books

A New Years Reading Resolution you can still keep!

3 Years ago when I joined Bookstagram, I had no idea there were reading challenges. I was overwhelmed by the choices! But some of them were simply impossible for me to join as they included many types of books and I did not have access to a lot of them. In any case, reading challenges were something I never really participated in.

But there was one challenge that seemed to have taken everyone by storm, the good old Good Reads Challenge. For those who do not know, the Good Reads Challenge is an undertaking by readers each year on goodreads.com where they set a goal of number of books to be read in the coming year.

So, being the sheep that I am I joined the challenge as well and set my 2017 reading goal as 52 books, a book a week, which seemed easy to accomplish. The problem was that life kept changing and I was over optimistic near the New Year, in 2017 I read around 35 books. With work and travel and life’s challenges I found there were patches in my year where I just couldn’t read and this frustrated me since I wanted to but alas, this is life…

In 2018 I set my GoodReads Challenge to a more realistic 36 books. But, I traveled to India for a couple of weeks in the beginning of February and by the time I returned home I was already catching up on the Goodreads challenge. By March I found myself lagging way behind and feeling helpless since I knew the amount of time I would get to read even in a calm and quiet month, I knew I wouldn’t catch up unless I’m extremely organised. The general feeling was of dismay and by mid year I stopped updating my goodreads account (I’ve still not updated it)

I found that good reads was no more my happy place. I needed an alternative and I searched in the last week of December for challenges that would suit me. Unfortunately many of the challenges were amazing but not practical for me. (You guys should check #ReadingWomenChallenge)

So, finally I decided to start the #BetterReadsChallenge

This had been going on in my mind for a long time and here’s how it works:

Objective: Read every single day of the year, that’s it.

How to participate:

1- Keep track of each days reading, just that you read or not. It can be 10 pages, it can be 100 pages. You get 1 point for each day.

2 – You can add the hashtag along with your current score on your social media captions/Tweets (Instagram, Facebook, twitter, whatever)

3 – You can dedicate 1 line of your Instagram/twitter bio to it. Currently i have a line that says “#BetterReadsChallenge – 3/365”

And That’s it! You can set a goal of 300/365 but the ultimate challenge is to read every single day!

If you are reading this a few days or weeks into the new year, no worries, just check the number of days left to 2020 and set that as your target. So on first of february its 365 – 31 = 334 days.

In the first 3 days of the year, I’ve been so motivated because of the challenge, I woke up early on the first 2 days of January just to put in half an hours reading in (I ended with 45 minutes on both days) then on day 3 I woke up late so I decided to read during lunch hour. I read 45 minutes again. and i’m happy to say i’m already almost through the first book of the Year 🙂

Tag me on instagram if you join the Challenge!

My name is Faroukh and I am @theguywiththebook

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

A Long Walk to Water By Linda Sue Park

edfThe last few pages of this book gave me multiple goosebumps. Linda Sue Park takes us on a couple of walks, one to survival and the other figuratively to survival (to water).

The narrative alternates between two eleven year old’s: Nya and Salva. Nya is a little girl who makes two trips to a drying pond to fetch water for her family. Her only break includes drinking a little water when she reaches the pond and the other is between her two daily trips back home for a few minutes. Nya’s narrative is very innocent which is intertwined with Salva’s coming of age narrative which also starts at the age of eleven. Salva is at the center of the book with Nya lending short breathers in between. Salva’s story starts in 1985 when South Sudan is under attack which leads him to abandon everything and head for Ethiopia under the unwilling watch of random strangers also heading to the same place.IMG_20181017_171059.jpg

What Salva goes through during the course of this ‘walk’ is horrendous and almost unbelievable, and when I finished the book, I turned the last page to a note from the author saying that this is all based on a true story. (I really need to stop this habit of not reading summaries of books I pick up!) Everything I read had a much deeper impact on me after I found this out and this has to be one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read in a long time! (Closest to it is Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini)

At the end of it all, I had so much more appreciation for what we have been blessed with in our daily lives, something like water which we don’t even think about. We complain if edfthe water we drink isn’t as cold as we want it to be not thinking twice there are people even today who would thank God for giving them even boiling hot water to drink. This book has the capacity to humble us and be thankful, and for that reason I recommend it to every single one of you. I think this should be required reading in schools and a book that should be reread every year.

