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Reading Several Books At Once.

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STUCK!

“Stuck” is the word to use when all you can do to face your inability to cope with your several readings is goggle your eyes. Books of different shapes and languages are scattered around you, and they only accentuate your dilemmas about what to resume reading first. Is it this book in French by that very prominent sociologist, or is it this one in Arabic by this great Egyptian novelist, or maybe you should continue reading either one of those three English novels you started last week…

A Stuck Reader

Finally, you make up your mind and grab either one of those books. However, somehow, the words get blurry and the characters start jumping from one book into the other as if they were circus artists doing amazing confusing stunts! 

You might still want to focus. You’d probably start pondering about the merits of every book and author at hand for some minutes to make a final decision. But if you’re like me, you’d most probably just grab the remote and watch Mr. Bean, instead.

Is this really your idea of enjoying reading? If your answer is yes, then keep doing what you’re doing, and stop reading this post right now… NOW, I said. If your answer is no, then what follows might be helpful.

Hereafter are some pieces of advice you might want to consider:

                • Do not read several books at once:

Yes. I think that for people like myself, we just cannot commit to this kind of relationships. So my advice to you is to take it slow. One book at a time shall do you good.

What we need to understand is that we’re different, and so are our abilities. Reading several books at the same time is not a healthy practice for some people. Some others can do this but some others can’t. This doesn’t imply that my breed are stupid, or that people who can read many books at once are smarter, it just means that we have different skills and intelligences. So, don’t feel bad about it.

(What?… I heard that! And no, I’m not just comforting myself?)

After all, the only good thing about being able to read different books at once is that you can switch books if you get tired or bored. However, the cons of this practice outweigh this single advantage.

  • Do not mix languages:

If you’re going to read many books. Like, if you really really have to, make sure that they’re in the same language. Reading books in different languages at the same time is confusing, especially if you’re a fast reader in some language(s) but a slow reader in other language(s). You’ll make much more progress reading in the language(s) your fluent in, while you’d be lagging behind in the other language(s), which might stir some dissatisfaction and might, in some cases, lead to low self-esteem, depression and then, suicide. Just kidding, but you got the point!

  • Get time to read but don’t force yourself into it:

Make a schedule and try to stick to it. Choose the time of the day that fits you best and plan your readings accordingly. Some people prefer to read at nights, other people prefer to read upon waking up. Don’t forget to make use of your free time and weekends, too.

  • Prioritize:

Some things in life are more important than others, so are books. Start with the book which you have a strong and fresh desire to read, when you get tired of it, try the next book you’re looking forward to read. You should always have interest in what’s between your hands, otherwise, the reading experience would be ruined.

  •  “Prioritize” doesn’t mean ignore:

 If you leave a book for too long, you’d probably forget everything about it. Picking it up again would be kind of meaningless. Hence, if you feel that one of the books your reading isn’t as interesting as the others, leave it for another reading set, or just drop it altogether, but don’t feel compelled to finish it. This will only increase your anxiousness, and we don’t want that, do we? DO WE?

  • Use a timeline:

A notepad and a pencil would be very helpful. Track down the ideas, characters and events of the book. You can add your feelings, expectations and questions about the book. It’s also important to make sure to read your notes every time you want to resume reading, it’ll freshen up your memory and put you in the right mood for that particular reading.

  •  Read (a) whole chapter(s) every time:

Don’t stop in the middle of a chapter. If you do, you’d probably be lost when you resume reading. Think of this as watching a series, what would you rather do, stop watching at the end of the episode and wait for the new one, or stop in the middle of the current one?…There you go!

  • Real readers love challenges:

Eat you broccoli, finish your dish! If you start several books and don’t manage to complete anyone of them, the effect will be very counterproductive. So, go on and finish your books, at least some of them. The feeling is really satisfying, believe me. Remember that if you don’t, you’ll probably have a very low self-esteem, depression and might commit suicide. Just kidding again, but you got the point!

  • Join Goodreads.com

Goodreads is a great reading carrefour. People write reviews and send updates about their readings. You can set up an annual goal and work on achieving it. A little competition would never hurt.

This, dear bookworms, is what I can think of for the moment. I’m sure you can have many other ideas on how to accomplish this task. So, please feel free to share them in the comment section. 

Happy reading, everyone!

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“Orientalism;” An Ongoing Discussion

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If there is anything I appreciate about the Internet it’s its power to eliminate distances. Fortunately, I could make use of this powerful treat offered by the Internet in one of my most valuable experiences. This unique experience is nothing but my amazing ongoing discussion of Edward Said‘s “Orientalism” with my American friend.

