In a year that has been challenging, turbulent and presented us with unforeseen circumstances, we are glad that you are still here with us and still enjoying reading. As the year comes to a close and we collectively breathe out, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support and love. We are here today because of you, your love of books, and our shared love for the art of storytelling.
Despite all that this year has been, we have seen great firsts, strides and amazing accomplishments in the world of literature. It has been these worlds created by words and stories and poetry that have carried us through the year – books have brought us comfort and allowed to escape into other worlds. From Obama’s insightful ‘A Promised Land’ to Yaa Gyasi’s deeply moving ‘Transcendent Kingdom’ to Maaza Mengiste’s lyrical ‘The Shadow King’ to Akwaeke Emezi’s powerful ‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ to our very own ‘South B’s Finest’ by Makena Maganjo and ‘Nairobi Noir’ by some of Kenya’s finest authors; 2020 has carried some of the best books we have ever seen and read.
We are eternally grateful for all the artists, storytellers, poets, and everyone who crafts with words and other artforms to bring forth other worlds which expand our imaginations and dreaming, grounding us in the here and now while taking us all over the world and beyond.
We have collated a list of this year’s best reads, so here’s your 2020 best!
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.
With the threat of Mussolini’s army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid in Kidane and his wife Aster’s household. Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invade. His initial kindness to Hirut shifts into a flinty cruelty when she resists his advances, and Hirut finds herself tumbling into a new world of thefts and violations, of betrayals and overwhelming rage. Meanwhile, Mussolini’s technologically advanced army prepares for an easy victory. Hundreds of thousands of Italians—Jewish photographer Ettore among them—march on Ethiopia seeking adventure.
Thoughtful, original reflections on migration and identity from an African woman abroad.
What does it feel like to move through a world designed to limit and exclude you? What are the joys and pains of holidays for people of colour, when guidebooks are never written with them in mind? How are black lives today impacted by the othering legacy of colonial cultures and policies? What can travel tell us about our sense of self, of home, of belonging and identity? Why has the world order become hostile to human mobility, as old as humanity itself, when more people are on the move than ever? Nanjala Nyabola is constantly exploring the world, working with migrants and confronting complex realities challenging common assumptions – both hers and others’. From Nepal to Botswana, Sicily to Haiti, New York to Nairobi, her sharp, humane essays ask tough questions and offer surprising, deeply shocking and sometimes funny answers. It is time we saw the world through her eyes.
Long held captive by her father’s shadow of corruption, Kavata has spent her life suffocated by political machinations. When her husband decides to run in the next election, these shadows threaten to consume her home. Unable to bear this darkness,
Kavata plots to escape.
As her family falls apart, so too does her country. In the wake of Kenya’s post-election turmoil, Kavata and her family must find their way back to each other across a landscape of wide-spread confusion, desperation, and heartrending loss.
Koinange explores the long reaching effects of colonisation and corruption within the context of a singular household and the disparate experiences of class and clan they encapsulate.
In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival.
As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead.
It is this homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel, that culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.
In this inspiring, empowering book, Shetty draws on his time as a monk to show us how we can clear the roadblocks to our potential and power.
Combining ancient wisdom and his own rich experiences in the ashram, Think Like a Monk reveals how to overcome negative thoughts and habits, and access the calm and purpose that lie within all of us.
He transforms abstract lessons into advice and exercises we can all apply to reduce stress, improve relationships, and give the gifts we find in ourselves to the world. Shetty proves that everyone can—and should—think like a monk.
Growing up in a small Ugandan village, Kirabo is surrounded by powerful women. Her grandmother, her aunts, her friends and cousins are all desperate for her to conform, but Kirabo is inquisitive, headstrong and determined.
Up until now, she has been perfectly content with her life at the heart of this prosperous extended family, but as she enters her teenage years, she begins to feel the absence of the mother she has never known.
The First Woman follows Kirabo on her journey to becoming a young woman and finding her place in the world, as her country is transformed by the bloody dictatorship of Idi Amin.
Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.
Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction.
Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.
Nairobi Noir is an act of excavation, rediscovering the city’s ossified past and infusing life to preserve it for future generations.
It is also an act of celebration, reminding readers of the brilliance of the best-known writers to emerge from this part of the world, and heralding the birth of new writers whose gifts, we can safely predict, will shine brightly in the years ahead.
The oldest writer in this anthology is eighty-one, the youngest is only twenty-four; if there is any inference one can draw from this demographic it is that this anthology offers an entire spectrum of Kenyan writing: the past, present, and future.
