A Whisky and a Book

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In 2003, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed intern at Ayton Young and Rubicam along Mombasa Road. (They have since been discarded into the wasteland of failed companies, swallowed by the black pit of ruthless competition). Back then interns weren’t like they are these days. In today’s workplace, interns actually have opinions. They sit in during important meetings and offer their thoughts, and people actually listen to what they have to say. They are invited for Friday drink ups. They hung lanyards around their necks. They are people. Back then you fetched coffee and you kept your head bowed low and hoped that you would learn something useful. You were like a soundless warship with a broken fog horn, just gliding past the port.

Internship at an ad agency back then was particularly grueling because you were in the presence of creatives with their unpredictable moods and colourful egos. Some came to work on loud bikes. Others in loud shirts. They wore jeans around their hips and emotions on their sleeves. Dreadlocks were not uncommon. Boots were the norm. The room constantly reeked of coffee. From every corner, graphic designers played music at illegal decibels, sulking behind machines whose sizes reflected their imagined position in the food chain.

These people all seemed completely unearthed; social renegades, drinking, smoking, creating, disrupting organised thought and constantly trying to fit squares into circles. The women handling accounts held glowing cigarettes delicately between two blood-nailed fingers and uttered sentences like, “Sawa, this idea has legs but let’s bounce it off a bit more over drinks jioni.” So urbane and cool. They were aloof and worldly and they laughed out aloud. They wore high-heels and when they brushed past you, you were left engulfed a whiff of cigarettes, perfume and brevity. I was sure these girls never cried a tear in their lives. Were they even capable of orgasms, I often wondered, did they even have the time?  Even though they were feminine they somehow managed to be just as masculine as the men they drank and smoked with. I found them so goddamn intimidating.

The agency was also the first time I ever saw an office with a bar in it. A freaking bar! With booze and corkscrews and shit. After work the employees would mill around there, drinking and smoking and engaging in banter that was always peppered with wiseass remarks. Everybody seemed so witty. (Even the tea girl) They stood there with client briefs in their heads and half-finished storyboards in their hearts and they looked like they didn’t have a care in the goddamn world other than who had the next smoke.

I remember chaps like Eric Wanjai or “Doaaz” and Oscar Abuko because they didn’t make you feel like an intern. I remember the receptionist, an ageing lady with a staggering eloquence and efficiency. She had a strong voice over the phone, almost manly, but in person she was soft as peach. I remember Joe Otin, formerly of Ipsos Synovate, now founder of The Collective, an interactive ad agency. Joe was a different animal then. He was like a fuckin’ emperor. An account manager or something, he was much younger of course and yet somehow more bold and invincible. I remember Joe because he generally never said much to anyone and even less to us interns.

And he was a character. Instead of a tie he tied a chutzpah around his neck. He always wore crisp well pressed shirts and his shoes were so spit shined I could have seen my future as a copywriter in them had I been bold enough to look. He remained aloof, seeming to rise above the creative fanaticism of the agency. He spoke like the Queen’s butler, always pacing around, a cell phone stuck against his ear, shaking a client for more money, selling smoke like the rest of them, wheeling and dealing like Stu from the movie Phone Booth.

One day last year, after so many years, I saw him amble into Explorer Tavern (best whisky bar in town, if you are looking) one evening. I saw his hair first – some sort of an 80’s funk thing -and thought to myself, “I know that hair.”  So I asked the waiter to call him over and when he walked up with a blank expression, I said, “Joe, right?” He had on a bowtie and was holding some cigars and a silver lighter. The crown of his head now shone with saltiness. I asked him to join me for a drink and ordered him a whisky. “I was an intern when you were at AY&R,” I told him, “you probably wouldn’t remember, it’s a long time ago.” He couldn’t, and he wondered how I could remember all that after over a decade. “I remember you because you were removed.” He laughed and repeated that word, “removed,” like it was a strange Xhosa word. He handed me a business card and a week later I interviewed him HERE.

The other thing I remember from that short agency stint is this book that the creative director, Kilimo, handed us interns to read. (I was an intern with Kajairo, by the way, whatever happened to him?) It was an A4 size, white cover, solid spine, and weighed more than the cover models on Couture Magazine. Across the cover, the words, “ADVERTISING” ran across in silver. It was a book about the best copywriters (about 40 of them), creative minds and their skills in writing ads. It was like a secret tomb of copywriting knowledge when men and women wrote long beautiful copy. It was written well, with unraveling witticism.

I left AY&R after three months of my internship and went back to Uni, found and fell in love with print media and got sucked into that vortex.

I never went back into advertising but I never forgot that book.

Let me explain the relationship I have had with this strange book.

