'Adventures in the Anthropocene' by Gaia Vince, has been awarded the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
Chair of judges Professor Ian Stewart FRS described the book as ‘ambitious and essential’, while fellow judge and novelist Sarah Waters called it ‘an inspiring testament to human ingenuity’.
The winner was announced by Professor Brian Cox at the award ceremony on 24 September. Gaia Vince is the first solo female winner in the Prize’s 28-year history.
The author of the winning book receives £25,000 and £2,500 each is awarded to the authors of the five shortlisted books. To check those out, click HERE.
Al Ain Reads: an extensive cultural programme highlighting the literary production of Emirati writers.
The seventh edition of the annual Al Ain Reads, being held at the Al Ain Convention Centre from October 4 – 11, 2015, has attracted a record 70 exhibitors and seen a 15% increase in exhibition area over last year’s edition, organisers Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority have revealed.
The exhibition is expected to attract book lovers from all over the UAE and the Sultanate of Oman, with the event now being expanded to eight days following overwhelming demand from exhibitors and publishing houses.
Al Ain Reads 2015 will feature more than 60,000 literary, scientific, children’s and educational titles in English, Arabic and other languages. The literary flair of Emirati writers and emerging cultural issues will be discussed throughout a series of sessions in its dedicated cultural programme.
“Al Ain Reads 2015 is one of the most important book fairs in the region. It has succeeded in attracting quality participation from local publishing houses that are focusing greater emphasis in developing the publishing industry,” said H.E. Juma Al Qubaisi, Executive Director of the National Library division at TCA Abu Dhabi.
“We have established Al Ain Reads in successive years to provide an annual platform to display books by an increasing number of local publishing houses, with visitors from all over the UAE, especially by Al Ain university students attracted to the event,” he added.
The expansion of the Oasis city’s book fair follows a successful Al Ain Reads 2014, which attracted 67 local publishers displaying over 55,000 Arabic and English literary and scientific works.
“We expect over 35,000 visitors this year following the expansion of the fair to eight days, who can participate in a series of evening lectures by eminent Emirati authors and innovators to highlight the cultural issues in the area,” added Al Qubaisi.
It is expected that the group of Emirati writers’ series of seminars and discussion sessions for scholars, and the informative and engaging ‘Creativity Corner’ will remain a major attraction for children who, along with their parents, will be treated to a unique experience in the world of books, reading and creativity.
Source: Press Release
Reviewed by Abu Dhabi resident Kubra Mubashir who runs Abu Dhabi-based bookclub Ravenous Readers. Find them on Facebook.
Having heard about the rise and growth of the Taliban and their strict imposition (of their interpretation) of the Sharia law I only assumed that life for women in Afghanistan must have been hard. However after coming across this book, I realised that there is a pattern in the subjugation of women ---either by using religion or culture as the whip to beat them with.
Initially I assumed that "bacha posh" must be prevalent amongst the rural or uneducated populace but I was sadly mistaken. In Afghanistan, even the doctors believe in the importance of bearing a son. Dr Fareiba exclaiming "We are the Pashtun people. We need the son" summed up the desire and dependence of happiness of families on the birth of a son
The parents/children have many reasons for blurring their existence. The reasons range from the social pressure on the family to produce a boy; to feed the family or it's just the child desiring to enjoy the rights of the male.
All however don't cross back easily because some are unsure about which side they belong to, some miss the freedom they once enjoyed but some are confident of their existence and mental strength while some never cross over and resist any attempt in this direction
As one mother of a bacha posh opines "Bacha posh is less about preference for sons and more a symptom of how poorly the society works".
After reading the stories I wondered what social system forces parents to make their children cross dressers; go forth into the world as someone they are not. Can they not imagine the trauma they subject the child to at puberty when he is expected to cross back into a normal life? What must the girls go through with having been given full freedom till 13 years and then total subjugation for the remaining period of their lives.
Things won't change in Afghanistan. The absence of a stable government, law and order coupled with the hold of the Taliban and rustic war lords in a mountainous areas where culture and social norms weigh heavily over religion, logic or education means things won't change much. As long as women are handled as stooges and pawns, disrespected and treated as housemaids meant only for child bearing, such phenomena will continue to propagate and thrive. For these women gender is optional but freedom is what they desire
It's one of the few books that moved me considerably. Well written, precise and well researched.
Marlon James, Tom McCarthy, Chigozie Obioma, Sunjeev Sahota, Anne Tyler and Hanya Yanagihara are today, Tuesday 15 September, announced as the shortlisted authors for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
The six names were announced by Chair of judges, Michael Wood, at a press conference at the offices of sponsor Man Group.
