I love books. I love music. I love writing. I love dancing. I love chocolate. I love ice cream. My doctor says I should cut down on dairy products though. Well, there goes half of my personality.

Today I’ll talk about books . I love books. I don’t know how to express the intensity of that statement. I LOVE BOOKS. So much. Too much, even. There has always been a book in my hand for as long as I could put words together to make a sentence. Oh, I have read, and read, and read. I still can’t get enough.

My friend says that the easiest way to kidnap me would be to lead me to a street full of books and cats. I can’t disagree without lying. I will address the relationship between me and cats some other day. But I love those furry, fuzzy, scratching and hissing bastards.

Love is a strong word, isn’t it? I agree. It’s something I purpose not to throw around casually. But there’s nothing else that can describe what books make me feel. That has inspired my love for writing too. The wish, the hope that some day I’ll be able to make another person feel the same way. That I’ll be able to give back to the writing community, if not as much as I have received, at least a portion of it.

Initially, my mother was happy that I had taken a liking to books. You know what they say about cultivating good habits from a young age. Well, it was okay until I’d sit on the couch for hours on end, engrossed in books and detach myself from the world. Detach, because the world of books was an escape. Now that I think about it, I started running away a long time ago, unfortunately.

She’d call me, a million and one times, loud enough to wake up the dead and end up thinking I went out, only to find me curled up on the couch like a cat, lost in the words of Sidney Sheldon and the likes. You should have seen her face. First mistake, feet, probably dirty from a marathon trip to the kitchen for a snack, on her precious couches. Second mistake, not answering when called. Unfinished assignments and house chores were just part of what she’d bring up later.

Now I must tell you that my mother is a very fierce and strict woman, in every sense of the words. Sometimes she’d give me a thorough beating. Which I deserved, in all honesty. Not that that stopped me from repeating the same mistakes over and over again, beatings notwithstanding. I guess she got tired at some point, and resorted to verbally beating me.

The primary school I went to initially did not have a library system. Did that stop me? No. I would go to class after class, including grades higher than mine, borrowing novels from anybody and everybody. My advantage was my fast reading speed and a sweet tongue. Convincing owners and stuff, you know . For every book that I found, there was a ‘line’ behind the person currently reading the book. Which basically meant that you had to wait for a number of people before getting your turn with the book.

Many tactics, beseeching and timely puppy eyes later, I’d have convinced someone who wasn’t even done reading a book to lend it to me for a couple of hours. True to my word, I would be done by the agreed time. How? Reading at every second. Whether the teacher was in class or not, whether it was break time or not, whether it was meal time or not. Sometimes I attribute my poor eating habits and less than satisfactory performance to these actions. I was caught severally and punished for reading during classes, as if that stopped me. But do I regret it? No. In the same situation I’d do exactly the same, or worse.

Fortunately, in the last few years of my primary school education, the school started a library system to encourage reading among the students and even set aside specific hours strictly for reading. I kid you not, I went through each and every book available, both languages, and was done by the time I did my certificate of primary education exams. I always look back and laugh at how crazy I was, (still am) . Well, my creative writing exams were always the best, if I say so myself.

At some point, my father availed books from his old collection. I learnt how to take care of books from him, because I could see the effort put in making sure every book was diligently preserved. The most notable one was his original copy of The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol, which happened to be the setbook he had done during his high-school days. After reading the book, I went through it with him, as we made fun of the characters, most especially the mayor, Anton Antonovich, his wife Anna, their daughter Mary, the fake inspector Ivan Ivanovich and the mischievous Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky. This has to be the most wholesome moment I have shared with my father. This also formed my earliest impression of Russia. Haha, I’ll leave politics for another day, don’t worry.

Looking back also, my father did alot, though unknowingly, to support and grow my love for reading. Every time he came home from work, which was only a few days every three months or so, he’d make sure to bring a huge stack of every newspaper issue he had obtained within the time he had been gone. I don’t think I can even explain how I used to look forward to this! It’d be the first thing I looked for when he came. Of course after greetings and helping bring the rest of the shopping into the house. I am a proper daughter after all. Well, as proper as one can be.

