Section 1: Reader Response

Hundreds of literature lovers gathered at a festival in Lahore last weekend to learn more about books and authors that they plan to read one day. For those who missed it, here’s what they had to say.

Lateef Lighter (college student and political activist):

Q: Why are you here?

A: I am here to ask new questions. We must always question the things we read and hear, except those in religious books and sermons.

Q: What have you learned from this exchange?

A: That I was right all along. These people know nothing.

Zaibun Nisa (Pakistan’s first woman QingQi driver):

Q: Who is your favorite author?

A: Socrates.

Q: He didn’t write any books.

Exactly my point.

Nadir Namurad (factory owner and general secretary of Lahore Labor Union):

Q: What’s the best book you have read this year?

A: If I had read any books, why would I be attending talks about them?

Q: What have you learned from this exchange?

A: One overarching theme was that the moderators know more than the writers.

Peeno Professor (magician and English teacher):

Q: Who is your favorite author?

A: Did you say you like poetry? I write poetry. Do you want to listen?

Q: What’s the best book you have read this year?

A: Okay, here. This poem is called Desires and Dehydration: You make my toes curl, and Taliban make me cringe. Oh dear, Pakistan is participatory, pensive, and perpetually perspiring...

Section 2: One-Week Reading Challenge

Day 1 – I am not Malala: In this eye-opening autobiographical account, young Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai’s father refutes allegations that he is the one who tells her what to say and do.

Day 2 – The Queen’s English: Among the most influential postcolonial works written in English, this book deconstructs how the English language and grammar is laden with concepts and assumptions that make it impossible for the colonized to disagree with the colonizers.

Day 3 – The Great Game in South Asia: A book of strategy, tactics and skills that rival nations of South Asia have used against each other in Cricket – the greatest game in the region and definitely the most popular one. Especially notable is an appendix of the most embarrassing injuries in the history of cricket.

Day 4 – Train to India: A series of investigative reports published in a newspaper about whether terrorists are trained in Pakistan and sent to India. A thriller through and through, you will not know until you finish the book whether the allegations are true or not, and perhaps not even after you finish it.

Day 5 – Parenting for Smart Children: the smarter children are, the more challenges they face at home and in school. This detailed guide will help smart children understand what their parents are up to and what kind of methods they might use to discipline them, so that they can adopt a counter strategy that works.

Day 6 – Fighting Terror with Terror: Banned in Pakistan, this book lists in a lucid expression and a style accessible to a common man all the pertinent reasons why people belonging to minority beliefs should not be allowed to live freely in Pakistan, before moving on to explain using illustrations and tables the various ways in which they can be killed. The most popular book of this year’s alternative book fair Karachi Hate Literature Festival.

Day 7 – Sunset and Sunrise: A gripping novel about yet another boy who lived in Kashmir, Afghanistan or Pakistan’s northwest who had to deal with an internal conflict about whether he should become a terrorist.

Section 3: Tips for emerging writers

1- The end of paper books is unavoidable. If you want to write, consider writing an e-book for kindle rather than a regular paperback.

2- You don’t have to sleep with a publisher or a literary agent to make it big as an author. If you go to the same parties as they do, that should be enough most of the times.

3- If you are aiming for commercial success, write movie spoilers. This scribe came across a book years ago that already leaked how The Hobbit film trilogy would end. Similar books have also been spotted that shamelessly disclose the plots of the upcoming episodes of Game of Thrones and the Hunger Games movies.