The Procrastinator's Guide to Finding (Affordable) Books in Kenya


Greetings, fair citizens, 'tis I, your Literary Khaleesi. Who, incidentally has not actually read any part of that series and has probably watched three episodes of the TV version. Aim high, folks. 

I recently had a...friendly discussion with a person that commended my reading habit, claimed they would love to read more as they have so much free time, then spun around and said they can't because finding books is like soooooo hard you guys, omgeeeee. Mhmm. 

Since probably 95% of all posts on this blog are thinly veiled/passive aggressive shout outs, I shall now attempt to make the world a better place by sharing my most frequently used sources of books and hope the convenience of at least one of them will inspire someone to give reading a shot. And rub "I can't find books" guy's nose in it. Always to rub someone's nose it. Hark!

1. Exchange

As far as getting a lot of great books on the cheap, exchange is definitely (still can't spell that right on the first try. Thanks OBAMA.)  my go to option. While there are obviously lots of book exchange places scattered across our great city, broke days usually find me at a particular nook named JBL novels, a little bit after Archives - where the Town Mr Price is to the yolo generation. 

At my last foray into this tiny literary Eden, I swapped these two:

"Run for Your Life" by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
"Judge & Jury" by James Patterson & Andrew Gross

for these two.

"The Jester" by James Patterson & Andrew Gross
"The Beach House" by James Patterson & Peter De Jonge

Basically, if you have a book and want to swap it, walk in, find a book you like and trade. I've gone through practically the entire Patterson and Ludlum series this way, at KES.80.00 per book exchanged. The lady that runs the place, Patricia, is lovely by the way, super helpful if you need to find a certain book or just need a suggestion based on previous trades.

Alternatively, you can purchase a book from there at, it should be KES.400, then exchange it when you're done ad infinitum. For those interested in books with Fabio on the cover, it should be about KES.40 to trade the skinny books, KES.80 for a bigger dose of roguishly handsome pirate Carlos Raul sweeping the innocent chambermaid off her feet with...a magic horse...or his hair powers. Actually, someone make that book happen, stat.

2. Street Purchase

In my second show of support for Team I-Spend-All-My-Money-Making-Cadbury-and-Smirnoff-Wealthier, I'd like to shout out to the books guy set up near Koja who's been supplying my books for close to two years now without knowing my name or telling me his because that's how real G's do it. #SwansonApproved

You can't throw a nuclear missile in the CBD without hitting a dude displaying books for sale. Prices vary depending on the quality of books/location/whether the vendor likes your hair. The aforementioned Ninja at Koja has books that are literally new, with the Coelho's I usually get going for KES.350-400.

For my December list, I got this:

"The Fifth Mountain" by Paulo Coelho

This joins my Coelho shrine collection, shown below. Because we all need hobbies and leaving the house is overrated.

"The Alchemist", "The Zahir", "Brida", "The Pilgrimage", "The Valkyries"
"The Winner Stands Alone", "Aleph", "The Witch of Portobello"
All by Paulo Coelho

3. The Interwebs

E-books exist. You can get a lot of them for free on the internet, which may or may not be illegal, I don't know. To be safe: OHASZ advocates purchase of all books and music for download, do not arrest me, prison would be really bad for my skin.

My December reading list contains these two books, which, yes, PDF form, COMPUTERS ARE HARD. Also I'd have to download an e-reader and my phone already has one for pdf, so, y'know, time management. 

"Norwegian Wood" & "The Elephant Vanishes"
both by Haruki Murakami

I've heard and read a lot about Haruki Murakami so I figured I'd give it a shot in the interest of diversifying my literary diet, getting familiar with contemporary authors, and the most satisfying reason of all: smugly going "you haven't read Murakami? *disdainful look*" as I slowly back away from the Philistine, because DUH, Norwegian Wood is only the best exploration of complex themes EVER, obviously.

4. Bookshop Purchases: Sketchy Areas edition
There's a lot to be said about the seedier sides of our great city. Most of it is "Mwizi! Bag yangu! Shika huyo" and/or "Pretty sure that entire building over there is a brothel". For those of you with crippling allergies to being run over by Murang'a buses, fear not, we shan't cross beyond River Road.

Directly behind Odeon is a bunch of bookshops selling text books and revision papers; there's a cluster of them all along the street you get to beyond Posta, which is pretty safe, unless you're counting catcalls from lounging jav drivers.

'tis here that I went in search of Meja Mwangi's "Striving for the Wind" which I read in high school and adored. Sadly, nary a copy was to be found, but a kindly gentleman offered me this in its stead:

"Going Down River Road" by Meja Mwangi

This brand new copy left a KES.480 dent in my wallet, which normally would have been met wit a Yao Ming face and immediate exit from the place, but what can I say, it's about time I got into African writers. Speaking of which...

5. Bookshop Purchases: Makin' it rain Edition

Movin' on up, folks! This right here took me KES.1,200 away from my retirement, but this book will be part of my personal library for years to come, so *shrugs* whatevs. I got this from the Prestige Bookshop near 20th Century/IMAX/whatever you kids are calling it these days.

"Facing Mt. Kenya" by Jomo Kenyatta

Yup, I went there. As a history buff convinced I would have been an African princess/priestess/goddess worshiped by all mortals had I lived in the 1800s, I had to have it.
Which reminds me that I visited the Murumbi Collection in like October and have been meaning to write about it since then. What is this procrastination you speak of?

via buzzfeed

Speaking of new purchases, *expert segue executed* once upon a time, naive, high school Evey purchased a brand new copy of selected Edgar Allan Poe tales. Quickly devouring it and singing its praises to all who would listen, she received a request to borrow it from her roommate. Her roommate who returned the brand spanking new book in the following condition. 

Selected Tales written by Edgar Allan Poe *heavy sobbing*

Yup, that, folks is freaking mildew. I don't even.... I can't. Years and years later and I still get PTSD flashbacks when people start their sentences with "You remember that book I saw you with...".

My point here is, since Kenyan law frowns upon the use of katanas and light dismemberment for destroyed books, friends don't let friends lend their books to irresponsible douchebuckets. Be careful with your paper babies, and be more careful with others' paper babies. Let's all just be nice, ok?

Here's hoping you now have no excuse to not read over your December down time, onward to a more literary-minded Kenya. Excelsior! ...or get a Kindle.

Evey G, over and out.

via buzzfeed

*PS: You there, we see you. Tell us where you get your books. We have cookies. 


  1. Haha you need to read the Game of Thrones series, you won't put it down and it's loads better than the show!!
    As a book lover the major issue on my rampage for a literary fix is that i can never get new releases :( i went to Text Book Centre thinking I would get The love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman ( they didn't even know what it was. Do you have any store suggestions that can make special orders?


    Twitter @penelopekirui

    1. Ahahaha the "*blank look* *ask another employee* *look at you like you made it up*" is always my favourite Text Book Centre response when I'm looking for books.
      I wouldn't know, but let me know if you find out, I've been aching to read BJ Novaks "One More Thing".