Then the next round of disagreements with my mother would begin. Because I’d hog and hoard all the newspapers. How dare anyone try to take away this precious reading material away from me for whatever reason? Haha, it didn’t end up well, as you can imagine. I didn’t have the courage to act willfully while my father was around. And in any case the newspapers were meant for everyone, for whatever use. Including my grandfather who loved using the black and white pages to make his usual rolls of tobacco. I’d get mad every time I found an issue I hadn’t read missing. I’d get so frustrated and even cry sometimes. It was that serious.

Possessive as I was, I didn’t hesitate to share the newspapers with my fellow students, if not for the educational value, at least for a bit of a break from the monotony of course work. Of course under the conditions that no page would be missing, or colored or dirtied. And trust me when I say I used to check all of them afterwards, page by page, newspaper by newspaper. It’s these newspapers that introduced me to columnists like Tony Mochama, Silas Nyanchwani, Beryl Wanga Itindi, Sunny Bindra, Mutahi Ngunyi(political analyst) , Mwalimu Andrew, Josh Nanjero among others. Talking of Tony Mochama, is it me or does he resemble Mr. Oyaro (AGHS)? Busherians riddle me this.

Joining high school opened up a whole new world of.. You guessed it, books and more books ! Endless books! Everywhere! Oh my goodness. Micere Githae Mugo, Tony Mochama, Koigi wa Wamwere, Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, Rebecca Nandwa, Meja Mwangi, Grace Ogot, Margaret Ogola, Francis D. Imbuga, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, Ngũgì wa Thiong’o, Maya Angelou , Stephen King, Nora Robert’s, Danielle Steel, Virginia Woolf, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Homer, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, Harper Lee,
Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, George Orwell, Leo Tolstoy, William Faulkner, Henrik Ibsen, John Steinbeck, Edgar Allan Poe. Oh, how I wish it was possible to list all of them.

So of course, read I did. And oh boy, did I read! Ask around, they’ll tell you. And I read, and read, and read, and read. I am still reading to date. This endless reading has kept me out of more trouble than it has gotten me into. It kept me occupied when I could have been in and with the wrong company. It kept me sane when everything was too much. Books have taught me alot of what I know. They have admonished me, chastised me, guided me, provoked me to think and broadened my mind. It’s a gift I will never be able to repay. That’s why I write. It’s part of my efforts to give back.

Reading has also contributed to my poor social skills too, unfortunately. When people were busy socializing and making friends, I was lost in James Patterson thrillers, trying to solve crimes with detective Alex Cross, pitying the Baudelaire orphans and villifying Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, crying in John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, catching up with the sensation that was Chasing Red, Nancy Drew, among others.

I have loved, and still love books to the extent that sometimes it physically pains me to share a good book. I am a jealous lover. Sue me. I still end up sharing though, because I want another person to experience the magic that books possess. I share my love for books with every new person I meet, because I wish for more people to be readers. Thinkers. Broad-minded people. Liberated people. It is common knowledge that most stifling of all shackles are mental shackles . Ignorance is the greatest enemy to prosperity.

To be realistic, I don’t approve of some things I did, despite everything I have said earlier. Hobbies are good, but one should be able to balance between chores, responsibilities and free time. Reading during classes is also wrong. There is a time and place for everything, I believe . It easy for all that to blur especially with the advent of e-books easily available on our mobile gadgets, but discipline is an important virtue to cultivate.

My dream is to one day own a private collection of leather bound books, a library if you may. And the only thing standing between me and that, is only time. Now because the way some of you handle books makes me feel like carrying out assault against you , let me leave you with a few tips on how to handle and care for books.

Hold the books in your clean hands, dirty hands stain the pages.

Do not fold the pages of the book for reading again, use bookmarks or paper clips.

Keep your favourite books away from children and pets to avoid torn, missing and drawn-on pages.

Do not read books while eating or drinking, because there is still the fear of food and drink stains on the books.

Also, did you know about the human library?
The Human Library is an international organization and movement that first started in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2000. It aims to address people’s prejudices by helping them to talk to those they would not normally meet. The organisation uses a library analogy of lending people rather than books. (Wikipedia)


“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin

Published by Wanja Joseph

Writing to me is like breathing. Sometimes it's voluntary and subconscious. Other times it's frantic, like gasping for breath. And sometimes, well, I forget to do it! Not for long though.

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