If we can allow one extravagant claim, a collection of this nature is unprecedented in Kenya’s literary history.
Nairobi in the 1990s.
Their lives interweave as the find themselves living across from each other in an idyllic middle-class neighbourhood, Malaba Estate, South B.
As the decade charges on, their lives begin to show similarities in the secrets they keep and the mistakes they make. Funny. Thought-provoking. Surprising. Endearing.
This is a coming of age story about friendship in all of its varied shades and intrigues. It is the kind of story that you try to savour only to gallop through the pages – enchanted by characters, gripped by the authorʼs enticing style.
Makena Maganjo is definitely a worthy addition to the corpus of African writers, and South Bʼs Finest is a fine work of art!
By reckoning with the big challenges we face together, drawing on the hard-won wisdom and insight from her own career and the work of those who have most inspired her, Kamala Harris offers in The Truths We Hold a master class in problem-solving, in crisis management, and leadership in challenging times.
Through the arc of her own life, on into the great work of our day, she communicates a vision of shared struggle, shared purpose, and shared values. In a book rich in many home truths, not least is that a relatively small number of people work very hard to convince a great many of us that we have less in common than we actually do, but it falls to us to look past them and get on with the good work of living our common truth. When we do, our shared effort will continue to sustain us and this great nation, now and in the years to come.
In November 2014, thirteen members of the Biden family gathered for their traditional Thanksgiving celebration. But this year felt different from previous. Joe and Jill Biden’s eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour fifteen months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. ‘Promise me, Dad,’ Beau had told his father. ‘Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.’ Joe Biden gave him his word.
Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden’s extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden travelled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America and Iraq. While Beau fought for, and then lost his life, the Vice President balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family, while contemplating the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016. Even in the worst times, Biden was able to lean on the strength of his long, deep bonds with his family, on his faith, and on his deepening friendship with the man in the Oval Office, Barack Obama.
Aged twelve, penniless, speaking only Somali and having missed out on years of schooling, Ilhan rolled up her sleeves, determined to find her American dream.
Faced with the many challenges of being a Muslim refugee, she questioned stereotypes and built bridges with her classmates and in her community.
In under two decades she became a grassroots organizer, graduated from college and was elected to congress with a record-breaking turnout by the people of Minnesota—ready to keep pushing boundaries and restore moral clarity as she sees it in Washington D.C.
On the island of Pate, off the coast of Kenya, lives solitary, stubborn Ayaana and her mother, Munira. When a sailor named Muhidin, also an outsider, enters their lives, Ayaana finds something she has never had before: a father. But as Ayaana grows into adulthood, forces of nature and history begin to reshape her life and the island itself–from a taciturn visitor with a murky past to a sanctuary-seeking religious extremist, from dragonflies to a tsunami, from black-clad kidnappers to cultural emissaries from China. Ayaana ends up embarking on a dramatic ship’s journey to the Far East, where she will discover friends and enemies; be seduced by the charming but unreliable scion of a powerful Turkish business family; reclaim her devotion to the sea; and come to find her own tenuous place amid a landscape of beauty and violence and surprising joy.
Told with a glorious lyricism and an unerring sense of compassion, The Dragonfly Sea is a transcendent story of adventure, fraught choices, and of the inexorable need for shelter in a dangerous world.
This is the second book in the series History of Kenyan Cities and Towns.It looks at the people and events that have shaped the cities’and towns’ development and the broader impact they have had on Kenya’s development .
The book follows the city’s origins as a Railway camp in 1899 to 2012 when the country ushered in the devolved system of government and the Nairobi City Council was replaced by the Nairobi City County.
As the capital city and the seat of national government, the book also provides a narrative of the Kenya’s political developmet from the early days of the colony to the New Constitution of 2010. Throughout the text, a large collection og photographs brings to life the evolution of the city in its formative 110 years.
Blood and Oil is a gripping work of investigative journalism about one of the world’s most decisive and dangerous new leaders.
Hope and Scheck show how MBS’ precipitous rise coincided with the fraying of the simple bargain that had been at the head of US-Saudi relations for more than 80 years: oil, for military protection.
Caught in his net are well-known US bankers, Hollywood figures, and politicians, all eager to help the charming and crafty crown prince.
