Chido Nwakanma caught up with polyglot Ifeoma Malo who says “reading is a religion” and and suggests the best books to read this year.

Ifeoma Malo is renowned and respected in the fields of energy, policy, as well as conflict management. She brings over 15 years of experience in public policy development, public sector programming, project development.

Her intense focus on energy covers regulations and policies, access, sustainability, financing, rural development, governance and regulatory reforms.

Her foundation is Law from the University of Ibadan, but also includes a Harvard Law LLM, MA, MSc and MBA from the University of Massachusetts, and various certifications. She speaks Igbo, English and Yoruba.

  1. What are you reading currently?

I have two books on my reading list currently. The first is “Burden of Service – Reminiscences of Nigeria’s Former Attorney General by Mohammed Bello Adoke and the second is Bad Blood – Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup — by John Carreyrou.

  1. What informs your choice of a book to read?

I read anything. I could be reading fiction one minute and an autobiography the next. It boils down to interest. I often find myself also re-reading classics or books that I read many years ago. I call those my comfort books.

  1. Which books would you rate as the Top Ten in your reading experience?

This is a difficult choice – considering the hundreds of thousands of books I have read over time. I could maybe try and rate them, but in no particular order because they are books I go back to often. If you ask me in a few years, it might have changed.

a. Chinua Achebe- Things Fall Apart
b. Chukwuemeka Ike – The Potter’s Wheel
c. Flora Nwapa – One is Enough
d. Flora Nwapa – Efuru
e. Cyprian Ekwensi – Passport of Mallam Ilia
f. William Golding – Lord of the Flies
g. Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers
h. Christopher Buckley – Losing Mum and Pop
i. Ayan Rand – Atlas Shrugged
j. John Tavis – The Vatican Diaries

  1. What books would you return to again and again?

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Flora Nwapa’s Efuru. These are two books that fundamentally shaped my life.

  1. Which books would you consider essential or critical in your profession or line of business?

a. Dr Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese is a book that taught me to think of change and adaptability in a fast-moving world in a very different way.
b. Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen – wrote a best seller called Difficult Conversations. This was a book I read for postgraduate school. It taught me how to frame conversations that could otherwise be best avoided.

  1. Please suggest five essential books in your field and five general interest books that are must-reads for young people.

It is difficult for me to be prescriptive in any way and in the case of industry-specific books – it is almost impossible to say what would be essential in future so while I would like to pass on that or suggest tips from the answers to question seven below but I will say that I have enjoyed the following books lately:

a. Frugal Innovation: How to do better with less – Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu
b. Cultural Intelligence – Julia Middleton
c. Deep Thinking – Garry Kasparov
d. Deep Work – Carl Newport
e. The Coming Jobs War – Jim Clifton

However, for general interest books, I would recommend that people read more about the history books that tell the stories of their countries or continents.

a. This Present Darkness –by Stephen Ellis
b. A swamp full of dollars — by Micheal Peel
c. Power, Politics and Death: A front-row account of Nigeria under the late President Yar’Adua — by Segun Adeniyi
d. Love does not win elections — Ayisah Osori
e. In Biafra, Africa Died — Emefina Ezeani

  1. Which three to five books would you recommend as a leader and manager?

a. How to win friends and influence people –Dale Carnegie
b. Getting to Yes — William Ury and Roger Fisher
c. How to Talk to Anyone — Leil Lowndes
d. Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone — Mark Goulsten
e. The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People — Stephen Covey

  1. Do you prefer hard copy or digital texts?

The smell of a new book, the texture of its cover or hardbound copy, the joy of leafing through pages- it never gets old. I am more inclined to analogue when it comes to books.

  1. What are the significant differences and appeal of each in your view?

I think the differences are in the ease of accessibility. Depending on where in the world you reside – and with the ease of the Internet, digital texts are most convenient and certainly more comfortable to carry around. You could also do a lot with digital texts these days – making it easier for people with disabilities to interact with books in ways they cannot do with hard copies alone. I think these are the major differences.

  1. Any preference between fiction and non-fiction?

I have no preference. I would read either if they are well written.

  1. Who are your all-time favourite authors?
    a. Christopher Buckley for political satire.
    b. Chinua Achebe – For African cultural renaissance.
    c. Flora Nwapa – For every time I need to deepen my understanding of womanity.
  2. Do you do audiobooks? What are your thoughts on audiobooks?

Yes, I do have quite a few audiobooks, but I always have a hard copy as a back-up. I like audiobooks for their accessibility and the fact that it is able to be more inclusive to a more diverse audience. I recently had a friend who told me about his parents, both professors, who are pushing 80yrs old and have both lost their sight and the only way they have kept up with their little pleasure of reading is through audiobooks. If there were no audiobooks, the only way they can read is either by learning braille in their twilight years or having someone read out to them. Audiobooks give them independence to read at their own pace and enjoy these books at their leisure.

  1. Any preference between Nigerian or foreign authors in your choice of books? Which ones predominate in your library and why?

I have an equal amount of both foreign and Nigerian authors. Lately, I am investing heavily in African literature — both those written by African authors, or by authors who are writing about Africa.

  1. Do you share the notion that Nigerians do not read? What informs your response either way?

We, unfortunately, do not have the most robust reading culture in Nigeria. And this is reflected in our academic and educational system today. The advent of technology has made it worse as people are only able to read or digest information in bite sizes these days.

  1. Any thoughts on reading generally and what it contributes to readers?
    Reading is a religion – it is a culture; it is a science. It will teach you many things and help shape your values in many ways. It can help define your world and your understanding of your place in the world. It will take you places that gravity might never be able to. Our interactions with books help to shape our minds, feeds our souls and nourishes our bodies. I know that I am biased but readers I believe live a fuller and more fulfilled life.
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