#UAEReads: Reading is an escape and a form of therapy for Amani Al Shaali

An Emirati visual artist describes her five favourite books.
Emirati visual artist Amani Al Shaali. Victor Besa for The National
Emirati visual artist Amani Al Shaali. Victor Besa for The National

Amani Al Shaali is an Emirati visual artist who takes great inspiration from fairy tales and other literature. Although she was born and raised under the perpetually sunny skies of the UAE, her images of storm clouds and turbulent weather evoke a kind of dark romanticism reminiscent of tragic 19th-century novels. Reading is an escape and a form of therapy for Al Shaali.

“[It] makes me feel like I can live a thousand lives, meet fascinating [characters], and travel all around the world while sitting in one place,” she says. “Reading is important to me because it gives me insight on things I might never experience and it helps me grow as a person.

“I read different genres of books, from fiction to poetry, and each gives me something that I wouldn’t have had access to if I wasn’t a reader. Fiction fuels my imagination, poetry teaches me the importance – and power – of being raw and vulnerable. Non-fiction teaches me about the world I live in.”

Her 5 favourite books:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

It is difficult to write a book from the point of view of a kid with Asperger’s syndrome, but Mark Haddon does it so well. I love how, despite not having the nicest ending, it still feels so realistic. The way it is written makes you not only relate to the main character, but also experience everything that happens to him.

Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris

I love the Gothic romanticism in this book. The writing is beautiful, yet dark and haunting. The story grips you from the very first page and it is reminiscent of some of the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, who is also one of my favourite writers.

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

This one took me on a rollercoaster of emotions. The book is mostly about a man’s search for answers after his wife’s death. It alternates between memories of his life before and life after.

Intentional Dissonance by Iain S Thomas

I love a good post-apocalyptic book, and Iain Thomas is brilliant with words. He has a way of telling stories and making them sound like poetry. Not only is the writing absolutely beautiful, the story is so fascinating and mind-blowing that as soon as I finished the book the first time, I went back to page one and started reading it again.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Another post-apocalyptic book that I absolutely love. It is mainly about the relationship between a father and his son, and how they walk through a burnt America in fear, searching for safety. It is heartbreaking and beautifully worded. This is the kind of book that, upon finishing, made me sit down in silence for quite some time, just to digest it. It is sombre, and left me with a sense of nostalgia.

Published: September 3, 2016 04:00 AM

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