BOOK’D: FIFI aka KENYAN BIBLIOPHILE
Fifi aka Kenyan Bibliophile is an active bookstagrammer known for starting in-depth conversations about whatever she’s reading. She’s not afraid to state her opinions but always welcomes engagement and differing opinions. In this BOOK’D interview, Fifi shares how her reading philosophy ensures a richer reading experience. Also in the mix is her undying love of books (as you’ll see in the first photo in this interview), books that gave her the feels and a “grossly underrated” book. I particularly enjoyed her thoughts on why classics are necessary and broadening our understanding of the scope of the genre.
1. What are you currently reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?
I’m currently reading my first Coetzee, ‘Foe’. I honestly feel like I’ve been living under a rock all this time. His writing is exquisite.
I’m normally a one-book-at-a-time kinda girl but if the current read gets too intense or if its nonfiction then I add in another book to balance things up.I’m normally a one-book-at-a-time kinda girl but if the current read gets too intense or if its nonfiction then I add in another book to balance things up. - @KEbibliophile Click To Tweet
2. Have you always been a reader? What is the first book you remember ever reading? What drew you into reading/why do you read?
I have been reading for as far back as I can remember. I even had a cake in the shape of a book on my 6th birthday. It was that serious! I don’t quite remember the first book I ever read but it was most likely something by Enid Blyton – those Famous Five/Secret Seven series.
My Grand-dad drew me into reading. His room is filled to the brim with books across different genres. He is the definition of reading wildly and widely. Unfortunately his eyesight has been deteriorating with old age but you’ll almost always see him in his corner holding up a magnifying glass to a book.
3. What is your philosophy on reading? (for example, some people have to finish every book they start)
Unless you review books for a living I’d say take your time with a book. Let the author completely reel you into the world that (s)he has created and take time out to research some of the literary, historical and social context of the book you’re reading. It makes for a richer reading experience.Unless you review books for a living I’d say take your time with a book. Let the author completely reel you into the world that (s)he has created... - @KEbibliophile Click To Tweet
4. How often do you read? And how do you fit it into your day?
I probably clock in about two hours in a day. Really, I don’t have a specific time. I carry my current reads with me wherever I go.
5. Where do you like to read? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?
I have a worn out but-oh-so-comfortable 2 seater sofa which is my default reading spot. Please don’t judge me but I have sat on the toilet with a book in hand. In my defense the book was unputdownable (A Brief History of Seven Killings) and well, yeah…
6. What makes a good book, in your opinion?
The feelings it invokes in me. When an author can effectively give me the feels, it makes the book more concrete and personal to me. I recently read Achebe’s collection of essays “The Education of a British Protected Child” and I laughed out loud and swore indignantly throughout the book. For him to achieve that, and through non-fiction, is an incredible feat in my opinion.
7. Who are your favorite authors to read?
Marlon James, Paul Beatty, George Orwell, Chinua Achebe, Ernest Hemingway.
8. What is a book or who is an author you wish more people knew about/read?
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. When the term ‘grossly underrated’ was coined, it was meant for this book.
9. E-book, audiobook or paper? How do you feel about making notes/highlighting books?
Paperbacks errday! But I might have to move to the eBook squad because a girl must pay her bills.
I’m all for highlighting and making notes on the book, just don’t dog-ear the pages. Books are meant to be a lady on the bookshelf and a whore on the bedside table.I’m all for highlighting and making notes on the book, just don’t dog-ear the pages. Books are meant to be a lady on the bookshelf and a whore on the bedside table. - @kebibliophile Click To Tweet
10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?
I’m skewed towards fiction but lately I’ve read some great essays by Orwell and Achebe, and I’m keen on reading more non fiction.
11. What happens to you when you read a good book? (at the beginning, during and after the experience?)
I become the characters in the book and live in their world. Also, I get completely tuned out of whatever is going on around me. I love when a book is able to do this.
12. Do you reread books? Why?
I reread my favorite books after a substantial amount of time has passed since first reading them – say a couple of years. Why? Because you already know the plot and the characters hence it frees you to explore other details and nuances of the story that you most probably missed before. Whenever I reread, I always notice new resonances, brilliant artistic details or character moments.Whenever I reread I always notice new resonances, brilliant artistic details or character moments Click To Tweet
13. What book do you wish you could experience again for the first time?
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James. The graphic brutality and seeing the protagonist grow and understand the wretched world around her is an intense ride from start to finish.
14. What was the last great book you read?
I’m torn between Native Son by Richard Wright and The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty. The narrative tension in Native Son is on a whole new level and Paul Beatty is simply the undisputed king of satire.
15. If you had to choose three books that everyone should read, what would they be?
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The Education of a British Protected Child by Chinua Achebe
16. What book(s) are you embarrassed to have read? What books are you embarrassed to still not have read?
I read Red Queen (facepalm) and I swore off YA after that experience. Although I haven’t read Ngugi wa Thiongo (double facepalm), I’m changing that this year.
17. How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature?
Necessary. I love the classics. There’s a misconception that classics were books written by “pretentious white men”. While this might be the case with majority of the genre, there are some brilliant voices by POCs – Cao Xueqin, Josephine Brown, Dorothy West, Toni Morrisson, Frantz Fanon, Olaudah Equiano and Chinua Achebe among many others. And even those written by white men provide an opportunity to understand history and culture in context.I love the classics. There’s a misconception that classics were books written by “pretentious white men”. While this might be the case with majority of the genre, there are some brilliant voices by POCs. Click To Tweet
18. How do you feel about book clubs?
I haven’t been in a book club yet but I have participated in many bookstagram read-alongs, which is pretty much the same thing. If you have the right book club members, then, I think you’ll be in for a wonderful reading experience. Otherwise, read solo.
19. What book(s) have remarkably changed your perspective on a given subject or life in general and how?
The Education of a British Protected Child. Even though the subject matter wasn’t anything new to me, somehow the book was a revelation. It’s a collection of 16 essays which were written in the first person testifying how slavery and colonization affected Achebe personally.
20. How do you choose books to read?
Genre, author subject and recommendations from trusted Bookstagram buddies (shout-out to Oni @booksandcoffeestains, Makeda @colourlit_uk, Rachel @stuckonthetipofmytongue and Syvanusl @sylwekesa). I avoid books described as “heartwarming” on the cover/blurb.
Sidebar: Book’d guest Wole Talabi is drawn to certain words in blurbs. Read his interview here.I avoid books described as “heartwarming” on the cover/blurb. - @kebibliophile Click To Tweet
21. What books are currently on your to-be-read list?
Fifi is a financial analyst and literature enthusiast who allocates her free time equally between cups of coffee and piles of books. She has a bias towards slavery and post colonial literature.
Connect with Fifi aka Kenyan Bibliophile