You know how it’s raining dogs and pimps and you are caught in the very eye of it and you are running with your head stooped low until finally you rudely run under the nearest umbrella belonging to this girl with sad brittle wrists, and she turns to you startled, her well tapered chin creasing in fright, her face betraying fear, a face made up of desert brown complexions with warm doe eyes and before she can protest you quickly say, “May I? You wouldn’t let a poor guy catch pneumonia in this rain, would you?” and she holds her purse closer to her chest and grudgingly lets you join her under the umbrella. As you hold the stem of the umbrella’s handle, your thumb brushes the base of her hand. But you don’t exchange a word as the rain patters above you and finally you see a shelter, thank her and run under it leaving her to proceed in the rain, a wide-hipped figure skipping over puddles in her flat shoes.

Then one day you realise that – strangely – you keep smelling her, that lone girl with the umbrella, and you wonder what happened to her, and whenever it rains you find yourself peering under umbrellas, searching for desert browns and brittle wrists wondering if you will ever see her again.

That’s how it was with this book. Every time I walked into a bookshop I would unconsciously look out for it, even though I didn’t know who the author was. Without an author it was like looking for sanity on social media. Whenever in the CBD, I would scan the used books on the streets hoping to see it, like looking for a familiar face in a crowd. Whenever I would find myself out of the country passing through another unfeeling airport, I would browse the massive bookshops looking for a large white advertising book with a bold spine. Looking for a lover a without a name, like looking for a missed connection in Craigslist. Every year I would lazily google “White advertising book”, or “Big advertising Book” or “Copywriters tell of their trade,” and out of desperation, “what happened to omieri …”

Nothing.

I wished I had spent more time with it back at AY&R instead of admiring the office girls in their stockings. I never did find that book, that lost lover. She was gone. Her and her brittle wrists.

***

Wet strangers with umbrellas aside, what if the angel of death sent you an email saying, “Ahoy Chocolate Man, time’s up buddy. I will knock on your door at 6:20pm on such and such a date.” What would you do?

I would endeavor to have one last amazing time with family, and friends (and maybe you too Jonah) and then call Nick Ondu and ask him to make me a ridiculous ankara bowtie because I’ve always wanted to be that brave guy who wears a bowtie. Then on the D-day, I’d kiss the fam and I’d drive to Kendu Bay, my shags, and sit, feet dangling over the edge of the disused pier by the lake, a relic of a place that smells of oil, faded steel, aged wood and nameless Tanganyika traders.

And as the sky drains of light and big-assed Luo women shuffle in the horizon, balancing yellow jerrycans of water on their heads making their way to their unlit hovels to light kerosene lamps and feed the children, and as the Muezzin calls the faithfuls to prayer from the mosque in old town Kendu-Bay (Hussein Obama was really our cousin hehe), I will check Toni Braxton’s timeline one last time (just in case she has finally sent me a tweet) then toss my phone into the lake and crack open a bottle of 18-year old Chivas Regal and pour myself two fingers of that lovely gold.

(I won’t even get into the beauty and superiority of Chivas Regal because you people will moan ati “Oh, Biko you have been paid, Oh, Biko nyef nyef…” Like where you are seated now you aren’t there to get paid eventually. Like we came to Nairobi to work for free. Besides great drinks don’t need to be touted too much. One day you will wake up and find yourself taking a bullet for Chivas and you will eat humble cork.)

bikozulu

Anyway, I will then sip my whisky thoughtfully as I wait for the angel of the night while wearing my ridiculous ankara bowtie and re-read passages of some of the best books I have enjoyed over time from my Kindle.

When the angel finally arrives and casts a deathly shadow over me and then leans over to kiss my forehead (where else), my short glass will tumble from my hands and roll across the splintered hardwood of the jetty and fall ever so delicately into the lake with a tiny and almost inaudible splash. As I slowly fall and roll on my side and feel life drip from my feet I will smile, my last sight perhaps being of that pink-footed bird – the Black-winged Stilt – as it glides over the orange sunset-surface of the lake.

[By the way, is it me or are there so many flies lately? They are everywhere; at the office, at home, in the car. Our house help said that it’s because it’s their season. Like mangoes, flies also have a season. She is Kisii, so I didn’t argue with her, she knows these seasons.]

Which brings me to a boil here.

There are people who actually don’t read books. They wake up, go to work, maybe pass by the local for one, go home and maybe play with the kids (or with themselves) and then sleep. They never touch a book! They remain completely unmoved by all the beautiful books floating out there, books written by beautiful minds. But that isn’t half as sad as people who borrow books. Or download books for free. People with jobs. Gainfully employed people. (Antalya, I’m talking to you). Adults who drink three 600-bob cocktails in a night but download or photocopy books for free. These people annoy me. They are the same people who say, “Si when you maliza with that book you borrow me?” And you want to tell them “If you bought your own books you wouldn’t say things like, ‘you borrow me’.”

People should buy their own books. Writers slave for years to write books; just do them a solid and buy it when it’s done. If you can buy a Caesar salad (and pack it in a doggy bag) surely you can buy a goddamn book for 1,200 bob. Difference is, a book will stay embedded in your soul for a long time while a great salad will not embed itself anywhere, even in your drainage. I’m not saying salads are bad. I’m only saying that you can’t eat salad and then download a book for free.