A Long Walk to Water has a 4.24 rating on Good reads (30,000 reviews). If you’d like to order one, here’s my bookdepository affiliate link

Hope you guys enjoy it! Do let me know if its something you’d pick up? If there is any book you’d like to recommend, I’m all ears!

books, REVIEWS

Chapter 7: Argentina. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

A few months ago I approached Carolina to write an article for this series. And I was really happy when she messaged me about my piece on representation It was an interesting discussion which led me to revisit my stand on representation. After all, we are all a product of a number of variables viz. culture, family background etc. Because of this I was even more happy that I had included her to write a post for Argentine representation. I knew she wont just randomly recommend a book and will stand with full force behind her choice, I’m sure you’re going to love her recommendation!

Carolina can be found at the following links:

Instagram Twitter and she writes for Book Riot under Carolina Ciucci

Over to Carolina now!

It is said that every country has a body of literature that is so distinctive, it captures the spirit of its people. I don’t believe that’s true.  A country’s “people” is such a vague notion, after all. What people are we talking about? Gender, racial and class differences, among others, all come together to shape multiple communities within a nation’s borders.  So when Faroukh asked me to recommend one Argentine book for his blog, I immediately asked him if I had to choose only one. Unfortunately, he said yes. But he gave me the leeway to add some extra books as a footnote, so that’ll have to do.

To many people, us included, Argentine literature immediately brings to mind the Gauchesque genre. And the one work from this genre known to everyone, even those who don’t know or care about it, is El gaucho Martín Fierro. Published in 1872, it became a smashing success, to the point where author José Hernández included a second part, La vuelta del Martín Fierro (The Return of Martín Fierro), in 1879.

1534264445881-02.jpeg“El Martín Fierro”, as it’s typically known here, is an epic poem composed in the tradition of folkloric literature. Hernández was not a gaucho himself: as an educated man from the city, his story of Martín Fierro, a man belonging to an oppressed class who after much hardship becomes an oppressor himself, is told from imagination and research, not experience. Jorge Luis Borges and Leopoldo Lugones (do yourself a favor, read their work but steer clear of their politics) later deemed it the ultimate Argentine work of literature. Borges himself wrote some excellent short stories inspired by it.

What makes this poem so beloved in this country? A big part of its appeal lies in thesearch for a national identity. Argentina had only become an independent country in 1816, and was still struggling to distance itself from its colonizer’s culture. Add the 1880s immigrational wave, and the need for a national canon became imperative. The gaucho was a purely Argentine figure: he didn’t exist in Spain, Italy, or in any of the countries whose people were currently settling down here. That consideration contributed to its importance, to the point where Tradition Day was set on November 10, Hernández’s birthday.

1534455033676.jpg

Ironically (or maybe not), Hernández became the spokesperson for gauchos despite being a moderately wealthy landowner of Spanish and Irish ancestry. It opens the door for discussions about cultural appropriation, the absurdity inherent to the concept of a single narrative, and the way that immigration is seen, depending on the ethnic and national identity of the immigrant – both back in the 19th century and today.

Other authors and books you might like to read:

Jorge Luis Borges: basically everything, but my favorite is his short story collection El Aleph.

Julio Cortázar: again, everything. But Rayuela (or Hopscotch) remains my favorite.

Victoria Ocampo: founder of iconic literary magazine, Sur, Ocampo wrote poetry and short stories in the same vein of Borges and Cortázar.

Silvina Ocampo: See above.

final1534454879491-01.jpeg

Alejandra Pizarnik: Poet and translator, Pizarnik’s writing is among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. I’ve tackled a good chunk of her poetry, but as a friend recently reminded me, I have yet to read her journals. I can’t wait.

Rodolfo Walsh: the true founder of the non-fiction novel (sorry, Capote. Walsh got there first), he was a complicated, controversial figure that remains in the collective mind decades after his forced disappearance and execution at the hands of our last military government.

Ernesto Sábato: another controversial figure, albeit for more mundane reasons, his novel El túnel (The Tunnel) is a masterpiece of literary realism. The rest of his work isn’t too shabby, either.

