Stories about books

With humour and humility, ‘The Perils of Being Moderately Famous’ brings literal royalty back down to earth

Earlier this year, I had just finished two heavy novels, both on the topic of slavery and the struggle of African Americans today. Thus I found myself in desperate want of a ‘lighter’ read. The Perils of Being Moderately Famous by Soha Ali Khan then came to my attention, and even though I read a review saying it was a pointless book, I’m glad I gave it the benefit of the doubt. I had my own assumptions of course. “Isn’t this title a little pretentious?” “What exactly have I got in common with this royal celebrity?” Soha is quite literally a royal, as ...

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Only in Pakistan can your child get an ‘A’ without learning anything

Over the past few years, the policy on education has taken centre stage in Pakistan. There is now debate over reforming the curriculum of madrassas, as they have failed millions of students who have, and continue to receive, their education in these religious seminaries. However, it is not just the madrassas that need reform, but also the ‘elite’ private school system. I have been teaching part-time in Karachi’s private sector for almost a decade, and it is blatantly clear that the current system has failed miserably. Be it private universities or schools, few understand or are interested in the purpose of education itself. The ...

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14 books that prove 2017 has been an exceptional literary year

Marked by geo-political tensions and post-truth anxiety, 2017, as a literary year, gave us many reasons to celebrate. For fiction, in general, it has been a great year, but for homegrown fiction in particular, it has been an exceptional one. Three of Pakistan’s most venerated writers published books this year: Kamila Shamsie (Home Fire), Mohsin Hamid (Exit West) and Nadeem Aslam (The Golden Legend). While Home Fire and Exit West became bestsellers and even got the Booker nod, it is Aslam’s book, I believe, that towers over all homegrown literary produce this year. The Golden Legend puts to rest all ...

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‘It’ is a twisted, terrifying and an intense piece of work

Clowns are creepy. There’s simply no getting around that. I don’t care what people say, there’s just something odd about a grown man in a kooky outfit wearing makeup, a wig and a red nose, and has that much cheer in him. It’s this creepiness that author Stephen King capitalised on in 1986 when he wrote It, a book that did for clowns what Jaws did for sharks and what Psycho did for taking showers. The title character, Pennywise, is a dancing clown who happens to actually be a macabre and malevolent force of evil that exists in underground sewers of the small town of Derry, Maine. ...

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‘Exit West’ and ‘The Golden Legend’ could be Pakistan’s literary game-changers

This is a strong year for Pakistani fiction. Two excellent novels, ‘Exit West’ and ‘The Golden Legend’, by two excellent novelists, Mohsin Hamid and Nadeem Aslam, have been published to great critical acclaim. Another, ‘Home Fire’ by Kamila Shamsie, is forthcoming in August and is already being endorsed by a plethora of writers. Historically, the Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world, has been won by Indian writers five times. No Pakistani writer has won it and only three, including Aslam and Hamid, have been nominated. This year, with two strong and worthy contenders, Pakistani writers have a great chance of featuring on the long ...

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The Forty Rules of Love taught me that we’ve been asking ourselves all the wrong questions

It is a well-known belief that God speaks to His people through the strangest of things. You could be sitting quietly, minding your own business, and out of nowhere emerges a sign that seems to be God sent. Or if you were me, you would have been walking around the airport bookshop, waiting for your delayed flight, and by sheer luck found a book peeking at you through the shelf. Generally, I don’t judge books by their covers, or their titles, but this one was different. I fell in love with Elif Shafak’s ‘The Forty Rules of Love’ the moment I saw it. This was despite ...

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‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’ and ‘Judas’: Two riveting masterpieces from Israel to the world

‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’ by David Grossman Dov Greenstein, the stand-up comedian at the centre of David Grossman’s quirky and ravishing new novel ‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’ confesses: “It’s a pretty pathetic form of entertainment, let’s be honest.” But whether his jokes are drab or stirring, whacky or offensive, this book, as austere as it is hilarious, never loses sight of the earnestness of its authors undulating vision and ambition even while casually masquerading as a comic novel. Spanning a single evening and set in a chic nightclub in Netanya, a small town in Israel, the novel tells the story of the stand-up ...

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Will the real liberal please stand up?

The recently held Karachi Literature Festival 2017 was a hub alright. But a hub of what? What it stands for, ideally, is not just celebrating books and authors, but also to serve as a hub for Pakistan’s beautiful minds that allow critical thinking and are truly progressive. Literature and the arts, on such forums, are designed to allow an open inflow and outflow of thoughts and ideas, and an exchange of not just narrative but also counter narrative. One counterfoil session of the KLF 2017 was introduced as a discussion on conflict-resolution through art and enterprise. One of Pakistan’s well ...

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Five non-fiction books of 2016 you should definitely read!

The past year was encapsulated with great works of literature – especially when it came to non-fiction. The following five books delved deep into relevant issues in today’s world.  1. The Return by Hisham Matar It’s a searing and poignant book that deals with the abduction of Matar’s father, Jaballa Matar, in Libya.Photo: Goodreads. Hisham Matar’s memoir, The Return, a tear-soaked love letter to his father, towered over all other non-fiction books written last year. It’s a searing and poignant book that deals with the abduction of Matar’s father, Jaballa Matar, in Libya. Jaballa was a major opponent of the Qaddafi ...

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“So, what’s Pakistan like?”

The old man had the most startling blue eyes, the kind that glittered in a wizard-like way. He was a contractual worker fixing some room in the building where I work, and I met him in the kitchen over my morning coffee. He asked where I’m from and widened his eyes. He didn’t comment on how good my English is, but how American my accent is (which I take no offence or pride in – it’s not the two years of Master’s in St Louis but all those American movies and TV shows I watch). And then he asked me ...

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