Reading is considered a good hobby because it leads to the all-round development of one’s brain and personality, and is known to improve one’s imagination skills. Book enthusiasts usually envisage, explore new ideas, and stimulate their minds with a good read, through someone else’s eyes. Free time is a good moment to catch up on a new book, expound knowledge, and enjoy the mind of a writer. Why do some people find pleasure reading, set targets and fulfil them, regardless of their busy schedules? What inspires them to read? Fred Kiiza, a fervent reader who has read over 2,000 books in the past 15 years, answers these questions and more. The executive director of ABC, a Christian organisation in Rwanda, and a resident of Kicukiro District, reads between 12 and 15 books each month. His reading spans a range of disciplines, including history, law, theology, theoretical science, philosophy, and biographies. Kiiza developed a passion for reading at the age of eight with a small book that told the story of a young boy and a giant. As he advanced to primary school, he became more invested in books. By the time he joined secondary level, he often preferred reading textbooks over taking notes, going as far as memorising some of them. In his early teenage years, he delved into novels like “Scarlet Song” (1981) by African writer Mariama Bâ, followed by “Pilgrim's Progress”. When he joined the seminary, his love for reading took a more serious turn. “However, the bulk of my reading – those 2,000 books, and more, has been in the last 15 years. It was during this period that I began reading with a clear intent and had access to the quality of books I truly sought,” he highlights. Curiosity is what drives him to read. He has a drive that he has failed to control—to seek to comprehend the world and its myriad concepts. Each book he completes often leaves him with more questions, pushing him to seek out another volume on the same topic to gain diverse perspectives. This cycle impels him to read incessantly. He ventures into multiple disciplines not only because of his academic background, but also because he believes, contrary to some opinions, that knowledge is intricately interwoven, with each field representing just a fragment of the vast tapestry of understanding. A significant portion of Kiiza’s income is allocated to purchasing books on Kindle, in digital libraries (like Logos), and in print. To him, reading is as vital as eating. As a result, he spends a minimum of $2,000 per year on books. “Though I set reading targets, I should note that I generally don’t count anything under 200 pages as a ‘book read.’ When time allows, I even surpass this monthly count. That said, I always feel there’s room for improvement in my reading habits, especially knowing some avid readers who surpass my numbers. Every new year, I set a resolution to increase my reading volume.” Kiiza’s advice to people who aren’t inclined to read is to start with Mortimer J. Adler’s “How to Read a Book.” For him, many individuals find reading tedious because they have never learned to engage with it effectively. He stresses that Adler’s guide introduces readers to techniques that can make reading more enjoyable and rewarding. To underscore the importance of reading, Kiiza advises in both an invitation and a caution, drawing an example from the late humourist, and novelist Mark Twain, who aptly remarked, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” He notes that this quote sheds light on the true value of literacy. Ever since he fell in love with reading, Kiiza has discovered the immense essence of reading, for instance, it’s a privilege of literacy. The passionate reader highlights that not everyone is privileged with the ability to read due to societal, financial, or cultural barriers”, and “neglecting to use a skill that many lack seems wasteful.” The book enthusiast notes that reading opens doors to endless knowledge, varied cultures, historical insights, and diverse viewpoints. Not engaging in it means missing out on immense growth opportunities. “There’s a minimal distinction between one who can’t read because of unavoidable circumstances and one who simply chooses not to. Both miss out on the enrichment reading offers,” he stresses. According to Kiiza, reading is empowerment. It cultivates critical thinking, enabling individuals to make informed choices and participate in impactful discussions. Additionally, he says beyond academic or career advancement, reading fosters continual personal and intellectual development. ALSO READ: Literature and its importance “When a significant portion of literate individuals opt out of reading, it hampers the collective critical thinking and growth of society.” For him, books not only entertain but also challenge our views and biases, urging us to think critically. They stress the importance of knowledge as a tool for empowerment and navigating life’s complexities. Kiiza says the lessons one extracts from a book are influenced by its genre, context, and the reader’s personal perspective, making every reading experience unique. ALSO READ: Importance and challenges of reading culture in Rwanda From his reading of history books as well as books on the history of ideas, he has come to appreciate how ideas from bygone eras subtly yet powerfully shape our daily lives, societal structures, cultural norms, and personal beliefs. These historical ideas influence not only those who actively engage with them but ripple through society, affecting even those unfamiliar with their origins. In essence, the past echoes in our present, often directed by those who have taken the time to understand and interpret it, he adds. While most of his writing to date has been academic papers, not books, the book lover has been contemplating venturing into more mainstream literature for over a decade. Many colleagues of his have heartened him to take this step. He aspires to pen a book intended for a broader audience in the near future. Although he establishes reading goals, there are days when he plans to immerse himself in a book with the aim of completing it within a day or two, only to be side-tracked by unexpected events. Just like anyone else, Kiiza encounters challenges. One significant advantage he has, which many avid readers might relate to, is his disciplined approach to phone usage. It greatly minimises distractions. “When I am engrossed in a book, even the loud beating of drums would barely register. However, on the rare occasions when unforeseen events disrupt my reading plans, I always find a way to compensate and ensure I meet or even surpass my reading targets later on.” When asked to reveal his favourite author, Kiiza explains that choosing a single ‘best’ author is a challenging task given the multitude of talented writers he has admired across various disciplines and genres. However, if he had to pick one whose work resonates broadly, transcending backgrounds, educations, and personal interests, it would be Clive Staples Lewis, commonly known as C.S. Lewis. His profound influence on readers is undeniable, and here is why he stands out for him. Lewis’ writing prowess spanned multiple genres. He penned beloved children's literature like “The Chronicles of Narnia”, ventured into science fiction with “The Space Trilogy”, explored Christian apologetics (a branch of Christian theology that defends Christianity) in works like “Mere Christianity” and “The Problem of Pain,” and even authored academic literature commentaries. Kiiza commends the author’s writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, saying Lewis’ writings are imbued with profound insights. He had a unique ability to distil complex concepts into engaging narratives, making them accessible and relatable. Lewis’ transformation from atheism to Christianity adds a captivating layer to his literature. This profound shift is palpably reflected in the genuine conviction of his apologetic pieces. Beyond being an author, Lewis was a formidable intellectual of his era. He engaged in enlightening debates and discussions, showcasing his thoughts on leadership and the depth of his understanding. He adds that C.S. Lewis’ multifaceted talents and his ability to weave deep, thought-provoking concepts into his writings make him a favourite. “My educational background benefits me in this regard. The books I wish to read often exceed my budget, so I access them through various premium databases associated with academic institutions. This grants me access to current research in any field of my choice, for example, Perlego, ProQuest, EBSCOhost, ATLA, JSTOR, SAGE, and others.” His current reads are the “New Testament in Greek, 4th Edition”, “The 2023 Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda”, “God and the Transgender Debate: Biblical Perspectives on Gender Identity”, and “Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology” edited by Douglas Geivett & Brendan Sweetman.