The judges remarked on the variety of writing styles, cultural heritage and literary backgrounds of the writers on the shortlist, which includes new authors alongside established names. Two authors come from the United Kingdom, two from the United States and one apiece from Jamaica and Nigeria.
This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK. Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.
The 2015 shortlist of six novels is:
Author (nationality) Title (imprint)
Marlon James (Jamaica) A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
Tom McCarthy (UK) Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
Anne Tyler (US) A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
Hanya Yanagihara (US) A Little Life (Picador)
For more on this story and the books, click HERE.
Reviewed by Abu Dhabi resident Mimi Harding, Past Life Regression Therapist
Set in Tehran over a number of generations and spanning all spectrums of class, religion and society this book is one of the most gripping books I have read for a long time. The book is a series of short stories based on some true life experiences captured by a journalist who returned to Iran following the revolution.
Two things bind all the characters together, one being the road Vali Asr which runs from the rich north of Tehran to the poorer south neighbourhoods and in-between. The other is the underlying love of the culture, lifestyle and belief that the country is slowly evolving and establishing itself within the world.
I was truly captivated by the descriptive prose of the book which is heartbreakingly brutal and at times humorous, it engaged a thought provoking interest to understand what draws a true Iranian back to their City of Lies.
Ramita Navai is an award-winning British-Iranian journalist and author. She has reported from over thirty-five different countries and has a reputation for investigations and work in hostile environments.
As well as making twenty documentaries for Channel 4's 'Unreported World', she has reported for the United Nations in Pakistan, Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. She has written for many newspapers and publications, and was the Tehran correspondent for The Times from 2003 - 2006. In 2012 she won an Emmy award for her PBS Frontline documentary 'Syria Undercover'.
Her first book 'City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran' won the Debut Political Book of the Year at the Paddy Power Political Book Awards 2015, and was awarded the Royal Society of Literature's Jerwood Prize for non-fiction.
The Back Cover
Drawn from conversations whispered across tables in the cafes that line Vali Asr, Tehran’s pulsing central thoroughfare, Ramita Navai gives voice to the unforgettable lives of ordinary people forced to live extraordinary lives in modern Tehran: the porn star, the ageing socialite, the assassin and enemy of the state who ends up working for the Republic, the religious militiaman who undergoes a sex change, the dutiful housewife who files for divorce, and the old-time thug running a gambling den.
Rich, absorbing and exotic, this is an insider’s glimpse into the local personalities, the unremarkable busy bodies and hysterical intrigues buzzing about the city like you’ve never seen before. This is a place where Mullahs visit prostitutes, cosmetic surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is bought and sold in the bazaars. Here, survival depends on an intricate network of lies and falsehoods. Far removed from the picture of Tehran we glimpse in news stories, we are shown another city—a hidden city—but a far more honest one.
Now that most readers of BookFabulous have settled back into their routines, many have been sharing the books they enjoyed reading while on Summer holiday. More and more come through by email, or just from people stopping me to tell me about their amazing book finds. So, if you've read a specially good book that you're dying to share with someone, then drop me an email and I'll make sure to share it with everyone here!
Today's choice is by Abu Dhabi resident Rami Tarazi.
From the bestselling author of 'Blink' and 'The Tipping Point', Malcolm Gladwell's 'Outliers: The Story of Success' overturns conventional wisdom about genius to show us what makes an ordinary person an extreme overachiever.
There is a story that is usually told about extremely successful people, a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition. Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and that if we want to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them - at such things as their family, their birthplace, or even their birth date. And in revealing that hidden logic, Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential.
In this provocative and inspiring book, Malcolm Gladwell looks at everyone from rock stars to professional athletes, software billionaires to scientific geniuses, to show that the story of success is far more surprising, and far more fascinating, than we could ever have imagined. He reveals that it's as much about where we're from and what we do, as who we are - and that no one, not even a genius, ever makes it alone.
'Outliers' will change the way you think about your own life story, and about what makes us all unique.
Malcolm Timothy Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. He has been a staff writer for 'The New Yorker' since 1996.
Patrick Ness, the award-winning children’s author of 'The Rest Of Us Just Live Here' hit Twitter Thursday to raise support for the Syrian refugees caught up in the European crisis, saying he would “match donations up to £10k to do *something* to help”. The campaign has since raised over £420,000 and continues to build as I write this.