Even though I’m a kindle guy I sometimes walk into Bookstop at Yaya Center, and just stand in the midst of the shelves and smell the books. Smell knowledge. Smell great minds. Smell nights that these writers sat up under burning lights, battling plots. Walk up and down the aisles of books and you smell the insecurity that abounds writing. The smell of conflict. And passion. And failed literary dreams. The smell of books that didn’t do well, and dreams that died with it. The smell of lovely writers who remain undiscovered and discovered writers who remain overrated. You smell words. And you smell how they line up behind other words, forming long sentences that run like a belching train that carries imagination to a faraway land.

Then you go to the Used-Book section and you open a book by, say Peter Biddlecomb or Chigozie John or David Lamb’s The African (you must read that) and there you find someone, a former reader, scribbled an obscure note, a little message in a bottle, and when you buy that book, you are not only buying the author’s mind, you are inheriting a small part of the life of that obscure former reader; you are inheriting their dog eared pages, a little stain of lipstick on page 45, a dried tear on chapter 23, a slight and imagined smell of perfume on page 100…you are taking away a piece of their lives that they left in that book. And sometimes you take that to bed when it’s raining outside and you are instantly in a faraway land, in the trenches watching 17-year old Russian soldiers bring down a bayonet to your heart. How can you not read a book?

And it’s here, between these shelves of Bookstop that I finally ran into the hippy girl with brittle wrists. The girl from the rain. The book I had looked for all these years was only a stone’s throw away all this time! I asked the attendant for it and he led me to furthest end of the shelves and there we found the book, albeit with a reprinted cover. [Check it out on my Instagram: bikozulu]. She sat there looking like she knew I’d find her.

Then something extraordinary happened. Chivas Regal called and asked me for a list of my top five favourite books. Which is an impossible task. Why? Because there are books that spoke to me at different times in my life; like The Catcher in The Rye by J.D Salinger when I was in my early twenties and full of piss. Or Mario Puzo’s, Fools Die during campus days when I was full of rubbish ideals and belief in the infallibility of the world, or Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like, because you can’t be called Biko and not be curious about the mothership. Or more recently excellent books that won Pulitzers and National Book Awards, or chaps like Anthony Doerr and Marcus Zusack, Ben Okri, (I know you are waiting for me to say Chimamanda) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (there) and all these lovely books done by brilliant writers.

They picked five books off that list and on the 5th of December they are launching a campaign with Bookstop and myself where they will set up a swanky Chivas readers lounge at Yaya Center where you can buy one of my selected reads (and many more) but also share a whisky with people who love books. I will be talking about those five books on my Instagram and Facebook (bikozulu) and giving away some goodies as well. (For people who don’t drink whisky, I have packets of tea bags.)

It’s festive season and if you are employed and you can have the pleasure of taking leave, perhaps you will take one soon and you will find yourself at home one wet afternoon, lying on the couch lost in a good read, a glass of whisky an arm away, and the doorbell doesn’t ring and you have muted all the Whatsapp groups and you are gone, to France, just as the second world war is ending and the the German boy with white hair has finally found the blind French girl in a house of rubble and as the last rifles crack and the ground shakes from mines going off in the distance, you reach out and sip your whisky as you contemplate the sentence you just read; “But God is only a white cold eye, a quarter-moon poised above the smoke, blinking, blinking, as the city gradually pounded to dust…”

Just read the book: All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr. It’s better than a Caesar salad.

 

Cover Image Credit

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200 Comments
  1. Not so long ago, I invited you and other African writers to give me lines from books you read and wished you wrote. The response was amazing and I did a compilation of beautiful lines here http://www.magunga.com/sentence-i-wish-i-wrote/
    Among others, these stood out for me;

    ‘I want to kiss you in a public toilet/ and places that are not as pretty as the beach.’
    – Dirty Love, Linda Ashok

    ‘I want to do with you what spring does with cherry trees.’
    – Every Day You Play, Pablo Neruda

    ‘On went the shades, up went the ass, out went the belleza. Oscar’s erection following her like a dowser’s wand.’
    – The Brief And Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

    ‘Kenya’s official languages: English, Kiswahili and silence, but there was also memory’
    – Dust, Yvonne Owuor

    ‘You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, someone not everyone knows how to love.’
    – For Women Who Are Difficult To Love, Warsan Shire

    Anyone who needs suggestions of which books to read should read that collection.I included hyperlinks to the quoted book’s Kindle and Good Reads.

    Happy reading. I am looking forward to your five suggestions.

    1. “She sat one of the fluffy cats in my lap and stuffed the other down my shirt. She turned and left.

      ‘There,’ said the large man. ‘The kittens will make your sad go away.”
      ― David Wong, John Dies at the End

    2. “There were people who lied for gain,
      people who lied from pain, people who lied
      simply because the concept of telling the
      truth was utterly alien to them . . . and
      then there were people who lied because
      they were waiting for it to be time to tell
      the truth.”
      ― Stephen King, Needful Things

    3. These lines make you wonder what was going on in the author’s mind. Did they know they were writing beautiful words, what were they feeling? Did they go back to these lines, reread them and feel like they had just accomplished their purpose in life? Books are soul food and some lines are just like the perfect dessert.