María Elena Walsh: a children’s writer, she played a big role in little Caro’s love of reading. I can’t remember much of her work anymore, but there is one poem I can recite from memory, twenty years later.

final1534455147054-01.jpeg

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoy digging into some of these authors’ backlog. Let me know if you’d like any more recommendations – this is only the tip of the iceberg. Happy reading!

Thanks a lot Carolina for the recommendations!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order El Gaucho Martin Fierro via bookdepository, click here

This was Chapter 7 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Carolina Ciucci!
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
If you liked this post, please subscribe 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.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here

Check out Chapter 4: Palestine here

Check out Chapter 5: Kenya here

Check out Chapter 6: Pakistan here

 

books

Chapter 5: Kenya. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

We’re finally back with Chapter 5 of this series I’m extremely excited to finally cover Kenya which has been on my list since a long time. If some of you don’t know Bill from @Kenyan_library on Instagram, I’d highly recommend his account! His pictures are really imaginative and captions are always engaging. As goes with series Bill is going to recommend us a book based in Kenya and I really hope this is a good entry for you to African literature if you’ve still not read any based in the continent. If yes, I hope its a great pick for you from Kenya! I’m going to hand this over to Bill, take over buddy!

Instagram: @kenyan_library

Blog: kenyanlibrary

Twitter: @kenyan_library

Hello Friends, I’m Bill of (Kenyan_Library on Instagram/Blog) so happy to be part of Faroukh’s amazing project Traveling Bibio, thank you so much for having me. Let’s take a trip to Kenya through a recent favorite book that captures the true Kenyan Spirit.

20180429100836_IMG_2054.jpg

In the past, I have struggled to connect with Kenyan Literature and it didn’t help that my English teacher wasn’t as enthusiastic about it either. Majority of the books I came across were predominately politically driven and that just didn’t suit my contemporary taste. So I took upon myself to try out Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo crossing my fingers that this might be the book that finally reignites my interest in Kenyan Lit. I loved it!

IMG_2743.jpg

Synopsis

Following The Oganda family after the son (Odidi) gets gun downed in the streets of Nairobi we see the reputation of this vile action through the family’s grief & memories IMG_20180608_111118which opens the door to a dark past pelted with generational secrets that still haunt them in the present. At the same time, a young Englishman arrives at the Ogandas’ house, seeking his missing father; a hardened policeman who has borne witness to unspeakable acts reopens a cold case, and an all-seeing Trader with a murky identity plots an overdue revenge. In scenes stretching from the violent upheaval of contemporary Kenya back through a shocking political assassination in 1969 and the Mau Mau uprisings against British colonial rule in the 1950s, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, buried deep within the shared past of the family and of a conflicted nation.

Why You Should Read It

20180429100653_IMG_2049.jpgThe lyrical poetic narrative style is so cinematic & intertwined with so much emotion that you will feel every character’s pain, happiness, without being directly told. The first couple of pages might seem confusing but give yourself time to get used to the flow of the writing then  you won’t stop reading. The politics doesn’t overpower the story but lingers in the background which balances the narrative, putting emphasis on the family saga. Lush description of the beautiful Kenyan Landscapes and the local street life are brought to life through the 20180429100801_IMG_2052characters eyes, as well as the local slang and deep Kenyan proverbs make the experience feel authentic. It has its dark moments, you will weep at the author explores the injustices that take place through the hands of corrupt leaders and the poor state of living but you will also experience the local everyday life of a Kenyan, Using the public transport matatus, cuisine etc. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Thanks a lot Bill for your great recommendation!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order DUST via bookdepository, click here

This was Chapter 5 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Bill Muganda!
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
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.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here

Check out Chapter 4: Palestine here

Here’s a picture of a bookstore in Kenya 🙂

IMG_20180608_113238.jpg

 

 

 

books, REVIEWS

Book Review: Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

Giovanna and Tom Fletcher collaborate to bring us the story of Eve and Bram.

.

The premise:

img_1679The premise is very interesting, Eve is the first girl to be born in 50 years and obviously all eyes are on her in hopes that she can carry forward the human race once she comes of age. Eve is taken care of by a corporation based in a tower where she lives in ‘The Dome’ and is disconnected from the outer world. The only friend she has is Holly (An AI bot controlled remotely by ‘pilots’, one of them being Bram.)