The appeal was started after the body of a young boy, Aylan Kurdi, who was fleeing Syria washed up on the coast of Turkey sending shock waves around the world. On the Fundraising Page, Patrick Ness writes: 'I am fundraising to help with the Syrian refugee crisis because I can no longer stand to just tweet about it'.
Starting the appeal, Ness wrote on Twitter: “Okay, I don't know if this'll work but I'll match donations up to £10k to do *something* to help this refugee crisis.” The offer was soon matched by John Green, author of 'A Fault in Our Stars' and by JoJo Moyes, author of 'Me Before You'. Other donors include Anthony Horowitz, Derek Landy, Rainbow Rowell and David Nicholls amongst a host of many others.
Check out the latest donations for this 'Save the Children' campaign and how to donate if you want to by clicking HERE.
by Rana Asfour
This initially started out as a post about the Dark Knight III cover, the latest DC comic which will be out in November. However, I was desperate to write about my surprise when ‘And Then There Were None’ was voted most popular Agatha Christie book as revealed in a poll this week. Further contemplation sparked the brilliant idea of sharing my excitement on learning of the latest member to start school at Hogwart’s this Autumn, as announced by J.K. Rowling. But then I thought, I should write about when even seasoned writers with a wealth of experience on how to better use their words can put a ‘foot in it’ too à la Anthony Horowitz.
However, I haven’t been able to write about any of the above because I’ve been inundated with SMSs, phone calls, tweets, Facebook posts, emails and let’s not forget What’s App, of people reminding me (or is it rubbing it in?) that I am yet again another year older. But on a more sobering note, I feel truly blessed as I sit pretty and relish all the attention and congratulations on an event my mum got absolutely spot-on that many years ago when she decided to have me! And so, in the spirit of all that is birthday-like, I thought I’d make the post about me!
After a very brief –really minor- hesitation fearing that people would think I was putting on airs if I mentioned that ‘Rana’ in Sanskrit is the title equivalent to monarch and sovereignty and stood for ambition in Arabic, I soon concluded that it would only be a matter of time before my short-lived ego boost would be followed by the quick and swift fall from grace as people caught at their sides from laughter when they found out that my name also meant ‘frog’. Just ask the Italians if you have any doubts. My only consolation lies in the fact that it is not just any frog mind you, but a ‘Rana’ is what is known as a ‘True frog’.
Major point of solace, and not to be taken lightly, is that the species are famous for their slim waists! Which means, for those of you who follow me on Twitter, there is hope for me yet as I battle on with my ‘Get Healthy Family Challenge’. Other features of True frogs include a general lack of "warts" like in typical toads (Thank Goodness!). They are excellent jumpers due to their long slender legs (Always wanted to be a model!). The typical webbing found on their hind feet allows for easy movement through water (Water Babe). Coloration is mostly greens and browns above, with darker and yellowish spots ... ! Ahem, yes! Well, I think you’ve got the picture right?
As I prepare to celebrate my day with Mr. Fabulous & Son, I thank my lucky stars for all that I am blessed with when it comes to family and friends. As the numbers creep towards middle age, I find more of life’s truths reveal themselves. The Okay-ness of it all quite liberating. It’s OK at my age to hate noisy places and crowded spaces. It’s OK to want to choose comfort over fashion or reading a book over a VIP concert. It’s OK to slow down at the weekends watching TV soaps all afternoon as the household melts into chaos. It’s OK if I want my coffee just so and my cushions positioned that way too. It’s OK to not care when you’re criticised, and to become picky about the battles you reserve your dwindling energy to fight for. It's OK when technology just doesn't make sense and I literally have to holler to enlist my teen's help. It's OK to fall asleep in the middle of a film and to ask for a rundown when you wake up half way through. They'll roll their eyes and so will you, but that's OK too.
Finally, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than to commit to at least one act of kindness or good deed for the dear readers of this blog by keeping today’s post sweet and short! So, consider yourself spared! :)
One last thing before I head off for cake …
Don't you just love it when your name pops up in a book you're reading? The name ‘Rana’ appeared in these two books that I absolutely loved. 'The Dark Side of Love' by Rafik Schami is a beautiful love story set in Damascus, while 'Brick Walls' By Saadia Faruqi is a beautiful story about love of a people set in Pakistan. Both are truly inspiring reads.
And this choice of book is just too fun not to include … I haven’t read it but came across it a while back and still think it sounds quite – for lack of a better word – interesting! The title just says it all!
by Rana Asfour
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American writer, self-taught interfaith activist, and speaker who does not shy away from how the world has come, in recent years, to view the country of her birth, Pakistan. Thanks to ‘newsworthy’ reports from that country that ‘range from violent to pitiful’, most westerners, she argues in the introduction of her debut book of short stories, have now come to think of the country she left at 21 ‘either as a haven for extremists or a prison for women and minorities’ with little reference to the not-so-newsworthy stories pertaining to ‘Pakistan’s rich culture or colourful daily life’.
