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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 🙂

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books

Chapter 4: Palestine (The Traveling Biblio Chronicles)

Welcome to Chapter 4 of the Traveling Biblio Chronicles!

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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.

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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

books

Chapter 2: Afghanistan (The Traveling Biblio Chronicles)

I have known Yeldah @beautiful.bibliophile for a couple of years now thanks to bookstagram and she was one of the first people I approached for this series. Yeldah originates from Afghanistan and she will take over today’s post. Afghanistan needs to be read about more and I’m so happy she is recommending a book based there on today’s guest post.

You can find Yeldah on her channels below

Website: www.yeldahyousfi.com

Instagram: @beautiful.bibliophile

Twitter: @yeldahyousfi

Pinterest: @yeldahyousfi

Snapchat: @b_bibliophile

Tumblr: @beautiful-bibliophile

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“For you, a thousand times over.”

Hi there, it’s Yeldah! You might know me from Instagram as @beautiful.bibliophile or this may be your first hearing about me, which ever it is I’m glad to be writing this piece. I was very excited when Faroukh asked me if I would participate and write a guest post for his weekly blog segment: Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

As a daughter of immigrants from Afghanistan, but born and raised in Canada, I grew up surrounded with Persian/Afghani culture with a Canadian twist. When I was younger I hardly read anything by Afghan authors or books that were set in Afghanistan because there wasn’t much to read. Not having many diverse books growing up I decided to do some research of my own.

When I was 13 or 14, I picked up my first book written by Afghan author which was also set in Afghanistan – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Immediately after starting it, I knew that this book would deeply affect me (aka make me cry like a child). I only read half the book then, but a couple years later I picked it up for my English class and this time I finished it.

Review:

The Kite Runner is a book that follows the life of an Afghani boy, from his childhood to adulthood. It tells the story of Amir, the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, and his struggles in dealing with real-world terrors such as the Afghan-Soviet War but also with private horrors that come to light as the book progresses.

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I found The Kite Runner to be such touching story, but it was hard to read at times since it dealt with some very real and dreadful Afghan history. It also deals with the topics of child neglect mental/physical abuse, violence in times of war and terrorism in an authentic and important manner. The characters are all relatable because they aren’t perfect and have flaws, even if they are not always likeable they will break your heart (you have been warned). But in my most honest opinion, there’s a kind of beauty and significance of this story that really touched me.

Hope you have the chance to pick this wonderful work of fiction up, I would highly recommend it to everyone!

What are some books that left you speechless?

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This was Chapter 2 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Yeldah Yousfi. 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 magical journey to the land of the Pyramids!
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

books, REVIEWS, Tips, Tricks and Tutorials

How The Forty Rules of Love taught me a lot about reviewing books.

This might become a post on how to review books, hang on tight!

A couple of years ago I started reviewing books on Instagram. I never did a full fledged detailed review. Mostly bite sized reviews that fit an Instagram caption which didn’t really have a set format.

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My primary goal was to review books without giving anything away. No spoilers, no reveals. Just purely what I felt about the pace, characters, plot and feel of the book. Enough to make the readers decide for themselves if they’d like to pick a book. This still has not changed.

Over time, I graduated to a simpler format for my reviews. I start with my thoughts on the book, writing, plot etc. and end with listing things I liked and things I didn’t really like. This seems to work best for me, I’ve had comments on ‘negative’ book reviews where readers have been intrigued by the book, despite the negative review.

I have no authority over literature of any kind and that’s another thing I’m careful about while writing a review – to make sure I don’t sound authoritative about a book, a genre or a subject.

In case you’re interested, my reviews are here

img_2217A few reviews after my first, I read a book which I really disliked and wouldn’t recommend to anyone I knew unless they like to read books on the subject. This was The forty rules of love by Elif Shafak. I will not get into why I didn’t like it, let’s just say I was in a pickle on how to write the review without sounding hateful.

So I tried, and I think I did a decent job in pushing forward my thoughts on the book. This was when I did not have many followers, probably somewhere around 1000 and the response was really good. I think the comments section had 100+ comments which was unthinkable for me at that level.

