Awards Books Culture News

Here are the winners of the Maisha Yetu Awards 2023

As 2023 comes to a close, Maisha Yetu would like to appreciate and celebrate the best in terms of books and honour them with the Maisha Yetu Excellence Awards for 2023.

For hosting a successful Nairobi International Book Fair, the Kenya Publishers Association, for the second year running, takes the Maisha Yetu Award for the Best Body Corporate. This year, NIBF went a step further and hosted the first ever Rights Trading forum, in conjunction with eKitabu and the African Publishers Forum (APNET)


In early September Peter Ngila Njeri, won the 2023 edition of the James Currey Prize for African Literature with his fiction manuscript, The Legend of Beach House. He beat other writers including those from Western and Southern African countries. What is more, Ngila shared his prize money with fellow nominees (he did not have to do that). For that reason, we award him the Maisha Yetu Young Writer of the Year (Male)


Eunniah Mbabazi, is a self-published author and editor. Despite being a trained engineer, Eunniah chose a life of writing and publishing, with its ups and downs. She has written Breaking Down, an anthology of short stories, If My Bones Could Speak, a collection of poems, Unbirthed Souls, a collection of short stories and My Heart Sings Sometimes, a collection of poems. She has also edited, When A Stranger Calls, an anthology of Short stories, by different writers, currently doing well in the market. Eunniah, thus takes home the Maisha Yetu Young Writer of the Year (Female).


Will Clurman is the CEO of eKitabu. For masterminding the Rights Café Pavilion, the first ever rights trading forum at the Nairobi International Book Fair, where 13 agents from different publishing, houses across the globe, congregated at the Nairobi International Book Fair, where several publishing deals were inked, Will Curlman wins the Maisha Yetu CEO of the Year Award.


The Alliance Française in Nairobi has, since November 2019, offered its library space for authors, mostly young and self-published, to launch their books, free of charge, as well as hosting literary debates. This year alone, more than 50 books have been launched at the Alliance Française library. AF also hosts the Nyrobi Book Fest, where self-published authors have an opportunity to exhibit their books for free. For its role in promoting literature and writing, the  Alliance Française gets the 2023 Maisha Yetu Foreign Cultural Organisation of the Year.


Independently published writers aka self-published writers, have for the longest time agonised over an outlet for their creative outlet. Many bookstores impose stringent, nay, impossible rules for them to stock independently published books. This changed when Nuria Bookstore came onto the scene. Nuria revolutionised bookselling in Kenya. Many first-time writers, who are mostly self-published found a willing ally in Nuria.

Nuria not only stocks their books for sale, they also help them market. Nuria, a brainchild of Abdullahi Bulle, goes out of its way to seek out events where they can sell, market, and generally promote books and their authors.

For the second year running, Nuria gets the 2023 Maisha Yetu Bookseller of the Year Award.


The 2023 Maisha Yetu Award for the Most Creative, Most Sustained and thus, the Most Effective Marketing Campaign for a Book goes to Rough Silk, a memoir by Deborah Auko Tendo. The book shares the remarkable story of her father, a man who lived an extraordinary life in ordinary circumstances. Through his daughter’s eyes, we see his wisdom, his humor, his love and his legacy.


In May this year, Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) donated foodstuffs, books and other assorted items to Eldoret School for the Hearing Impaired. This was during the Eldoret Regional Book Fair. Come September, KPA did the same for the Compassionate Hands for the Disabled in Ruai, during the Nairobi International Book Fair. Donating to the less fortunate has become a ritual for KPA, whenever they organise a book Fair.

It is thus in order for KPA to receive the 2023 Maisha Yetu Corporate Social Responsibility Award.


The 2023 Maisha Yetu Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Edward Mburu Gachina. Mzee Gachina, 76, from Kandara in Muranga, beat all the odds to write and publish his memoirs, The Odyssey of an African Man. Despite the fact that he is just an ordinary retired old man, living in the village, he felt compelled to pen his autobiography for the sake of future generations. He is a retired accountant.


John Kiriamiti, is reformed bank robber, who wrote My Life in Crime, while still in jail. For its vivid descriptions, twists and turns, cliff-hanger suspense and easy conversational writing style My Life in Crime remains a Kenyan bestseller 38 years after its publication. Little wonder then that when Neflix Kenya asked Kenyans, which book they would wish to be turned into a movie, Kenyans on social media voted for My Life in Crime, closely followed in second position to Mwangi Gicheru’s Across the Bridge.

Kiriamiti has written four other equally popular book, My Life in Prison, My Life with a Criminal, The Sinister Trophy and Son of Fate. This year alone, Kiriamiti headlined three major literary events in Nairobi, The NBO Litfest, The Nairobi International Book Fair and the Nyrobi Book Fest. It is for that reason that we award him the Maisha Yetu Personality of the Year.