      1. I sometimes wonder how and why did the writer coin such sentences. Sometimes I feel envy why I wasn’t the one coining such lines. But I’ll smile (sometimes I laugh out loud) and enjoy the read. Books really give one the nostalgia of that far away land, the imaginative world that you wish you could one day visit.

    4. “The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that they are not mended again.” Alan Paton, Cry, the beloved country.

    5. Wizards don’t like philosophy very much. As far as they are concerned one hand clapping makes a noise like “cl” – Terry Pratchett ( Wyrd Sisters – Disworld series)

    6. “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” -J D Salinger

    7. “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
      ― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
      “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
      ― Haruki Murakami
      “In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.”
      ― Haruki Murakami, After Dark

    1. I know…..its been long!
      And Phat, I could still borrow the Chimamanda books for the holiday 🙂 At least I borrowed them before this post.

  2. Haha Biko no sentence has ended without the mention of whisky lol.currently am reading Lisa Jacksons book, Absolute fear . I’ve read 3 of her books in a span of one month that’s how good she is..

  3. ‘I won’t even get into the beauty and superiority of Chivas Regal because you people will moan ati “Oh, Biko you have been paid, Oh, Biko nyef nyef…”
    LOL! Excellent article.

  4. Books are the best thing that came out of the whole “let’s learn to read and write.” I love reading but I’m not yet rich enough to buy my own books, I usually walk into bookshops and just admire the books and count how much I’ll need to buy them all then leave and promise to come back in a few years. Though thank God for Kindle, free pdf books and the street sellers. Free books for me till i can afford new ones. Good thing books for kids are cheap, so LO gets to read new books.
    And tis the season for flies. They mostly come out during the rainy season.

  5. This is to my generation who loves getting high more than getting knowledge. From this who would miss to love a good read? Great!

  6. This speaks to my soul. I have travelled the universe in books. I’ve loved and hated in equal measure within the worlds that books have created for me. I have met varied versions of myself in books.
    Biko, save me tea bags at Yaya Centre.

  7. I have been postponing Paul Coelho’s the Alchemist for the longest time, Like that date you keep pushing, you fear it’ll break your heart. I hope to have that date this December. Beautiful read Biko.

  8. Biko
    Atlast. And yes I too wonder what is wrong with people who do not read books.. Like at all.. Preposterous
    Ps: Can I buy that the white book from you?? Or rent it maybe?..

  9. Oh the guilt…the motha lovin’ guilt. I went through a ‘piracy’ phase & the books I read then were garbage; like shallow, obscene (Google twincest). Buying a book makes you a discerning reader & a better person. That said, I’m scared if I put my credit card details on amazon to buy books, some evil hacker will rob me of my millions.

    1. HD the same fear too until I got myself one of these master cards they give you at DTB or the Nkumatt Global card that you top up just enough to py for your online purchases until your next shopping spree on Amazon or Jumia!

  10. Books. Best discovery way before sex. Am having a Peter Robinson book hangover right now. Finished it three days ago but the ending is still twirling in my mind. Am still trying to figure out why? Maybe the ending was still some unfinished business. I like it though. I encourage my pals, who don’t read, to try it. A book takes you where no series or movie can take you. What with taking a breathe with the character, smelling that coffee thats being sipped…aaah I could go on and on. Books over salads I say!

  11. Tea!
    Also, I love this line –
    ‘Instead of a tie, he tied chutzpah around his neck.’
    (are you going to say you also like Akello? No? Ok…)
    (also I would really like a notice of death. I would like to know. Just to know. To do important stuff and be like listen, I don’t have time for the haters, I am dying next week. That’s what I would tell my landlady. Because working in Nairobi is not for free. Lol.)

  12. I missed your writing. Also you’ve been paid, I’m just playing! I’m all about this reading revolution. And I’m that chic who buys too many books and salads.

    Today’s article was amazing!

  13. This post has so many beautiful ideas. FYI some companies still treat their interns like shit/nobody(i did my internship in 2013).My brain died a little the day I stopped reading. It became extremely hard to be creative or write. Now I am back at it again buying two books a month.
    I never ever lend my books out partly because I never get them back or they come back in such a sorry state!
    http://www.treatsonabudget.co.ke/news-cafe-kilimani/

  14. Biko is back, happy dance in the office.
    I love reading but between clothes and books, I preferred clothes. Now I am ably employed, am changing my priorities to books. I wanna get lost in them, travel the world and find new meaning.
    Lovely read Jackson, save me the tea bags 🙂

  15. Please borrow me that book….
    I also wonder at how much space is in between the ears of people who do not read. Books set me free, comforted, taught, punished, corrupted and healed me.

    One day books will sing s dirge for me.

  16. I don’t know this book “Advertising.” But I know a book that fits that description, it’s called the “Art of Copywriting” and you will never find it in Kenyan bookshops. Because 1. It’s extremely highly sought after and 2. The last time I checked it on Amazon it cost 999 dollars.

