Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reading a Book? NO WAY

It is so rare to find a young (goodlooking - although that has nothing to do with the subject of this post) man reading a book (in public, at least)- that I had to do a double take when I spotted a late 20's/early 30's man seriously engaged in one (a real one. Not a magazine or a fluffy book) at Marina Mall today.

To be completely honest, my reading habit has deteriorated (though not completely) since I returned to the UAE. I am not sure why that is. I like to blame it on my chaotic busy lifestyle, but I had just a busy a schedule when I was a student at Stanford University. Nevertheless, I always made time to read, or at least skim, a book very often when I was a student.

What is it about this country that makes us so disconnected from anything that resembles a reading culture? Is it the lack of public libraries? Or the plethora of coffee shops that we use for nothing more than socializing. It is so rare to find someone in the city's MANY coffee shops just reading away. I used to do it when I first moved back here after graduation, and was actually teased by many of my friends for being a loner.

But really, there is nothing more relaxing than getting lost in a good book. And nothing more fulfilling than knowing you've learnt something new today.

This post actually reminds me of an interesting conversation I had with a local professor on just that: the lack of a reading culture. He somewhat disagreed with my hunch that the locals do not appreciate great literature. He pointed out that Muslims' awe of the Quran, and their respect for it, is not just because it is their God-given book, but because it is an astounding example of beautiful literature.

He went on to explain that the lack of public transportation and long commutes makes it even harder for residents to pick up a book to read. Which makes sense, I guess, since a long train or bus ride is the perfect opportunity to engage in a productive hobby, like reading. But then again, I know many a person who has replaced the book with an ipod; instead of investing in time to read a book, they "pass time" by watching an episode (or two) of a popular show they have downloaded from the internet (and uploaded to their ipod).

That said, I will leave you guys to ponder whether your own reading habit have also fallen victim to our so-called chaotic lives in the UAE. Are our lives THAT much busier than those who live in the U.S. or European countries?

I believe my conversation with Associate Professor Chris Brown, led him to write a Comment piece on the issue in The National. Check it out.

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