Farah Otuzbir – the Girl behind “The Literary Cafe” – Gives Us Her Top Picks

By: Ali Sakr

The Literary Café is an Instagram blog about books – a bookstagram, if you will, created by Farah Otuzbir. In the blog, you’ll get to see book reviews, recommendations, aesthetically pleasing pictures, and overall a very encouraging environment that will really make you want to read more often! We decided to ask Farah for some of her personal favorites from all the books she’s read and reviewed and her top 6 picks certainly don’t disappoint. Enjoy!

1. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

I’m simply at a loss for words about this book…when every emotion is felt too deeply, it becomes hard to explain what it really feels like.

– Farah Otuzbir

“The Kite Runner is a book I’ll never forget. I feel like explaining what the book is about will never do it justice, and will take away from it’s magnitude. I want to leave that to the discovery of the reader. But I can talk about my own experience with the book. This book simply stunned me! Whenever I felt “it couldn’t get worse”, I read on, and it did get worse, way worse. I watched my tears roll down multiple times. I felt for the characters. I believed in them and their stories. I longed for the old Kabul. Sometimes I just kept thinking about the events of the book even after I’d put it down. It was captivating to say the least. Khaled Hosseini is a genius, and his book is a work of art. So much thought is put into this book, it is very hard, almost impossible, not to feel anything while reading this book. Every detail of cities, events, people and memories surprised me, and left me wondering “how could someone be SO GOOD with words?” The use of words and the description is utterly beautiful. I could go on about this book for hours… and I still would not do it justice. There really is very little to say about this book, but there is a lot to feel.

Everyone should read this book. A testament to the true meaning of friendship, brotherhood, war, memories, and the rollercoaster that is life.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Blindly giving this book 5 stars.

2. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge

“London-based Reni Eddo-Lodge talks about a range of very important subjects. She talks about British history and how racism has been structured in society over the years, feminism, class and race, and her encounters over the years, as a black British woman, that have led her to finally decide to stop discussing race with white people.

I’ve found this book to be extremely insightful. I learned so much just by reading this 230 page book. Reni Eddo-Lodge asks very important and brave questions, and urges everyone to do the same. I loved this book so much, because I admired how brave and powerful this woman must be just be reading some of her words. Her arguments are strong and factual, but you’ll also find her own voice most of the time.

One of the books I’d recommend to everyone. Racism is REAL and we have to understand its history, the structures and norms that amplify it, and what we can do to address this problem. As Reni Eddo-Lodge argues; there is no easy way out, we have to have that ugly discussion first, but there is always something you can do!”

3. Essays in Love, Alain de Botton

“When I read the first chapter of this book, I was skeptical. I felt that I would not enjoy it, simply because it’s about someone else’s experience falling in love. I remember saying “and then what?” But then as I progressed on to read, I actually found myself enjoying it. I think one of the reasons why people enjoy this book so much is because they can relate to some of the experiences. From first getting to know someone, then falling in love, then experiencing the complexity of relationship dynamics, then facing challenges, etc…

I enjoyed reading this book maybe because it was about someone sharing their own life experiences with you, and my curious self found that really intriguing. I also like that it’s a fairly short read, and the chapters are ten pages at most, which is always something I like about books.

I read the last chapters of the book in this beautiful park, where it was so calm, tranquil and peaceful. Maybe that’s why I liked this book so much in the end!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Overall a fun and heartfelt short read. Would recommend!”

4. The Book Theif, Markus Zusak

“Now that I’ve read through the last few pages of this book, with tear-filled eyes that hardly recognized words that literally broke my heart, it is safe to say that I have read no book in my entire life that moved me like this one did.

The Book Thief is heart-breaking, on so many levels. It takes time — you pause, think, re-read, and then you just start to comprehend what’s happening. I’ve read many historical fiction books that took place in the midst of the most atrocious of wars. Nobody has quite captured the gruesome, heart-breaking reality of war like Zusak did in The Book Thief. The story of Liesel and her relationship with her foster father; Hans, literally made me sob — not only at their last encounter, but throughout their truly heartfelt relationship that survived the most grueling of war episodes. You read through the pages and find familiar “Nazi Germany wartime terms” popping up, like Göbbels, like the Hitler Youth, like Stalingrad —which not only shows great research by the author, but guarantees depth and a very close depiction of reality.

The book often comes out as a simple adaptation of World War Two on a white, Aryan German family, but it is way more than just that. The Book Thief is a novel that beautifully portrays the power of words, and their ability to change people, save lives, and create powerful books that will certainly bring you to tears.

Just a few side notes on why this book is a must read (not in the near future, but right now): It has short paragraphs and is fast paced, which make you want to get to the next one because you can’t just close a book that’s talking about a book thief, a jew, and a couple of acquaintances in Nazi Germany, right?

Oh, have I mentioned that this book is narrated by DEATH? You think you have this book figured out by now, but no words would ever do it justice. I loved every delicately written paragraph of this book — every detail, every description that made me move from Molching to Stuttgart to Dachau to Auschwitz, all while sitting on my couch, reading this marvelous piece.”

5. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

“This is a book about the life of a blind French girl during wartime in Paris. Upon reading the first few pages and finding out that the main character is a young girl, blind, and in France during world war two, I remember feeling “this is going to be one heavy book”. Now after finishing the book, I feel like Anthony Doerr created that character on purpose to show the epitome of struggling not only a normal teenager could go through during war, but a blind one. Marie-Laure Le Blanc has taught me the true meaning of resistance, perseverance, and the satisfaction and contentment with the simplest of things; a hot bath, new books, or the simple, mere pleasure of tuning in to a radio that reaches as far as England and Germany.

The book is designed to follow through the events of war experienced by Marie-Laure and Werner Pfenning; a young German boy destined to become part of the German army at a very young age. The story evolves and evolves till the lives of two very different characters intertwine. They meet, and their lives are changed forever.

Anthony Doerr created a book that should be read, and re-read, by everyone. Reading about a normal person enduring the horrors of war alone is already heartbreaking, imagine reading about 14 year old blind Marie Laure following her way alone in Saint Malo, walking the streets alone by counting the steps her father taught her, while knowing that the Germans were coming for young blind girls like her.

Often times while reading this book I have wondered, why is it taking me so much time to finish? Now I realize, this was a very heavy book. So dense. So full of emotions and feelings. I realize that I got affected so much by the events that I needed to take breaks from the content. This should not discourage you, on the contrary, it’s a very important read, and it makes a beautiful story. The sacrifices families make for their children, the power of the radio, the love between families that has been stretched across borders, and the gruesome reality of war are all portrayed perfectly.”

Blindly giving this a 10/10.

6. The Prophet, Khalil Gibran

“I received this book as a gift yesterday, and seeing how short it is, I decided to start reading it right away. I made a very quick decision to put my current read on pause and read this beautiful piece. All I can say is that I made the right decision… this book is enchanting and marvelous. As I read through the pages, I felt like the lines were speaking to me, which is something I feel wholeheartedly.

This book is not religious despite it’s name. It is however a serious of advice on all parts of life given by a Prophet; Al Mustafa. The advice range from religion, to love, to freedom, to work, to children, to passion, and a lot of other things.

I’d say reading this book will be like a breath of fresh air as soon as you read it. It will give you life. Passionate. Short. To the point. And overall heartwarming.

Highly recommended! To everyone!”

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