Stories about reading

Rescuing the dying reading culture of Pakistan

Pakistani classrooms usually do not encourage questioning amongst students, but can we really blame the classroom for a trait we are socialised into from the beginning? Thus, when I became a teacher, I made sure to always encourage questioning by responding in a positive manner, turning whatever was being formally discussed into a casual conversation. Recently, however, I was asked a question that left me astonished. An undergraduate student in one of my classes, a rather intelligent kid, asked me why reading books was so important. In his words: “We live in a visual world, then why do you keep emphasising reading ...

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Fictitious yet familiar, ‘Typically Tanya’ narrates life in Karachi and all its dramas

I enjoyed reading the book Typically Tanya by Taha Kehar, one of Pakistan’s most exciting new writers, not just because it’s a book about journalists but because it is a book about life in Karachi, along with all its dramas. Whether it’s the frustrations of finding a Careem to the disappointments that come with power blackouts, it’s all there. Typically Tanya is the story about a young journalist named Tanya Shaukat who is trying to make sense of her work and at the same time coming to terms with her unpredictable life and friends. When the marriage of one friend fails ...

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Banned Books Week: Rahi Masoom Raza’s fight to never stop swearing

This week (September 23rd-29th) is being celebrated as the Banned Books Week around the world, especially in the United States, where this tradition took inception during the Ronald Reagan era back in 1982. Concerned about violation of freedom of speech, rights activists raised the issue of banning books and their censorship, as well as the persecution of writers. Hence, it was decided that every year, the last week of September would be celebrated as the Banned Books Week. Perhaps it is no coincidence that International Translation Day falls immediately after Banned Books Week, on September 30th. At least for this humble scribe, ...

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5 reasons why ‘Homo Deus’ will get under your skin and make you question humanity’s future

If you are lucky, you may come across a book that challenges your assumptions, upends your convictions, and knocks down your indoctrination. If you are really lucky, then the said book may present an alternative and limitless world view of possibilities, generating a warm fuzzy feeling within; perhaps because your assumptions have been challenged, convictions upended, and indoctrination knocked down. I can safely say this has happened to me recently. After several years of sporadic reading of contemporary fiction, creative non-fiction and general non-fiction, I finally had the pleasure of reading Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah ...

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You know you’re in a Kamila Shamsie Novel when…

Kamila Shamsie is amongst Pakistan’s most celebrated authors as well as the most accomplished ones. Almost every novel in her impressive bibliography is a treat to read. The contents of her books linger on with the reader even after the book is finished.   Kamila Shamsie’s writing style is such that one could identify it without even reading the name of the author. Here are eight examples of how you can tell you are reading a Kamila Shamsie novel: 1) Distressed characters Everyone around you is a philosopher in distress. People have matured so much that they’ve totally done away with the small-talk. No one asks you ...

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I wasn’t dumb or slow, I was dyslexic

I gave my first speech in front of more than 500 people when I was just nine-years-old. When I was 15-years-old, I represented Pakistan in Regional UNESCO Youth forum for scouts of Asia Pacific Region. In the same year, I was awarded President’s Gold Medal award by the President of Pakistan. However, I was never the best student academically, neither was I the worst. Teachers and fellow students considered me one of top 10 students in my class due to my active participation, but my result never reflected it. As a child, I had a lot of trouble with spellings and numbers. Some people around me thought I was too lazy to ...

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A Girl is a Half-formed Thing: A lame excuse of a novel

If you are looking for a beach read or a book to read in a dim-lit, dingy café over caramel macchiato and death by chocolate brownie, then Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is not the book for you. For it is a book which requires unbridled and undivided attention. As frankly put as possible, this is an exceedingly difficult book to read. With this book, McBride has made a breakthrough debut; although doing so was no easy task. It took McBride six months to write this book and over nine years to find a publisher. However, much to the chagrin of ...

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English Premier League transfers — Most expensive but not the most rational

The winter transfer window, which ended on February 2, 2015, rather than its usual January 31st deadline, saw the Premier League clubs splashing out a total £130 million – the same as of the January 2014 window. Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal accounted for the highest spending by the Premier League clubs but the most active was Crystal Palace, who under new manager Alan Pardew, are aiming to ease the pressure on the 13th placed club in the league table. Palace saw 11 players leaving the club, while eight players joined the club either on a loan or on a permanent ...

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Aao Parhao – Jo Seekha Hai Wo Sekhao

As part of a remembrance to Robin Williams, I arranged a showing of Good Will Hunting and invited some school friends over. After the movie ended, one of them remarked on the critical role the protagonist’s teacher, Prof Gerald Lambeau (played by Stellan Skarsgård), a Fields Medal winner, and mentor  Sean Maguire (played by Robin Williams) had in his development. “We didn’t have anyone as dedicated as them. Not even close.” I had to disagree and thought back to an incident back in March 1991. The phone rang and my mother picked it up. “Hello, is this the home of Sibtain Naqvi?” a lady asked. My mother ...

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Recycle yourself, don’t let your kindness die with you

A man sitting in a park reading suddenly bursts into laughter. This catches the attention of a boy sitting near him with dark shades on and a stick in his hand who, out of curiosity, asks the reason for the man’s laughter. The man, pleased to be able to be nice to the boy, starts reading the passage to him and they both share a laugh. After a while when the man gets back to his reading and there’s silence once again, the boy breaks the ice by asking if the man would be kind enough to let him have “that” after ...

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