it.

It’s not just in self-development books or classics. Across genres, the same problem exists. And so, on my quest to find these intelligent, brave, successful women, I’m going on a quest to read more women’s books.

“Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I want to read their biographies, their poetry, their tragedies and achievements, their struggles, and their successes. But I will not limit myself to only those stories, I do believe that there are male writers who have supported the voice of women in literature and there are men who have portrayed powerful and positive images of women. I am for that.

I don’t want any of that damsel-in-distress bullshit. I want to see women characters who show real women who don’t need to be saved. I want to dissect this vexatious yet interesting area of literature. The world should be seen through the eyes of the very people who live in it. Women, as members of society, should be able to express their existence in the same way as men do. In this open and inclusive manner, we can fully understand the world and understand each other.

When I made this decision, I went through my own shelf and saw how male-dominated it is. I’m ashamed. Honestly.

So I don’t think I’ll be able to read or write about women in literature following historical timeline. It will be challenging to find relevant books if I do it that way and it will be boring. Instead, I’m starting where I am, and from the unread books I have, what better way to start with women from cultures, traditions, and religions that are known or said to be oppressive? We’ll figure it out through the readings. So my first part will be on Muslim Women in Literature.

I have, on my shelf:

  • It’s Not About the Burqa edited by Mariam Khan
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • The Chibok Girls by Helon Habila (I said I’ll include a few men who do justice to women’s voices
  • Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy
I have no idea how that book ended up upside-down 🤦🏿‍♀️

I’m starting with Muslim women because, I already have these books so it was an obvious choice, and also, because it’s so easy for the rest of us to look at Muslim women and conclude that they’re oppressed and miserable. I’d rather find out first, preferably, from them.

So, here we go.

I’ll repost the review of Infidel. I had already started The Chibok Girls and stopped because it was depressing, but it’s short and I’m almost done. And I don’t think there’s time to be depressed, if you go into something that talks about injustice, oppression, prejudice, discrimination, abuse…it will be depressing. It’s inevitable.

So let’s do this.

To women!

Elevate Your Life With Books

A handbook to help you read, learn and execute.

“Contrary to popular wisdom, knowledge is not power-it’s potential power. Knowledge is not mastery. Execution is mastery. Execution will trump knowledge every day of the week.”
— Tony Robbins

When reading books, the gaining of knowledge is only half the work. The rest you need to do, and in order to fully benefit from the book you need to apply that knowledge. At The Book Neighbourhood, we emphasise the need for execution, or else that knowledge may be worthless.

We’ve designed and written this handbook that will help you get into the habit of reading for benefit. In it you’ll choose the different life areas you want to focus on, choose (with our help) books that are relevant and resonate with the challenges you’re facing, and offer step-by-step guides on how to extract as much information as you can from the books and apply it to your life for improvement, development and growth. It is a well-organised handbook that will help you restructure your life and organise it in a way that makes it easier to approach your problems with more clarity and with more useful tools – from books.

We will be announcing the release date soon and hope it will change your life.

While you wait, you can download our free guide to help you get into the habit of reading. Download the Read Like A Boss guide here, and warm yourself up for the handbook by working your way to becoming an avid reader.

It’s been said a million times and I’ll still say it – not doing something is just as much of a
habit itself. Reading is a habit but so is not reading.

Hyped Books I Found Underwhelming

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

I often find my IG timeline flooded with the same books, just different accounts and different poses. Some of these books also make it onto the pages of figures who are worth learning from, and so it becomes easy to choose a book because there is so much hype about it.

There are times when I want a book that matches the mood I’m in or which can help me deal with a particular issue, and so I’ll Google and get a list of popular books that match what I’m looking for. Some of them do deliver, they really live up to the hype while others leave me wondering what the fuss really is about.

However, I do believe that it’s not because the books I find underwhelming are bad. It’s just a preference thing. Some books are powerful and amazing for some people while they suck for others. Just like everything else in this world- music, food, art, people, etc.

