My favourite reads: Liza Ayach

Immerse yourself in a book for inspiration or pleasure

La cabane enchantée by Comtesse de Ségur. Courtesy Casterman
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Will books become obsolete? Are we less interested in reading print and more concerned with online activity nowadays?

The number of bookworms has dwindled with the rise of digital addicts but it's a heavenly rapture to know that some remain – I am one.

There's a joy in holding a book, flipping through it and becoming immersed in the pages, then resting it by the bedside table when your eyes tell you it's time. "I'm in for another date with you tomorrow," you whisper to the book before you succumb to sleepiness.

The Quran (Revealed by God to Prophet Mohammed over a period of 23 years)

All year round, in sickness and in health, and in moments of despair or joy, the Quran is my favourite read. Reflecting upon Its verses (ayah) or chapters (surah) is a spiritual immersion, eradicating doubt, fear or pain. I find the Quran a healing power, a faith and spiritual nourishment and an unparalleled guide with timeless words of God. Its recitation forms an integral part of the daily religious practices of every Muslim.

"[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Mohammed], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded." (38:29) 
"God is the Creator of everything. He is the guardian over everything. Unto Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth." (39:62, 63)
La Cabane Enchantée by La Comtesse de Ségur (1850)

This is the greatest fiction I have read and one I have enjoyed over and over since the age of 10. The story, from a French writer of Russian birth, contains fantastical and dreamlike elements that gave me, as a child, hope that happy endings do occur after fears are confronted and obstacles overcome. It's a fairy tale of magic, wonder and enchantment. Rosalie, the daughter of a genie, embarks upon a world of adventures after a wicked fairy casts a spell that weakens her and causes her many worries. On first reading and like any child when entranced by a fairy tale story, especially when the charming prince makes his belated appearance, I had become oblivious to my surroundings, missing dinner that evening despite my mother's repeated calls.

Hiding from Love by Barbara Cartland (2010)

Have you ever broken a childhood vow? I know I have for circumstances beyond control and for being oblivious to the threatening factors when making a vow. Children are living the purest stage of life unaware they might fall prey to the exploitation of predators and turn of undesirable events in the future.

In this romantic novel, Barbara Cartland, the English writer and one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century, throws Leonora and her friend, who prefer books to men and scorn the company of girls whose heads are full of storybook romance, into an adventure that forces them to reconsider their childhood vows.

Caught up in a dilemma, Leonora has to choose between two suitors as both men hold secrets that could ruin her reputation. But when only one stirs her heart and soul, Leonora realises that she has done the one thing she swore never to do – fall in love.

During her long career, Cartland (1901-2000) wrote more than 700 books and sold more than a billion copies, earning her a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

One her top quotes is worth to ponder on: “Every woman dreams of love. When she is young she prays she will find it, when she is middle-aged she hopes for it and when she is old she remembers it.”

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (2013)

In 2013, HS, a Canadian lawyer friend, gifted me this bestseller, a powerful story-telling that draws upon history and psychology to reshape the way we think about the world around us. In his book, Gladwell challenges our thinking about adversity, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, to cope with disability, to lose a parent, or attend a poor school, or to suffer other apparent setbacks.

What do we mean when we call something a disadvantage? Gladwell asks in his book.

Conventional wisdom holds that a disadvantage is something that ought to be avoided - that it is a setback or a difficulty that leaves you worse off than you would be otherwise. But that is not always the case.

Consider, for example, the following puzzle: A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

What’s your instinctive response? Malcolm guesses that it is that the ball must cost 10 cents.

If so, you have just failed the world’s shortest intelligence test. It is called the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT). For a better understanding of why some people would fail such a test and others who undergo another with “desirable difficulty” wouldn't, go to chapter 4 of this book.

Have another go at this one: If it takes five machines five minutes to make five widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

The Prophet by Gibran Khalil Gibran (originally published in 1923)

Gibran Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese American poet, essayist, philosopher and painter, is highly celebrated as a literary hero. The Prophet, Gibran's best known work, comprises flowing dialogues between Almustafa and a questioner about life, love, freedom, reason, passion, pain, good and evil to name a few. As Almustafa answers, he uses vivid imagery, allegories and instructive insights. I read The Prophet during my school days in Lebanon and I recall pondering one of his quotes: "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself." Little did I know back then why he said what he said and if it holds true until a couple of decades later. "I am free. I do not belong to anyone or anything. Nevertheless, my parents are the reason of my being and well-being. We all complement each other," is my strongest conviction.

Liza Ayach, a published author herself, is translator at The National


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