The Allure of a Ritual: Celebrating Hajj through the Arts
27 July 2020
“Ithra Library Membership” launched for booklovers for a limited time
An old Arabian proverb says, “a book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” And what better time than when one is homebound, to have this “garden” at their fingertips and lose oneself in an imaginary world?
With social distancing and self-quarantines taking place around the world as part of a global precautions to curb the spread of the infectious coronavirus known as COVID-19, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), as a constantly evolving creative platform for engaging curious minds, has launched the “Ithra Library Membership” on its “Overdrive” App for a limited time to welcome readers from across the world to its virtual impressive e-library.
Over 10,000 e-books and audio books are available for free for the next three months (until the end of June) for all ‘Short-term Members’ at this ever expanding library of international and local literary masterpieces.
Numerous studies have shown that reading is therapeutic, helps reduce anxiety, boosts the mood and inspires imagination. Therefore it is unsurprising to find inscribed along the shelves of one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt (285–246 BC), it read: “The place of the cure of the soul.”
In your quest to discover new written works, or reread old favorites in this extraordinary time of uncertainty, Tariq Alkhawaji, the head of Ithra’s Library, recommends exploring the following ten books that will leave you inspired, curious, and reflective on the state of the world and the state of the self.
‘Black Holes’ by Stephen Hawking (2016) He believed that if we understood the challenges they pose to the very nature of space and time, we could unlock the secrets of the universe. So, what are black holes? Why do they matter so much? And what does it all mean to you? These are just some of the questions the book aims to answer through Hawking’s engaging and timeless writings.
’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ by Yuval Noah Harari (2018) This book offers a probing and visionary investigation into today's most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. Robots, fake news, hackings and wars, Harari addresses the challenges of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting changes and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive uncertainties.
‘The Order of Time’ by Carlo Rovelli (2018) Time is a mystery that continues to captivate us. From Boltzmann to quantum theory, from Einstein to loop quantum gravity, our understanding of time has been undergoing radical transformations. Bringing together science, philosophy and art, the author who is also a physicist, unravels this mystery, inviting us to imagine a world where time is different.
‘The River of Consciousness’ by Oliver Sacks (2017) A collection of beautifully crafted essays that display the late Oliver Sacks's passionate engagement with the most compelling ideas of human endeavor: evolution, creativity, memory, time, consciousness, and experience. A scientist and a storyteller, this book reveals Sacks ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless project to understand what makes us all human.
‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles (2019) This mega-bestseller with more than 1.5 million readers will soon be a major television series and is quite relevant today to the global story of being confined in one place. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this novel set in 1922 casts a spell as it relates a count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose after he was ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.
‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders (2017) An award-winning book revolving around a father-son story featuring none other than the American President Abraham Lincoln. Set in the late 1800s, when the American Civil War is less than one year old, Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son Willie, dies. The author spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism into a supernatural realm. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.
‘Flights’ by Olga Tokarczuk (2018) From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the writer interweaves reflections on travel with an in-depth exploration of the human body, broaching life, death, motion, and migration. Chopin’s heart is carried back to Warsaw in secret by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and a young man slowly descends into madness when his wife and child mysteriously vanish during a vacation and just as suddenly reappear. Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time.
‘Islandborn’ by Junot Diaz (2018) For ages 5-8 From an award-winning writer comes a debut picture book about the magic of memory and the infinite power of the imagination. When Lola's teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can't remember The Island—she left it when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories, Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. Gloriously illustrated and lyrically written, Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination's boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves.
‘Wonder’ by R. J. Palacio (2012) For ages 8-12 A book that inspires kindness, it is about August Pullman who was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing narrative full of heart and hope that helps readers see the world differently. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.