So, here’s a list of books I went running to buy because I was told they were mind-blowing but didn’t work for me.

Adultery by Paulo Coelho

I read this back when I used to commit to a book. If I started a book, I had to finish it. And so I tortured myself through Adultery, constantly saying, “Please tell me it gets better. Please tell me it gets better,” until I reached the last page. Before this I’d read The Devil and Miss Prym, The Alchemist, Veronika Decides to Die, Brida, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, The Winner Stands Alone and Manuscript Found in Accra. I loved all of them, some more than others, but Adultery became my last.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

When I read the reviews I saw, “thrilling, intelligent, pleasant, chilling…” but I didn’t experience any of those. It was okay but it didn’t keep me at the edge of my seat. When I got to the end I really wondered if that was it. That’s it? That’s the story? It clearly wasn’t for me.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

I read this in Jan or Feb this year and wrote a review. I believe if I had read this four or five years ago, I’d have fallen in love with it, revisited it even. I think once you’ve read a whole lot of business, self-help or entrepreneurship books, some being absolutely powerful and life-changing, when you read one that sounds like a repetition of what you’ve already learned, you can become easily bored. That’s what happened with The $100 Startup, so I’d still recommend it as a good book but just not for me.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

I didn’t enjoy it because I didn’t fully understand it. I only got to appreciate the book when I read The Art of War for Women by Chin-ning Chu, which I found absolutely impressive and useful. The original text by Sun Tzu is on the list of books that changed history but whose history, I ask. Wealthy people, dictators and the whole cluster of people in positions of power swear by it but I honestly didn’t get it.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

This is a good book and a necessary book. I say this because I appreciate the message she’s sharing. We need to hear more female voices promoting women empowerment and I appreciate the way she raises a voice for women and their space in the workplace and home. I reviewed it and I took only the great bits and gave it a positive review. The only thing for me was that the book was not exciting. It talks about crucial issues but it wasn’t stimulating. There’s a way to make even the most serious matters sound exciting, and this one just didn’t do it for me.

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

This book has a few parts that are funny and pleasant to read. It’s also a good story overall, all the right and basic elements of good storytelling are in there. But it didn’t have that punch, it didn’t knock my socks off. I read it but once I closed it, I quickly forgot about it.

What Colour is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles

I couldn’t!

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley

I don’t think I’m the target audience.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

There are many gems in the book and you will leave with something that will help make some change in the way you see things. I bought it because of the title, it’s a really cool title. Somewhere in the middle, I lost interest and my enthusiasm dropped significantly until I couldn’t force anymore and had to put it down. I did, however, pick it up again and finished it even though it still wasn’t as amazing as it had first started.

The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma

I’m a fan of Robin Sharma’s work and there’s always so much to learn. The way I feel about his work is the way I feel about Paulo Coelho’s work, inspiring and motivating, but repetitive. If you read more than three of his books then you will notice how a lot of times you pick up the same or similar lines, or the same lesson. Maybe it’s intentional but it can be exhausting. Another reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much is that I think the advice is great but it doesn’t fit into my personal life, I can’t follow it, there’s not much room for it. I did try to personalise the advice so that it can work for my schedule and my home and work life, but it didn’t happen.

What are some of the hyped books you found underwhelming?

My Reading Journey (Part 2) – How My Reading Evolved

From Catherine Cookson to Napoleon Hill.

I previously shared how I got into reading in Part 1 and mentioned some of the titles I started out with when I was a young reader. Here, I continue with my reading journey and show you how my book preferences and reading habits have changed over time.

When I was young I loved fiction and my selection of what to read was just random. My taste was dictated by what was available and so I enjoyed books by authors like Catherine Cookson, Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, Eric van Lustbader, Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, and Jonathan Kellerman, because they dominated our bookshelf.

There wasn’t much African fiction, they weren’t as available in libraries either. In addition to the two I previously mentioned, Marabi Dance and Kaffir Boy, I only remember Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. The stories I fed on were therefore, predominantly American and British. The few books in my mother tongue, Setswana, were only accessible in the classroom.

