I have a confession to make, I am a bookaholic.
From as far back as I can remember I have always been fond of books. Being naturally introverted, as a kid I found it was easier for me to relate to characters in the novels I read than the people I met.
From the moment I discovered books, I realized no matter what problem I was facing, teenage angst, being rejected by a girl, loneliness, anger, I could tuck into a good book, and my mind would be able to transcend the smallness of my universe and take me to places I could only dream of.
My first flirtation with books began when as a seven year old; my elder brother started lending me some of his comic strips like Superman, Spiderman, HeMan and a host of others.
I devoured these with a passion for in my mind these characters were so real and I looked forward to a day I would get to meet them and ask them all the questions I had been longing to ask.
One day when I was about ten years old, some thugs raided our home and made off with the family TV.
It would be five years before we bought another TV. During this time my relationship with books became a fully fledged one. There was no other source of entertainment.
In time, I started saving money from my transport or pocket money to buy my own books. Instead of going out to play with the other kids, I often lay on my bed reading my most recent buy.
Sometimes I read the bible, which had archaic language, but had many fascinating stories which meant I could not run out of reading material.
Gradually, I started detective stories like Sherlock Holmes and boyhood adventures novels likes Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In high school, I began reading literature stuff and biographies.
All these books made me aware of a wider world whose existence I would never have become aware of had I simply stuck to academic books.
During my high school, one of my favourite hangout places was the library. I enjoyed feeling the texture of a book and imagining how many people might have flipped through its pages.
Each book in the school library had a borrower’s card which listed its previous borrowers. If I finished reading a book I liked, I would look at the list of borrowers some of whom had borrowed the book as way back as 1956 and I would wonder where they are now, and whether the book had meant as much to them as it had to me.
During my hours at the library, I felt at peace with myself and the rest of the world in a way that is hard to express in words.
After university, I made a promise to myself that when I got a job, I would buy a book every month.
I have now had a job for close to two years but have only bought two books. Books in Rwanda are costly as a visit to any of the local book shops will reveal.
I like to visit bookshops. I often covetously touch the books I want to buy, only to look at the price tag and walk away.
Luckily for me, I was recently introduced to a book club in Kigali by one of my friends. The book club is where other bookaholics meet. It is a bit like Alcoholics Anonymous.
Only that at the book club members are proud of their addiction and want to increase it. The members meet at a member’s house once every month.
There is a collection of books contributed to by the members. Every member picks any number of books they like from the collection and borrows them for a month.
At the next meeting, in between snacks each member makes brief comments about the books he or she has read during the past month stating what the book was about generally and whether it was a good read.
It is a great way to spend an evening, sipping wine, making new friends and talking about your favourite books. Through the book club I have made a number of acquaintances and renewed my love for books.
I hope that one or two people reading this article will be inspired to read books and form book clubs of their own. Forming book clubs is one of the simplest ways to enhance the reading culture in Rwanda.