Sharjah Book Festival keeps the love for books alive
Many readers like myself wait for the Sharjah International Book Fair every year to get their hands on the latest releases and add to our humble home libraries.
I was interviewing an official recently on Zoom about the ‘new normal’ during the pandemic when the topic of air travel came up. We found ourselves deviating into what we carry in our hand luggage to entertain us on long-haul flights.
I noted, I always carry a book with me in my backpack, regardless of how long my flight is, regardless of whether I am travelling alone or with someone. My preferred companion book of choice is something that will make me laugh — Terry Pratchett usually does the trick — or a childhood favourite that is easy to get lost in. The official revealed that while he still carried a book on short-haul flights, anything over six hours called for his trusty Kindle. I was delighted to find another person who had the same habit as me and we got around to thinking if carrying a book on a flight was a dying habit. Most modern aircraft today have screens that promise to keep us entertained for hours with movies, songs, videos, audios, etc. on board.
“But, there is something special about carrying and reading a book on a flight, isn’t it?” the official said. “Feeling the paper between your fingers and turning pages over scrolling on a screen, yes?” I have to agree with him.
A day later, I shared this conversation with a colleague in the newsroom and she excitedly told me about her habit of always buying a book at the airport. “It’s almost like a tradition! I feel like something is missing if I don’t buy a book at the duty free.” I had to agree with her too; I usually buy the latest edition of the National Geographic magazine from the duty free and it is devoured by the time the boarding call is made.
Thinking about the simple joy of carrying a book on a plane or spotting the iconic yellow cover of one of the world’s most popular magazines really made me glad that this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair wasn’t cancelled or rescheduled. The world slowed down during the recent lockdowns and movement restrictions, and many people learned to love afternoons with nothing but a book and cup of tea for company. I had a considerable backlog of books on my book shelf, waiting to be read. All the months spent indoors finally afforded me the time to pick one after the other and read them. I was happy, but wondered if I was going to stock up again. Many readers like myself wait for the Sharjah International Book Fair every year to get their hands on the latest releases and add to our humble home libraries. The news that this year’s edition is a hybrid one, designed with all the proper safety protocols in mind, sent out a strong message. The world needed to read again, and what better place to learn to do so again than in Sharjah?
To European ears, of course, that sounds a little bit too close to Trumpian contempt.
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