• Most of these one-time authors appeal to their peers with messages of social and economic progress
Motivational books are ubiquitous today across the country, and it is a booming market. From the shelves of well-established bookshops like Savani’s Book Centre, Prestige Bookshop and Text Book Centre in Nairobi, one finds them everywhere.
They are stocked and sold like hot smokies by street book vendors, who ply their trade selling used and new books off the streets. From top leaders now in retirement, to merchants who have made millions in fortune, to spiritual sages who nourish our souls, and mothers who offer tips on the joys of motherhood, the self-motivational books come in all genres, prices and styles.
Increasingly, the market has been attracting youthful and youth writers locally. These are motivational speakers, mostly in college or freshly out of college. With the rise of smaller publishing houses and abilities to self-publish, the gates of the book production industry are now widening.
Most of these one-time authors appeal to their peers with messages of social and economic progress. Their messages usually cohere well with the challenges facing their generation and the shifting sands of modern times.
One such writer is Jonah Kerich, a recent graduate from a local public university. His newest offering is aptly entitled, Breaking the Glass Ceiling: A Student’s Guide to Educational Success. The 84-page book offers key lessons on how-to basis, tackling areas such as time-management, decision-making, goal-setting and respect for authority and advice.
He follows in the footsteps of established writers before him of this popular contemporary genre like David Gold Dhahabu, author of Success Secrets for Students: Life, Leadership and Academic Skills. Like Dhahabu, Kerich, too, sees his book as one meant to change the way youth in high school and college approach success.
He says, “Education success is the harbinger of good life. From improving one’s life to weaving through the social fabric, education is the cornerstone of civilisation.” He, too, taps from his own experience in the education system and growing up in the wake of a struggling economy after the turn of the century here in Kenya.
From marketing his book with an eye-catching luminous blurb, the young writer has been conducting a secondary school-based campaign to bring his message of hope and encouragement to his peers. He nowadays plans with schools, especially around his home area of North Rift, and augments their activities during career days and academic clinics.
Kerich has since made excellent presentations at All Saints Chepkigen High School in June this year. In July, he was back to the school he attended before university education, Cheplaskei Boys’ High School. He has also given talks and marketed his book, which is selling at Sh400, at other schools such as Christ the King High School, Sambut, Bojonge Boys, Moi Barracks High School and Maraba High School in Nandi county, among others. His story is a paradigmatic one as he is the face of many other youths writing in this vein today, including female ones, such as Caroline Ong’ayo, author of Breaking the Chains, another such book.
Instead of lampooning such initiatives of these youth writers and challenging their incursion into the established book industry in Kenya, we can see their work as a dose of new energy in support of the reading culture in the country.
Granted, the quality of such works tends to be wanting, especially due to the struggles they face in the production of their manuscripts. They can be encouraged to seek professional editing services or work with established writers to hone their writing skills. Here, teachers, seasoned established writers, spiritual leaders, all have a big role to play in terms of mentorship.
The motivational books dedicated to the youth and student communities by some of their own are an indicator of the potent energy that lies untapped for national good. They can help teenagers and students to navigate the complicated world of today. They are part and parcel of popular literature and culture. The two ride on demands and supply market laws.
Pop literature like pop music emblematises the energetic postmodern society in Kenya today. It articulates an aesthetic of space-occupation for young adults in a competitive and challenging living environment. The high demand for inspirational narratives articulates the reading habits, and trends among young adults in Kenya today, and more specifically the current spirit of our age of commoditised culture.
Kerich and his peers are showing how hope is an inimitable good alive in stories and lessons of lives of the youth. It is this hope that creates vice in the pursuit of life on the fast lane and quick riches. Yet, if it is tunnelled to positive directions, it unleashes the progressive potential that Kenya needs to achieve its Vision 2030 and beyond.
The ongoing census nationally is bound to confirm that the youth still make up the highest percentage of the Kenyan population today. They are not just the future, they are the present.
Youth motivation books are an ignition of the mind that can help the young to break loose from vice and waywardness by enhancing their life skills. However, quality improvement in terms of book layout, style and marketing remains a major hurdle that needs to be surmounted.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling can be obtained from the writer Jonah Kerich directly at [email protected]
Breaking the Chains is available directly from Ms. Ong’oya at [email protected]
Success Secrets for Students can be ordered directly from David Gold Dhahabu at [email protected]
Dr Makokha teaches Literature and Theatre at Kenyatta University. [email protected]