The bookseller of Kabul and book recommendations for bibliophiles

By Subhashree Hari

October 16, 2018

Experience at the bookfair: I recently visited the Coimbatore Book Fest which is held yearly once at Codissia. They had an impressive collection of new/secondhand Tamil and English books. One of the first books that caught my attention while I was there was The Bookseller of Kabul and it felt like I stumbled upon a treasure, and I wasted no time and bought it immediately. I bought a few more books but there was one thing I learned that day, being an avid reader and bibliophile I’m always drawn to stories and characters that are associated with books and bookstores. So I put together this list of books that bibliophiles are bound to love and a short review of The Bookseller of Kabul.

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
This was a biographical memoir written by journalist Åsne following the fall of Taliban in Spring 2002. She spent four months living with the bookseller (Sultan) and his family in Kabul in order to write this book.
The title and blurb led me to believe that the book was partly about books and the bookseller Sultan and partly about Kabul and Afghani traditions, both of which I love. But to my surprise majority of the book describes Afghani traditions and cultures, portrayed via multiple perspectives from Sultan and his family and we barely get a glimpse of his bookstore and his efforts to keep the store alive despite Taliban’s barbaric efforts.
I loved this book, the description of Hammam (public bathing); Taliban governance; the plight of Afghan women; the marriage prerequisites and rituals were fascinating to read about.
The book did lack a continuity as the author was skipping from one extended family member to the next in each chapter but the crux of the book was to give us an overview of Kabul (Afghani traditions) and the book was successful in doing just that.
If you are someone like me who loves getting lost in a book set in a different part of the world and in awe of their way of life I highly recommend this book.

Book recommendations for book lovers :
A bibliophile is a person who collects or has a great love for books. As a bibliophile, I love it when protagonists are readers or a large part of the book revolves around books and bookstores.

The first book that I read that fits this brief was The book thief and the connection with Liesel was spontaneous. Amidst war struck Nazi Germany Liesel discovers her love for words and ultimately it was reading and writing that saved her. It is one of my all-time favorite novels and I can’t recommend it enough.

Another one of my favorites is Shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This is the story of a boy (Daniel) who on his 11th birthday gets his first book from a hidden library (Cemetery of Forgotten books) in post-war Barcelona, 1945. He then discovers that the book he picked (Shadow of the wind) is the last copy and every other book by the author has been destroyed. It is not just a fascinating story of a book but also a fast-paced thriller/mystery which I loved!
Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.
– Shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

There have been other books for instance like in The Fault in our stars by John Green wherein the protagonist and her boyfriend go on a trip to Amsterdam to meet her favorite author; or the grand library where Kafka stays in Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami; even a small reference to a famous book or the habit of reading just makes me so happy as a reader . There are tons of books out there and I’ve just mentioned a few books that I recommend and also a few books that I wish to read soon.

Books I’ve read and loved (Highly recommend)
– The book thief by Markus Zusak
– Shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The cemetery of forgotten books 1)
– The storied life of A J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
– The winter sea by Susanna Kearsley

Books on my To-read list
– Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore by Robin Sloan
– The bookshop on the corner by Jenny Colgan
– The diary of a bookseller by Shaun Bythell
– Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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About Subhashree Hari

A medical student who enjoys reading and recommending books to other readers:) Studying MBBS at Karpagam Faculty of Medical Sciences and Research.

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