Sharjah International Book Fair 2019: 10 unmissable events to check out this week

From Amitabh Bachchan's much-anticipated appearance to a discussion about travel writing, there is something for everyone in Sharjah for the book fair's first week

Saudis attend the Sharjah International Book Fair in Sharjah, northeast of Dubai, on October 31, 2018. The fair will be held between October 31 and November 10, 2018. / AFP / KARIM SAHIB
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Sharjah International Book Fair is always a riot of colour and activity – and this year, its 38th, is unlikely to be any different. Almost 2,000 exhibitors will be at Expo Centre Sharjah, offering more than 1.6 million titles to publishers as well as eager readers of all ages.

The best way to experience the fair, which runs from Wednesday, October 30 to Saturday, November 9 is simply to mosey about the endless corridors and stalls, browsing anything that takes your fancy. Don't set a time limit on this – buying books is an activity that should never be rushed. But it is worth planning in advance, so you'll have an idea of the talks and panel discussions you want to attend.

Some events will become extremely busy – and with 173 authors appearing and about 1,000 activities on offer, it can be hard to know where to start.

Fortunately, we have scoured the programme to dig out the events you won't want to miss. From talks by Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk and US comedian Steve Harvey, to discussions about travel and Emirati politics, not to mention a comprehensive children's programme and the always lively Cookery Corner, there is sure to be something for everyone over the coming days.

Put your phone away and immerse yourself in a literary landscape like no other.

epa06243512 (FILE) Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan attends a photocall in New Delhi, India, 21 August 2013 (reissued 04 October  2017). Amitabh Bachchan will celebrate his 75th birthday on 11 October 2017.  EPA/MONEY SHARMA

1. Amitabh Bachchan

When: Wednesday, October 30 (5.30pm) *THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED*
Where: Ball Room

What a way to kick things off – the Indian superstar is here to launch a new book about his half century career in film. Sounding Off: Amitabh Bachchan, written by Academy Award-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty, celebrates the life of a true Bollywood legend, featuring anecdotes, photographs and cartoons by some of India's best-known illustrators. This two-hour session is expected to be interactive, with plenty of opportunity for questions – a rare chance to speak to the actor, who first appeared on screen in 1969 and has since starred in more than 230 films, including Zanjeer (1973), Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978) and Piku (2015).

2. Orhan Pamuk

When: Wednesday, October 30 (7.00pm)
Where: Ball Room

The big names keep coming on the opening day. Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prize-winning author of My Name is Red and The Museum of Innocence will discuss an extraordinary literary career, as well as his troubled life in Turkey. Pamuk is a fabulous speaker, who is sure to engage on everything from world politics to the state of literature and everything else in between. Earlier this year, Pamuk also published Balkon, a handsome collection of photographs of Istanbul, in order to explore how writing and seeing are connected. Unmissable.

Turkish novelist, screenwriter, academic and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature Orhan Pamuk during his visit to Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain on April 02, 2018 (Photo by Miquel Llop/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

3. Steve Harvey talks to students

When: Thursday, October 31 (9.30am)
Where: Ball Room

The US comedian and host of Family Feud gives some life advice to the young people of Sharjah. But don't worry: it won't all be deep, inspirational stuff ("You have to jump and take a leap of faith, in order to soar"). This is Steve Harvey, after all, so expect plenty of jokes and goofing about. Harvey will be doing a second session in the Ball Room later today (8.00pm), in which he will discuss his career in the entertainment business. Again, don't be surprised if this includes jokes.

4. Together We Write

When: Thursday, October 31 (8.30pm)
Where: Discussion Forum 3

Egyptian writers Mansoura Ezzeddine and Ahmed Mourad are joined by Algerian author Dr Waseeni Al Araj for a discussion about the art of writing. Are writers’ workshops a route to success for aspiring authors? How should writers support each other? If you have aspirations to be published or are just looking for some insight into the mind of a writer, this should be a challenging conversation full of practical advice.

Bollywood actress Lisa Ray poses during the launch of new collection of Rado watches at the new standard time store in Amritsar on October 10, 2019. (Photo by NARINDER NANU / AFP)

5. Lisa Ray: Close to the Bone

When: Friday, November 1 (6.00pm)
Where: Discussion Forum 1

Lisa Ray's life was changed forever when, in 2009, she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. The Canadian-Indian actor and model, who starred in Toronto Stories (2008) and Dobaara (2017), set out on a spiritual quest to find inner peace. Here she talks about her extraordinary memoir, Close to the Bone, which covers her early nomadic life, the ups and downs of her acting career and subsequent battles with eating disorders, as well as the diagnosis that forced her to re-evaluate everything.

6. Narcopolis: Meet the author Jeet Thayil

When: Thursday, October 31 (9.30am) and Friday, November 1 (8.30pm)
Where: Intellectual Hall

Jeet Thayil's wonderful 2012 novel about a man who gets seduced – and then spat out – by the opium-filled underbelly of 1970s Old Bombay is a modern masterpiece, brimming over with atmosphere and allusion. Come and hear the Indian author and poet, who published The Book of Chocolate Saints in 2017, explain why he decided to write Narcopolis, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. If you haven't yet read it, now is your chance to pick up a signed copy – it might just be the best thing you buy all year.

7. Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Redefining Success

When: Saturday, November 2 (9.00am and 7.15pm)
Where: Ball Room

Mark Manson is a blogger but don't let that put you off. He also happens to have written one of the most influential "self-help" books of recent years. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F—k became a bestseller in 2016, Manson's no-nonsense advice on how to find happiness – chapter titles include "You are Not Special" – proving to be a welcome shot in the arm for many dissatisfied people. In this talk, Manson, whose most recent book is the optimistically titled Everything is F—ked: A Book about Hope, will ask us to reconsider how we define success. After all, we're doomed from the start if we end up striving for the wrong things. Manson will speak again in the Ball Room at 7.15pm.

8. Emirati Women in Parliament: Khawla Abdul Rahman Al Mulla

When: Saturday, November 2 (7.15pm)
Where: Discussion Forum 3

Khawla Abdul Rahman Al Mulla, Chairperson of the Sharjah Consultative Council, highlights the leading role Emirati women play in parliament. Last year, it was announced that women’s representation in the Federal National Council (FNC) would be increased to 50 per cent. In this seminar, Al Mulla will explore the impact of this move and ask what more can be done.

9. Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs: Story Behind the Scenes

When: Saturday, November 2 (7.15pm)
Where: Discussion Forum 2

Kathy Reichs is not only the bestselling author of the Temperance Brennan series of thrillers, she is also a forensic anthropologist, certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, which makes her writing all the more believable and chilling. She is joined here by her son, Brendan, also a thriller writer, as well as members of Sharjah Police, for a discussion about crime writing and how much of the real world – grisly details and all – writers should allow to seep into their fiction.

10. Let’s Find Some Beautiful Places

When: Saturday, November 2
Where: Discussion Forum 3

Travel journalists Georgina Godwin and Ahmed Al Faitouri are on a four-person panel talking about about Paulo Coelho's seminal 1988 novel The Alchemist. For many people, travel is the key to happiness and this session will show us what Coelho can teach us about the joys of life on the move.

The Sharjah International Book Fair runs until Saturday, November 9. More information is available at