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Kenya: Here Are the Top 20 Books Kenyans Read in 2020

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The side-effects of Covid-19 pushed Kenyans into reading, according to Text Book Centre (TBC), a leading bookstore in Nairobi.

TBC has since published its list of the 20 best sellers in 2020.

The educational, cultural, and technological content and products distributor used sales data from its network of stores and eCommerce platform.

The rankings also considered reviews and general reception in the market.

TBC Managing Director Armand Houahu said the company reported a 300 percent surge in online sales in 2020.

In March 2020, when many countries implemented coronavirus lockdowns for the first time, this uptick became apparent.

That month, there were 1.51 billion visits to e-commerce sites for books and literature, an 8.5 percent increase from the month before.

Topping the list was former US President Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land.

Released in November after national elections in the US, the book covering his time in office and hopes for America has been a global best-seller.

The first of a two-volume series, A Promised Land sold 887,000 copies in the United States and Canada on its first day, breaking a record previously held by his wife Michelle Obama for Becoming.

It likely proved popular with readers in Kenya not just for its content but also because of Obama’s Kenyan roots. The former President’s father, Barrack Hussein Obama Snr., hails from Siaya County.

The TBC list features three titles from Kenyan writers which include Wanjiru Koinange’s The Havoc of Choice, actress Lupita Nyong’o’s Sulwe and late environmental activist Wangari Maathai’s autobiography Unbowed.

The Havoc of Choice is second on the TBC best-sellers list. It is Koinange’s debut novel and follows the lives of members of a politician’s family in the context of the 2007/08 Post-Election Violence (PEV) in Kenya.

She explores corruption, politics and violence through a Kenyan lens, shining a light on the country’s demons.

Sulwe was a critically acclaimed children’s book from Academy award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and tells the story of a young, dark-skinned girl who wants to be considered beautiful and doubts herself. A fantasy-like journey through the night sky, however, changes everything.