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22 Kenyan Books You Should Read in 2022

Article by Maureen Kasuku
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Posted: January 12, 2022  

It’s that time of the year again! “New year, new me”. If you’ve set out to be a better version of yourself in 2022, reading more books should be high on your resolution list.

 One book a month is highly recommended and here are 22 Kenyan books to keep you engaged all year! 

A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Fiction)

Top on our list is a book by one of Kenya’s most revered writers- Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Published as part of the influential Heinemann African Writers Series, the book is set in the backdrop of the Mau Mau rebellion, in a small village in central Kenya a  few days before Kenya’s nominal independence from Britain.

 Ngugi wa Thiong’o employs flashbacks to transport the reader to the Emergency Period (1952-1960), during which colonialists detained and tortured civilians. The book reveals the role each villager played towards liberation and the secrets they held.

House of Rust by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber (Fiction)

Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s 2021 debut is an enchanted coming-of-age story told through the lens of the Waswahili and diasporic Yemeni Hadrami culture in Mombasa, Kenya. The book is richly descriptive and  is written with an imaginative hand and sharp eye for intricate detail. The House of Rust is a memorable novel by an exciting new voice. 

Walenisi by Katama Mkangi (Fiction)

When Dzombo is accused of forgery and public incitement, he is sentenced to death by being launched into outer space by a rocket that is supposed to kill him. Instead, he ends up in a utopian world where social justice and democracy prevail. The novel challenges us to explore and imagine new ways of navigating an unjust world the ideology of  wale ni sisi na sisi ni wale—they are us, and we are them.

A Prison NoteBook by Maina Kinyatti (Non-Fiction)

Written 26 years ago, Kenya: A Prison Notebook by Marxist revolutionary Kinyatti, this book  inspired many generations and proved to be a great resource in political education in Kenya and beyond. It chronicles Maina’s arrest and detention by the auttocractic Moi regime and powerfully captures Kenya’s political history.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o (Fiction)

Lupita Nyongo’s debut children’s book is a powerful picture book about colourism, featurism and self-esteem and learning that true beauty comes from within. In this beautiful debut picture book, the actress creates a heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

Post Rosa: Letters Against Barbarism (Non-Fiction)

Kenyan Femininst Adhiambo Kasuku makes her debut as a published author alongside 19 other writers in this collection of letter exchanges in conversation with Rosa Luxemburg, in the year of her 150th anniversary. Twenty “Luxemburgians” from across the globe engage in vivid correspondence, with reference to and reflections about Luxemburg and the times we live in, as understood through their own bodies and geopolitical locations, and informed by an epistemology of both head and heart.

Kovu Motoni by John Habwe (Fiction)

Boke becomes widowed after her husband is killed by vigilantes targeting non-natives in her village. Her daughter Eddah is raped. Her son is forcefully kidnapped and initiated into the vigilante army. Kovu Moyoni depicts the horrors faced by people in the face of politically instigated wars and is a timely read in this election year.  

Poems from East Africa edited by David Rubadiri and David Cook (Poetry)

It was edited by David Rubadiri and David Cook who introduced latter-day famous poets:  Okot p’Bitek, Jonathan Kariara, Jared Angira, Henry Barlow, Taban Lo Liyong and their flowering 1960s poetry from 50 poets and their variegated styles of lyricism. This anthology was published in 1971.

Land without Thunder (Fiction)

Land without Thunder revolves around three fishermen cousins and the haunting eventuality when their canoe capsizes and two dead cousins can’t let one survivor live in peace. Published in 1968, Grace Ogot’s debut effort is a short story collection of traditional Luo folklore set against the scenic background of Lake Victoria. Other stories include The Bamboo Hut, Tekayo, The Rain Came and The White Veil. These stories set characters in situations that summon the reader’s empathy.

Reflections on the Legacy of Pio Gama Pinto by Kenyan Organic Intellectuals (Non-Fiction)

Members of the Organic Intellectual Network selected the book Pio Gama Pinto: Kenya’s Unsung Martyr 1927-1965 by Shiraz Durrani (Vita Books, 2018) as a basis for discussion for celebrating and remembering the life of Pio Gama Pinto, Kenya first Martyr, a dedicated and selfless individual in the struggle for freedom in Kenya. Pinto has not been fully appreciated and recognized for his efforts in the fight for independence and post-independence struggles that were characterized by ideological confrontation between capitalism and socialism.

My Life in Crime by John Kiriamiti (Semi-Fiction)

John Kiriamiti’s My Life in Crime is by Kenyan standards a “best-seller”, and the most read novel yet. When it was released in 1984, Nairobians made bee lines to bookshops to get. This crime thriller, a fictionalised account of Kiriamiti’s life as a criminal, captured the imaginations of young Kenyans with memorable characters like Jack Zollo.

