Books on Karachi

Karachiwalas love to read.At least that’s what I have seen.Sadly Liberty Books is way too expensive.It is a decent place for buying books,okay who am I kidding,I love it in there.They know what to sell and have a large collection of fantastic gems.There’s Oxford too,but something doesn’t click for me at Oxford.It’s too intellectual there.I have a fetish for books based on Karachi.Perhaps because I can relate to them in an intimate way.Maybe since I have seen this city gather enough courage to just breathe and stumble and walk.
Some books I think have made an impact.
-Trespassing by Uzma Aslam Khan
-Shrine-Yasir Shah
-Where they dream in Blue-Bina Shah
-Kartography-Kamila Shamsie
-Mass transit by Maniza Naqvi
-Cactus town by Amir Hussein(has a bit about Karachi)
-In the CIty by the sea by Kamila Shamsie
-786 Cyber cafe by Bina Shah
-Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie
-Kolachi Dreams by Nadia A.R.

There are tons more.But I can’t recall right now.

29 Comments so far

  1. bhaau (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 3:23 am

    I’ve read “Salt and Saffron” since i’ve fancy for anything related to North India and its history.I was just browsing through the book and the word Delhi and some family story caught my attention.I hurriedly bought the book and later found that it was all about Karachi.Any how that just became beginning of an the intro to some contemporary Paki writers.

  2. Sufi (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 4:02 am

    Karachiwalas love to read, ok? Thats new..

  3. wasiq (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 4:43 am

    i can proudly declare that i have not read any of the books in the list above or met with these authors…..yet i have read so many reviews of Kartography by so many critics that i feel i have read it thoroughly……

  4. Darthvader (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 7:28 am

    “Maybe since I have seen this city gather enough courage to just breathe and stumble and walk ” HAINNN??? …what the hell , i mean what the F**k is that suppose to mean ??? the City has shown more than enough courage a bizillion times .its rocking and rolling not stumbling and walking babez , for crying out loud…… and the books have made an impact on what ?? the City??? the Citizens ?? in the Literary world or your fragile psyche ????
    all my bitching and complaining seems to have a reverse effect as we get dumber and dumber authors on KMB…everyday .

    much love and happy new year :)

  5. herbwoman (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 10:45 am

    These books are based on karachi walas and their troubled psyche, you have a choice to get into a karachi wala’ head by picking anyone of these books. If you want to get inside an elite’s head pick Kartography and if you want to know how a woking class boy struggles to make it big pick cybercafe 786 OR if you want everyone’s point of view pick the shrine.
    Real nice post hena – Karachi walas do love to read its just that many havnt discovered this passion yet!

  6. MB (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 11:13 am

    ” Karachiwalas love to read. “

    Thats a shocking contradiction to the truth , Hena where you get that from ?

  7. Henna (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

    Matter of opinion:)

  8. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

    Henna, I too, would echo Sufi’s and MB’s comments that where did came with this conclusion that Karachiwalas love to read…on the contrary, the exact opp. is true.

    Unfornately, the only reason that we have so few books by Pakistani writers is due to our complete disdain for the simple pleasure of reading.

  9. Henna (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

    Arsalaan,Sufi,MB do you read?

  10. Anathema (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

    Zeeba sadiq’s “38 bahadurabad”

  11. MB (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

    Does our reading or not reading tells you anything on Karachi’s reading or not reading.

    What i have said is what i have observed over the years in society. There were those who would read a book & pass it to ten others but now that books are available everywhere the readers have gone into hiding.

  12. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

    Karachiites love to read no doubt about it. The question should be that whether they read quality material or not.

    If you see empty libraries of city then it really doesn’t reflect that people of this city doesn’t like reading. If someone doesn’t read Arundhati Roy,Kamila ,Asfhaq Ahmed,Shafiqur rahman then it doesn’t mean he hates reading. Many people of this city are fond of magazines or digests which sometimes produce much better content than the mentioned authors. I remember that digests like Suspense nad Jasoosi have produced some quality material which I didn’t find anywhere else. I remember that I have seen people reading books while travelling in public places. I believe that reading an ordinary digest or mag is much better than taking membership of British Council Library to show off to friends. Plus do remember that most of people can’t read or understand english so if majority can’t read Chomsky then it doesn’t mean they despise reading.

    yes its pretty sad that libraries are not center of attraction for book lovers and most of people visit libraries to read “free” newspapers which Is not a bad thing but libraries were not established for reading papers only. Poor attitude of library staff also matters and most of the time they refuse to give required books. The other fact is that most of people don’t even know what kinda books are available in a library.

    What I suggest that somone[govt/pvt sector/individual] should “advertise” libraries. By advertising I mean to give an easy access to local libraries. Since it’s Internet era so a centralized website could be developed which have listing of all libraries of Karachi along with details of books available in a particular library. Right now I don’t know which book is available in Ghalib library Nazimabad and what kinda content is available in Taimuriya Library North Nazimabad. In the presence of a website, I would save my time and would go to concerned library rather wandering here and there. I know its not an easy task but unless we take extra ordinary steps, we shouldn’t expect something good.

    last but not least,Henna a good post, well done!

