books

Hello Publishers…

‘Just because I’m passionate about something doesn’t mean I need to do it for free.’
– Faroukh Naseem

Yeah, I finally have a quote to my name (Somebody please add it to Goodreads.)

For best results the writer recommends you read this with the calming voice of Morgan Freeman in your head.

A couple of days ago I posted a twitter thread which I later shared on Instagram as well. Here’s the post if you’re like me and love to read 300+ comments about a topic which hasn’t been openly discussed much.I’ll go through each tweet and try and elaborate as much as I can.

But before we get into it, let me briefly talk about Content Creation which seems to have been misunderstood by a lot of people.

Content creation takes time and effort. It also takes a lot of understanding of what our audience likes. If today I post an absolutely amazing drone shot of a city, it probably will not do well because my audience has not followed me for such content. If I suddenly post a very different style of photo, my engagement will be lower even if it is related to books. Content creation around books is not easy at all and is very limiting too. Plus it is not limited to the visual aesthetic. Captions can be an important part of the bookstagram experience but the engagement around books isn’t easily created and not everyone reads captions since Instagram is primarily a visual platform. When you have accounts following hundreds of pages, you do not get special treatment unless you are really liked by someone following you. So if someone thinks content creation is child’s play, they probably have a private account with pictures of their breakfast, lunch and dinner with the captions Yummy, Yum and Burp on them.

So here are the tweets, broken down one by one

1 – When will publishers stop thinking that advertising their books in front of thousands of people after creating content for them is payable by free books?

This point has been misunderstood by most. Especially accounts which have started out recently. I think most skipped over the ‘thousands of people’ part. Free books do hold a lot of value; I happily receive them and post about them on my page. They are usually a new release or pre-release copy and they give us an opportunity to create a post around something new and share it online.
I did not receive a single book from a publisher until i was well over 20k followers and had a genuine organic audience on the platform. I had to fill out a form and share what I had to offer in terms of influence in exchange of these free books. Publishers need something in exchange of the book mail they send and since they are a business they aren’t sending them just because we are readers. We are readers with an audience who create content. 


2 -Book accounts are a very specific and concentrated niche. I’m being conservative here by saying 99% of those who follow book accounts are interested in books and are potential customers for these publishers. 

This potential buzz a book blogger can generate for a book is huge. This is where readers come for their book related news, new release dates and synopses. Bookstagrammers have built an audience which trusts them after years of work and it has not come easy for any of us. I speak for myself when I say that I do not promote books I do not like or expect to like. I have promoted books for authors directly too but only after I felt that these are books that I would be interested in reading as well. Not just because they were willing to send me a free copy.
Bookstagrams are not like a cat account or a lifestyle account. Cat accounts are followed by people who might be allergic to fur and probably will never in their lives buy a cat related product. Lifestyle accounts might be followed by people who will never travel to that country, go to that restaurant or wear such clothes. These are very diluted niches. So if you have a book account with 10,000 followers it’s probably a more powerful selling window than a lifestyle account with 100,000. That’s one reason there are probably only a dozen book accounts on Instagram with more than 100k; not every random person follows a book account.

3 – I think publishers have become very opportunistic and are using so many book bloggers to get almost free publicity. It starts with the book mail IGstory, followed by a summary on the timeline and if the blogger is reading it, probably an update Current Read Post and a review.

Most of us do not get free books with any obligations apart from making sure we mention that we’ve received a free book in the caption. Publishers do not guide the narrative of our captions and they do not get a say in our reviews. If they tried, I along with many other accounts I have spoken to would not agree to do them. People might not realize how much a review that is not genuine can affect our credibility. Fortunately, I learnt this very early on before I had truly understood how bookstagram works. I had reviewed The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak and given it a 1 star rating and readers commented that they were so happy for my honest review (I was naive enough to not even think there could be a dishonest review). That point onward I had promised myself I would make sure to be as truthful as possible without demeaning an author or publisher. That is what I have continued to do and that is what I always will..