  17. Read people read. There are so many Inama bookshops in town and books go for only 100sh. I feel good when I see someone with a book reading.

  18. I agree Biko to read is to live.There is nothing in this world lethal as a street smart who reads and has a Law degree…. Thats me!!

    Currently reading; Fateful Triangle by Naom Chomsky (The most intelligent man in the world)

    1. Naom Chomsky the most intelligent man in the world? Naah.
      Where do you place Terrence Tao, Christopher Hirata, Chris Langan, Judit Polgar and their ilk? Maybe ‘the world’s top intellectual would do’, not the most the most intelligent. There’s a line.

  19. Great read Biko!… I love your writing.. Brittle wrists..hope mine aren’t.Had to look at them to confirm that. I can’t do without a book . reading The boy next door

  20. So, my question is… When are you publishing your book?
    I didnt like reading, till i fell in love with Chimamanda Ngozie <3 Americanah <3. If you have Any recommandation in her style of writing, please let me Know, i Will run to but it! 🙂

    1. I thought it was just me – Chimamanda Ngozie is my girl. Pick her other titles – Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, We should all be Feminists (looking for this!)

      1
        1. Christie Watson’s Tiny sunbirds far away is quite good as well.Shes white but writes an African story so well.I absolutely loved Americana.

  21. The read is as fine as Nick Ondu Suits paired with a bowtie….Sadly, am a victim of buying the books and leaving them half read.

  22. I NEVER lend my books to anyone for any reason ever, because Kenyans don’t return books. They lend them to nani and hope somehow nani will find a way to bring it back to you.

  23. ‘(I know you are waiting for me to say Chimamanda) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (there)’ – This did it for me! And Joe Otin ( I was on the Client side then, and met Joe often, and Kilimo. Great read, though I almost got lost in the process – what is the central them again? Oh Books, yes. I read but not as much as I would l love to. Books grow you, they make you a deeper better person.

  24. Great read Biko. Indeed, writers burn the midnight oil simply to let us into their souls, because writing is an art of communing with one’s spirit and letting the world in on that…but wait until you are done writing and you take your work to a publisher only for it to be rejected. For those of us who are obsessed with the written word, we know what it means to lie on a couch, a good book in hand,and whiskey and arm away or to walk into a bookshop simply to inhale that graceful scent of books….Which brings me to favourite lines. I have a thing for classic writers because, lets face it, the written word never ages and it takes you to places and centuries you could never set foot…Anton Chekhov’s ‘The bet’ {1889} says it all
    “…in your books I have drunk fragrant wine, I have sung songs, I have hunted stags and wild boars in the forests, have loved women … Beauties as ethereal as clouds, created by the magic of your poets and geniuses, have visited me at night, and have whispered in my ears wonderful tales that have set my brain in a whirl. In your books I have climbed to the peaks of Elburz and Mont Blanc, and from there I have seen the sun rise and have watched it at evening flood the sky, the ocean, and the mountain-tops with gold and crimson. I have watched from there the lightning flashing over my head and cleaving the storm-clouds. I have seen green forests, fields, rivers, lakes, towns. I have heard the singing of the sirens, and the strains of the shepherds’ pipes; I have touched the wings of comely devils who flew down to converse with me of God … In your books I have flung myself into the bottomless pit, performed miracles, slain, burned towns, preached new religions, conquered whole kingdoms …”

  25. The first time I went to bookstop I was sold!In the box and threw away the key.It is like book lover’s heaven! Any book you want you get, the rows n rows of books, the smell of the books! Since I found this place, ceaser salads and shoe addiction out the window, fogerrit, books it is. By the way have you read Kite runner by khaled hosseini, teaches you alot and takes you on an emotional roller coaster, my best read 2015

    1. Loved “Kite runner”. “A thousand splendid suns” as well as “And the mountains echoed” from the same author are very good as
      well.

  26. I just googled “The Catcher in The Rye by J.D Salinger free download pdf”. I’m ashamed of myself. But when you write a book I will buy it even if it will cost 5K. And then you’ve reminded me of a chap who borrowed my book (a 2 in 1) and lost it!

  27. I prefer real books, with the smell of knowledge as opposed to kindle. the smell of books awakens my mind. but then again, maybe it’s coz I can’t afford a kindle. hehe.

  28. ‘why didn’t you tell me there was danger?why didn’t you warn me?Ladies know what to guard against,because they read novels that tell them of these tricks’
    Tess of the urbervilles

  29. “..constantly trying to fit squares into circles.” A good read this is with a fresh expressive outlook. Kudos Biko. I’ld have liked to join the book party but I’m a broke ass.

  30. Awesome.
    ….like looking for sanity on social media, hahaha. And did I just hear someone whisper in the office that “That Biko guy has bewitched her”!

