Saturday January 7 2012



Julian Mwine is a researcher and a consultant in communications and public relations. She talked to Beatrice Lamwaka about the books he has read.

What do you like about books?
I like books first of all because they allow me to experience a different world and life through the words and experiences of the characters. Books are a kind of teleportation devices that enable one travel to a place and time different from one’s own which in many ways contributes to broadening one’s outlook and perspective. Books even when they are not based on real events can be a wealth of knowledge on real life issues.

Which are your favourite books?
I do not have any favourite book(s) but Great Expectations by Charles Dickens would feature prominently if I had to make a list. It’s the one book I have read the most. About three years ago I read The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck and though I found it bleak and depressing at times, its central character Wang Lung’s, struggle to obtain land, till it and prosper against some pretty tough odds was moving and not easily forgotten. I also like short stories like those in A Quiver full of Arrows, A Twist in the Tale and 12 Red Herrings, all by Jeffery Archer, or like those in The Veteran by Frederick Forsythe.

Who is your favourite character in books you’ve read?
Characters come and go and they are your favourites for a while until other characters come along and become your favourite. I tend to find that characters that are also narrators of their stories somehow linger on longer in my head because I feel they are telling me their story themselves. For this reason, Pip from Great Expectations is among my favourites. My current favourite is Calliope “Cal” Stephanides from Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides because I finished it recently.

Which books didn’t you enjoy reading? Why?
There are many books I have started and not completed (or read and not liked) in all genres but self-help books seem to feature heavily in this category. I have come to realise that many (not all) self-help books in our bookstores, especially those on growing rich or gaining financial independence, are only marginally useful to people like me because they are written with a western (mostly American audience in mind). For example, though the general advice on being successful in business maybe the same everywhere, some factors like rampant corruption, systems and institutions that are non-existent or don’t work as they should and the all-pervasive technical “know-who” that characterises Ugandan society renders some of the advice in these books inapplicable.

Which Ugandan books have you read?
I am a bit ashamed to say this but I haven’t read that many Ugandan books and even the few I have read were those that were around the house when I was growing up almost all of them written in the 60s and 70s. These were books like Dare to die, The Prodigal Chairman and the Trials and Tribulations in Sandu’s Home, all by Geoffrey Kalimugongo, or the famous poems, Song of Lawino, and Two Songs by Oko p’Bitek and quite a few others from that era like Return to the Shadows by Robert Serumaga.
However, I have recently come across a group of people who have been pointing me to Ugandan authors I had hitherto not known so I plan to be reading more Ugandan books.


Which book(s) are you reading?
Right now I am reading a pair of funny novels; one is by Mohammed Hanif called A Case of Exploding Mangoes and the other is White Teeth by Zadie Smith..