There have been some comments from people who do not seem to understand Bookstagram and how things work on the platform. Some think that if we get paid for a post (an advertising space) we will end up talking positively about them. Most promotions are just that, promotions. They include a picture/video centered around the book and a caption which shares the synopsis and release date information. Think of it as adverts in a newspaper (you know, that thing you see old men holding rolled up under their arm). They offer information on the product; nothing more, nothing less. They don’t take away from the credibility of the newspaper itself or from any of it’s articles. Instead they are merely a way for the newspaper to support their publication. That’s exactly what paid promotions are for an Instagram page.

I am all for supporting Indie publishers and will continue to accept books I’m interested in in exchange of posts. I have no problem in not charging for books I get which I will post about in my own time without any obligations apart from making sure I mention I have received it from the publisher.

But when a publisher contacts me for a campaign to promote a book, and it is a known publisher who sells millions of copies annually and has budgets allocated for promotions on traditional media, I better be offered a fair incentive as well. I do not get free books just because publishers like me, my influence is linked to them sending those books.

Its about time big publishers stop hiding behind “Publishing is becoming a dying industry”.
We are here and we are reading.

Laura who runs Whatshotblog.com has written 2 articles on this topic that I recommend:
It’s Time For Book Bloggers to Get Paid.
Book Bloggers Share Their Thoughts on Influencer Marketing

Last point is that our reviews are NOT FOR SALE.

p.s: I hope you didn’t forget to read this in the calming voice of Morgan Freeman.

My name is Faroukh and I am @theguywiththebook

books, REVIEWS

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

“For Connie had adopted the standard of the young: what there was in the moment was everything. And moments followed one another without necessarily belonging to one another.”

#theguywiththebookreview presents Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence

Let’s first address the elephant in the room, what is Faroukh doing reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Well. It was for free and I got curious.

Well, curiosity killed the elephant and he’s no more.

Based on the quote you’d think you’ll get a very deep book, it’s not.

DH Lawrence gives us some absolutely brilliant streams of consciousness throughout the book but it’s laden with what some would call guilty pleasures but to me they were just annoying.

This is the kind of book you would want someone to read if you wanted them to feel annoyed. There are several rants and a lot of the book is just plain boring.

As expected it’s dramatic and the character’s behaviors are just something you don’t get.

I would recommend this to all of my enemies, suffer, as I have. Click HERE to buy the book via my affiliate link.

Please consider subscribing to my blog HERE.

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If you are looking for more book reviews, please find the links here:

It’s Not About The Burqa by Mariah Khan

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

books

Chapter 9: Luxembourg. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

Hey guys! We’re back with another chapter which I’m really excited about! I’ve had chats randomly with Sophia (You might know her as TeaCupBookWorld on Instagram) over the last few months and recently she was kind enough to give us some of her time and write up a recommendation for Luxembourg. I honestly had no idea about the place except the name (could hardly get the spelling right!) Sophia is a regular on Bookstagram where she is very active and does weekly readathons as well. I’ve recommended her account on bookstagram recently and am going to do that again. Click her name to reach her account: Sophia and let’s let Sophia take over this post!

At The Devil’s Banquets by Anise Koltz

It is only recently that I began to research local authors in Luxembourg, so for that reason my book recommendation today is a little different – this is a newly discovered author and book for me too.

I have lived in Luxembourg for just under two years and I am slowly learning about a unique culture which, before I relocated here, I barely knew existed. Luxembourg is a very small country bordering France, Germany and Belgium, so the most notable authors are usually of French or German origin.

The author I chose to discuss is Anise Koltz – she is the Vice President of the European Academy of Poetry, and the founder and director of the festival Les Journées de Mondorf. She was born in Luxembourg in 1928, but as Luxembourgish was not even a written language until about 30 years ago, the majority of her work is written in French and German (the two other local languages). Interestingly, she began by writing only in German, however, after the death of her husband – who was a victim of torture by the Nazi occupation  she could no longer bring herself to write in the German language. When she started writing again, the only language she would use, was French. 

