Books I Read in 2019
A True Story
on Dec 29, 2019
Since I divorced myself from frivolous entertainment some time in 2018, all I have been doing in my leisure time is reading. I have read during the sunny days as well as during the rainy ones; at night as well as in the mornings; when happy and when bored. And thanks to that reading habit, I am gratefully glad to report that I have been growing in knowledge. I am now striving to convert that knowledge to power so that I may experience the courage, confidence, creativity and inner peace that I have always longed to possess.
For today, let me tell you about the following books that I read this year and what I gleaned from them:
- Gifted Hands by Ben Carson - I read this memoir at the beginning of the year and enjoyed it so much that I would give it a five star rating. As I read in the book of how Ben Carson did surgical operations on people with brain complications, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the good health that I am now blessed with.
- Daily Reflections For Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey - I didn't study this book on each day of the year as its author intended us to do. Instead I read the whole of it in several sittings. And I learnt from the book that the more authentic we express ourselves, the more others are able to identify with our experiences.
- The AB Guide to Music Theory: Part II by Eric Taylor - Because I have a dream of producing best-selling songs, I read this book with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of how music is written. I read the book from the first chapter to the last but to be honest, I didn't understand much of what it said.
- Confidence: How to Succeed at Being Yourself by Alan Loy McGinns - This book had a message that hit home in my mind. I learnt from it to think well of myself by replacing self-criticism with regular, positive self-talk. The book encouraged me to be a little eccentric and it reminded me that I am a unique, one of a kind person.
- The Secret of Happiness by Billy Graham - This book has a title that attracted me to it because I desire to be happy. When I finally read it, I was inspired to find comfort from the teachings of Jesus, especially his Sermon on the Mount.
- Peace With God by Billy Graham - This book also has a title that made me want to read it because having an inner peace is something I have come to value and appreciate. While going through the book, I found myself underlining sentences in it. The book deepened my faith in God and in the Bible.
- The Spirit of Leadership by Myles Munroe - This book inspired me to develop a healthy self-image as the basis of awakening the spirit of leadership in me. It encouraged me to continue leading a life of integrity and to continue growing my personal library with great books.
- My American Journey by Colin Powell - I first read this memoir ten years ago. When I re-read it this year, I found it well-written and insightful. I learnt from it to always take my work seriously, but not myself.
- The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale - I first read this book in the year 2010. And then out of necessity to be a positive thinker, I re-read it this year. While re-reading this book, I felt envious of the author's fund of knowledge; he seemed to possess an awareness of the challenges we humans face as we journey in this crazy journey called life. Reading the book helped me understand how we can apply Biblical teachings to our day-to-day challenges.
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell - This book gave me insight on how success is attained. One of the lessons I learnt from it is that practice is the key to success. So I have resolved to keep on writing and playing the piano because I desire to be a gifted writer and a best-selling musician.
- A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson - Science subjects are not everyone's cup of tea. But this book, which is packed with fascinating stories, makes Science seem interesting. Reading it helped me understand nature better. I'd recommend the book to all high school students who find Science subjects difficult to grasp.
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - This memoir was a delightful read. It is written in a series of short chapters that make it very readable. While reading the book, I loved Mandela's voice and style of writing. Mandela had the kind of writing style that I have always desired to possess.
- Prentice Hall Literature - This is a voluminous book that helps its readers appreciate literature. It is full of poems and short stories, each of which is followed by a commentary. I enjoyed some of the stories which I plan to read again in the future, God-willing.
- The Holy Bible (New International Version) - So as to deepen my faith in God, I re-read most books in the Old Testament of the Bible. And, believe it or not, I found myself enjoying the stories in the Bible. As I went through the Bible, I noted how frequently the words "do not fear" appear in it; from those words, I infer that God intends us to be of good courage.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on the books I read in 2019, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "Books I'd Love to Read Again". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Death of a Neighbour
A True Story
on Dec 26, 2019
After attending church last Sunday, my father came home with the news that one of our neighbours called Mrs. Karemeri had lost one of her sons. Upon hearing the news, I asked my father in Kikuyu, "Is it the son who runs a shop?"
