2016 Last Book Haul and Karachi International Book Fair

Call me a book hoarder or bibliomania! I love books.  I cannot resist the urge of buying

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books whenever I pass by any bookstore or book fair. I see books and I feel my legs have got stuck under some heavy object and I cannot move ahead.

This time, it happened when I got an opportunity to visit 12th Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) 2016 held in the month of December. For those readers who don’t know about KIBF, the five-day book fair is an annual event, which is organized by the Pakistan Publishers Booksellers’ Association (PPBA), with an aim to provide platform for local book-lovers like me.

KIBF is one of the country’s largest book fairs, bringing many publishing and distribution houses together with domestic and international publishers, booksellers, librarians and institutional customers.

Each year many international publishers participate in this event and this year too, publishers from Iran, Turkey, Singapore, China, Malaysia, England, UAE and other countries were part of this international event.

Coming back to my book-haul, I went on the second day of the fair. As I entered Karachi Expo Center, I was pretty excited because I was going to be with my love (read: books). It was a treat to see children and adults sharing same passion for books.

I made my way to hall number three where I went straight into Liberty Books stall. I browsed through variety of books on the shelves and then I decided to take out my list (which I had been preparing for two days) to purchase only selected books. Though let me tell you, I failed to follow my list.

Before coming to book fair, I made a decision that I would purchase less than ten books. However, I believe decisions are meant to be broken (or rules are meant to be broken) whatever, I end up spending more on books in one go and left broke.

I bought 20 books in the month of December which is quite huge after combining all the months’ purchase.

So, let me present you my last book haul for this year which I am sure will keep me occupied in 2017.

  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I am going to read this for the first time and I have never read her before. The story is about two brown girls Tracy and Aimee who dream of becoming dancers. One has talent and the other has ideas about rhythm and time. A complicated childhood friendship ends abruptly in their twenties, never to be revisited but never quite forgotten either.

  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang

I got to know about this novel through Goodreads. A story about Yeong-hye and her husband who apparently seem ordinary people but when Yeong-hye seek a more plant-like existence, commits a shocking act of subversion; she refuses to eat meat.

  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Don’t know anything about this novel; the reason to buy this novel is its inclusion in the list of winners of Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2016. The narrator, a Vietnamese army captain explored the legacy of Vietnam War in literature, films and the wars fought today.

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

First time I saw on liberty books website and that’s it, I decided to buy this one because I was in love with its cover and after reading blurb I thought to myself, need to read this one.  The story revolves around Maurie-Laure and her father who live in Paris near Museum of Natural history. When the Nazis occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo with museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

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  • Do Not Say We have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

As soon as my eyes set on this cover which was lying on the shelf at Liberty book stall, I just picked on the spur of the moment. The novel brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy which still resonates for a new generation.

  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Winner of Man Booker Prize 2016 is the apt reason for buying this novel. According to what I have read in the blurb of this book, the narrator was raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist. His father was killed in a drive-by shooting and the son realized that there never was a memoir as claimed by his father. The son was left with a bill for a drive-through funeral of his father.

  • Thirteen Reason Why by Jay Asher

I saw its cover first on instagram which was shared by one of the bookstragrammars and therefore the book made into my list. The story is about Clay Jensen who found a strange package on his return to home. Later he discovered several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker-his classmate and first love-who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King

King had to be in my list without any doubt. I had in my mind to buy this title for long and finally I bought it. The novel is full of suspense where the main protagonist Morris Bellamy, a reader, consumed by his obsession for America’s author John Rothstein prepared to kill for a trove of notebooks containing at least one more unpublished novel.

  • Where Worlds Collide by David Waterman

I bought this one from Oxford University Press stall. It was just one of those moments when you read something and it captures your attention. Same happened with this book. The reason behind purchasing this book was its survey of contemporary Pakistani writers and their efforts to trace the itinerary of Pakistan in the 21st century.

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    1. Wind-up Bird Chronicle: The story unfolds the tidy suburban realities of Okada’s vague and blameless life are turned inside out and he embarks on a bizarre journey guided by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.
    2. Norwegian Wood: A story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, the novel takes readers to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless and heroic love.
    3. Pinball: The story is based on the writer and it’s also about rat. It’s about a quest, a brief love affair, and the three-flipper Spaceship pinball machine.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I was introduced to Kazuo through his first novel ‘A Pale View of Hills’ which I read few days back. I found his writing fresh and he has an ability to draw interest of his readers with his writing style. The words flow like a river on the pages of his novel. Therefore I got hold of his finest work which was also shortlisted for Man Booker Prize. It is a story of love, friendship and memory, which is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu

I want to read something about strategy and how the politicians and executives use this tool on every level from interpersonal to the international, with an aim to understand the physics and psychology of conflict.

  • The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria

I read its review sometimes back and it was in my mind to get hands on this one for sure. So, I was enthralled to see this book in the Liberty Book stall.  The story is an intimate exploration of disjunction between exalted dreams and complicated realities.

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  • The GoldFinch by Donna Tartt

Obviously I found this title in the Pulitzer Prize List and then next I found in the book fair. The story revolves around son who is abandoned by his father, miraculously survives a catastrophe that otherwise tears his life apart.

  • Taboo by Fouzia Saeed

The title and the cover says it all. My interest to know about the world of prostitution which is considered a taboo in our society instigated me to purchase this book.

  • Keeping faith by Jodi Picoult

I have watched ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ which was based on Picoult’s novel, a brilliant story full of emotions which is why I bought this one. In this story, the author depicts the broken family and how it affects the child’s mind?

  • David Copperfield

I bought this one because it only cost Rs. 50 and other reason is its story which is both fantasy and fact, an autobiographical fiction that stood the test of time.