Setswana books

When I reached high school I was introduced to Bessie Head’s Maru and George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the only prescribed reading material for English. I instantly fell in love with Head and to date, I’ve probably read Maru more than ten times.

Except for nursery rhymes (it is poetry), I only entered the world of poetry in high school. Mending Wall by Robert Frost and Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas, were our staples. I hated poetry and I didn’t do well in it either.

I had my school reading and books at home but my curiosity about the world added other kinds of reading. I used to visit our public libraries to read the most random books and on the most random topics, such as studies on Haemophilia, the male reproductive system (don’t ask), social psychology and about scientists like Isaac Newton, Dmitri Mendeleev, John Dalton and Galileo Galilei. There was no research or school projects on these type of books and topics, but pure curiosity.

It was when I got to university that the world of books expanded for me. The UCT Library became my haven. By the third year, just before I dropped out, I was at the library instead of lectures. That was where I discovered a cornucopia of reading pleasures and in that, I finally found African books. I found Es’kia Mphahlele, Nadine Gordimer, Dambudzo Marechera, Chinua Achebe and Buchi Emecheta. I fell in love with African stories, finally. Why had I been deprived of these beautiful and rich literary texts before?  

I already wanted to be a writer and had already dropped out of Accounting even though I was still showing up on campus, mainly for the library and the beer at the UCT Club. After dropping out and while sleeping on a friend’s couch, I met her roommate, a shitty English major student who ridiculed my lack of knowledge on English classics, which he referred to as “true and pure literature.” Fuck him! But as much as I hated the insecurity he planted in my head and wanted to dismiss it, I desperately went on a search for these books that I’d fail at becoming a writer if I didn’t read. The first were Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, followed by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and then George Eliot’s Simon Marner.

I enjoyed them very much but the actual author who took my spark for writing and turned it into an intense flame, filling my head with passion and possibility was Fyodor Dostoevsky. When I first read Notes from Underground I knew I had found my path. Writing, books, and words were what I wanted to consume and produce, for the rest of my life. Then I read Crime and Punishment and the literary world became home.

While chasing my dream of becoming a fiction writer I also discovered poetry that would create a deep love for the genre. I read Miss Maya Angelou and I was hooked. She had me with Phenomenal Woman, I was sold. Then I read Tupac’s The Rose that Grew from Concrete and Langston Hughes’s poems. I fell in so deep that I tried my hand at it and published my own collection, Poetically Ghetto. Another topic for another day.

I was still reading strictly fiction and poetry until in my early twenties when I met my now husband, who only read non-fiction. We influenced each other’s preferences and shortly after we met he was reading David Baldacci and I was collecting a lot of books by the likes of Stephen Covey, Robert Kiyosaki, Robin Sharma, Robert Greene and Napoleon Hill.

And so began a vigorous journey into extensive reading, and intensive self-education.

“A teacher can kindle your mind and let you memorize information, but true education is often self-education.”
― Debasish Mridha

My Reading Journey (Part 1) – How I Got Into Reading.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

I get asked a lot about how I got into the habit of reading. When did I start? Which books got me hooked?

I don’t really have a definite time or book title. All I know is that I found myself in an environment of books at a very young age and have always loved them. I grew up in a house of readers. Books had always been there and it was just a normal thing to grab a book and read. I can’t even remember if I was read to as a child but I do remember grabbing random titles off the shelf and spending hours glued to the pages.

I’d say out of everyone at home, my aunt was my biggest bookfluence. She was always reading and she was the one who collected and filled up our shelves. She worked in libraries a lot, in work that involved information and today she still refuses to retire from her library specialist job.

Although I used to read whatever I wanted without any strict rules, she would always bring almost age appropriate books. I say ‘almost’ because the books were for young readers but they were usually a few years ahead of me but not adult reading. For example, I read Sweet Valley High when I was around eight or nine.