"I don't know," my father replied, "but I don't think he is the one."
But alas! When my father called a family friend on the phone to inquire about the death that had struck Mrs. Karemeri's family, he was told that the son who had passed away was Harun. And Harun was the one who ran a shop on a section of his family's land adjacent to a tarmac road. He had ran that shop for as long as I had known him, ever since I was a small boy in the '90s. To borrow the words of the Desiderata, he had kept interested in his humble career as a shopkeeper, which must have turned out to be a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
I was surprised to hear last Sunday of the death of Harun because in the course of this year, I had waved at him as I passed by his shop. And in the last few days, I have found myself recalling the times I interacted with him. From those memories, I have remembered him as a friendly man who could get tough and assertive at times. Okay, let me tell you of a few interactions that I had with him.
When I was running for a political seat in the 2013 Kenya's General Elections, I went to Harun, gave him a copy of my campaign poster and requested him to glue it on his shop. He took the poster and promised to stick it somewhere in the shop at his own time. A few weeks later, I met a friend of mine who informed me that he had seen my campaign poster at Harun's shop. So it seems Harun was a man who kept his word.
Then at another time, I went to buy something from Harun's shop. While serving me, Harun started talking annoyingly about a dog. And when he noted I wasn't replying to his words, he asked me whether I was paying attention to what he was saying.
"Oh, sorry!" I apologized to him and then told him in Sheng, "I didn't know you were talking to me."
Then I quickly pieced the situation together and learnt he was complaining about our dog which had followed me to his shop without my knowledge. Not wanting to annoy Harun more, I assured him that I would keep the dog at home next time I was to visit his shop.
But the interaction I had with Harun that I recollect most fondly was on one evening earlier in this decade. That evening, I was feeling very excited as I entered Harun's shop. Perhaps because of the excitement boiling up in me that evening, I was in a talkative mood. As Harun attended to me, I began telling him how his shop was the Nakumatt of our home area. (Nakumatt was a leading supermarket here in Kenya at that time; it was renowned for having in its stores everything a customer needed.)
Harun interrupted my chatter and said to me in Sheng, "My friend, you are making fun of me and I am not enjoying it."
I must have bought a soda and a snack at Harun's shop that evening because I recall sitting down at the shop to eat something, and then suddenly realizing Harun had given me less change. As soon as I was done eating, I went to Harun and brought to his attention that he had given me less change. Harun then blurted out in Sheng, "Umekuja hapa na pang'ang'a mingi mpaka nikachanganyikiwa! (You have come here with a lot of nonsense till I got mixed up!)"
That evening was probably the first time I was hearing of the Sheng word "pang'ang'a" because it sounded so funny to my ears that it had me reeling with laughter. I have found myself saying that word aloud to myself at times just to try it on my lips.
As you can deduce for yourself, Harun was indeed a friendly man who could become tough and assertive on occasions. When I learnt of his death last Sunday, I asked a friend of mine I met in my hometown of Kiserian that same Sunday what caused Harun's death. He replied that he too didn't know and went ahead to apprise me that Harun had passed away on Tuesday last week and would be buried the following day (that is, Monday). So it turned out I had learnt of Harun's death rather late.
I didn't attend Harun's funeral but my father did. And in the pamphlet issued during the funeral which my father brought home, I noted that an eulogy of Harun was not written on it. All that was in the pamphlet were a programme of the funeral, photos of Harun, tributes from family members and lyrics of the songs sang during the funeral. So I am yet to know what led to the death of Harun that caught me by surprise. But at least I got to know from the pamphlet that Harun was born in 1969; he thus passed on at the age of 50 which I find rather too young to die.
Harun's untimely death has helped me realize how quickly the ones we love can be snatched from us by the cruel hands of death. The people we are interacting with today could be dead and gone in a few months' time. I have therefore resolved to treasure the ones I love and to appreciate each day because I never know what tomorrow may bring. So help me God.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story about the death of a neighbour, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "Thinking About Death". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.