Funny thing was, a lot of people said they liked my ‘honest’ review. I didn’t think much of it but over time I found that some bookstagrammers (especially bigger ones) stay away from posting negative reviews because they want their pages to only have positive content (I respect that) but later I also found that a lot of people get hate over writing negative reviews from readers who love that negatively reviewed book. This can be really problematic for reviewers and in my view it’s best to stay away if you can’t handle online hate (it can be tough, trolls online sometimes forget there is a real person behind an account and they keep knocking for months and stalk every single word you post, it’s a serious problem)

Recently one of my friends who is white was bullied into deleting a review of a book written by a POC. Since their following is quite high, they deleted it because of fear of backlash from people. Unfortunate, but this is life I guess.

Fortunately I have a very thick skin and I can take a hit or two (trust me, I get hate in all shapes and forms mainly because I say what I feel and seldom sugar coat things)

Anyways, over time, I started receiving books from publishers. I remember I had received and didn’t like the first book sent by a major publishing house. I made sure I reviewed the book like I would review any other book and gave it 2 stars on goodreads. I know it can be daunting to stay honest, especially when you’re dealing with publishers and generally would hope to be on their reviewers list. Trust me, your negative review on a book will not effect your relationship with the publisher (and if it does, stay true to yourself and write what you feel). I have spoken to publishers about this as well, and for them reviews matter, they don’t want reviewers to just give positive reviews because of a free book. (And again, if they do, you’re better off staying away from such publishers)

Over the next months I reviewed a lot of other books I didn’t like and I think one positive effect this has had is my reviews are expected to be honest and straight forward whether it’s a book I’ve picked myself or a book sent by a major publishing house.

Another thing that I do is I do not DNF books. I’ve realized if I do not like a book and review it, it makes for great conversation and enhances my learning of literature. There is a possibility I missed out on some things while reading it and it gives me a chance to grow.

So that’s it, some of my thoughts on reviewing books, maybe they will help you in developing your own reviewing style. If you have tips to share, please leave in the comments below. We could use insights from everyone 🙂

If you liked this blog post, please subscribe here

If you are on Instagram, please consider subscribing to my Bookstagram I post daily bookish content and book reviews there.

Happy Reading!!

Faroukh

Tips, Tricks and Tutorials

Bookstagram for beginners!

Bookstagram – How, What, Why, When, Whatever…

It’s been 2 years since I started my Bookstagram @theguywiththebook which recently crossed 35k. I had no idea there is a thing called Bookstagram and it was just a space for me to keep track of the books I’ve read.

Recently I won the Bookstagrammer of the year award at the London Book Fair and so I decided this would be a great time to share what I’ve learnt over the past couple of years and hopefully this will help you start or better your account!

Well, that’s enough about me, let’s start!

Quick Introduction to Bookstagram.

It’s an online space on Instagram where people post pictures and videos of books and talk all things bookish.

How to setup your Bookstagram Profile:

Instagram Handle

First thing you need to decide on is an Instagram handle which reflects your bookish side. When I started Bookstagram my handle was @thebookpiper (Yes, I know :l) and I kept it because I used to prop my pictures with a book and a pipe I had picked up on a trip to Zambia (Stupid, I know). Later I changed it to @theguywiththebook. When I reached around 500 followers I realized that

A- My handle makes no sense and

B- Not many male book bloggers were around (So I thought it would be smart to let people know) and it helped. So, think about it and chose your Instagram handle smartly.

Profile picture

The next (or maybe even the first) thing that people will notice is your profile picture. Either create a logo for free (I made mine in 5 minutes on the app Canva) or use a regular picture of yourself or maybe a bookish photo. Whatever makes you happy. Just remember your profile picture is going to be a tiny little circle and sometimes pictures look like a mess in such a small frame.