  13. Moiz Kazmi (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 6:19 pm

    i know it might be shocking for serveral karachiwalas, i have read all the books mentioned except cactus town !!

  14. Karachiite (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

    I found many of the books mentioned here on and I plan to order them. Thanks for the recommendation.

  15. Henna (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

    I have read all of them too:)
    So no surprises here.

  16. tooba (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 7:16 pm

    @ Adnan
    u seem quite passionate abt wot u said, why not take an innitiative to develop one such website? m sure a LOT of ppl will appriciate the effort.

    I saw this Ad in an advertiser for forming reading clubs and i loved the idea. all u need to do is gather members and donate 10-20 books for the library… maybe we can get something going thru KMB? i once made a book blog but bechara met an early death.

    coming back to the topic, Henna u have a nice list of books out there. i loved Kartography myself too despite the fact that its from an elitist perspective. ‘Broken Verses’ by Shamsie also has bits on Karachi and its social set-up.

    Nice post :-)

  17. Jamash (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

    Kartography and Salt and Saffron are wonderful books :), Sufi, trust me, you sure to enjoy them more if you actually give them a read …

    I just bought “786 Cyber caf√©” :) .. Will start turning it’s pages today :)

  18. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on January 4th, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

    I second Tooba’s suggestions….let’s contribute books and built up a KMB Central Library.

  19. Adnan K (unregistered) on January 5th, 2007 @ 2:38 am

    another book that you guys must read, though it has nothing to do with karachi is Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni. It is an excellent look into the lives of what is happening in Afghanistan and how things came to what they are today. HIGHLY RECOMMNEDED.

  20. ash (unregistered) on January 5th, 2007 @ 3:28 am

    kite runner, meatless days, breaking the curfew, the God of small things to mention a few

  21. Poo Poo head (unregistered) on January 5th, 2007 @ 8:32 am

    Are there no urdu books on Karachi ?

  22. mansoor (unregistered) on January 5th, 2007 @ 10:25 am

    i second adnans comments, that people are fond of reading, just not the english stuff.

    i see quite a few people reading digests everywhere, and the quantity you see at various bookstalls is testament to that.

    Another reading destination would prolly be paperback novels which you can get cheaply at second hand shops and stalls, if you dont have library memberships.

  23. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on January 5th, 2007 @ 10:52 am

    @Tooba: as a guy in IT field, I can only help to build such computer system/software. I can’t be helpful or influential to implement it since it’s a collabrative effort and Pakistanis and collabration are opposite things.

    Poo, there are books in urdu as well but it’s all about status symbol.

  24. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on January 5th, 2007 @ 11:15 am

    Adnan, why don’t we all contribute our skills, like you said you can, and built something useful, like a library….I mean, afterall, we, the KMBers are quite a resourceful group, I am sure, if we all get together, we will certainly achieve something good for the community in which we live.

    For starters, I am willing to contribute 10 good-condition novels from my side….any more givers?????

  25. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on January 5th, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

    arsalam sahab, I am not talking about our “personal collection”. I was talking about online presence of all libraries of Karachi. By online doesn’t mean online content since its a copyright issue and even Google failed to fulfill the dream of all libary content online.

    What I meant that i can’t force librarian or mgmt of certain library to use the system, even if it’s intalled, they ain’t gonna use it coz they would think that it would make their job insecure.

  26. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on January 5th, 2007 @ 5:11 pm

    Adnan, I got your message, loud and clear…my idea still remains – why not we establish an actual bricks and mortar library.

    Though, your suggestion is also a brilliant one, that is, we can built a central db of all the libraries that exist in current day Karachi, but also, we should have (if we can) a small collection of printed books that we can loan to low-income people.

  27. wasiq (unregistered) on January 6th, 2007 @ 10:57 am

    ok fine i wont read any of these books….but we’ll still have tons of other topics to talk about……trust me!:-p

  28. redsnapper (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

    Thanks for the post Henna.

    There is another book – bordering on intellectual/history as it originally came from Oxford :) – is Kurrachee, its past, present and future.

    This was a history of Karachi written in …. believe it … around 1900 !!

    Reprinted by Oxford several years ago, it was quite cheap. However, Herald later took the rights and reprinted it (better print) but it is criminally expensive !! Its part of the “Karachi under the Raj” series by Herald Publications (Dawn, Herald).

    I bought in early 90s, gave it to someone to read and, of course, never got it back :( Will get the new one from Dawn when I’ve overcome my disgust at the price.

    It has a wonderful description of life in the city at the time as well as history. For example, many wouldn’t believe it but Lyari provided the fresh water supply for part of the city at that time !!

    Cheers !!

  29. tooba (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

    @ Arsalaan
    I only WISH someone would take the idea up seriously! and i guess most of us will be willing to donate ‘good’ books in case anything gets going. but there are alot of other issues too…. place being the first one. u need ‘space’ to keep the collected books and to form a library for starters…. but i guess everything works out once u ‘really’ get into it. and by really i mean REALLy!

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