My Year in Books – 2021

The books that I read in 2021. Some I read only a few pages, some halfway, and very few from the first page to the last page.

2021 has been a peaceful year for me. I still found myself in the midst of troubles, but I’m happy I handled them well. Last year in December, I made a list of books that I read. I’m doing so, again, for this year.

I picked up a couple of books – some I read only a few pages, some halfway, and very few from the first page to the last page. For the entirety of the year, I struggled to find ample time to read – a lot of competing priorities. As a result, I did almost half of my reading on Kindle.

I hadn’t embraced reading books on screens, until this year. I have to admit that I still enjoy reading physical copies more than digital ones.

Also, because of limited time, I embraced the idea of never forcing myself to read cover to cover, even if I don’t enjoy a book. Thanks for the advice, Naval Ravikant.

Now, let me share the books that I managed to read this year.

A photo of my library

Digital Kenya: An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making

Edited by the technocrat & Kenya’s former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of ICT, Bitange Ndemo, and assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at the Imperial College London, Tim Weiss, the book explores Kenya’s digital creativity and innovation in the entrepreneurship landscape. 

I really enjoyed reading the book. In fact, it was the first digital book that I managed to read cover to cover. I learnt a lot. The book revived my hopes for a balanced Kenyan society, in regards to the spread of wealth. 

I learnt about the policy and mindset that brought about the fast internet that most Kenyans enjoy today – the undersea fiber optic cables. I got to know why Kenya is dubbed “Silicon Savannah”, and why that’s not the correct phrase according to one of Kenya’s accomplished digital entrepreneurs.

I also learned about the growing number of tech hubs in Africa and what it means to the continent. 

I can’t recommend the book enough to anyone who would like to venture into entrepreneurship in Kenya. Even more, it’s so inspiring to anyone who has already taken the entrepreneurship path. 

At the end of each chapter, there are featured interviews with Kenya’s successful entrepreneurs – such as Ken Njoroge of Cellulant, Erik Hersman of iHub & BRCK, Elizabeth Rossiello of BitPesa, Judith Owigar of AkiraChix, among others.

The book is published under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You can download a digital copy of the book on this website for free.

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

I had already written a review of the book (immediately I finished reading it). Find the review here. Naval is an American entrepreneur and investor. He has done some of my favourite podcast episodes of all times (as a guest).

Naval’s most notable podcast episodes as a guest include on The Knowledge Project (episode 18),  The Joe Rogan Experience (episode 1309), and his five appearances on The Tim Ferriss Show (episodes 97, 136, 473, 504 (with Ethereum creator, Vitalik Buterin), and 542 (with a16z general partner, Chris Dixon)).

I’m a great fan of Naval. Some people think I’m his sycophant :(.

I read The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson, a compilation of his comments on Twitter – especially from his classic tweetstorm named ‘How to Get Rich (without getting lucky)’ – and podcast interviews. 

Download a copy of the book for free on this website.

The Richest Man in Babylon

A classic. I have read a lot of finance 101 books. Not a single one comes close to being as great as The Richest Man in Babylon. The book taught me about allocation of money into various buckets – savings, bonds, and stocks. I also learnt how to put my money to work (the power of compound interest).

Something from the book that I’m trying to incorporate into my life: saving 10% of every shilling I earn. I haven’t developed the discipline yet, but am progressing well.

I recommend the book to anyone in need of basics to financial literacy (both kids and adults).

Africa’s Business Revolution: How to Succeed in the World’s Next Big Growth Market

This was the first physical copy that I finished this year. Finishing it motivated me to pick up The Richest Man in Babylon. I had already given a detailed review of the book. Check out the review here.

Reading the book reminded me of the vast business opportunities in Africa that have not been tapped into – education, health care, infrastructure, among others.

Reading the book, together with The Intelligent Investor, greatly influenced my decision to buy Safaricom PLC equities. Also, I learnt a lot about the potential of Africa’s real estate industry. I’m looking forward to being a participant in the latter industry some day.

I haven’t finished a couple of books on Kindle. Below is a list of some of the books that I’ve consumed at least a quarter of their content. 

The Great Mental Models Vol. 1 (49%). Farnam Street website is one of my favourite learning websites. It has a lot of learning resources. The Knowledge Project podcast is part of Farnam Street.

Shane Parrish, host of the podcast and curator of other content on Farnam Street, wrote The Great Mental Models Vol. 1. Just as the name suggests, the book details various mental models – such as second-order thinking, first principle thinking, circle of competence, and the map is not the territory. I’ll definitely finish the book at some point next year.

The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains (35%). I’m a great fan of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. I don’t have complete foundational knowledge about the topics. Hence, it’s only right if I pick up a book. Great read so far.

The Intelligent Investor (52%). This is a cult classic in the business world. The greatest investor of our times, Warren Buffett, said in an interview that The Intelligent Investor is “by far the best book on investing ever written.” I learnt a great deal on how to select stocks to buy and the importance of being patient with investments.

Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX (37%). I like Elon Musk. Last year, I read his biography (by Ashlee Vance). I watch every interview he does. I read nearly a dozen articles about him every month. I’m glad Walter Isaacson is writing his official biography.

Other books that I touched but never reached quarterway include The Wealth of Nations, Facing Mt. Kenya, Long Walk to Freedom, Doughnut Economics, Contagious, How We Made it in Africa, I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing, among many others.

At the time of writing this piece, I’m enjoying to read Skin in the Game and Antifragile by Nassib Taleb. I started reading both of them awhile back but never reached far (I was bored by them).

I recently picked up Antifragile for a retry and I really enjoyed the few pages I read. I have a better scope of the book now, and I’m looking forward to continuing reading it. Also, the general concept of the book perfectly aligns with my current stage of life.

Next year, I’m looking forward to reading more books, and even more importantly, aggressively applying what I learn from books to improve my life and those of people around me.

Happy holidays!

By Melkizedek Mirasi

Lifelong learner.

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