The Bookworm

Member Profile: Bill Muganda

Guest writer Bosibori Maine talks to Bill Muganda, his popular instagram page @kenyan_library and how he became a reader. Bill and Bosi have both been a members at The Bookworm Gigiri for a long time. In this interview series, Bosi talks books, life and libraries.

Bill is the reader behind the popular Instagram handle @kenyan_library.

One look at his Instagram page is enough to tell you what an absolute talented creative and photographer he is. Bill frequently features his two adorable cats, Cloud and Atlas, who you’d think came out of the feline womb as top models. Either that, or Bill is the cat whisperer.

He denies both claims, and attributes his success to patience. It took years of training himself to be patient and letting the stars (his cats) run the show when they wanted to. He learned to observe their moods and habits, even their feeding and sleeping times. He had it all down to a science. It finally paid off because now the three of them are able to create magic together. 

And when he’s not being a magician behind the camera, Bill is almost always reading.

“Reading grounds me. Others use it as an escape, but to me reading is home. It’s like a sweater. When the world gets cold, as it often does, I put on that sweater.”

The funny thing is, Bill has never been a reader. He stumbled upon it in his adult life. 

“At 18, when everyone else was figuring out their life, I wasn’t figuring out mine so I went to a bookstore. And the rest is history.”

The first book he remembers buying is a huge fantasy book. At the time, he had limited funds so he often gravitated towards the biggest and cheapest books he could find. 

“I had this idea that the more pages the book had, the more it warranted the money.”

@kenyan_library was born out of boredom. Bill was staying at his parents’ house with so much time on his hands and nothing meaningful to do besides reading. So he started brainstorming and throwing around ideas like darts on a wall hoping one would stick. None of them did. Until one auspicious day while he was mindlessly scrolling on Instagram and he stumbled upon this whole other world that ignited a fire within him.

“It was like I was outside in space and suddenly I saw a mesmerizing light from afar. I crawled towards it and then fell into this amazing portal of other readers who were passionate about books and documented it in cool, creative ways on Instagram.” He’d hit the bull’s eye, and he wasted no time jumping into it. He’s never looked back ever since.

Photography was never in the picture for Bill. It’s something that grew out of sheer necessity and a dose of curiosity.

“It was all organic. At first, I didn’t realize that photography was ebbing its way into my life. I was just reading books and posting about them. And with every picture I took, I found myself thinking about composition and lighting, and all these other technical aspects of photography. So then I hopped onto Google and YouTube to learn as much as I could.”

And just like that, his passion for photography began. Since he didn’t have enough money to buy a camera, his phone’s camera had to suffice. And he made it work. Then as luck would have it, this one device he depended on to pursue his newfound passion fell to an untimely death.

“I was absolutely devastated! I didn’t have anything to take pictures with anymore. Suddenly, I felt like something was off in my being.”

Photography had already become a core part of his life, and without it, he felt disconnected. He now knew exactly what he needed to do. He saved up and bought a camera. Shortly after that, he quit his job and pursued photography full-time. This one brave decision snowballed into one of the most profound experiences in his life. He still can’t believe how far he’s come as a self-taught photographer, and how much he’s grown. The connections he’s made along the way are what he holds near and dear to his heart.

“It’s been a peaceful space for connection, opening up, and talking about books. Intricate connections that would never have happened otherwise. I’m so grateful. It’s been an amazing journey.”

A glimpse into Bill the reader:

On Reading habits:

I’m very intentional about reading. I like to take myself out on book dates. So even if I have a busy day, I schedule my whole day around that book date I’ve planned. I’m lucky enough to be freelancing so I can schedule my time around my reading.

On finding the balance between reading and social media:

It takes a lot of discipline. What works for me is journaling my reading goals and habits. So if I read, I write it down. At the end of the day I get to see how much progress I’ve made. It’s not a pressure thing, it’s just fun for me to look at the end of the day. If I don’t hit my goals I’m not angry at myself. I try to take it easy on myself.

On Reading slumps:

Reading slumps happen when something is off with me, not with the book necessarily. So I reread. I reread my favorite books. I’m a religious rereader. 

The one book that changed your life:

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. It’s influenced me in the way I view my life and how I interact with people, and my sadness. I wear my sadness with joy. Because the world is sad. But there’s so much joy as well. And that’s what the book reminded me of.

The one book nobody should die without reading:

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin. It’s heavy yet so smart. Baldwin was way ahead of his time.

If you could only take 3 books to a desert island what would they be?

  1. Any Virginia Woolf book

  2. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

  3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel

The saddest book you’ve ever read?

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. That man writes beautifully.

What is the funniest book you’ve ever read?

Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo. It has one of the most charismatic main characters I’ve ever met.

What is the most unique book you’ve ever read?

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. It’s a memoir and comic book, and the author wrote and drew it herself. The way she intersects her mom’s life and her life is so beautiful. 

Lastly, if you were to invite 3 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party you’re hosting, who would they be?

  1. Viriginia Woolf, obviously!

  2. James Baldwin

  3. Toni Morisson

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