I enjoy reading but take at least a year to finish a book so compiled a list of those I connected with most and learnt from. They are hardly intellectual but, as I follow a ‘fun to learn’ approach, I educate myself best through novels that combine fact and fiction.
When Life Begins by Abu Yahya (2012)
This is the English translation of the Urdu best selling novel Jab Zindagi Shuru Hogi. The author pictures his journey after death, describing the stages a good believer is expected to go through from the moment he rises from his grave until he reaches paradise. His use of scenarios we often learn about from religious books is entertaining and moving, and it made me reflect a lot.
The Sands of Time by Sidney Sheldon (1988)
Reading this novel was like combining an action-thriller with a history lesson. It gave me an exciting insight to the Spanish Civil War. It follows the journey of four women who escape from a Spanish convent, come across Basque rebels, and travel with them through the mountains. (I think the first time I heard of the Basque people was through this novel).
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (2013)
I always find this author’s tales to be informative but this book, in particular, was unlike anything else I have read. The story is told from the perspective of different characters across generations, from the early ’90s to present day. It taught me a lot about history and politics, and has been a great companion while tanning at the beach.
Granada by Radwa Ashour (2003)
This novel also follows historical events through generations of narrators, featuring an Arab family who lived in Granada before, during and after its fall. Again, what I liked the most about the book was learning a bit of history about an area I have always wanted to visit, and a culture that fascinates me.
The Dajani Family: The Salt of the Earth The Essence of its Blooms by Samer Dajani (2018)
A book about prominent characters from my family history had to be one of my favourite reads. I learnt new facts and came across stories I had not heard before. For instance, I was surprised to learn Mohammed Aref Al Dajani was appointed as governor of Yemen during the Ottoman empire.
Haneen Dejani is a senior reporter for The National