Image: Goodreads

I remember how in primary school I’d spend a lot of days during lunch and afterschool at the library. I still remember how insanely obsessed I was with the series AlphaPets. I have a feeling if I saw them on a shelf today I would definitely buy the complete set. Yes, that obsessed.

Even though there weren’t strict rules on what I could and couldn’t read, there were definitely books I knew I’d get into trouble for reading. I used to hide a copy of Mills & Boon and climb up a tree for privacy or sit in the outside toilet pretending to have a long constipated visit.

We also had a collection of the incredible Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. I managed to salvage a few of them. Yay! They were such easy and convenient reads – a collection of abridged best-selling novels. Yes, please.

My Papa was also a great bookfluence in my life. I used to read his collection of books which were mostly on things he was into, such as meditation, personal development, spiritual wellbeing, and martial arts. In my teenage years, he used to buy me a lot of self-help books which I dreaded reading because I didn’t really understand much of them. He bought me a copy of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking when I was in my early teenage years.

Image: Goodreads

I also grew up watching my grandparents have their early morning cup of tea reading something. My grandma would read the paper from start to finish, every single article. My grandpa would also do a thorough read of the daily paper but he also had his own favourite genre. If he wasn’t busy working I’d find him with either a biography or a book on politics. Although his choice never interested me, it was the action of reading that I watched from a young age that contributed to my love of reading.

On the days that I’d visit my mom, I’d “borrow” some of her books. It was at her house where I met Jackie Collins and Danielle Steele. I’d read a bit of Steele and some I wouldn’t enjoy so much but Collins, man! I think my first of her books was The World is Full of Divorced Women but my absolute favourites were from the Santangelo series. I also remember how for the thrill of mischief I stole my mom’s husband’s copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and ended up falling in love with it. I did return it. I’m a reader, not an animal.

Image: Goodreads

Then my favourites – comic books. For as long as I can remember, we always had a lot of those at home. I did enjoy Marvel and DC but I was addicted to Richie Rich, Asterix & Obelix, Archie, Scooby-Doo and many others. I was too young to even have any awareness of some of these comic books’ blatant racist shit. And do you remember MAD the humour magazine? I absolutely loved it. I didn’t even get most of the content but it made me laugh.

I don’t remember which particular book from my early reading got me hooked to reading and birthed my deep love for writing but I know the top ones – Marabi Dance by Modikwe Dikobe (I desperately want a copy), Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.

Coming from an area where most households placed emphasis on reading as a classroom activity (a reading culture doesn’t always fare well in poor areas) and leisure books being so removed from their worlds, I am super grateful to have been brought up surrounded by books and people who were my reading models. They widened my view of the world and helped me become the person I am.

As it was done for me, I do the same for my children.

The Antidote to Ignorance

Use for at least 30 minutes a day and you’ll feel the ignorance slowly fade away.

Apart from people whose economic conditions prevent them from accessing the world of books, everyone else who has books available to them but chooses not to read, is choosing to live in the imprisonment of ignorance.

A lot of people think that full education, knowledge about the world and its affairs, are all learnt in school. School is excellent, it’s necessary for a lot of people but it doesn’t cover even half of what you’ll learn about life, the world, people and most importantly, about yourself.

When I was in varsity someone asked me why we were studying in the first place and I told him it was to get a degree so that we could get good jobs.

“No. School teaches us how to learn. When you leave this place, with your piece of paper you will see what a small fraction your degree plays once you get into the real world. You’ll have to find ways to learn more, to grow and to advance.”

I didn’t get it at the time but years later, trying to figure out how to learn, grow and advance in my career and personal life, I got it.

Books are the extra work you will need to make it as far as you wish to go. For some, with natural social smarts, books are all they need.

We’ve been convinced that without an academic qualification the world stops spinning, that we can’t make much of ourselves and that this gorgeous oyster is only for a special few. That is just fucked up on a cosmic scale!

As if that’s not enough, we’re sold all these addictive and time-wasting TV shows and movies that are entertaining but don’t do as much for mental stimulation and offer very little to improve our lives. It doesn’t help that now you don’t have to run home to catch your favourite show but you can access it from wherever, whenever.

