Monday, January 23, 2017

Adventures in Book Shopping

The other day I was hanging out with a friend of mine and he suggested going to a bookstore as he wanted to pick up some books to read during his upcoming vacation. We headed out to a bookstore and wandered around the English-language section but he didn't find anything he really wanted. I asked why he wasn't searching through the Arabic-language section for a book (he’s Qatari) and he told me that, in general, he didn't like Arabic literature/books as much as English ones. But since he hadn't found anything I suggested we may as well search the Arabic-language shelves.

I had never actually browsed through the Arabic language section of a bookstore here in Qatar. My Arabic is nowhere near good enough to read a book so I never bothered looking at Arabic books. Boy, was I missing out, some of that stuff is ‘unusual’ to say the least.

Even without knowing the titles I can say that there were a lot of books whose covers had a picture of Che Guevara. Che Guevara?!? Why? The man was an atheist Marxist revolutionary! I realize that over time he's become this cool counterculture icon but I’m not so sure why devout Muslims in the richest country in the world would be into Che. Seriously, wealthy Qataris living a life of luxury surrounded by lowly-paid servants and labourers would not have impressed Che Guevara. If he visited Qatar I’m guessing he’d be more likely to try to find machine guns to give to Nepalese labourers and lead an insurrection against the government.

I also took some time to browse through books that teach people English. Wow, was that an eye opener. My friend and I found this one book whose translation exercises had a bit of an agenda. See if, by reading this exercise using “should” and “should not”, you can guess where this book was originally published.

Gee, nothing odd here. No-sireee.

I might go back and buy that book. It was wild. It had translation examples like "I should have divorced my wife earlier", and that women should like cooking. No, really, I'm not kidding.

Here’s another great find. There was one shelf that was filled with books by, I'm guessing, the same author (given that his picture was on the cover of all of them). My friend thinks he might be Kuwaiti, or maybe Saudi, maybe with his own self-sponsored or religious publishing house. Can you guess what this pocketbook might be?

Yep, I flipped though it and as far as I can tell it's a book of the gentlemen's tweets from his Twitter account. He published his tweets in hard copy, one per page of the book. I've never known anyone to do this before. It's on Twitter, can’t people just read his Twitter account? Is this a common thing in the Gulf? It just seemed strange to me.

After finishing looking though the shelves my Qatari friend told me that because there is so much odd stuff it is why he doesn't generally browse the Arabic section of bookstores. I, on the other hand, thought that was great fun just trying to figure out what some of the books were about. I will do that again next time I'm in a bookstore.

If you're a parent in Qatar though you might want to double-check those English or Arabic language exercise books your kids are using.

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