In Principles, Dalio shares what he’s learned over the course of his remarkable career. He argues that life, management, economics, and investing can all be systemized into rules and understood like machines. The book’s hundreds of practical lessons, which are built around his cornerstones of “radical truth” and “radical transparency,” include Dalio laying out the most effective ways for individuals and organizations to make decisions, approach challenges, and build strong teams. He also describes the innovative tools the firm uses to bring an idea meritocracy to life, such as creating “baseball cards” for all employees that distill their strengths and weaknesses, and employing computerized decision-making systems to make believability-weighted decisions. While the book brims with novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter what they’re seeking to achieve.
A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction.
Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.
One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens – and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis – the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.
Small book. Like Drunk. Only there is no alcoholic in there, shagging girls and falling in ditches.
Actually, there is no ditch. But there are girls. There are always girls because what’s a book without girls? You might as well write a book about ostriches, then.
In Thursdays there is one (a girl, not an ostrich) with a tattoo and one without a tattoo. I like the one with the tattoo.
In Limitless, readers will learn Jim’s revolutionary strategies and shortcuts to supercharging their brains, with simple, actionable tools to sharpen the mind, enhance focus, and fast-track their fullest potential.
Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits – whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.
The people of Japan believe that everyone has an ikigai – a reason to jump out of bed each morning. And according to the residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa – the world’s longest-living people – finding it is the key to a longer and more fulfilled life.
Inspiring and comforting, this book will give you the life-changing tools to uncover your personal ikigai.
It will show you how to leave urgency behind, find your purpose, nurture friendships and throw yourself into your passions.
The Vanishing Half is the timeless tale of the Vignes twin sisters, who – while born identical – grow up to live two very different lives.
Born in 1938 in Mallard, a small town in Louisiana, while their fair appearance may disguise their negroe heritage, they are very much part of the black community.
The girls’ own father died at the hands of white men; a heartache that has never stopped haunting the twins, and when they are forced to leave school at sixteen to supplement the family’s income, their hopes for a better future are brutally crushed – until the girls run away from home to start a new life in New Orleans.
25. Sulwe – 1,190ksh
Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.
In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
When Arsène Wenger was in the latter stages of his more than two decades’ occupation of the manager’s seat at Arsenal football club, he often resorted to a diversionary tactic when pressed too hard on a point by the media. “Perhaps one day I will write a book”, he would say, while giving a look that promised “Oh, the stories I could tell”.
Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers.
The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.
Julius Kamberage Nyerere (born 1922) was a Tanzanian statesman and political philosopher who became the first president of Tanzania.
His carefully reasoned and well-presented policies for the development of Tanzania led to a reputation as Africa’s most original thinker. This is his story.
His Excellency Benjamin Mkapa was Tanzanian’s third president, elected under the first multi-party general election in Tanzania. His memoirs range from his childhood, time as president, and his continuing post-retirement involvement on the international stage of development and peace mediation. This book will appeal to readers interested in: an African’s personal experiences of colonialism in East Africa; the struggle for independence by the liberation movements of several African countries; how war helped unify the diverse citizens of a young nation; fostering nationalism and addressing ethnic and religious differences; the economic and social aspects of transition to socialism and then to a free market environment; the political transition from a single party state to multi-partyism; and relations with international organisations and development partners
“This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.” So begins Petina Gappah’s powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa—the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone’s body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there.
Narrated by Halima, the doctor’s sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization—the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart—while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.
Restless, ambitious Ilyas was stolen from his parents by the Schutzruppe askari, the German colonial troops; after years away, he returns to his village to find his parents gone, and his sister Afiya given away.
Hamza was not stolen, but was sold; he has come of age in the schutztruppe, at the right hand of an officer whose control has ensured his protection but marked him for life.
The century is young. The Germans and the British and the French and the Belgians and whoever else have drawn their maps and signed their treaties and divided up Africa. As they seek complete dominion they are forced to extinguish revolt after revolt by the colonised. The conflict in Europe opens another arena in east Africa where a brutal war devastates the landscape. Hamza does not have words for how the war ended for him. Returning to the town of his childhood, all he wants is work, however humble, and security – and the beautiful Afiya.
As these interlinked friends and survivors come and go, live and work and fall in love, the shadow of a new war lengthens and darkens, ready to snatch them up and carry them away.
The emergence of strange new diseases is a frightening problem that seems to be getting worse. In this age of speedy travel, it threatens a worldwide pandemic. We hear news reports of Ebola, SARS, AIDS, and something called Hendra killing horses and people in Australia―but those reports miss the big truth that such phenomena are part of a single pattern. The bugs that transmit these diseases share one thing: they originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called spillover. David Quammen tracks this subject around the world. He recounts adventures in the field―netting bats in China, trapping monkeys in Bangladesh, stalking gorillas in the Congo―with the world’s leading disease scientists. In Spillover Quammen takes the reader along on this astonishing quest to learn how, where from, and why these diseases emerge, and he asks the terrifying question: What might the next big one be?
