Dubai Diaries: What makes a great book?

If you had to pick a favourite genre, what would it be?


Enid Grace Parker

Published: Tue 2 Nov 2021, 9:39 AM

In my occasional interactions with like-minded bibliophiles, the question of a favourite literary genre has often come up. Some have a clear choice — it could be horror, romance, fantasy, science fiction or one of the many other categories that the world of books divides itself into. Whenever we engage in such conversations — I find myself thinking, if I had to pick a favourite, what would it be?

You see, I’m the kind of person whose love for the written word extends beyond a particular genre or time frame. I’ve sat up many nights engrossed in classics such as Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and the over 1000-page epic War and Peace. Copious tears have been shed following a poignant love story in a seemingly nondescript little novel picked up from a second-hand bookstore on a whim.

Dracula by Bram Stoker is the most terrifying book I’ve ever read. Harry Potter themed Lego has me swooning because l loved all 7 novels so much that I’ve devoured them multiple times. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar — a semi-autobiographical account of the tragic author’s early work life and mental health — was both disconcerting and inspiring.

Considering the range of novels I’ve read and aspire to read in my lifetime, any question of a favourite genre tends to remain rhetorical. Just like the music lover in me alternates between pop and rock, retro and contemporary, easy listening and upbeat and much more — I sway to the rhythm of my moods as far as books are concerned.

A recent spell of nostalgia and homesickness coincided perfectly with the title I happened to pick up from my bookshelf — Celestial Bodies, by Omani author Jokha Alharthi, the first Arabic novel to win the International Booker Prize.

A tale of three sisters that spans generations, Celestial Bodies evocatively captures village life, domesticity, old traditions, and a society on the cusp of modernity. It’s the kind of book that’s both beautiful and overwhelming, leaving you with a melancholic yearning for an unfinished business you can’t quite put your finger on.

Another recent read, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, was an insightful glimpse into the lives of the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky who delivered books on horseback to families in 1930s post-depression America. My favourite chapters in the book are not those dedicated to the fictional romance between the lead character Alice who is unhappy in her marriage, and an eligible suitor, but the ones where women navigate the wild with bags of books to deliver.

I could almost feel the serenity of the atmosphere up there in the pure and unspoilt Appalachian mountains. There are so many aspects to reading a book — it could transport you somewhere you’ve never been, make you feel something you’ve never felt, or enrich you in so many ways about places, people and stories you never knew existed.

Picking a favourite genre of books would mean losing the element of mystery surrounding the almost sacred ritual of deciding what I should read next. I love that my decisions are not bogged down by boundaries. Keep reading and evolving, and have a great week.

More news from