Then we have social media, where hours fly while we salivate over the lives of people that are mostly far from reality. Giving us a load of shitty feelings about ourselves.

Then when we finally get our asses off the screen, we’re tired and can only manage the little that we can to survive – go to work, put food on the table and have a place to sleep. If you’re okay with that kind of half-lived life then don’t ever complain about others doing and having more, and you being stuck, unable, discouraged, uninspired, trapped, lost or BORED.

Books have been the gateway to a better life for as long as they’ve existed. They’ve been the compass to knowledge treasures, secrets that opened unknown doors to successes, victories and riches.

History has demonstrated how books and libraries have not just been banned but reduced to ashes to keep people from accessing certain knowledge. Leaders would burn books to keep people ignorant and what a shame it would be if that was no longer necessary because people choose to stay ignorant.

“No, no need to burn ‘em, the fools don’t read anyway.’

It’s not a chore as some lazy people have made it out to be. Half an hour a day is no chore at all. It’s not as time-consuming as it’s also made out to be. “I’m too busy, where will I find the time to read?” If you work out what you do with every minute of your day you’ll see how you can spare way more than thirty minutes.

In books you will find many stories that mirror yours, similar adversities and with ways to overcome them. When you read you give your brain a good workout, you take all that’s written and create a visual representation, stimulating the most important thing that dies as we get older – IMAGINATION. You gain general knowledge and a deep understanding of what is happening around you as well as within you.

How many times have you seen an article about how ultra-successful people credit reading as a big part of their success?

Let’s be clear about one thing; reading does not make you successful. Rather, it’s using the knowledge you acquire from the books that will take you from one level to another.

Choose your books wisely, find out about them from people who’ve read them and read reviews. Jump into it with enthusiasm, with a mission to walk out with life changing tools. Listen, it doesn’t matter if you’re reading fiction or non-fiction, you will find your treasure if you look well enough.

Grab a book and school yourself.

10 Books I’ve Read More Than Once

“There’s nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become a part of you, in a way that words in a book you’ve read only once can’t.”
― Gail Carson Levine

These are books I loved so much I just had to start again from the beginning and read like it’s my first time. Some of them I read at a young age when I didn’t fully understand and got to enjoy them even more as I got older. Others I consult, I carry them around for a while and when in need of help, I go through specific chapters or start from the beginning and read through to the end.

10. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

This is a masterpiece. One of the greatest gems in African literature. I’ve probably read it five times or more. It is the only book by Achebe I’ve read and I recently got two others which I look forward to reading.

9. Manuscript Found in Accra and Brida by Paulo Coelho

I read it twice and that was probably the last time I read any of his work. I’ve read a few others and I started finding a lot of repetition in his work. His work is phenomenal but once you’ve read six or more of them, it’s okay to explore other authors.

8. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I don’t know how many times I’ve read it. I keep going back to it because some of the poems are so therapeutic and I can use some of them as a form of counseling.

‘do not look for healing
at the feet of those
who broke you”
― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell

I must have read this five times. It’s an excellent book, it teaches a lot and it’s so real, in that what it talks about still exists. It’s also short and very easy to read.

6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I was moved by her story and also enjoyed her style of writing. I read it three times. It was so raw, honest and not self-piteous at all. She was truly a phenomenal woman.

5. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

I have read it three times. I don’t agree with a few things in it but most of it has a way of getting me back on track and helping me find a sense of direction.

4. Maru by Bessie Head

I’ve probably read this one more than ten times. It was the prescribed reading in my eleventh and twelfth grade so I had to read and master it. I got a copy, years after high school and read it four times. Give me a copy now and I will devour it like it’s my first time.  

3. Mhudi by Sol Plaatje

I borrowed this book from my friend in 2013 and I still have it. I know, I’ve committed a crime in the bibliophile community constitution. I will return it. I just love the book because it’s so close to home – South African book and my people, Batswana, are in it. The writing, as well as the story, is exceptional. I read it twice.

2. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

1. Marabi Dance by Modikwe Dikobe

My absolute favourite. One of the books that made me fall in love with reading and start thinking of writing. I must have read six or seven times, and that was at a young age. I’d love to read it again now and see how I understand it, and how I enjoy it.

10 Books I Struggled To Finish

There are books I’ve tried reading and found so difficult that I gave up. Some are too long and the story drags, or the manipulation of time in the story is too much and I can’t keep up with where I am or where the story is taking me.

Some are just plain boring. In some books, you can tell how the author wanted to show off their wide vocab. Some are so well-written that the challenge is to have your mind sharp at all times in order to understand the language and the story, and that can be taxing and intimidating.

How many books have you started reading because they’ve been labeled, ‘The Greatest Book of All Time” or because they’re on the popular classics list? I’ve done it, and I’m sure if you read a lot you’ve probably committed that crime too. All these books were difficult for me to finish and some I promised to revisit, while some are just not for me and they belong on someone else’s shelf.

  1. Ulysses by James Joyce

It’s a highly praised novel and often called a masterpiece of Modernism. From the little bit I read, I still remember how funny and delightful it was to read. It’s also about 700 pages long and that’s where our engagement ended. I would love to try it again and maybe this time it will work out.  

2. Dubliners by James Joyce

This is a collection of fifteen short stories of which I can’t remember a single one. All I remember is how Joyce’s writing was good with bringing the reader to Dublin, through the characters, their language, their lives, and their struggles. I’m not sure if I will revisit this one.  

3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I don’t know what happened here. One minute I was enjoying it and the next I got distracted and left it somewhere or lost it, and haven’t looked for another copy ever since. This was in 2017 but I do have a slight idea of where I was – where Vronsky meets Anna or something like that. I will be reading it again and probably complete it.

4. Money: Master the Game by Anthony Robbins

This one I intentionally put it aside because I reached a point where I felt it was pointless to just read and not apply. That’s all. So, I will definitely be returning to it and to get the most out of it, I’ll also be following the steps and guidance he provides. It would be pointless to read it like a novel for the sake of putting it on my ‘read’ list.

5. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

I struggle with books that are heavy with prejudice, discrimination or ill-treatment of a certain group of people, especially when the book is non-fiction or based on a true story. I wanted to focus on the respect for and admiration of the women but I was struggling with what surrounded them and what they had to go through. Along the way, I just had to put it down. I don’t know if I’ll be ready to continue with it.

6. The Odyssey by Homer

I attempted it twice and I just couldn’t get past ten pages. However, after reading Mythos and since I’m about to read Heroes by Stephen Fry, I have a feeling I’ll be reading it soon. Now, I’m very interested.

7. Everything Shakespeare

I may be crucified for this one but I’ve never had an interest in reading Shakespeare’s work. I have tried and I have this huge collection of his works but I just can’t sit down and enjoy any of it. I will do a whole post on why I’ve never bothered to read Shakespeare. Coming soon.

8. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

I didn’t feel smart enough to understand it. That’s the honest truth. My husband is a physicist and he can read these kinds of books in a breath and understand it all but I was struggling. Eventually, I put it down but I would like to give it another shot.

9. Open City by Teju Cole

I don’t know about you but it’s a difficult book to read. I don’t know if I attempted to read it back when my English was too poor or what (second language speaker), but I just didn’t understand what it was about. I’m pretty sure I read more than twenty pages but I can’t even begin to explain what they were about. I do think I’ll read something else by him though.  

10. Hard Times by Charles Dickens

I don’t know why I didn’t finish this one because Dickens’s writing is excellent. I was probably not in the mood. I enjoyed Great Expectations and would love to read A Tale of Two Cities, and yes, because of its opening.

There are too many books in the world to love them all or enjoy them all. Some are to be devoured and treasured, and some are to pass along to those who’ll love them, while some shouldn’t have been written in the first place.