34. Gene – 1,500ksh
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies―a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?
Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.
Having escaped Northern Ireland with only his life and finally reached the United States, Declan McIver finds employment aboard a smuggler’s boat. But he is soon forced to choose between a new life and old debts when he learns his employer is branching out into a new line of work; assassination for hire.
“Ian Graham writes the kind of stories I want to read. Full on, Action packed, adrenaline fueled. Keep your eye on this author, he’s going to be a big name in thrillers before long.” – Matt Hilton (author of the Joe Hunter thriller series)
In her design book, Homebody: A Guide To Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave, Joanna Gaines walks you through how to create a home that reflects the personalities and stories of the people who live there.
This comprehensive guide will help you assess your priorities and your instincts, as well as your likes and dislikes, with practical steps for navigating and embracing your authentic design style.
Drawing on a decade of research, Noam Wasserman reveals the common pitfalls founders face and how to avoid them. He looks at whether it is a good idea to cofound with friends or relatives, how and when to split the equity within the founding team, and how to recognize when a successful founder-CEO should exit or be fired.
Wasserman explains how to anticipate, avoid, or recover from disastrous mistakes that can splinter a founding team, strip founders of control, and leave founders without a financial payoff for their hard work and innovative ideas. He highlights the need at each step to strike a careful balance between controlling the startup and attracting the best resources to grow it, and demonstrates why the easy short-term choice is often the most perilous in the long term.
International businessman Peter Holmes à Court left the executive world and found himself living deep in rural France with only his seven-year-old twin girls for company.
Peter was struggling as a single father in a foreign country – unsettled by the sudden move away from a traditional job, and completely baffled by the society around him. His only plan: to ride L’Etape du Tour, the challenging amateur leg of the Tour de France. In an effort to find some new friends in the community – and a bike for the race – he discovered the region’s small bicycle factory.
He was soon spending his days there: photographing his custom bike being built, meeting the locals, and learning about the rich traditions of artisan craftsmanship. Trying to enjoy the simple things and become a better father, Peter slowed down, and started to reflect seriously on history, industry and the structure of our modern economy. He and his daughters finally began to put down roots and understand the beauty and calm of a small-scale existence – and a very different approach to excellence and the well-lived life.
This is one man’s compelling, informative and funny story about the wisdom of children, the nature of work today, and the science of bicycles.
Our economy, Piketty observes, is not a natural fact. Markets, profits, and capital are all historical constructs that depend on choices. Piketty explores the material and ideological interactions of conflicting social groups that have given us slavery, serfdom, colonialism, communism, and hypercapitalism, shaping the lives of billions. He concludes that the great driver of human progress over the centuries has been the struggle for equality and education and not, as often argued, the assertion of property rights or the pursuit of stability. The new era of extreme inequality that has derailed that progress since the 1980s, he shows, is partly a reaction against communism, but it is also the fruit of ignorance, intellectual specialization, and our drift toward the dead-end politics of identity. Once we understand this, we can begin to envision a more balanced approach to economics and politics. Piketty argues for a new “participatory” socialism, a system founded on an ideology of equality, social property, education, and the sharing of knowledge and power. Capital and Ideology is destined to be one of the indispensable books of our time, a work that will not only help us understand the world, but that will change it.
In this incredible volume, Somali chef Hawa Hassan and food writer Julia Turshen present 75 recipes and stories gathered from bibis (or grandmothers) from eight African nations: South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Eritrea. Most notably, these eight countries are at the backbone of the spice trade, many of them exporters of things like pepper and vanilla. We meet women such as Ma Shara, who helps tourists “see the real Zanzibar” by teaching them how to make her famous Ajemi Bread with Carrots and Green Pepper; Ma Vicky, who now lives in suburban New York and makes Matoke (Stewed Plantains with Beans and Beef) to bring the flavor of Tanzania to her American home; and Ma Gehennet from Eritrea who shares her recipes for Kicha (Eritrean Flatbread) and Shiro (Ground Chickpea Stew).
Through Hawa’s writing—and her own personal story—the women, and the stories behind the recipes, come to life. With evocative photography shot on location by Khadija Farah, and food photography by Jennifer May, In Bibi’s Kitchen uses food to teach us all about families, war, loss, migration, refuge, and sanctuary.