If I talk a lot about reading, it’s probably because of the life changing encounters I have had with great books.

One incident that particularly stands out happened two decades ago. I was about eight years old at the time. At that early age, I had started reading books like Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, How You Can Be Led by the Spirit of God by Kenneth E. Hagin and Macbeth by William Shakespeare. While I got some of the books from friends, the bulk of my reading material came from my dad’s library.

Dad is a reader and bibliophile – just like me. He taught Geography for many years and he was always a favourite with his students. They loved and connected with him so much that they gave him a nickname – Iloeje – because he exuded so much knowledge that you would think he authored the most popular Geography textbook of his time. That’s to tell you how brilliant my dad is – and that brilliance is fuelled by a strong reading culture. Mum is a book lover too but her schedule often crowds out her reading time. So whenever I saw a book that is good for her, she would sit down and have me read to her after dinner. Dad and mum were secondary school teachers.

Sometime in 1996, dad fell sick – and those were the days when people believed that the teacher’s reward is in heaven. So teachers were poorly paid. Teachers are still not being paid well but it was worse then. At the time that dad fell sick, their salary had not been paid for several months and they did not have other viable streams of income – so we simply didn’t have money. We produced most of our food, barely surviving on mangos and pawpaw which grew in our backyard together with maize and cassava which we cultivated on our farm. Occasionally, we would take a few cups of rice and beans on credit from Iya Bolanle who sold provisions across the street.

Given that situation, taking dad to the hospital was out of the question – we simply couldn’t afford it. He had begun to experience involuntary movements of the diaphragm accompanied by a rapid closure of the glottis. It was as though he was going to cough out his heart. In layman’s language, he was having serious hiccups – at a rate of two or three spasms per second. Most people have this experience just before giving up the ghost. So you can imagine how scared we were! But we couldn’t take him to the hospital because no one would lend us money and hospitals don’t treat on credit – not even the missionary hospitals (If you have any information to the contrary, please let me know).

Mum is a very spiritual woman. As she prayed and pondered, I imagine God asking her, “What do you have in the house?” All of a sudden, she remembered we weren’t that poor after all. We had an extensive library – that’s a wealth of knowledge which we could not exhaust in a lifetime! So, at her prompting, we rummaged through the shelves and brought out two books: Health and Safety for You and Family Health. We started looking through the index of each book to see if we could find any useful information on hiccups. You can imagine our excitement when we found that one of the books had the information we were looking for. And to make the good news even better, the solution was within our reach – he only needed to eat two teaspoons of granulated sugar!

Immediately, we scraped up two naira coins and ran off to Iya Bolanle’s house to buy sugar. As soon as dad took the sugar, hiccups stopped. It was almost magical! You can imagine the number of people that have died simply because they couldn’t access basic healthcare and they did not have an alternative either. In our case, we did not have access to healthcare but we had a book that turned out to be our saving grace. Knowledge is indeed power. Now, this does not apply to health alone; it applies to every other area of life.

We can talk of William Kamkwamba who turned Malawi around and became a global figure using what he learnt from a Physics textbook in the local library. How about Peter J. Daniels who went on to became a raving success through personal study after being told that he could never amount to anything? Many people rave about the Bill Gates’ “dropout” story which is actually fallacious. Let’s even assume that Bill Gates was indeed a dropout. Is it the fact of being a dropout that made him successful? Have you read what his father said about his insatiable curiosity and voracious appetite for books from a very young age?

If at this point, you’re still not convinced that books can literally transform your life, you should stop reading this right now and step out to hug the nearest palm tree. LOL. I can attribute all that I am becoming to two things – the love I have for reading and the value I place on building quality relationships, vertical and horizontal. And in a way, the latter is consequent on the former.
1 Comment

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  1. Milton Ayala 3 years ago

    There’s no end to books, now good books are rare. Thanks for sharing


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