Havoc of Choice by Wanjiru Koinange (Fiction)

The Havoc of Choice is a story about family, politics, and journeying through a fractured country in a delicate time.  Long-held captive by her father’s shadow of corruption, Kavata has spent her life suffocated by political machinations. They say art imitates life. And this book is a reflection of what is ailing our country.

The River and the Source by Margaret Ogolla (Fiction)

The River and the Source won the late Dr Margaret Ogola the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 1995 besides bagging the prestigious Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Africa the same year. The novel that traces the lives of three generations of women is an epic story spanning cultures. Filled with laughter and tears, the tale became a school set book shortly after its publication.  

Unquiet: The The Life and Times of Makhan Singh by Zarina Patel (Non- Fiction)

Makham Singh was an Indian settler in Kenya, who became a founding father of the trade union movement in the country and a leading opponent of the colonial state. He is distinguished by his consciously multi-racialist politics and his indomitable spirit. Learn amazing things about the pre-independence workforce in Kenya through this book.

Unbowed by Wangari Maathai (Non-Fiction)

Unbowed is the moving and inspirational memoir of the first African woman, and the first environmentalist, to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai. Unbowed charts Maathai’s development from a young girl in British Kenya to a divorced mother of three fighting to save her country from a dictator and his corruption.

Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Fiction) 

A Washington Post Notable Book: When a young man is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi, his grief-stricken father and sister bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan drylands. But the murder has stirred up memories long-since buried, precipitating a series of events no one could have foreseen.

Siku Njema by Ken Walibora (Fiction)

Siku Njema is the moving story of Msanifu Kombo, a young boy  who goes in search of his enigmatic father following the death of his mother. Is a name enough to find a man who doesn’t want to be found, a man with no identity, who only goes by his pseudonym Amuj Isokum? Like the title suggests, a good day shall dawn after this journey. Siku Njema is an expertly crafted tale with flowing prose.

The Big Conservation Lie by Mordecai Ogada and John Mbaria (Non-Fiction)

Conservation is  celebrated for its contribution to preserving iconic wildlife in their natural habitats. Yet there are those who question some of its ethics, wondering where people fit into the bigger picture. With a no-holds-barred analysis Ogada and Mbaria seek to decolonize conservation in Africa.

Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya by Nanjala Nyabola (Non-Fiction)

From the upheavals of recent national elections to the success of the #MyDressMyChoice feminist movement, digital platforms have already had a dramatic impact on political life in Kenya – one of the most electronically advanced countries in Africa. While the impact of the Digital Age on Western politics has been extensively debated, there is still little appreciation of how it has been felt in developing countries such as Kenya, where Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and other online platforms are increasingly a part of everyday life.

Kenya: Looters and Grabbers by Joe Khamisi (Non-Fiction)

This book is about unbridled corruption, bribery and scandalous financial skullduggery in one of Africa’s most promising countries, Kenya. It is a narrative of money-laundering, mega scandals, and international wheeler-dealing, and describes how Mafia-like lobbyists have been devouring the country’s resources with blatant impunity over four regimes since independence in 1963. It is an important resource for historians, students, researchers, social and political scientists, non-governmental organizations, development and anti-corruption agencies.

How to write about Africa by Binyavanga Wainaina (Non-Fiction)

This trio of sharp-witted essays takes irony to a new level. In How to Write About Africa, Wainaina dissects the African cliches and preconceptions dear to western writers and readers with a ruthless precision. In the same fashion, My Clan KC undresses the layers of meaning shrouding the identity of the infamous Kenya Cowboy. And in Power of Love, we start with a bemused recollection of the advent of the celebrities-for-Africa phenomenon, heralded by the mid-eighties hit song “We Are The World”.

Vipuli vya Figo by Emmanuel Mbogo (Fiction)

Vipuli vya Figo is a dark tale of organ harvesting and trafficking. It tells the story of Dr. Matoga, the disgraced Minister of Health, who becomes a menace to the streets of fictional Daluta where homeless people, the blind, deaf, crippled, the poor, and prostitutes are being targeted for their organs. The story is engrossing and reveals how far some people would go to gain wealth and power.

 

*Image: Havoc of Choice

About the author

Maureen Kasuku

Maureen is our resident cat lady and Beyoncé stan. She writes about spas, brunch and ballet recitals but has never been to any. Moonlights as a social justice activist in her spare time. She knows things and is obnoxiously opinionated on the internet but not in real life

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