  31. “Let me tell you a truth of men and sons of men, ones necessary expenses shall increase with the size of their incomes” The richest man in Babylon

    1. What genre?Nuruddin Farah from Somali has entertaining readss tho dramatic. Mariama Ba,Senegal and not forgetting many Kenyan writers.I like Meja Mwangi and Kwani series by Binyavanga.Walk into a book store and I promise you,you’ll leave with a book you like

  32. ‘There are people who actually don’t read books. They wake up, go to work, maybe pass by the local for one, go home and maybe play with the kids (or with themselves)…’

    ‘or play with themselves’.

    What did you just do there, Biko Zulu?

  33. W.A.D

    The only thing I dislike more than abbreviations is to open these Biko posts I’ve come to live for and see that it is by some other writer. I will not read them simply because i have become accustomed to Biko’s writing style, and also because I do not deal very well with change. I follow Biko because I like Biko, maybe one day I will like you too… Until then, let’s talk about W.A.D

    I do not do quotes either. The one on expectations by Shakespeare is an exception. On this day however I failed myself miserably by having expectations Biko. I expected a piece in honor of the World AIDS day, the ones we have loved and lost to this disease, and those infected and affected by it.

    If you have tembelead Kituo, you have experienced the longest, most painful 15 minutes of your life. Your entire sex life flashes right before you. It suddenly occurs to you how thin the guy you’ve been sleeping with actually is, or how that cough that one of your many shag buddies has been nursing was a little suspect. Self consciously, you examine your arms for sores only visible to your eyes. Your eyes tightening in an eerie way that signals disease in your weak wary mind.

    Then comes the attendant, who avoids your eye as he ushers you into the private room. “Do you understand how to interpret the results?” Yes, you answer without thinking, two lines is a positive, one line means a negative, or is it the other way round! Why do they ask these questions?? Why can’t someone just tell me how to interpret the results!! So you get your results. Enter the long conversation, if you’re negative how to stay negative- if you’re positive, how to live positively!

    Happy W.A.D people

  34. I wish people who always complain I read too much would read this.I read books that I buy and borrow only from the library. Awesome read as always.

  35. I sometimes wonder how and why did the writer coin such sentences. Sometimes I feel envy why I wasn’t the one coining such lines. But I’ll smile (sometimes I laugh out loud) and enjoy the read. Books really give one the nostalgia of that far away land, the imaginative world that you wish you could one day visit.

  36. Biko. Whoever does not read books hasn’t realized life yet. You are an Adept in writing omera. This article is a boon. Tell us those five books, I’ll fish all of them

  37. so many lines phrases how you keep the class waiting for more…. omera you are blessed kudos
    “There are people who actually don’t read books. They wake up, go to work, maybe pass by the local for one, go home and maybe play with the kids (or with themselves) and then sleep. They never touch a book! They remain completely unmoved by all the beautiful books floating out there, books written by beautiful minds.”

  38. Opening lines of Their Eyes were watching God get me every time. The smell of paper and turning pages is communion, I need to buy my December random books on that note

  39. how can anybody survive without books,without reading…….I will borrow and buy second hand till I can afford brand new ones I nearly cried when you condemned borrowing but was a bit appeased when you said if you are ably employed…….. mmmmhhhh

  40. Bookstop at Yaya is awesome… Reading takes you away to Switzerland through Paulo Coelho or walk on the streets of Rwanda.. it is an adventure.. it’s perfect… And it lowers blood pressure.. I promise… Orgasmic..

  41. The bit about how you’d like to die,the exact moment and the ones just before the kiss on your forehead by the angel of death tells that you enjoy solitude. You wouldn’t wanna die next to the missus though! No? Yes?

    After watching some movie by Denzel Washington at the beginning of this year – i forget the name – where he (Denzel) had aimed to read 100 books,i took up the challenge to do so within this year. Now i haven’t reached a hundred and the year is fast spent and i didn’t do as well as i’d have loved to (atleast half that number if all didn’t go well) but i pushed to read more than i normally read and i’m quite the reader.

    Please keep encouraging people to read and not just novels but books that will build and sharpen their business acumen or teach them something new about their field or area of expertise.

    Why is the book thingy on Sato?! *insert cries* i won’t be able to make it

  42. So, Biko… A great read, but riddle me this. When did you get so wide-hipped, and why were you skipping across puddles in her flat shoes?

  43. So now I have to go get all those books …but si you took the longest route to drive the point home..AY&R and Joe Otin, brittle wrists in the rain and even death…yawa Biko. Great Read, as always.

  44. hehehe, I have to agree that books smell good. and that list of the mementos found in old books is too short, I know I have seen more. all in all this should be circulated in places of worship!

  45. This Biko guy! You gotta like his style. Reading this piece is like riding a roller coaster while blind folded – no clue where it’s headed! Loved loved every bit of it!

  46. My problem with people who borrow books is that they tend to judge me harshly when I refuse to lend it to them. They find it petty. It’s simple, I’m highly attached to my books. I like to see my collection, I like to keep one, so much so that even if I read a soft copy version (which I’m really not a fan of)eventually I’ll buy the hard copy. I’m just very attached to my books..
    Also, I’m surprised the book thief is not on your list here..

