This post is inspired by Roba, who’s been on fire lately with some really fine blogging in the past few days
I love reading, but pharmacy is a bitch. No matter how hard I try, I always find myself with a long reading list that I want to go through, and it is just getting longer without any trace of hope to finish anytime soon. Reading endless pages of pharmacology, pathophysiology, pharmacognosy, microbiology, and pharmaceutical chemistry leaves no time or mode for reading.
Riyadh could be a city for lovers, as a friend of mine wrote last summer, but it is certainly not a city for readers. The lack of good bookstores in the city makes it even more difficult for books lovers. Please don’t be fooled by name of Jarir Bookstore; Jarir is actually a megastore which sells stationary, computers, electronics, mobile phones, and other things. Books are just a small part of these other things. Al-Obeikan Bookstore’s collection of books is larger than Jarir’s, but it is less diverse. They mainly promote the books they publish (they are the publishers of Don’t Be Sad by Sheikh Ayedh Al-Garni, a Saudi bestseller with more than one million copies sold, and translated to several languages), and the books they sell have a somewhat conservative theme; don’t expect to find books by the likes of Turki Al-Hamad and Abduh Khal there. The bad news: most of their books are in Arabic, and their English books section is embarrassingly small and outdated.
Now if you were looking for some new and fine Arabic books, even the banned books, then there is only one place in Riyadh that I can think of: Al-Makatba Al-Turthia. Again, don’t be fooled by the name (it is translated: The Heritage Bookstore). This bookstore, located near Exit 11 on the Northern Ring Road, has always the latest products from the major Arab publishing houses in Lebanon and Egypt, with a great interest in books written by Saudi writers. I order some books from Amazon every once in a while, and even though books are usually cheaper on Amazon, but with the crazy shipping rates they cost much more than they should.
Currently, I’m (still) reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid, and in the photo above you can see the books on my table waiting to be read, with a few more unread books back home in Hassa. Let’s take a look on my reading list for the coming few months/years/decades/whatever:
· Al-Waleed by Riz Khan: I met him (Khan not Al-Waleed ;-) during the Al Jazeera Forum in Doha last January, but what’s interesting about this book is Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal’s initial decision not to publish the book in Saudi Arabia because he did not want it to go under the governmental censorship. However, the book is now available here and sold many copies during the Riyadh International Book Fair, but without the accompanying DVD.
· The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: Probably everybody has already read these two books by now. I got them a long time ago, and still can’t find time to read them.
· Fusooq by Abduh Khal: A story of a runaway girl who gets the reputation of a prostitute. Like almost every recent Saudi novel, this book was harshly attacked by the extremists conservatives because it contains some criticism to the religious police.
· Bla Hshouma by Soumaya Naamane-Guessous: This book, originally published in French about 20 years ago under the title Au-delà de toute pudeur, but only recently translated to Arabic, tackles the subject of female sexuality in Morocco.
· Shanghi Baby by Wei Hui: A controversial novel that was banned in China, where the government burnt about 40,000 copies of the book publicly in April 2000.
· Gheir.. o’Gheir by Hajar Al-Makki: I’ve never heard of this writer before, but I purchased her novel out of curiosity during the Book Fair after a quick look that revealed a lot of SMS’s, emails, and IM’ing in its pages. The fact that the theater of this novel is Jeddah was another reason to buy it, because most of Saudi novels talk about Riyadh or the villages, and ignore the remaining parts of this huge desert kingdom.
· The Television Culture by Abdullah Al-Ghadhmi: Here is a small excerpt: “The proclaimed cultural invasion is a delusion that aims to exaggerate the fear of ourselves, because the youth who wear jeans and eat fast-foods are the same who stand against the imperialist policies; this occurs in our country the same way it occurs in Europe.”
· Hind wa al-Askar by Badriah Al-Bisher: After two collections of short stories, this columnist writes her first novel. The heroine suffers a sexual assault during childhood, and her brother becomes one of the suicidal bombers in the terrorist attack that destroyed the General Security Building in Washem St. in Riyadh two years ago.
· Love Poetry of Famous Muslim Jurists (الإلمام بغزل الفقهاء الأعلام) by Ghazi Al-Gosaibi: This collection of pieces of poetry chose by the well-known Saudi minister would probably makes you go wow, as you would never think that Muslim scholars could be so in love and write some of the most romantic things. Fast forward to check out the scholars of our days, and how they view love poetry… *sigh*
· Malameh by Zainab Hafni: Another novel by another Saudi female writer. This new one is occasionally compared to Banat Al-Riyadh, and some people have even called it Banat Jeddah. The heroines of this novel, like those of Rajaa’s, would drink, have premarital sex, and even get involved in some lesbian relationships. Hafni should get ready for some serious personal attacks by the conservatives.
· New Ideas About New Ideas by Shira White: This is a “fresh, lively, and inspiring perspective on innovation.”
· Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss: I liked her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which was on punctuation, and this new one about manners and etiquette, about the rudeness of the modern world, is supposed to be a fun light read.
You got your own list of unread books? Share it with us.