10 Books to hunt at the MUSCAT BOOKFAIR

February 21 is a great time for book readers in the Sultanate. “Why?” You asked.

The 23rd Edition of the Muscat International Book Fair is officially kicking off today and Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre will be filled with 783 publishers who are taking part into what is referred to by the Arab Publishers Union as one of the best 10 book fairs at the Arab Level and one of the top three fairs at the Gulf level.

Breaking the data down, 17 Arab and 11 non-Arab countries are taking part. About 1,200 pavilions will fill the 12,114 square metres section of the convention centre and Gulf countries like Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain will share the same floor as publishers from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Sudan, and Tunisia.

The non-Arab countries joining this year includes Brunei, Canada, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, the UK, and the US.

About 500,000 titles will be on display, with about 35 per cent being recent releases.

The number of titles available to choose from is mind-boggling and at this scale, the joy is always in the find. From self-help books, to arts and crafts, from sci-fi to serious works and scientific journals, there is definitely a spot for your interest.

We’ve made research of some books making wave all over the world and although we can’t guarantee that these titles are available at the book fair, you can always ask the publishers.

Let this list guide you.

 

EXIT WEST

Author: Mohsin Hamid

A deceptively simple conceit turns a timely novel about a couple fleeing a civil war into a profound meditation on the psychology of exile. Magic doors separate the known calamities of the old world from the unknown perils of the new, as the migrants learn how to adjust to an improvisatory existence. Hamid has written a novel that fuses the real with the surreal — perhaps the most faithful way to convey the tremulous political fault lines of our interconnected planet.

 

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

Author: Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

 

From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.

 

Pachinko

Author: Min Jin Lee

 

“Pachinko” chronicles four generations of an ethnic Korean family, first in Japanese-occupied Korea in the early 20th century, then in Japan itself from the years before World War II to the late 1980s. The novel opens with an arranged marriage in Yeongdo, a fishing village at the southern tip of Korea. That union produces a daughter, Sunja, who falls in love at 16 with a prominent (and married) mobster. After Sunja becomes pregnant, a local pastor offers her a chance to escape by marrying him and immigrating together to his brother’s house in an ethnic Korean neighbourhood in Osaka. Together, they embark into the fraught unknown.

 

What We Lose

Author: Zinzi Clemmons

 

From an author of rare, haunting power, a stunning novel about a young African-American woman coming of age. Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor.

 

The Woman in the Window

Author: A J Finn

 

For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in 36 languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighbouring house.

 

The Woman of Tantoura 

Author: Radwa Ashour

(Translated by Kay Heikkinen)

 

One of Ashour’s most popular and enjoyable novels, a multigenerational epic about the many travels of a Palestinian woman trying to tell her story and keep together her family. Particularly insightful about women and sons.

 

Maryam,  Keeper of Stories

Author: Alawiyya Sobh

(Translated by Nirvana Tanoukhi)

 

This acclaimed novel, originally published in Arabic in 2002, doesn’t just tackle the content of Lebanese women’s lives. Its form—1,001 Nights-esque, interlinked tales—is also womanish. The action doesn’t follow the forward-marching masculine world of politics and business. Even when women protest or pick up weapons, the narrative stays focused on the circularity of relationships. The book also gives respectful attention to village superstitions, soap operas, and other “low” genres associated with women.

 

 

City of Jackals

Author: Parker Bilal

 

This fifth installment in the Makana mystery series should send you back to the first four. I first read Bilal, the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, who was born in London and raised in Khartoum, Sudan, because his books are set in Cairo. I’m not much of a mystery fan, but I’m a big fan of Cairo and Bilal takes full advantage of the city setting to enhance the story. This mystery takes place in 2005, after the election of Mubarak and protests by South Sudanese refugees. The Sudanese detective Makana is sympathetic, honest in the midst of corruption, sad (he has a tragic past) and living on an old houseboat on the Nile. Entertaining and exciting but also revealing, the series spins yarns while exposing the reality that Egypt is not all tombs and Pharaohs.

 

Feel Free

Author: Zadie Smith

 

Reading British-born Smith’s brilliant second collection of essays might be the closest we’ll ever get to a real-life conversation with the fiercely private writer, whose prolific work includes five novels. But in her new essay collection, she shares original and intimate thoughts on subjects ranging from Jay-Z to Facebook to Karl Ove Knausguard, all while extrapolating what it means to live in an increasingly polarised America. All in all, the opportunity to inhabit Smith’s mind is at once delightful, challenging, and important.

 

The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East: 1978-1984

Author: Riad Sattouf

A bestseller in France, the Paris-based cartoonist’s first book in English recounts growing up in Gaddafi’s Libya, Assad’s Syria, and his mother’s native France. The image of Sattouf as a small boy with flowing blond hair and an expression of wonder and perplexity will win you over before the story even starts. Sattouf uses clean images and simple language to capture the innocence of childhood. There’s no judgement, just an unlikely childhood under a series of dictators, his Syrian pan-Arabist professor father being one of them. Sattouf’s experiences form a touching and droll portrait of the Middle East seen through the eyes of a little boy.

COMPILED BY: Titash Chakraborty