Wednesday, March 22, 2023 | Sha'ban 29, 1444 H
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Reading brings solace to a troubled year

Everyone thought that 2022 would be a better year – better that is, from the pandemic induced two years before it. In many ways, 2022 was a good year as most of the world recuperated from Covid-19 as the year went on, mainly because of vaccinations and immunity. But it also saw intense challenges in the form of continuing wars and rise in prices, making daily life more difficult.

But like in most years, books offered much solace. Encouragingly, while the death knell for printed books has been ringing for the last two decades, publishing has only looked up. During and after the pandemic, sales of books rose by more than 15 per cent in the USA, with adult fiction seeing the sharpest rise. According to NPR, 62 per cent of readers preferred to read in print, with others opting for e-books and audio books.

Other reading trivia includes the largest share of people reading books (Finland), the most avid readers in Asia (India, Thailand and China) as well as the largest fans of e-books (China). In terms of genre, Romance heads the favourites, with Crime and Mystery coming a close second.

Motivational books continue to be on top of the reading pile – perhaps reflecting a world filled with anxiety and uncertainty. On top of the list of motivational books in 2022 is Dr Julie Smith’s ‘Why has nobody told me this before?’, about coping with stress, self-doubt and self-esteem from a therapist who gives specific advice. Add to this, Marie Kondo’s ‘How to organise your space and achieve your ideal life’ and Michelle Obama’s ‘The light we carry’, for much needed guidance and motivation for the year ahead.

The world of non-fiction is rising rapidly, especially in history, economics and politics. Anirudh Kanisetti’s ‘Lords of the Deccan’, Janina Ramirez’s Femina: A new history of the Middle Ages, through the women written out of it’ and ‘Streets of gold’ by Leah Boustan and Ran Abramitzky offer an interesting range of history, gender and sociology, along with economics and politics in its mix.

Closer home, the literary output in fiction has been vastly expanding. Omani author Bushra Khalfan won the Katara prize for her novel ‘Dilshad, The Biography of Hunger and Satisfaction’ while Jokha al Harthi’s ‘Bitter orange tree’, translated into English by Marlyn Booth offers more glimpses of Omani women’s lives.

Reem al Kamali is the first Emirati novelist to be nominated for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for her novel ‘Rose’s Diary’ visualising Dubai in the 1960s.

Books continue to console us and inspire us. Whether young adult (YA), graphics, historical or dystopian fiction, there is something for everyone, and for every mood. Perhaps the debate of whether print is better than other forms should be done and dusted: in any form, audio, digital or the much loved print, good writing continues to captivate our attention. It is said that a good book is like a good friend – you will find something new each time. That is the magic of reading.

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