Interview: Raphael Obonyo – Public Policy Analyst, UN Adviser

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Book Review by DIANA NGILA, Business Daily

What are reading? Is it a recent buy or from your old stock?

Raphael Obonyo/ Public Policy Analyst, UN Adviser

I am reading two books: Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book Talking to Strangers where he dissects why we’re bad at judging others and what to do about it. Also, I am reading For the Record, a memoir by the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

How many books do you have? How long have you taken to build the collection?

I have so many. I read at least three books a month. However, my aim is never to quickly finish reading a certain number of books, but to gain knowledge. It has taken me about 10 years to build my collection. While studying at the Duke University, I bought a number of books online. Also, I have membership with Text Book Centre, BookStop and Prestige bookstores, which recommend books and offer good discounts. Whenever I travel out of the country, I buy books. I prefer hard copies.

Do you organise your books in a particular style/way?

I organise them in a way that makes it easier to find any book especially whenever I want to re-read or make some reference. I organise them by genre or subject, and then by height and size. So I know exactly where to look when I need them.

Do you have a favourite genre?

Biographies and autobiographies provide valuable lessons and wisdom for personal and development. For example, they allow you to stand on the shoulders of giants, discover, learn from history and from others, and see the world and my world in new ways. Memoirs give you the chance to jump into another life and live someone else’s story, at least for a little while. They can also make you experience just about any emotion imaginable. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.

I also prefer behavioural economics books– they discuss economic decision making processes that are based on psychology and human behaviour. They show how economics plays a huge part in our lives. One of my personal favourites is the Undercover Economist by Tim Harford. Also, I enjoy reading books on politics and international affairs. I have enjoyed reading Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World by Ian Bremmer. My other favourite author is Dambisa Moyo, and I enjoyed her book Dead Aid.

Which three books have shaped your life?

• A Prisoner in the Garden: Photos, Letters, and Notes by Nelson Mandela

• The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

• Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice by Mary Robinson

How did you develop a reading culture?

I have been an avid reader since high school. Every year, I set reading goals. I read for about two hours every night and one hour in the morning and whenever I have sometime during the day. When not working on weekend, I sit alone and make do with the company of books.

Why do you read?

Walt Disney said and it is true, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” Reading helps me to think critically, be creative and grow my understanding of different issues. As Theodore Geisel rightly remarked “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Extracted and Reprinted from Business Daily

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