Dog-ears and libraries

Like most girls in Nairobi, I have a shoe guy. And a blouse guy. And a dress guy. But I pushed the envelope, and got myself a book guy and a magazine guy.

My book guy is at a second-hand stall off Ngong Road. His books are heavily discounted; used books but in mint condition. Before I announce my presence, I like to watch him for a few minutes from a far. He’s one of those jang’os who dresses his lanky dark frame in a short sleeved shirt tucked into don’t-touch-my-ankles pants and akalas. He minds his books with an obsessive care and concern. He takes each in his hands, turns it over four, five times inspecting it. Learning it. Caressing it. Committing its blurb to memory. And he dusts them and rearranges them one too many times. And sometimes, because he doesn’t know I am looking, I swear I hear him hold a conversation with them.

His name is Omosh. All along Omosh ran amok with the belief that I was a journalist. I looked at him with false surprise and I told him I am not. And between his lisp and generous nostrils, he told me, in sheng, “You look like one. I always thought you were one.” I smiled back and shook my head.

My magazine guy is on the streets. Fifty metres away from The Stanley Hotel. Simple and skinny chap, humble. His name is Otieno. Oti. Oti sets up shop only after-hours. And he doesn’t brag about how recent his magazine’s editions are. No. Not even when he can use this angle to make a sale. I believe a writer in New York, like me, buys the magazines at the exact same time I do.

After a few weeks of working in the belly of tao, familiarity has been established. Oti and I exchange cash for magazines with no haggling. Our fortnight encounters consist of a few cosmetic niceties and my signature ‘Habari ya job?’

The nature of my relationships with the book guy and magazine guy is like one with a hooker. No phone numbers. No revealing conversation. No names; I go by the ambiguous yet versatile ‘customer’. When I am in need, I go back. I look for them, never the other way around.

Anyway, long before I realized how central books and magazine would become to me, I drafted the below piece. Technically, this piece is now unacceptable. All those adverbs. All those nauseating gaudy words. All that awkward timidity. That suicidal wistful monotone. Goodness. But the sincerity, those sentiments. My. It is ageless. It is admirable. It is pure, purer than Casper’s intentions. It is the reason why today – several months later – this piece is published here, by me.


My favorite things, you ask? Libraries and bookstores, photo albums and atlases, hand-written love notes and post-its. Unfortunately – or fortunately – these also fall in a list of things that are quickly disappearing along with other classic ideologies like nappies, CDs and pencil cases. The battle on the longevity of print media, more so books, was bitterly won by Kindles, iPads and their ilk. Gadgets, devices – potato, potato.

You see, there is a classic feel of flipping through the pages of a book – the smell of its pages, the bookmark that hangs lazily from in between its layers, and the escapism that is heralded by the world created by its writer. This can never be achieved by any potato, sorry gadget.

I follow a routine as soon as I get a new book – first, I hold it in my hands and rub the front cover, then the back cover and then the spine with my open palms. Pause and breathe out. I gingerly open the cover; it is stiff and uncertain of the feel of my hands. You can trust me, I urge. Stamp my full names and date in the first page – the rule is black ink, no initials. I blow it to dry and muse in the completeness created by this manuscript for a few minutes; tattooed and branded. I then take a coloured ribbon and unhurriedly place it in between the sheets of the acknowledgement page and second page; book marked. Shut it then make its glorious introduction to the library; welcome to your new home and family. I have no order in my home – all these books serve one master and nourish one orgy appetite. Order would be futile.

The book is now mine. Mine to hold and devour, to share and (annoyingly) have dog-eared; to have stained with tears and soup and dribble. It is mine to imprint my character upon.

So I walk through the neatly stacked rows of books in libraries and bookstores, and get filled with a deep sense of trepidation. Trepidation that these shall soon be replaced by a digital library that shall have no classic smell, no coloured bookmarks, no tear stains and no dog-ears. Simply put, they shall lack character.

I now prepare myself for the aftermath of this lost battle; the repercussions that we avid book-lovers shall be forced to embrace because our love for the writing overcomes the convenience of the read. I prepare by getting myself acquainted with one of these sleek gadgets that shall never hold a candle to a book. I learn to follow instructions that are as effortless as they are demeaning – ‘click to flip’ and ‘go to page’. Instructions on how to read! What an oxymoron.  I also begin to peruse online copies of books and magazines; and slowly tear myself away from the libraries and bookstores that offer such escape that I am unable to explain. Desperately, and against my better judgement, I gather a series of used books and stack them up to feed on when my need to feel a book’s pages yet again, finds me someday in the near future. Maimed soldiers of a lost battle who are now unable to speak.

And in a final act of emancipation, I share this piece with an audience, a magazine. I know that they shall publish this piece in print. I share this before they are swallowed up with the rest of the world and go digital. And I shall cut this piece out and stick it in my scrap book – along with all other unequalled articles and clippings – and I shall sigh dejectedly knowing that posterity shall find this and squeal excitedly ‘That was Mommy’s writing’.

Bitterly, I concede defeat to the fact that digital media is here to stay.

See my white flag hoisted up high.

Where to next, dear sinner?

Comments (18)

  1. CAA

    Fra, a few posts ago ….I believe it was titled ‘on the writer Chimamanda Ngonzi Adichie’….I disagreed with you. I take it back! Because you have managed to go beyond just scratching the surface with this story (which after a lot of thinking, I find is all Chimamanda does). Love the irony and I hope to read a novel from you soon.

    • fra

      Thank you CAA.
      Quite humbling to draw parallels to Chimamanda.

  2. Wangechi

    Always a pleasure reading your pieces…just so you know, I always forward your blog to others in the office :-)

    • fra

      Much appreciated Wangechi. Much appreciated :-)

  3. savvy

    And you write this on a digital platform. This is where we read it..

    I love books too.. the smell of them is a part of the reading experience. But I’m slowly transforming. I’ve read more ebooks than hard copies this year

    • fra

      Imagine that.
      I am still eons from putting paperbacks away.

    • fra

      Thanks Artfully.
      I am (still) waiting for this’ email ;-)

  4. Isma

    To use the word ‘Awesome’ to describe this piece is an understatement.

  5. Evans

    It seems that for book lovers (the dog-eared kind), waging war against the digital media is futile. I am reminded of Victor Hugo’s sentiments in The Hunchback of Notre Dame about architecture being overcome by the print- “This will kill that” Hugo was crazy about structures. I guess the print has finally found its conqueror.

    • fra

      I guess so, too. Thanks for dropping by Evans.
      And hey, why does your comment feel like it has a soundtrack playing in the background?

      • Evans

        At that point in time there was none. If there was, it would have been Celtic. I find them uplifting. Thanks for the complement

  6. Project44

    Nice read.I like the book store guy,he seems real and likes what he does? Keep writing and visit us when you can.Actually we would love to have you as guest write,one of these days ! :)

    • fra

      Will do Project44. Will do.

  7. MIMI

    I thought I was the only one crazy with pages, the beauty of turning them and the fury of someone returning a borrowed book full of dog-ears…. and soup.

    • fra

      “The fury”. LOL.
      Thank you for the read.

  8. Mystery

    I like my books dog eared (sometimes with soup scars)….otherwise l would become too engrossed in the process of not making them dog eared and miss the script.Afterwards l store them. The dog ears and soup scars remind me of the stories, just like battle scars do…awesome piece

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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