Silas Nyanchwani and Jacob Aliet have in the past two years made a name for themselves, for publishing socially conscious books that seek to advise men on how to lead better lives. Though their writing tends to be a bit controversial, these two writers have kept at it, in the process earning themselves grudging respects from some of their most persistent critics (women). Aliet is the author of Unplugged, which he recently upgraded to Unplugged 2 and 3. Nyanchawani, other hand dispenses his wisdom through 50 Memos to Men 1 and 2.

Nyachwani and Aliet make a tie and therefore share the 2023 Social Awareness Campaign through books.


The Maisha Yetu Children’s Category Award goes to Brian Wairegi and the triplets of Julie, Jeremy and Jason Mugo. All are aged ten and have published books. Brian has written A Visit to the Farm, while the twins have written Triplet Tales.


The Maisha Yetu Award for publisher of the Year Award goes to eKitabu for curating and hosting the very successful Rights Café at the Nairobi International Book Fair, a first in the region, where agents from different international publishers held talks with various authors and publishers in Kenya, with a view to buying rights to those books.


Author’s Feet is a YouTube based show that features interviews with Kenyan authors. For its role in expanding and cementing the writers’ craft in Kenya, Author’s Feet, produced by Cynthia Abdallah Productions and hosted by the lively Ciku Kimani-Mwaniki, takes the 2023 Maisha Yetu Literary Show of the Year, for the second year running.


For consistently bringing us news an information on African books, African authors and the general publishing scene in Africa, James Murua, who runs the Writing Africa website, takes the Maisha Yetu Blogger of the year.

Books Culture Personalities publishing Releases Reviews

Nyanchwani’s tough love Memos to men

Title: 50 Memos to Men

Author: Silas Nyanchwani

Publisher: Gram Books

Price: sh1250

Reviewer: Mbugua Ngunjiri

Growing up in the village, you would occasionally overhear grown-ups say things like: “Huyu mtoto ni mwerevu kuliko miaka yake.” This was often in reference to youngsters perceived to be intelligent beyond their years.

Now that I am a certified elder, the above notion crosses my mind every time I read a post – mostly on Facebook – authored by Silas Nyanchwani. That is why whenever he makes an announcement to the effect that he has a book out, I want read what he has written.

His first offering Sexorcised, had some sections that left me blushing. While I can’t remember the last time I read a novel in the erotica genre, Nyanchwani proved that we have some hidden talent amongst us, wah!

But I digress.

I am here to talk, or rather, to write about 50 Memos to Men – his latest book – and I have been wondering to myself, where does the author get wisdom to talk about relationships so authoritatively? Isn’t this a case of mtoto kuwa mwerevu kuliko miaka yake?

Anyone who doesn’t know Nyanchwani, getting the chance to read Memos, would most likely assume that this the product of a greying man, with grey, bushy eyebrows, given to wearing frumpy sweaters, peering above horn-rimmed spectacles, balanced on the bridge of their nose.

First of all, how long has Nyanchwani been in the marriage institution, if at all he is married, for him to be dispensing such wisdom? Just the other day, Nyanchwani and I worked at The Nairobian, when the tabloid was flying off newsstands. Then, he was writing a column, whose content always rubbed the female gender the wrong way. Such was the controversy.

So where did he learn these things?

Then and now, I always marvelled at how, this quiet, soft-spoken young man courts controversy so effortlessly, like the time he attacked Mukimo – one of my favourite dishes – so badly, I think I trolled him on Facebook. Awachane na Mukimo kabisa.

Again I digress.

After I finished reading Memos, I got away with the feeling that this can only be the product of careful observation of human behaviour. Everything he writes resonates deeply and ticks all the right boxes. We all have our fair share of relationships, hence reading the book is like walking into a room full of familiar faces. Whatever is written here, resonates so deeply at a personal level.

Talking about familiarity, well familiar faces come with different memories, not all of them good. Some can be downright traumatic like when one suffers a painful heartbreak (character development?) So, what is the advice for men who have suffered break-ups? “…once she tells you it is over, bro, don’t ever beg…nothing you will ever do will win her back,” says the book, adding. “When a woman breaks up with you, 99 per cent of the time, she has a backup plan.” Savage.

One thing I enjoy about Nyanchwani’s writing is that he gives it to you straight, like bitter, but effective medicine. Call it tough love, but Memos is not about babysitting grown men, who think the world waits for them to make up their minds. The kind of advice dispensed in this book is a bit like the child that rans to its father, eyes bawled up, from an altercation in the playground, only for the parent to give them a proper hiding; to man them up. Hakuna kubembeleza.

Nyanchwani has this unique ability to bring out, on paper, the things you only think about in the deep recesses of the mind; making it look so easy, yet packing them with so much sense. That, to me, is the sign of a good writer.

It is rather obvious why most women get exasperated by his writing; he almost always gives men ‘bad’ advice. Listen to this “…unless she is your mother or sister, don’t even give a woman money…my stingiest friends get laid more, or even get paid for their cabling services…trust me, men who treat women better hardly get anything good in return.” Hmm…

Isn’t it funny how he pummels women’s sensibilities, yet they keep coming for more. Well, that is what eloquent, persuasive writing does for you.