‘Brick Walls’ is a collection of seven stories about fictional characters in ‘situations based on metaphorical walls, unique struggles created by the exceptional culture and environment that is Pakistan’. They were inspired by the writer’s visit back to Pakistan when her father, a secret philanthropist, passed away in 2012 – Faruqi lives in Houston, Texas.
Pakistanis face these brick walls every day, and how they surmount them is called 'life'. I can't join them in their struggles. I can only tell their stories' - 'Brick Walls' by Saadia Faruqi
The seven stories that make up the collection are stand alone stories in which each offers up its unique memorable plot made up of everyday characters going about doing unexceptional everyday things. Yet, in each story the ordinary is transformed into the extraordinary and it is anyone's guess what happens next. That is not to say that the stories do not share a common theme, for they do. However, it is one that is subtly delivered (no preaching here) allowing for both the characters and the readers to grow, possibly to learn, from the experience: That although we are all so very different when it comes to our beliefs, cultures, and languages, each of us seeks to be happy, able to live a life free from suffering and pain, a life with a better future for our children and ourselves.
And when it comes to characters and settings, writer Saadia Faruqi, has definitely done her homework. She knows her characters inside out, they are believably real, exceptionally engaging and interact really well with the settings conjured up by the writer. The characters are meant to be who they are and they are meant to be where Faruqi has decided they should be. Every story flows easily into its conclusion and many characters will remain with the reader long after their stories have ended. As Faruqi seamlessly and convincingly shifts between male and female voices, old and young, religious and secular, it becomes easy to forget that the same person penned each story. This is a superbly well-executed endeavour and testament to Faruqi’s command of her craft. Right language, right tone, right story to a tee!
So much of traditional, as well as modern music, is about God and religion. Not just here in Pakistan, where we have the naat and the qawwali, but in the West too, where they have Christian music in a variety of formats. It's because all human beings find solace in music of some sort' - from the story 'Tonight's the Night' - 'Brick Walls' by Saadia Faruqi
So, why must you read this book? Because 31-year old Lubna’s story will lodge itself forever deep in your heart and the story of Farzana, the cantankerous recently liberated 65-year-old grandmother will offer moving insight to what it means to be old. Read it for Nida, the ten-year-old girl with a cricket obsession; Asma the lackluster seamstress increasingly seeking refuge in a dream world of angels; Faisal the would-be terrorist, Javed Gul the Pushto rock singer offering hope to the people of Peshawar, and Rabia Nawab, daughter of Malik Nawab, 'mistress of them all, princess of her own little private Kingdom' and the love of her life Pasha.
If what Madeleine L’Engle says is true in that stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving, then writer Saadia Faruqi with her collection of stories adds much to this narrative; A narrative that gives reign to the seldom heard voices of Pakistan. Faruqi’s stories of her fellow country men –though mainly women - shine a light on ‘a nation full of kind-hearted individuals struggling to make their society better with optimism and resolve’.
I love what I'm doing, because I feel that I'm offering hope of a new tomorrow to so many people living in Peshawar. If I die today I will feel as if I have left a mark on this little corner of the world, and I'll die happy' - from the story 'Tonight's the Night' - 'Brick Walls' by Saadia Faruqi
In a perfect world Faruqi would like nothing more than an endless supply of mystery thriller novels. On her website, she writes that she is ‘still waiting for someone to write that perfect Pakistani or Muslim spy/crime story, preferably with a heroine named Saadia. I have never had such intentions and yet to my delight one of her characters has my first name and lives in one of the most moving stories of the collection. Suffice to say that 'Rana' - in the story - is 'a retired therapist with decades of experience helping mentally unstable patients'. She practically saves the heroine's life. Not bad, right? Now, I shan’t tell you which one it’s in so you’ll just have to read the book to find out!
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American writer of fiction and nonfiction. She writes for a number of print and online publications about the global contemporary Muslim experience and about interfaith dialogue. She has trained law enforcement on cultural sensitivity issues and offers community college classes on a variety of topics related to Islam and Muslims. She is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose. Her short stories have been published in several American literary journals and magazines. Check out her fiction and non fiction HERE.
For ten interesting facts about Saadia Faruqi, click HERE & to read an extract, click HERE.