 

The world:

The planet is drowned in water and the world outside the Tower is in shambles. There is a huge disconnect between what goes on inside it and what’s on the outside. The outside world barely gets mentioned until we reach the latter part of the book, which seemed like a big mistake.

.

World building:

Normally when it comes to the dystopian genre you would expect efficient world building. But since the first half of the book is based inside the Tower and what’s outside img_3773it only comes in play in the second half, there is a huge disconnect. We’re kept in the dark (probably unintentionally) and it doesn’t work. Unless you’re only interested in what happens between Eve and Bram, you’d want to know more about this dystopian world.

.

Narration:

Chapters are divided between Eve and Bram and it seems like each author wrote one of the characters chapters, there isn’t any cohesion between the two. This isn’t that bad a thing because each of the characters chapters is easily distinguishable and you could say each character has a voice of its own. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if the tower and what’s outside had alternate chapters.

.

Characters:

The characters are all extremely predictable. There’s no depth to any of them. Character img_3862development is non existent and sometimes even forced. I think there wasn’t a single one of them that had a distinct identity, it seemed that all of them were set to default character settings and let go.

The execution:

I expected this to happen and the answer is yes, the book turns into a Damsel-in-distress-where-is-my-savior plot. It was almost unbearable in the last 100 pages where every movement was thoroughly explained and there was nothing left for me to think about. Every thing was extremely dramatized and the one time something was kept a secret, it seemed forced and well, it wasn’t really a plot twisting secret.

Over all, I think I’d have enjoyed this and maybe even recommended it if I was a teenager. Unfortunately I’m no longer one.

 

books

Chapter 4: Palestine (The Traveling Biblio Chronicles)

Welcome to Chapter 4 of the Traveling Biblio Chronicles!

IMG-2668.JPG

Dounya Hamdan is taking us on a lovely little trip over to Palestine! I found Dounya’s account a few months ago on instagram @doonz____ and i love how she focuses her energy on life and things that are close to her heart, especially towards the cause of Palestine.

I’m really excited to hear your thoughts about this post that Dounya has written for us.

Dounya has shared a link to a donation site which works towards funding Palestinian refugee families in the Gaza Strip. As of right now $616,738 have been raised (Goal was $600,000 which has been crossed, but anything above it will of course be a appreciated)

Click here to donate: UNRWA Donation Link

Dounya is going to take over now!

IMG-2812.JPGLet me tell you about a place full of wonder, a place where you will find little treasures in the crevice of every cobblestone street, in every shopkeeper’s store and deep in the gardens that lay beyond every home.

Palestine is where my heart resides. It is the home of my mother and father, my grandparents and my resilient ancestors.

It is where I find solace while I sit atop my grandmother’s home watching the golden sun melt away into dusk. At nighttime, the moon generously illuminating the streets, walking beside me until I have made it home safely. The last time I visited my homeland was about a year ago and my heart is yearning to go back. Palestine is made up of many villages, each with their own customs and traditions.

IMG-2951.JPG

Every time I visit, it is a tradition to rush from the airport and drive straight to my grandparents’ home. I always find them patiently awaiting my arrival on their porch with their smiling faces and warm embraces.IMG-2821

When I am thousands of miles away from Palestine, my soul yearns to be reminded of its beauty – and so I delve deep into books that remind me of my homeland. I have read many great stories such as “Secrets Under the Olive Tree” by Nevien Shaabneh, “Fast Times in Palestine” by Pamela Olson and “I Saw Ramallah” by Mourid Barghouti.

I would like to recommend to other fellow readers a story that shows both sides to this beautiful vast land. The side that portrays what the Palestinians endure daily – the occupation, the apartheid wall, checkpoints and hope amid the sorrow. The other side portrays the Israelis and the belief that this land is theirs – that they have a right to a Jewish state. “The Lemon Tree” by Sandy Tolan instantly came to mind. It is a story of a Palestinian returning to his childhood home 19 years later only to find an Israeli woman living there now. The story unravels to show you pain and heartache, bitterness and love from both sides.IMG-4020

I truly hope you take the time to see for yourself the hidden beauty of Palestine, for it welcomes anyone with a soft heart and kind eyes.

This was Chapter 4 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Dounya Hamdan. You can buy the book here from book depository
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
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.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here