  • The Fool’s Tale

Less cost so why not! No other reason to buy this one, and after all I am a book collector at the end so yes, I bought it.  The story is a historical fiction, compelling political intrigue and passionate romance to create an intimate drama of three individuals’ bound-and undone-by love and loyalty.

This year, I was no good but next year, I hope to do a lot more reading and less buying. I only hope but no promise because after all I love books…

 

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Book Review: The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

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Whenever you pick a book you never know exactly what are you going to get. Same happened to me with ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’.

Background of buying Bastard of Istanbul: I would not have read this novel if the author was not Elif Shafak. My love for Shafak started after reading Forty Rules of Love (FROL). It was a story about a desperate housewife who was not happy in her married life. She worked at a literary agency where she was given a book to review name as Sweet Blasphemy written by Aziz Zahra. The book is about a wandering dervish Shams of Tarbaiz who is a mystic Sufi and he sees the vision of his death and he need to find someone to whom he can deliver his knowledge to. For this purpose, Shams travelled to Konya where he met Jalaluddin Rumi, a famous Islamic scholar and a Sufi. After meeting Shams, a drastic change was observed in Rumi due to which people including Rumi’s family start hating him.

I know I have deviated from my review but the reason to include synopsis of FROL was to make you people understand my preference for this novel 🙂

I remembered I bought this book during last year’s book fair that held at Expo Center, Karachi. Before this fair, I had already finished FROL so when I reached liberty book stall and start searching for some good novels, I got hold of this novel ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’. I only saw the spine of the novel as it was in between other novels on the rack. Reading Shafak’s name raised my guard and as soon as I took it out I was just in love with the cover of the paperback. I decided instantly to buy this novel.

For one whole year I thought to read but due to job and so many other books in my reading list, it took me a while to start with this novel (and probably that’s why I am dragging it over here too) Jokes apart…

Précis: Let me trudge through the story which showcases three cultures in one story-Turkey, Aremina and America. The story is set in the United States and Turkey, concerns two families-one Turkish, living one in Istanbul and other is Armenian, living between Arizona and San Francisco

A young girl Armanoush, an Armenian- American, had a split family as her parents were divorced. Her mother married to a Turkish man, Mustafa whereas his father who was an Armenian, never remarried.  Armanoush decided to go to Turkey and stay with her step-father’s family.

Mustafa’s family based in Istanbul is a house of five women where Asya Kazanci is the youngest of all. Asya’s beautiful and a rebellious mother, Zeliha run a tattoo parlor. Asya never got to know about his father and her mother never mentioned to her of course at the end of the story.

Both Armanoush and Asya were young and didn’t know much about their past however, the former who came for a search of her identity, the latter didn’t even attempt to find about her father. According to Asiya, “Memories are too much of a burden” whereas Armanoush had different opinion and following lines might be easy to understand her perception. “Despite all the grief that it embodies, history is what keeps us alive and united.”

Review: I was really shocked when I got to know that Shafak was prisoned for three years for writing this novel. The story talks about Armenian genocide that happened in 1915. Shafak kept a neutral approach for this genocide. Armanoush tried to reason with her cousin Asya about Armenian genocide as she was appalled to find a city and a country in denial about the genocide, and she attempted to make her cousin understand how much the past conditioned the present.

What I found troubling is Mustafa’s character, whose actions are central to the plot, remains an enigma. It was quite a revelation when I got to know that Asya’ on whom the title is based, was a daughter of her uncle Mustafa and he was the culprit who raped his own sister. I think nothing justifies rape and putting on the complexities in the past is not enough reason to do such horrendous act. But then the brought up of the family do matter in the development of the personality.

Overall there’s plenty of plot in this novel however, there is no doubt that the book is clever, thick with ideas, themes and politics. But then reading through the pages I realized that it would be more interesting with fewer characters and rather less quirky description.

On the positive side, the highlight of the novel is some of the beautiful lines which really hook you to the novel till the end. Some of the lines I am sharing below in this post.

Excerpts from the Novel

Life is coincidence, though sometimes it takes djinni to fathom that.

-Language was only a reeking carcass of hollow words long rotten inside

-Literature needs freedom to thrive. For Asya, fiction was her main connection with the entire world

-Mourning is like virginity, Aunty Zeliha heaved a sigh. You should give it to the one who deserves it most.

-When women survive an awful marriage or love affair, and all that, they generally avoid another relationship for quite some time. With men, however, it’s just the opposite, the moment they finish a catastrophe they start looking for another one. Men are incapable of being alone.

-Family stories intermingle in such ways that what happened generation ago can have an impact on seemingly irrelevant developments of the present day. The past is anything but by gone. If Levent Kazanci hadn’t grown up to be such a bitter and abusive man, would his only son, Mustafa, have ended up being a different person? If generations ago in 1915 Shushan hadn’t been left an orphan, would Asya today still be a bastard

-“All these rich people! Huh! They stockpile money all through their life, what for? How foolish! Do shrouds have pockets? It’s a cotton shroud that we are all going to wear in the end. That’s it. No chic clothes. No jewelry. Can you wear a tuxedo to the grave or a ball gown? Who holds the skies for the people?”

-Imagination was a dangerously captivating magic for those compelled to be realistic in life and words could be poisonous for those destined always to be silenced.

-For the Armenians, time was a cycle in which the past incarnated in the present and the present birthed the future. For the Turks, time was a multi-hypenated line, where the past ended at some definite point and the present started anew from scratch, and there was nothing but rupture in between

-Collectivities are capable of manipulating their individual members’ beliefs, thoughts, and even bodily reactions. You keep hearing a certain story over and over again, and the next thing you know you have internalized the narrative. From that moment on it ceases to be someone else’s story. It is not even a story anymore, but reality, your reality!

Happy Reading Everyone!