Talking of Books is a weekly review show which showcases some of Dubai’s most intrepid readers. From new releases to chats with local and international authors, this is a must-listen for any bibliophile.
Every week co-hosts Isobel Abulhoul and John MacDonald are joined by an ever-changing cast of guest reviewers drawn from the UAE’s reading community, to discuss and review a broad selection of fiction and non-fiction books, from business to travel; holistic to historical. Also, every week Isobel and John select a Book Champion to come in and introduce Dubai to a book they think is particularly significant and should be more widely read.
Talking of Books features regular interviews with today’s greatest writers, with previous interviewees including bestselling novelists Chris Cleave, superstar children’s authors Jacqueline Wilson, Andy Stanton and David Almond, internationally-renowned philosopher AC Grayling and rugby legend Brian Moore.
FANCY BEING A BOOK CHAMPION? Email email@example.com.
COMING UP ON TALKING OF BOOKS THIS WEEK…
Book Champion – Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
In this book, the author of Seven Gothic Tales gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives: of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom: of her guests, from the Prince of Wales to Knudsen, the old charcoal burner, who visited her: of primitive festivals: of big game that were her near neighbors – lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes – and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful.
About Isak Dinesen
Isak Dinesen is the pseudonym of Karen Blixen, born in Denmark in 1885. After her marriage in 1914 to Baren Bror Blixen, she and her husband lived in British East Africa, where they owned a coffee plantation. She was separated from her husband in 1921 but continued to manage the plantation for another ten years, until the collapse of the coffee market forced her to sell the property and return to Denmark in 1931.
There she began to write in English under the nom de plume Isak Dinesen.
Her first book, and literary success, was Seven Gothic Tales. It was followed by Out of Africa, The Angelic Avengers (written under the pseudonym Pierre Andrezel), Winter’s Tales, Last Tales, Anecdotes of Destiny, Shadows on the Grass and Ehrengard.
She died in 1962.
Young Reviewers – Beetle Boy by M G Leonard
Darkus is miserable. His dad has disappeared, and now he is living next door to the most disgusting neighbours ever. A giant beetle called Baxter comes to his rescue. But can the two solve the mystery of his dad’s disappearance, especially when links emerge to cruel Lucretia Cutter and her penchant for beetle jewellery? A coffee-mug mountain, home to a million insects, could provide the answer, if Darkus and Baxter are brave enough to find it.
About M G Leonard
M G Leonard is a writer of books, poems and screenplays.
She works as a freelance Digital Media Producer for clients such as the National Theatre and Harry Potter West End, and previously worked as a Senior Digital Producer at the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Leonard spent her early career in the music industry, then trained as an actor, dabbling in directing and producing as well as performing, before deciding to write her stories down. Her books include Beetle Boy and Beetle Queen.
She lives in Brighton with her husband and two sons.
Arab World Book of the Week – A Small Death by Mohammed Hasan Alwan
A Small Death is the fictionalised account of the life of a Sufi saint, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, from his birth in Muslim Spain in the 12th century until his death in Damascus. It follows his mystic Sufi experience and heroic travels from Andalusia to Azerbaijan, via Morocco, Egypt, the Hijaz, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Of a sensitive and anxious nature, Muhyiddin struggles with inner turmoil throughout the course of his travels. Witnessing fictitious events including savage military conflicts, he attempts to fulfil his mission against a backdrop of states and numerous cities where he meets countless people.
About Mohammed Hasan Alwan
Mohammed Hasan Alwan is a Saudi Arabian novelist, born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1979.
He graduated with a doctorate in International Marketing from the University of Carleton, Canada.
Alwan authored the non-fiction work, Migration: Theories and Key Factors (2014) and has published five novels to date – The Ceiling of Sufficiency (2002), Sophia (2004), The Collar of Purity (2007), The Beaver (2011), and A Small Death (2016), which won the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Book of the Week – The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned – Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
About Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead is the number one New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award, and named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review.
He also wrote The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York.
He was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a recipient of the MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships.
He lives in New York City.