Which books were you unable to finish?

If You Really Want To Read You’ll Make The Time.

Reading in a tuk-tuk

I’m about to throw a long quote at you but it’ll make sense, you’ll see. Here it is:

“Time is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive.”

– Arnold Bennett

Well said, right? On point. How many times have you said, “I don’t have the time,” and yet sat on your bed or couch and stayed on Instagram for hours or on Netflix? It’s so easy to do a lot of nothing and when faced with doing the things that matter, easily say we don’t have time. Doing the lazy stuff or the things that aren’t of not much value is easier. When we picture things that are more likely to be of greater benefit we already attach the idea that they require a Herculean effort and the excuses tap just keeps running. It’s so easy to backup laziness with good excuses, it’s the easiest thing to do. Why do we end up having “special people” do extraordinary things while we sit and make “but” lists? It’s because it’s way easier to say “but I don’t have time” and convince ourselves we’ve made a good argument, than it is to rearrange our lives to free up time to do those extraordinary things.

While my brother and I waited for our lunch.

Someone said that I must have the luxury of reading time because I don’t have a job. Yeah, because freelance writing and editing are just as good as picking my nose and farting all day, right? Anyway, I’m going to share how I make time to read while I do my freelance writing and editing, study and raise three kids (well, four if you count their dad).

  • I read in the car

No, please do not read and drive. You might just die. I don’t drive, so whether I’m on my way to taking the kids to school, running errands or whatever, I read on the way, except on these Nairobi roads with nasty potholes. If you’re driving then you can do audio books. Some people are too embarrassed to take out a book in public because people are staring. Well, let them look. And if you do feel this way, please read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and you’ll see what a wasteful fuck it is that you’re giving.

  • I read in queues

I don’t get pissed when I find a queue. Please don’t say, “Oh but what if you’re late?” If you’re late, you’re late. If it is something important, you’re still going to have to queue. You might as well do something while you’re waiting. Read. I live in Nairobi and there are so many places I go to, like hospitals, where I will queue until I feel I’ve reached menopause, but having a book makes it bearable.

  • I read at the spa or salon

If I can’t do hands and feet at the same time then while I get a pedicure I read. I read while I’m getting my braids (I have a big head so it takes long) or while sitting under the dryer.

  • I read while I do self-care at home

I’m not a big fan of long baths but once in a while I need it, especially detox baths or ice cold water soak. While I’m in there I grab a book and read away. If only I could do it in the shower. While I soak my feet at home after a long day or sit with that homemade activated charcoal face mask, I read.

  • I read when I wake up in the morning and before bed at night

I’m learning to do less snoozing when my alarm goes off and instead of reaching for my phone for social media, I grab one book from the pile on my bedside table. Even if it’s one page it makes a difference to how I’ll start my day. It’s also the last thing I do before I crash. Sometimes I overdo it though, one chapter becomes half the book and before I know it the sun is coming out or I hear my kids’ little feet scuttle to my room to demand breakfast.

  • I read when I don’t feel like people-ing

It sounds very anti-social, I know, but I do it when people are also doing some anti-social things. How many times have you been to some gathering and people are just buried in their phones? I just pull out a book instead of trying too hard to fill in the silence they leave hanging.

  • In the loo

This one is not for me but if it works for you, please do use that opportunity to dive into a good read.

If you don’t want to be holding up a book while doing other things, you can get audiobooks. Because you don’t have to carry a book around and all that “hard work”, you can listen for as long as you want while you do other things. You can play an audiobook while cooking or doing chores. When I say reading it’s not only in a traditional sense, you can always find the best way to enjoy books without it feeling like a burden or something you can’t make time for.

Your time is precious and you should use it for the things that matter. I know, life gets hectic and by the end of the day you wonder where all the time went but if you just move things around you can make time not just for reading but also for so many things that you’ve thrown into the no-time-for basket.

Make the time, it’s in your hands.

Happy reading!

If you need help getting into reading and how to become an avid reader, you can download our free guide here.