Category: Books

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (Paul Torday)

I’ve been reading a lot of books about business, entrepreneurship, marketing and other stuff along those lines recently; and as good as those get, I just missed going through a really nice novel and letting my imagination run wild with it, so a few days ago, I just picked up the book “Salmon Fishing In The Yemen” by Paul Torday, which seemed like quite an interesting and fun read.

After going through the book in just over a couple of days, I can confirm it was quite worth the read, and that it lived up to my expectations. I really enjoyed reading it.

The story revolves around a fisheries scientist, Dr Alfred Jones, who finds himself (against his will) in the middle of a project to introduce salmon to the Yemen, a scheme which appears doomed to failure, but that he starts believing more and more in as the events of the story progress, and as he learns more about faith, overcoming obstacles, and love.

All this happens amidst a swirl of relationship problems he’s having with his wife, hidden political agendas by high-up politicians, an ongoing war, terrorist plots and more.

The story is told very interestingly in a series of emails, diary entries, and interview transcripts; covering the story from different angles and adding a very nice and realistic touch to it all.

The book is a really light and fun read, yet touches upon some really interesting and important topics.

If you’re looking for something quite light, fun and quick to read, then I recommend this book.

Middlesex, Oranges, Mockingbirds And A Thousand Suns

It’s been a while since I last wrote about books that I read and liked, even thought I’ve been reading a lot of books as usual.

So, I thought I’d just do a round-up of the most interesting novels I’ve read recently, that I recommend to everyone (in no particular order).

Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”
Those are the opening lines for this great book, and just reading them I was hooked. It tells the story of of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as a girl called Calliope. Very worth the read.

The Orange Girl (Jostein Gaarder)
A lovely read, very interestingly written, and a bit philosophical in nature.
It tells the story of a deceased father through a letter he left his son, and that was discovered 11 years after his death. It’s a romantic and humorous story, that also tackles some deeper thoughts, concluding with a very interesting question the father, knowing he was about to die, asked himself, and is in turn asking his son to consider.

To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
A classic I only got to read recently, and now I understand why it has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis of an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century.
A gripping coming-of-age tale in the American South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father — a crusading local lawyer — risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
A great follow-up to his debut “The Kite Runner”, this book is yet another epic describing the turmoil in Afghanistan.
The story covers three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny through the lives of two women.
A really great and touching read.

Eleven Minutes (Paulo Coelho)

Another Paulo Coelho book that I’ve read recently and that I’ve been meaning to write about is ‘Eleven Minutes‘.

The book is pretty different from the other books I’ve read by Paulo Coelho, even though it is equally as great and enjoyable as a book, and inspiring in its own kind of way.

It starts with the sentence “Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria”, and goes on to tell us the story of a woman’s journey from an innocent young girl who believed that she had squandered her only chance at love, to leaving her home to seek fame and fortune, to then finding herself stepping into the life of prostitution, to a woman who finally decides to open her heart again to allow “real” love in.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first started reading the book even though a number of my friends told me it was a very good book; but I was pleasantly surprised, and confirm what my friends told me; the story engages you, and carries you through it, as you follow the main character’s life, the events she goes through, and her perception of things.

I personally really enjoyed reading this book, and recommend it to everyone. It’s not meant to change your mind about prostitution, nor to give reasons or explanations; it’s just a story about one woman and her journey with love.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction

I just heard about the newly created “International Prize for Arabic Fiction,” which this year went to Egyptian author Baha Taher for his book ‘Sunset Oasis’, a book that explores one man’s existential crisis.

The winning book will get published throughout the Arab world, and translated outside of it, thus helping the author gain a wider readership. The cash awards included; which are: $10,000 for shortlisted authors, $50,000 for the winner; should also give a good boost to authors in the Arab worldm a region where it is nearly impossible to live off of writing up to now.

The list of finalists included:

- June Rain by Jabbour Douaihy (Lebanon)
- The Land of Purgatory by Elias Farkouh (Jordan)
- In Praise of Hatred by Khaled Khalifa (Syria)
- Walking in the Dust by May Menassa (Lebanon)
- Swan Song by Mekkaoui Said (Egypt)
- Sunset Oasis by Baha Taher (Egypt)

I think it’s a great idea, certainly more than welcome, and hopefully it will play its important role and breathe life into the Arab book world, encouraging more authors and publishers to write and publish.

It’s a shame that there are no authors from the Arab Maghreb on the list of finalists, more should be done from both sides, the organizers and Maghreb publishing houses/authors, to ensure they are included in the future.

I haven’t read any of the books on the finalists list, but one sure thing is that I’ll be looking for them in the Tunis Book Fair that isn’t too far away now.

[Source: Bloomberg]
[Via: Laila Lalami, Mental Mayhem]

Lawrence Lessig’s Book ‘The Future of Ideas’ Now Free

The Future of IdeasLawrence Lessig and his publisher Random House have released another one of his books “The Future of Ideas” under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the Internet revolution has produced a counterrevolution of devastating power and effect and argues that as the Internet faces the challenges of intellectual property laws, it should not become so controlled that it discourages innovation and creativity in the digital world.
He explains the historical context of the Internet and its relationship to the “commons” and argues that, for the Internet to evolve and be an open environment, there must be a balance between intellectual property and the public domain.

You can download the book for free here: The Future of Ideas.

You can find his other books and where to download them here: Lessig.org

Blue Ocean Strategy

Yesterday I finished reading “Blue Ocean Strategy (How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant)” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.

The book explores the authors’ vision of the kind of expanding, competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate. Unlike “red oceans,” which are well explored and crowded with competitors, “blue oceans” represent “untapped market space” and the “opportunity for highly profitable growth.