Edward Said

Even though we live in totally different places, my friend and I communicate on a daily basis and we always manage to discuss different stimulating topics. So we thought of taking our discussions to the next level and read a book together. Thus, I chose Edward Said’s “Orientalism.” This choice was partly because I’ve always heard of it and wanted to read it, and partly because I knew it contained very interesting and debatable topics that both my friend and I would enjoy.

Ok let’s face it, the writing style is obtuse. Also, It takes some knowledge in different fields to be able to fully understand Said’s words. He can hover over a variety of topics such as history, politics, culture, media, anthropology, literature, epistemology, etc. in one or two pages. Furthermore, sometimes, I feel as if Said takes it for granted that the reader is acquainted with some references and allusions, which can be an additional burden on the shoulder of the non-specialized reader.

On the other hand, what my friend and I are enjoying about this book is the fruits of our discussions. You can think of Orientalism as a “discussion stimulator,” and a thought-provoking starting point to our in-depth talks. Therefore, we always end up with very interesting discussions that help us better our understanding of the American as well as the Arab mindsets.

Our talks make us view issues from different perspectives. Therefore, many of our lingering questions have finally been answered. Many assumptions have been altered, and many fallacies corrected. Thus, I’m now starting to see how Americans REALLY view us, and vice versa.  I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that I have learnt more about America and Americans since I started reading and discussing this book than I had done in my entire life. My friend, too, made it clear that she has come see things from a different angle and from a fresh perspective, and that she has learnt a lot as well.

I think that what we appreciate about this ongoing discussion is that we both accept each other’s opinions and points of view no matter how distant our stands are. No one is claiming that their way of looking at things is the best, and no one is ridiculing the other’s views or opinions. It’s a friendly discussion with a special interest in mutual understanding.

I wish we all opted for dialog instead of surrendering to preconceived ideas and stereotypical views of the other. I think a lot of the world’s tragedies would have been avoided had those in power resorted to dialog. However, I believe that hope will still be glowing at the end of the tunnel as long as there are people willing to talk, discuss and open their minds.

Book review: “OCCUPY” by Noam Chomsky

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When I bought the book a week ago in Rabat, I thought it was written by Noam Chomsky. When I started flipping thorough its first pages on the bus, I discovered it wasn’t actually written but SPOKEN by Chomsky. This pamphlet is a collection of Chomsky’s speeches and discussions with some Occupy militants where he answers their questions and provides insights for the movement.

The book is divided into 5 main sections: Occupy, After Thirty Years of Class War, InterOccupy, Occupying Foreign Policy and Remembering Howard Zinn. In the end of the book, there is a Q&A section that gives guidelines as to how to protest and what should militants know before they sit-in or when the police knock on the door.

Professor Noam Chomsky with some militants of the Occupy Movement

Chomsky calls attention to many interesting issues such as; economics, the working class, the 1% and 99% imagery, political parties, elections, etc. which he discusses not in great depth but with a simplicity that makes international matters accessible for the average reader. Nevertheless, if one is not acquainted with the American political and social systems, one might find some difficulty in absorbing all the jargon.

When asked if he’d speak for and represent the movement, he simply said that his voice wouldn’t be heard and that the PEOPLE should depend on themselves. Chomsky believes that the movement doesn’t need leaders, but that it needs to be organized and mobilized.

The most striking idea I came across in this pamphlet, however, was Chomsky’s vision of how REAL democratic elections should take place. After denouncing the American electoral system which Chomsky regards as “farcical” and “radically undemocratic.” He moves to explaining his idea in an InterOccupy conference call as follows:

As I mentioned to Occupy Boston, the people in the town would get together have town meetings and discussions and come up with some ideas that they think ought to be done in the locality, in the country, foreign policy, the whole range. They might just pick their own candidates; or, if there are national candidates running, they could say, “You can come to visit us if you’d like, but we don’t want to hear speeches from you, we’re going to tell you what we think policy ought to be, and if you can convince us that you’ll accept these policies and carry them forward, then maybe we’ll vote for you.”

So basically, Chomsky says that Instead of listening to politicians, politicians must listen to the people. This sounds not like a unique concept but the way Chomsky puts it makes the whole concept crystal clear. I think that this  would sound like a very unorthodox idea of how elections should take place to many people. Yet, I am quite positive that they’ll find it very appealing and extremely democratic. The changes, policies and all major decisions should stem from the people, from the base, a bottom-up strategy and not the other way around. This is exactly what the people are longing for.

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One could speak volumes about each of the topics discussed in Chomsky’s “Occupy.” The bottom line, though, is that Noam Chomsky continues to be faithful to his beliefs, and he’s always trying to provide all the help necessary for the people’s voice to be heard.

Class Photo

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Class Photo

With my students during the end of the school year party.