Still, his is not the blind, see-no-evil hear-no-evil, embrace of men. He calls them out when they do stupid things that hurt good women. Such men are afforded the worst contempt in the book. As a man, you do not want to be caught on the wrong side of his pen.

I have seen a number of social media personalities crown themselves the title ‘Men’s President’, but most are trash talking, bottom feeding online busybodies with nary in the way of brains. To me, Nyanchwani, with his smooth cerebral writing is more deserving of that title.

When I opened the book’s cover, I feared it would come out as the glue that did the binding appeared to have spilled over, however, after handling it for a number of times, the gluing seems to be just fine. And yes, I like the cover design; very creative.

Now, apart from a few typos here and there, which can be smoothened by a good editor, this is a book I highly recommend. I learnt a lot.

About being the tallest writer in Africa – I am short, so this cuts to the quick – I wonder, whom between Nyanchwani and Clifford Oluoch is shorter.

Issues News Releases Reviews

Mbugua’s new book a fitting tribute to Wangari Maathai

It would appear that matters to do with environmental conservation occupy a special place in Ng’ang’a Mbugua’s world. Yet, it is these conservation matters that fire his creativity. His last two books have all focused on environmental conservation as their central theme.
And while these issues might appear boring and the least likely subject of a novel, Mbugua has nevertheless breathed life into these otherwise mundane issues and crafted interesting stories around them.
Call him an NGO novelist, an environmental crusader/activist, and any other such names but the fact of the matter is that Mbugua’s books are immensely readable. This is a refreshing departure in an environment where captivating Kenyan writers are few and far between.
Mbugua’s foray into ‘environmental writing’ started with his book Susana the Brave, a primary school reader that talked about a teacher, who after being posted to a school in an arid area, went ahead and transformed the place due to her dedicated campaign to plant trees.
His second book, Terrorists of the Aberdare, addressed the delicate issue of human wildlife conflict and by extent, forest conservation.
And for his troubles Terrorists won the third edition of the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize. The book was also short listed for the 2011 edition of Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature.

His latest book, Different Colours, and which I think is his most ambitious so far, has taken the game a notch higher. Not only has he written on his pet subject, he has fused it with the sublime world of Art.
Different Colours revolves around an imaginary waterfall in an equally imaginary Banana County, which is threatened by an unscrupulous merchant who starts to mine building stones from around the waterfall. The hero of the book is Miguel, a dreadlocked artist – don’t they all sport dreadlocks? – who, after hearing of the beauty of the waterfall decides that he must immortalise it on canvas.
It is while on one of his surveying missions that he accidentally bumps into a group of men hard at work in a secret quarry. The story unfolds after the owner of the secret quarry is alerted of Miguel’s nosiness.
Not that Dik Teita (note the play on the word dictator) hadn’t had his fears as to the ‘real’ intentions of the newly arrived ‘rastaman’. The moment he got wind of Miguel’s mission of painting the waterfall – word travels fast in Banana – he feared it was a matter of time before his secret quarry was discovered.
To prevent this, Dik Teita comes up with what he thinks is a convenient smokescreen; make Miguel paint the local cattle dip – who, in their right minds assigns such jobs?
Seeing as the cattle dip ruse didn’t work, Dik Teita resorts to intimidation and threats of violence. And who better does this dirty work than Vu Tabangi (bhang smoker) the village thug. Sadly for Dik Teita, the threats have the opposite effect on Miguel: his resolve to save the waterfall from destruction hardens. Together with Angela, a widow who also happens to be his landlady, they mobilise the local community on the importance of conserving the waterfall, which is their lifeline. They also enlist the services of Derek, Miguel’s friend, who is also a tech geek. Derek also has contacts in media.
Meanwhile, the noose tightens on Dik Teita and his goons. It also emerges that Dik Teita was behind the death of Angela’s husband.
While the waterfall conservation saga is engrossing I found the parts dealing with Miguel’s art most appealing. It is either that the author is an accomplished art connoisseur or that he had done thorough research on all that entails art, paintings and other forms of visual art.
Whatever the case, the informed discourse on art really uplifts
Mbugua’s book.
In Different Colours, art meets nature, and it is in the appreciation of the beauty of nature that Miguel’s talent and eye for detail enriches the conservation narrative.
Due to their unconventional behaviour society tends to misunderstand artists. Most of the times artists are seen as misfits. And Miguel was no exception; in one classic moment, Miguel is told that people come to the waterfall to commit suicide. “It is a good place to die,” he says more to himself, probably after being overawed by the beauty of the falls.
Throughout the book, the author teases romantics with the probable love affair blossoming between Miguel and his widowed landlady. Even at the end of the novel, he only hints at what might come between the two.
This book, in my view, is a fitting tribute to the late Nobel Laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai. Your work, Mama Miti, was not in vain.