Anise started her career by writing fairy stories in the 1950s, but later, she switched her focus to poetry. As a fellow poet myself, I was keen to explore her work and the words she wanted to share. The first book of her poetry that I encountered, is called ‘At the Devil’s Banquets’.

Her writing in this book fascinates me as it is so lyrical yet at the same time raw and painful. She makes bold statements questioning our world, and yet, her words are also metaphors and wild contemplations. There is a subtle anger in her style which really resonates with me:

‘Lost in space
eternity turns back
to the glacial era

Keeps watch over our petrified bodies
sites abandoned by time’

We encounter so much gentle and simple poetry in daily life (which definitely has its place) but we are not often faced with the truly hardhitting pieces. For me personally, I love to ponder a powerful stanza full of fearless observation.

Alongside this complex and dark narration, she also creates some intimate pieces about more runofthemill subjects such as the writing of poetry itself. I really enjoyed this piece called ‘The Poet’, below is a small extract:

‘He holds back the poem
the way you hold your breath

Until he learns to breathe 
against it

His wildcat’s
teeth grind

Every Poem
is a mark of his claws’

To read Anise’s work is to discover a wonderful correlation between her writing and Luxembourg itself – uncharted beauty where you are least expecting it.

This was Chapter 9 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Sophia. You can buy the book here from book depository
If you liked this post, please consider subscribing here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.

Our previous Chapters are as follows, have a look! 

Chapter 1: Australia here

Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Chapter 3: Egypt here

Chapter 4: Palestine here

Chapter 5: Kenya here

Chapter 6: Pakistan here

Chapter 7: Argentina here

Chapter 8: Estonia here

books, REVIEWS

It’s Not About The Burqa edited by Mariam Khan

“No one woman can speak for all Muslim Women – for that rich and varied tapestry of experiences, practice, belief and ways of being” – Nadine Aisha Jassat

#theguywiththebookreview presents It’s Not About The Burqa

The quote above from Nadine came on the last page of the book and I think it reaffirms my original decision to not review this book the way I usually try to critically (although amateurly) look at the contents.

17 Muslim women from a wide range of backgrounds share their thoughts about what it is like to be a Muslim Woman, sometimes very visibly so (Hijabi Muslim Women) and sometimes not as visibly.

A few of the essays here were fascinating to me. Having lived most of my life where ‘normal’ to me is a lifestyle circled around Islam and practicing Muslims, the Muslim identity to has always been the default. Where segregation of sexes is the norm and where things go to a halt when it is prayer times (All shops close for 20-30 minutes during the 5 prayer times in Saudi Arabia)

There were essays which I absolutely disagreed with and then there were some that were almost enlightening. One in particular by Saima Mir definitely choked me up.

But without a doubt my absolutely favorite of all the essays came very early in the collection: On the Representation of Muslims *Terms and Conditions Apply by @nafisa_bakkar Her essay made a super lazy reader like me get up and grab my highlighter. I went crazy highlighting the stuff she’s written! Absolutely on point!

I would recommend this to readers across the board, Muslim or Non Muslim with a very small note that not everything in this book is about being a Muslim or Not being a Muslim. These are mostly experiences and aren’t to be taken word for word as a representation of or not of Islam.

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If you’re interested in buying the book, please click HERE for my Affiliate Link, Thank you!

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Please consider subscribing to my blog HERE.

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If you are looking for more book reviews, please find the links here:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

books

Chapter 8: Estonia. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

With Chapter 8 of the TTBC Sandra Falke will take us on a Literary Journey across Estonia through her pick to represent, Estonia.

Over a random conversation with Sandra last month she expressed interest in writing for the blog series and I immediately said yes! I personally have never read anything based in Estonia so there was my own personal agenda behind getting a recommendation as well!

Sandra will now take over, hope this becomes a good place to start for Estonian Literature!

Sandra can be found on wordpress, here and on Instagram here.