  47. “Odenigbo has done what all men do and has inserted his penis in the first hole he could find when you were away. Does that mean somebody died?” (226).- Aunt Ifeka- Half of a Yellow Sun

    Chimamada Adichie Ngozi.

  48. Fools Die! Campus! That was me, Biko – ‘When I told the woman that my name was Merlin, she gave me a cool, friendly stare, without guilt or grief. I recognized a woman who had complete control of her life, not from bitchiness or self indulgence, but out of intelligence. I realized why Jordan had never said a harsh word against her – she was a very special woman, the kind that a lot of men love. But I didn’t want to know her. I was too much on Jordan’s side, even though I had always sensed his coldness, his rejection of us all, beneath his courtesy, and seeming friendliness.’
    13 years and I still remember that line – memorable.

  49. Fools die mario puzo …I read that book when I was a teenager not sure what it was about.I was
    young
    but I loved reading even then.It used to belong
    to my Dad not sure He ever read the book.
    Currently am reading
    Adulterly by paulo coehlo. Biko I download books because I live in Nakuru and it is hard to get
    these books. When I visit Nairobi I buy all
    these books somewhere in Tom Mboya street ,old
    books for 300 above.Great read

  50. Great read Chocolate man!(As always)Used to be an avid reader of books until,errrm…life happened!
    Thanks for this piece though the spirit is back!

  51. Books occupy a place in the landscape of the human psyche that film can only pretend to and never even approach. For instance, how would you even begin to represent this haunting scene on film? “Then Emenike coughed. As if in answer, an owl hard by gave vent to a long, eerie hoot. The sound died in a hair-raising diminuendo. The medicine man bowed his head. Nandi exchanged glances with other members of the family. Clearly all was not well.” [Elechi Amadi ‘The Concubine’]

  52. “You were like a soundless warship with a broken fog horn, just gliding past the port.” A ship without a sail, yet sailing. Nonetheless it shall dock, and that shall be her home. That’s your story Biko, you are home. Splendid read.

  53. hey gang don’t be mean sharing/giving your books. If am to borrow from the writer of the book black swan…read books are far less valuable than unread ones….let not your books be ego-boosting appendages or self-enhancement device….give/share books n get unread books either by exchanging/free downloads or buy(book n co)

  54. hey gang don’t be mean sharing/giving your books. If am to borrow from the writer of the book black swan…read books are far less valuable than unread ones….let not your books be ego-boosting appendages or self-enhancement device….give/share books n get unread books either by exchanging/free downloads or buy(biko n co)

  55. I cleared my backlog of haven’t reads from your crew and saved this for the last and it was worth it coz I swear I caught a tear!! Chocolate man, why do you do this? This article, I will pin it somewhere (bookmark it) along with other articles on books – Get a girl a book – and all. In the meantime, do you know the streets ooze with books even as cheap as Ksh100 on a lucky day? I swear I get mad at those who don’t read too!! Wait and BookStore or Hidden Treasures (either) also did a promo of buy 3 books for Ksh1000, so what really is wrong with some people though??
    ION, I got to pass by Bookstop Yaya Center soon too and smell all that.

  56. You nailed it there, my Brother. Nothing like a good book. Now you’ve made me want to yank all by books from the shelf and re-read them all at once! Inspiring post.

  57. Perfect read. i love any read that is about reading!!! #MarryAGirlThatReads currently reading Lean in (well i know am late to the party but…)

  58. ” smell the books. Smell knowledge. Smell great minds. Smell nights that these writers sat up under burning lights, battling plots. Walk up and down the aisles of books and you smell the insecurity that abounds writing. The smell of conflict. And passion. And failed literary dreams. The smell of books that didn’t do well, and dreams that died with it. The smell of lovely writers who remain undiscovered and discovered writers who remain overrated. You smell words. And you smell how they line up behind other words”
    The description is just A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!! Softcopy is just dull.

  59. Chimamanda’s Americanah I was besotted, bewitched, under a spell etc, I couldn’t put that book down till I finished it. Her books are a work of genius.

  60. Nice piece from a felliw book and whisky lover. Though the 18-year old single malt type from Scotland or Japan. Very good books on tour list. But David Lamb’s? There are better African political science, travel, history books that are not as prejudiced and think the US as the standard.

  61. Biko has his way with words. You read, read again, then read again this time wondering how one person is so good. (My bet is on the forehead.) You hold on to his every word all through to the end. Beautiful piece.

  62. I am in Kakuma and it’s raining dogs and pimps outside. Your blog gives me a sense of being home away from home. I love reading but I do classics mostly, Shakespeare, Homer, and Sophocles.
    Thank you for coming back…

  63. It’s like I’ve found my kind. I’m a book ogre. I read everywhere; at restaurants,parks, vehicles, even in noisy places because words are powerful like that. I only stop when my eyes refuse and yes,I laugh and make faces with my book like some crazy transient.
    “Oh he was so wonderfully arrogant. He’d say anything outrageous if it upset our father, Robert Biddleford Smythe III. He fit his portentous name perfectly. He was very proper,very Episcopalian insurance executive;a man who always wore worsted three-piece suits, believed in the virtues of thrift,and abhorred flamboyance or mischief-making of any kind. Our mother,Ida,was cut from the same stern material: the daughter of a Boston Presbyterian minister, ruthlessly practical,a triumph of domestic efficiency. They were a formidable team, our parents….. They always seemed old to us. Old and forbidding. The antithesis of fun.”
    Douglas Kennedy, The Pursuit of Happiness.

  64. Always refreshing to read BikoZulu. His writing proves to me that he is an ardent reader, because there is no way you can make a good writer if you are a not a reader.

  65. Back in high school i used to read books like i was crazy. I had a library card and I believe i read half of the books in that Library (It was not the biggest one though). I remember i read a 600 page book in my KCSE exam week because if i did not finish it the owner will be gone. I don’t know what happened, I have not read a book in the last 7 years (except Think and Grow Rich~ Napoleon Hill). I need to find my old self again, I need to read books.

  66. Really Biko….these has made me think too hard.”There are people who actually don’t read books. They wake up, go to work, maybe pass by the local for one, go home and maybe play with the kids (or with themselves) and then sleep. They never touch a book!”

  67. I read books. A lot. Question. How do you folks remember lines from the books you read? You cram them? I just enjoy the creativity and context then let it fly. I’m alone?

  68. Flanking the entrance of the Tuskys supermarket opposite National Archives (on either aide of the entrance) are two second hand book stands. Books here cost between Ksh 50 to 100. I tell You thèse two stands are a treasure trove. A few paces away as You walk towards Odeon, is a fast Food joint. I’m always amazed each time i stand to watch people amble past the book stands paying them no mind, only to hurriedly venture into the fast Food joint. With time, i have concluded it is not scarcity of books, or how Much they cost, but a peculiarity of behaviour.

  69. Before life happened, i used to go bonkers over books;not anymore. I am not a patient reader and if i got an interesting piece i found it hard to pause and read another chapter at a later time. Back then i would probably race forty hours non-stop to get the story finished; where would i get such a time today? I still recall the days but any craving for a reading has been replaced with poring through very old booklets of readers digest. Occasionally though, i will stop to try my luck at getting a play/book by the name Oliver Twist that i read when i was too young to fully digest the contents

  70. while the Biko gang was reading, Biko was
    becoming a top40under40..for his forehead
    please grab your copy of the Business Daily
    today…

  71. Good read as always. On the hand, Biko, what happened? You’d stated that a readers lounge was to be set up at BookStop Yaya today (5/12/15) went there but nothing was forthcoming!

  72. “Like a compass needle that always points
    north, a man’s accusing finger always finds
    a woman. Always.’

    “You see, some things I can teach
    you. Some you learn from books. But there
    are things that, well, you have to see and
    feel.”

    Khaled Hosseini -A Thousand Splendid Suns

  73. ‘Hard’ books anytime, the beauty and pleasure derived from licking one finger to aide in flipping to the next page. That , you cannot find with online copies.

  74. Even though I’m a kindle guy I sometimes walk into
    Bookstop at Yaya Center, and just stand in the
    midst of the shelves and smell the books. Smell
    knowledge. Smell great minds. Smell nights that
    these writers sat up under burning lights, battling
    plots. Walk up and down the aisles of books and you
    smell the insecurity that abounds writing. The smell
    of conflict. And passion. And failed literary
    dreams. The smell of books that didn’t do well, and
    dreams that died with it. The smell of lovely
    writers who remain undiscovered and discovered
    writers who remain overrated. You smell words. And
    you smell how they line up behind other words,
    forming long sentences that run like a belching
    train that carries imagination to a faraway land.

  75. i once complained to a friend, a fellow book lover about book piracy and how i hate sharing books(they never come back, just like giving a best friend money or a cousin)anyway she told me not to be judgmental just because i could afford books.some people like to read and they simply cant afford to spend 1200/- on a book.yes there are those in the streets that cost 100/- but lets face it.before you come across a bestseller it will be ages.so i shut up and just like the war on pirated movies.decided to stand aside and picked other battles.

  76. Just let me be a Luo for now.. I know Joe Otin in person (Read Cousin) his late dad was called Barrack Onyango from Alego(All great men are from Siaya Kababa and are called Barrack. This post has left me feeling exposed. While I read through the interview I wished i could stop you and Joe how he knows all those people… Books gives you exposure that our limited resources wont let us experience.

  77. Am old school in my books. Used to love Sidney Sheldon & Jackie Collins back then. What recommendations are there nowadays for similar or better literal prose please?

  78. You guy! This thing you’ve got, is a talent to beat all talent. You are unemployable, so we’re all glad about the suits that sat in a faraway southern land and cut off your miserable job eons ago, because they unwittingly gave us this blog. We and our pack animals come here to escape the desiccation of our literary desert, and we’re mighty glad you keep this well wet and cool. Happy New Year.