Instagram Bio

Your bio is the next thing you need to add and what I like is to try and keep it simple (I’ve had messy bio’s before because I didn’t think about it much) but now it’s a clean little bio reflecting the fun side of me, followed by my current read which includes numbers showing how any books I’ve read and the number I want read by the end of the year. Next is ‘Saudi Arabia’ which is where I live. For me this clean and clear bio works but you can experiment with what you like. Just make sure it’s something which reflects your theme of books. Oh, you can add ‘Bookstagram’ to your name as well.

Starting!

You’ll want your page to look active right away so it’s a good idea to fill up your page with maybe a dozen posts so it looks active. Not many would be interested in a page with 3-6 posts. Next you’ll want people to know about your page and you’ll need to start interacting to attract traffic. This is going to take some time and you’ll have to work on it persistently. I will talk about interactions in a bit.

Content Creation

Irrespective of the type of books you read, Visual content creation is where you need to concentrate the most. Instagram is a visual platform and the most effective way to drive people to your page and make them want to press that blue button is to have visually appealing timeline. Captions come second and will form an important but not equally important part of your post for majority of people. The reason I say this is that on average for me the number of comments are about 50-100 and the number of likes go somewhere between 3k to 6k. Not everyone will be in the mood to have a chat on Instagram PLUS you are not the only one they are following. The average number of accounts 1 user follows on Instagram is 800.

Taking pictures

The main thing you need is a camera, not necessarily a DSLR. Your phone camera will work just fine. You could start your page with a single setup style and take multiple pictures with different books and setups and slowly graduate to different styles. Or you could start and learn on the way to find out what style(s) work best for you. It’s all hit and miss and depends on what you are good at over a period of time. I, personally enjoy taking pictures at the beach or at cafes but sometimes I’m in the mood for a flat lay. I don’t follow a single setup theme because my mind is just very random and I’ve tried but I can’t follow a single theme. I’m slowly trying to learn how to have a color theme my page if not a single style theme. These days I’m regularly using a bookish scarf as a background as I don’t have enough time right now and it actually looks really good!

Photography tips

1- All cameras will give their best shot in natural lighting. If you are taking pictures at home, take pictures as close to the window as possible.

2- Check online when the ‘Golden Hour’ is in your city. This is the time the sunlight is perfectly angled to give a soft lighting environment. If you can, then try to schedule your shoot during this time.

3- Focus on different parts of the image to see which point is giving you the best lit picture.

4- Take multiple pictures from different angles. You’ll be surprised to see how different the same setup looks from different angles. I’ve posted pictures of the same setup from different angles and each of them has a personality of its own.

5- If you need to take pictures at night (I almost never have), do not use direct lighting, use a thin cloth or shower curtain to soften and spread the light.

Engagement

First thing you might learn on IG is that every day is a new experience. One picture will get a 1000 likes and the next maybe 200. There is no guarantee. So what you need to do is try to control the things you can control. The one thing you can kind of control is to direct traffic to your account.

What I have done over the past is followed a bunch of people on whose posts I like and comment almost every single day. I do this every time I post a picture on my page. I follow around 30 people who post every single day. When they see that I comment almost daily, they naturally return the favor on my posts. Please note I try to be thoughtful in my comments and try to relate it to the caption or picture. Unless I’m really tired or out of ideas I might comment something generic like complimenting the picture posted.

These are connection I have grown and maintained over the past and were only built since I was regular on their pages and got noticed. There are some accounts which are way bigger than mine but they appear regularly on my page as well because I am regular on theirs. So try to give, to get.

United Bookstagram

Many of you might already know, I created a hashtag along with my sister @sumaiyya.books : #unitedbookstagram. This is to support smaller account who have just started on bookstagram. We try to like/comment on posts on the hashtag every single day. Use it, and be active on it. You’ll find some really great accounts who want to engage and grow with you.

I really hope this helps you if you are starting out. I honestly don’t know if any of this information is new to anyone, since these are almost basic tools/tips that I use daily which makes it seem like general knowledge!

If you liked this post, please subscribe to my blog here and do share this post and help your fellow bookstagrammers!

Happy Reading!

Faroukh

@theguywiththebook