A city without a bookshop

A generation of young men and women in this city have given precedence to luxurious brands of clothing, equipment and cars, as opposed to intellectually equipping themselves by reading a wide range of literature. The fault is not theirs alone, we don’t have bookshops that sell interesting and appealing literature. In fact, in this city, we don’t have a single bookshop that sells bestsellers in English. Instead, we have an ‘Amazon shop’ where a wide range of books, some of which are outdated and archaic, sold at a high price.

I can’t imagine how this city will produce a generation of intellectuals, if it does not give them room to actually read. I visit coffee shops on a regular basis (being a coffee drinker an’ all). I have yet to witness a person actually reading a book while drinking coffee. The reading in coffee shops does not go further than what is written on the menu, and this is hardly surprising.

When we started our Erbil Book Club, which sadly has four official members but hundreds of likes on Facebook (if that amounts to anything), the search for literature was unbelievably tiring. I couldn’t find decent books, and of those that I did find, only one copy was available, which meant the members of the book club would not have access to the book. The point here being, this city is not short of ideas on how to generate a culture of reading, it is simply short of people who are interested in reading, writing, and researching. More importantly, it is short of bookshops!

Some writers are extraordinary; the words they use paint an image in our minds, and captivate our attention. They enable us to use our imagination, and help us escape our world. We enter an entirely different world, where we are not the decision makers, but rather omnipotent observers, gradually finding out the details. Sometimes with the end of a book, our perception of life changes radically and at times it could even alter how we live our life.

Not long ago I read the autobiography of Nelson Mandela. I still remember the day I purchased it. I was in London, near Putney Station and my bus to University was going to take at least 10 minutes. I decided to look around in WHSmith, and the book captivated my attention. While waiting at the bus stop, I started reading, and few pages into the book, I knew it would change my life forever. Nelson Mandela took his LLB Law exams in prison, and he studied for it in prison.

This inspired me deeply, and throughout my years at law school, he was an inspirational role model for me.

I feel sorry for the young people in this city. I wish the same books that were available to me as a teenager and young adult became available here. With a diverse collection of books that are international bestsellers, young people will find interest in a genre that appeals to them, but without this we will not reach a stage where we can generate a culture that prioritizes being intellectually equipped as opposed to materialism.

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