Estonia is a small country in the Baltic region and its geographical position has caused it to be occupied by various other countries. Because of these historical events, Estonian culture has experienced many oppression periods and our literature has only been able to flourish since the beginning of the 20th century – apart from a handful of folk songs, some poetry and short texts written in German by Baltic Germans there is no Great Estonian Novel before that time. However, we are now making our mark in the literary world. Here‘s a small introduction to what‘s happening in the moment and a speculation on what is about to happen soon.

Thematically the most important novels deal with historical subject matter, focusing mostly on the country‘s development and awakening during the 20th century, so it is no surprise that Ilmar Taska‘s „Pobeda 1946 – A Car Called Victory“ („Pobeda 1946“, 2016) has received raving reviews on the Estonian and European scale from readers and critics alike. The book has been translated into several languages and adapted into a short movie which takes place in Hungary.

Although the place of „Pobeda“ is actually Tallinn (the capital of Estonia), the history of Soviet Europe is interchangeable so like the KGB agent sent to question a small boy whose father is wanted for intelligence purposes, nobody in this story is given a name – only a motivation. The boy must not talk to strangers about his family life, the mother must protect the boy, the agent must infiltrate the family and keep his superiors satisfied.

This is a story most of Europe can relate to, since the Soviet Union has left an un-erasable mark in its history. The internal terror families were put through as the communist machine taught their children to spy on the parents at home, and the subtle techniques the agent uses to make a small naive person do just that are quite horrific.

As the novel is being told mostly from the little boy‘s perspective, sensations of horror and fear grip the reader almost immediately. The boy is in danger, while the agent keeps luring him in with his cool and modern car „Pobeda“, and Taska does a great job in keeping this suspense up while continuing to tell the story of the family as well as the agent in an empathetic way. Even the enemy is human, as „Pobeda 1946“ manages to tell the story from the other side as well.

In addition to all of that, Taska tells another story related to the family: Even in times of terror and behind iron curtains there is a love story to be found, about crossing borders and overcoming fear.

All in all, „Pobeda 1946“ is a complex novel, rich in emotions and stories, witty in its psychological structure, and well-balanced in combining horrifying and satisfying aspects of a suspenseful story. It is also a perfect example for getting to know one of the most important episodes of Estonian history.

Estonian literature depicting earlier history is somewhat similar to many Scandinavian writers: the novels often tell of a farmer‘s life who works hard to survive against nature‘s will, all the while being legally bonded to his master and enduring additional hardship from that. A great example for this is the pentalogy „Truth and Justice“ („Tõde ja õigus“, 1926) by Anton Hansen Tammsaare, picturing Estonian life from 1870 to about 1930. A shorter conclusion of this collection and an introduction to Estonian folk tales is Tammsaare‘s novel „The Misadventures of the New Satan“ („Põrgupõhja uus vanapagan“), which is a mixture of satire, political commentary and local mythology.

Newer Estonian literature is harder to pinpoint. Many writers reflect the individual loneliness that contrasts our fast technological development (Martin Algus, Katrin Johanson, Andris Feldmanis, Meelis Friedenthal). Some are analyzing the national individuality of Estonia in light of becoming a member of the European Union (Martin Kivirähk, Mihkel Raud). Many are still writing memoirs and reflections on the past (Toomas Mikker, Mart Sander, Andrus Kasemaa and many others).

However, I believe Estonian literature has come to a point where new ideas and perspectives are necessary and about to be explored and a future- or at least present-driven type of novel is emerging. This is made possible by the fact that more novels from Estonian authors have been translated into German and English in the last three years than ever before (Karl Ristikivi, Katrin Johanson, Ilmar Taska, Mart Sander, Vahur Afanasjev, Elin Gottschalk and many more). We are finally about to step out into world literature. In my opinion, the imminence of these developments makes Estonian literature something to watch out for in the future!

This was Chapter 8 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Sandra Falke. You can buy the book here from book depository
If you liked this post, please consider subscribing here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.


Our previous Chapters are as follows, have a look!