Using dozens of examples, from Southwest Airlines and the Cirque du Soleil to Curves and Starbucks, they present the approaches these companies took to open new doors for their businesses and reach out to satisfy untapped demand.

The key to create these “blue oceans” and navigate away from the fierce competition and into very profitable waters is through what they call “value innovation”, that focuses on utility, price, and cost positions, to create and capture new demand and to focus on the big picture, not the numbers.

The book isn’t just talk and theory, it actually provides a set of tools and frameworks businesses can use to develop their own “blue ocean” strategies. It’s more of a guidebook and action plan.

I personally found it to be a really great business book and very thought inspiring. A must-read for everyone involved in running a business.

Thanks to my friend Bilel for telling me about and lending me this book. I’m certainly going to buy a copy for myself. It’s very well worth it.

[Amazon: Blue Ocean Strategy]

The Zahir (Paulo Coelho)

I just finished reading “The Zahir” by Paulo Coelho. The first book I read by him was “The Alchemist“, which I found to be a very inspiring book that I really enjoyed; after that I’ve been going back to read one of his books every now and then.

The Zahir feels a bit different from his other books, maybe because it feels closer to reality, takes place in a modern day setting and all, but it still has the same inspiring style that makes you take a step back to look at your life, certain aspects of it, evaluate yourself and think of where you’ve gone wrong and where you’ve been right.

This book handles the issues of love, belonging, obsession, relationships and understanding; taking the reader on a pretty incredible ride with the story of a couple in love who grow apart leaving the husband in a sea of loss, obsession, heartbreak and misunderstanding, on a journey to understand himself, his wife, relationships and life.
Throughout this journey with the main character, the reader finds himself looking at his relationship with his loved one, analyzing it, connecting with the character on some points, understanding it, knowing where he might be going wrong and how he might correct certain things.

I’ve read many blog posts by people who think Paulo Coelho’s books are overrated, uninspiring and even mediocre; but maybe it’s just that they didn’t relate to the topic or that they didn’t pick up on the small ideas he presents for further thinking and development.

Personally, what I enjoy about his books, more than the story, the characters, the places and everything else, are the lines of thought that I go on on my own at different points of the book.

I do recommend this book, especially for people who are in a relationship, because even if their relationship with their loved one is going perfectly, this book and the thoughts in it could help them understand it better and avoid certain mistakes as it goes along.

The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)

I finished reading “The Kite Runner“, the debut novel by Khaled Hosseini this morning. I heard a lot about this book and have been wanting to read it for so long, and the fact that the movie will be out soon made me want to read it even sooner.

The Kite Runner follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable. They spend idyllic days running kites and telling stories of mystical places and powerful warriors until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever, and eventually cements their bond in ways neither boy could have ever predicted. Even after Amir and his father flee to America, Amir remains haunted by his cowardly actions and disloyalty. In part, it is these demons and the sometimes impossible quest for forgiveness that bring him back to his war-torn native land after it comes under Taliban rule.

I personally really enjoyed this book, it’s a very moving story with well-developed characters and touching events that takes us through a trip with the characters that unfolds in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US.

I totally recommend this book, it’s worth the read; I personally can’t wait to watch the movie now and see how it turns out to be.

Khaled Hosseini has a new book called “A Thousand Splendid Suns” that was released this year; I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, so I don’t know if I’ll rush out and get it right now, but I liked the writer’s style and will eventually read more of his works in the future.

Seras-Tu Là ? (Guillaume Musso)

This morning, before going to work, I finished reading “Seras-tu là ?” (Will You Be There?) by French novelist Guillaume Musso.

The idea of the book revolves around an essential question that almost everybody must have asked themselves at some point in their lives: If you had the opportunity to, what would you change in your life? If you had to do it again, what remorse, what regret would you choose to obliterate?

The story follows Elliott, a successful 60 year old surgeon, who lives in San Francisco and whose life is illuminated by his daughter Angie. He would be perfectly happy if only Ilena, the woman he was passionately in love with, hadn’t died thirty years before.
One day, by a strange combination of circumstances, he is brought back to his own past and meets the young ambitious doctor and man he used to be thirty years earlier. Since then, the two Elliotts weirdly face off in a struggle on whether they should mingle with past events and change destiny or not.

The idea of the book is a very interesting one, and I really liked the way the whole story and approach was handled, and how the concept of time travel was integrated into it all.

Thanks to my friend Bilel, who recommended and lent me this book. I too recommend it, it’s a light quick enjoyable read that tells you a nice story but also makes you think about what you’d do if you had the ability to go back in time and change something in your life.

[Amazon.fr: Seras-Tu Là ? (Guillaume Musso) (FR)]
[Amazon.com: Will You Be There? (Guillaume Musso) (EN)]

The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

Last night, I finished reading “The Shadow of the Wind” by Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

I first came across this book in a Waterstone’s in London, and it seemed very interesting, still I didn’t buy it because I had already bought a bunch of books and couldn’t keep going forever putting things in the already heavy shopping basket. A year and a bit more later, early this year, I encountered the book again at another Waterstone’s, only this time in Manchester, and it that’s when I bought it.

The events of the story take place in Barcelona in the year 1945; The city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called The Shadow of the Wind, by an author named Julian Carax, that he got from the Cemetary of Forgotten Books where his father took him.
When the boy searches for Carax’s other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written. Soon the boy realizes that The Shadow of the Wind is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author’s identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret.

I personally really enjoyed reading this book, it takes you on this beautiful ride, solving this mystery with the main character and diving into its smallest details.
I did guess a number of things earlier on in the story than the main character did, but still the book kept me engaged, wanting to know more and go deeper.

I really recommend this book, it’s a really good and enjoyable read.

[Amazon: The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafón)]