The Books I Read in 2020/21 And The Interesting Lessons I Learnt

The past two years gave me one very invaluable resource with which to fulfill my reading targets: time. My intentions before the pandemic struck were to read close to fifty books by the end of the year. I was thwarted by a packed school schedule and later, a debilitating lassitude sparked by the 2020 global lockdown. Unable to muster an iota of mental energy required to flip open a book, I reluctantly decided against my tried-and-tested method of reading hard copy books. It became a big-time hustle leaving the house to purchase books from the store.

I had to make peace with digital copies of books, mainly in downloadable pdf form. It was a hard ask for me to try and ingratiate myself to the norms of digital reading – bright screens and lots of distractions, but I had to focus on why I was doing this. Soon the frustrations grew less fervent and I set on reading as many copies I could get. (A huge thank you to everyone who sent me copies through my email).

Among the books I enjoyed reading using this method were Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Finishing Strong by Steve Farrar.

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Homegoing is a heart-rending story that takes the reader through the life of several generations of an African family, dissecting their lives in light of prevailing social, cultural and economic changes that accrue with time. It is evident from the structure of the plotline that Homegoing is eager to expose the hardships of pre-colonial Africa, the gruesome Trans-Atlantic trade conditions and the ensuing slave trade in the Americas, the civil war in USA and the damning trundle that the wagon of civil rights regarding blacks has taken since then.

Finishing Strong is a Christian devotional book which practically discusses the merits of living a godly life and it draws its inspiration from Biblical texts, furnished with professional commentary. Despite being genres apart, both these books intrigued me with their expressive writing styles and their respective subject matters written with expert authority.

I cannot deny that Homegoing and Finishing Strong were great, inspiring books. They definitely diluted my bias towards only enjoying hard copy books, too. However, the books I will be reviewing in detail today are hard copy books – paperbacks, actually – which I purchased in different local stores at my home county.

Towards the end of 2020, I already had them on my reading list and to motivate myself, I joined a Marathon Reading club on Instagram. Basically, I would post a picture of the book I was reading for that particular month on Instagram under the hashtag [#readathon] and once I was done I would tick it off from my list, and write a succinct review (not published, just on paper) then move to the next book. Believe it or not, this routine kept me going, and the hashtag kept me accountable as I saw many other readers join in on their reading journeys as well.

So which ones are they?

Before I reveal them to you, here is how the reviews will be structured. A brief statement on the book will be followed by a list of precious lessons that I picked up, and then I will subject the book to a personal rating system and provide details on where to get the book. (I will also include free downloadable pdfs where necessary!)

EGO IS THE ENEMY By Ryan Holiday

I could hardly put this book down. I could not get enough of how blunt, precise and to-the-point the author, Ryan Holiday, was. Especially because of the gravity of the subject matter, the relevance of the message therein and the masterful way in which Ryan peels back the layers of the human ego. If you believe you don’t have ego, then this book is definitely for you. Whether you know what ego is or not, Ryan Holiday tells it like it is, leaving little room for compromise on the issue. Interestingly, I could not view myself or the world the same way I did after reading this book.

What did I learn?

  • Ego is the enemy of aspiration, success and the catalyst for failure. Egotism makes us lose track of our goals and end up deviating our energy elsewhere, usually in a destructive manner.
  • There is value in always being a student. Learning never stops. “If you’re not still learning, you’re already dying.”
  • We cannot afford ego when we are at the top because the stakes are so much higher and the margins for error smaller. If anything, our ability to listen, hear feedback and improve is what matters most.
  • Beware of pride. It dulls our mind and our ability to learn and be flexible. It takes a minor accomplishment and makes it feel like a major one. (whew!) It sends us toward delusion as it drives a wedge between us and the reality. (This one was a hard pill to swallow, especially for a creative. How many times have I been tempted to indulge in the unnecessary label culture, just because I published something or wrote something! A LOT. That’s pride.)
  • Success is not anyone’s by right. It is a product of discipline, hard work and humility.

RATING : 8.5/10



The world pines for power and position, but it is not ready to pay the price of leadership. It’s a poorly-kept secret that a person in a position of power is not necessarily a leader, but a leader is in a position of power. A leader pays the price.

As Stanko elucidates, “in addition to poor leadership, it saddens me that many leaders haven’t paid the price…Instead of developing leadership skills, too often they have relied on charisma, giftedness, manipulation, control, or anger to lead people.” Does this statement ring true of our leaders today?

The reason I picked this book is because I count myself as part of the emerging generation of leaders of this world and I am willing to learn a better way. Honestly, there is a stark deficiency of leaders who have paid the price of leadership to become strong leaders in our families, churches or even governments. This modern-day dilemma coupled with John Stanko’s relevant Biblical examples of men such as Moses and King David gives hope that a different kind of leader can be developed. Other amazing sections of the book include Developing a Leadership Philosophy, the concept of being a servant leader and the art of rebounding from failure.

RATING: 8/10

WHERE CAN I GET THIS BOOK? Find it at Booktalk Africa

THE BLUE SWEATER By Jacqueline Novogratz

This book introduces the reader to the world of Jacqueline Novogratz, a philanthropist with a twist. Written in first-person narration, it masterfully unravels the life of Jacqueline who quit a moneyed career in international banking to help those who were in desperate need in the world. A true-life hero, Novogratz takes the reader on a journey of heartache, pain and destitution – hallmarks of the Rwandan genocide – as she explains how the socio-economic conditions of the poor in Rwanda inspired her to find new ways to raise capital for the poor in a sustainable fashion.

Not only does she found a nonprofit venture capital firm called Acumen Fund, but along the way she takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions. The reader gets a glance at the life of a foreigner desperate to help in a continent where the nationals believe in their own labors despite being girded by corrupt systems and inhibited mentalities. Jacqueline is not afraid, however, to punch above her weight and get the work done. Her greatest success came in restoring the livelihoods of Rwandese nationals after the genocide through her organization’s efforts. I loved the way she tackled issues that were larger than life in a humble manner. (PS: She’s not the girl on the cover.)

RATING: 8/10


EAT THAT FROG! By Brian Tracy


This silent and deadly assassin has been the reason behind incomplete assignments and poorly-done work. And while the world glorifies it, there isn’t enough time to go round in circles (literally). Brian Tracy borrows from an ancient proverb that alludes to the action of eating a live frog every morning. If the first thing the reader does every single morning is this simple action of eating a live frog, then they would have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing they will do all day. In short, JUST DO IT.

Eat That Frog! accurately gets to the nub of the problem and offers simple easy steps (with follow-up tasks and questions at the end of each chapter) to conquering procrastination. My favorite one was the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Principle and its application in time management. Basically the Pareto Principle in context explains that 20 percent of one’s activities will account for 80 percent of the results/20 percent of your tasks will account for 80 percent of the value of what you do. Fascinating right?

With this foundational principle in place, Brian goes on to show how we can get to working on these activities that account for more value in our lives firstly (the frog we are supposed to eat). The basic truth is that to beat procrastination one has to focus formerly on these high-value tasks rather than the trivial tasks.

RATING: 7.5/10


Did you enjoy these book reviews? Share them with your friends and don’t forget to leave a comment with a book recommendation you would like to be reviewed here on Avid Conquest!






6 responses to “The Books I Read in 2020/21 And The Interesting Lessons I Learnt”

  1. Essie Avatar

    Awesome Owen. You never cease to amaze me. ?????

    1. Owen Kariuki
      Owen Kariuki

      Thank you Mum for the support always.

  2. Barbara Avatar

    Awesome to well done Owen…I wanna read the Blue sweater…

    1. Owen Kariuki
      Owen Kariuki

      Thank you Barbara for the support.

  3. Barbara Avatar

    Awesome.. Owen
    Can I get a free download of the Blue sweater..?

    1. Owen Kariuki
      Owen Kariuki

      Hey! Yes you can get the free download right under the review. Enjoy.

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