Chapter 1: Australia here

Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Chapter 3: Egypt here

Chapter 4: Palestine here

Chapter 5: Kenya here

Chapter 6: Pakistan here

Chapter 7: Argentina here

books, REVIEWS

Between The Assassinations by Aravind Adiga

I’ve been thinking a lot about this book and I have to say it very much could be the perfect sampler to the Raw experience of Indian Lit.

#theguywiththebookreview presents Between The Assassinations by Aravind Adiga.

The first book I read by Adiga was the very much critically acclaimed and Man Booker Prize Winner, The White Tiger.

Surprisingly this book was actually written by Adiga before that one but published later.

Between The Assassinations is a collection of short stories based in Kittur, India and encompasses a wide range of characters from different parts of its society which make for a very intriguing experience when these characters come together.

Each type of character seems to have been researched meticulously and Adiga manages to touch a plethora of topics, from terrorism to casteism to poverty and corruption. Some of the short stories mildly intermingle to give them a much richer experience which sometimes short stories might lack.

There are many books based in India which make for great picks to start with Indian Lit but if you’re undecided on where to start, I’d definitely recommend this book or The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

You can buy Between The Assassinations HERE

You can buy The White Tiger HERE

books, REVIEWS

After The End by Clare Mackintosh

Literally just finished the book and although it’s midnight I know I can’t go to sleep without putting my thoughts out.

#theguywiththebookreview presents After The End by Clare Mackintosh (Gifted by @littlebrown)

This book is divided into two parts, Before and After. Pip and Max have a son who is terminally ill and they are faced with the heartbreaking decision to either let him go or try unconventional medication which might delay the inevitable but will not improve his health.

Max and Pip do not agree and end up in court to decide the fate of Dylan.

‘Before’ deals with this part of their journey as parents (up-to the courts decision)

‘After’ follows their lives after the courts decision and is surprisingly even more heavy on the heart than ‘Before’.

There are three perspectives in the book, Max, Pip and Dylan’s Doctor Leila.

All are in first person and that gives each chapter a very personal touch making the impact of their tough situation even more haunting. The inclusion of Leila is especially helpful as it adds another dimension to the story which breaks the alternating chapters between Max and Pip. Really effective story telling.

I cannot write more without spoilers but I really want to. (Please don’t read onwards if you have already made your mind to read it) You can pre order the book HERE.

Spoilers…

‘After’ is made extremely interesting because Clare takes us into two directions: One where the court decides that Dylan is in too much pain to live and the other where Dylan should get the medication required to live for as long as possible.

These two directions are managed in alternating chapters and are again told from Max and Pips perspectives. In each they get what they wanted from the court (Max – Dylan lives; Pip – Dylan is let go)

After I read the book, I read Clare Mackintosh’s Note where she tells how more than a decade ago she faced a similar situation. Reading that made my heart fall and so I couldn’t wait to write what I felt about the book. Clare does acknowledge this would be a difficult book for many readers to get through so please pick it up only if you are okay with reading a tough story.

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Please consider subscribing to my blog HERE.

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If you are looking for book reviews, please find the links here:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

books, REVIEWS

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

There are so many things to talk about this book but discussing almost anything is potentially a spoiler, so I’m going to try sneak through this review like a kitty cat 🐈

#theguywiththebookreview presents If Cats Disappeared from The World by Genki Kawamura

In this surprisingly heartwarming story of our unnamed protagonist who is diagnosed to die soon, The Devil appears and offers one extra day to live against making one thing disappear from the world.

Then starts the grueling daily routine where he has to choose what thing to get rid of from the world for one day of life. The characters, pace and writing all come together very nicely to give a short yet impactful experience. There is a sense of nostalgia portrayed in the book which might make you pause and reminisce.

Not necessarily meant to be a very serious book, but it does take a nice detour in the closing chapters and the book wraps ups very nicely! Would definitely recommend it to cat lovers and especially those who loved The Travelling Cat Chronicles.

You can buy the book HERE through my affiliate link.

If you are looking for book reviews, please find the links here:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

After The End by Clare Mackintosh

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher