Books of the Month | Month of the Books #29

“The world was hers for the reading.” — Betty Smith "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"


Although one of the world’s smallest countries, Qatar punches well above its weight in terms of art and culture. It is home to innovative and striking pieces of public art as well as art-filled museums designed by world-famous architects. This is all part of a far-reaching plan to focus on becoming a culture-based, rather than carbon-based, economy — a plan which Sheikha Mayassa has spearheaded on every level. It is this which makes The Power of Culture so informative and readable. Sheikha Mayassa’s personality shines through every page, whether discussing the delights to be found in museums and galleries, or commenting on her favorite place to see wildlife and where to find the best abayas. Part easy-to-read guide and part memoir, The Power of Culture offers a completely original insight into the Qatar of today, enhanced with in-depth interviews by Sheikha Mayassa with some of the leading architects and artists who have contributed to its success.

Dr. Afra Atiq | Photo: © Waleed Shah


Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is the sister of Qatar’s ruling Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and daughter of the country’s Father Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his second wife Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned. Al-Mayassa was declared the most influential person in art on Art+Auction’s top-10 list and ArtReview’s Power 100, and prominently appears on the Time 100, and Forbes’ The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. She was listed in the “Top 100 most powerful Arabs” from 2014 to 2017 and 2021 by Gulf Business. Al-Mayassa serves as Chairperson of Qatar Museums.




In 1936, a young dreamer named Edmond Charlot opened a modest bookshop in Algiers. Once the heart of Algerian cultural life, where Camus launched his first book and the Free French printed propaganda during the war, Charlot’s beloved bookshop has been closed for decades, living on as a government len­ding library. Now it is to be shuttered forever. But as a young man named Ryad empties it of its books, he begins to understand that a bookshop can be much more than just a shop that sells books. A Bookshop in Algiers charts the changing fortunes of Charlot’s bookshop through the political drama of Algeria’s turbulent twentieth century of war, revolution and independence. It is a moving celebration of books, bookshops and of those who dare to dream.


Born in 1986 in Algiers, Kaouther Adimi spent her childhood between France and Algeria, where she studied French Literature and Human Relations. After being noticed by the jury of the French Institute’s short story competition, she published her first novel L’Envers des autres (Bar­zakh, 2010; Seuil, 2011) and received the Vocation Prize. Our Riches, her third novel and her first in English, was shortlisted for the Goncourt and won the Prix Renaudot, the Prix du Style, the Prix Beur FM Méditerranée, and the Choix Goncourt de l’Italie. Her novel Les petits de décembre, published in September 2019 by le Seuil, was long-listed for the Prix Renaudot.



Academic John Sutherland celebrates the “com­mon reader” in his surprising and enlightening guide to the great books. In the course of over 500 wittily informative pieces he gives us his own very personal take on the most rewarding, most remarkable and, on occasion, most shamelessly enjoyable works of fiction ever written — the per­fect reading list for the would-be literary expert. His taste is impressively eclectic. There are imposing Victorian novels, entertaining contem­porary thrillers and everything in between, from dystopian works to romance.

The author shows as well how the work fits into a broader context — whether that of the author’s life or of other books from the same genre or period. And he offers endless snippets of intri­guing information: did you know, for example, that the Nazis banned Bambi or that William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying on an upturned wheelbarrow; that Voltaire completed Candide in three days, or that Anna Sewell was paid £20 for Black Beauty?

Encyclopedic and entertaining by turns, this is a wonderful dip-in book, whose opinions will inform and on occasion, no doubt, infuriate.


The Only Woman brings together images of single women in a sea of men, as a visual testa­ment to the “long persistence and slow erosion of a man’s world”.

Covering examples from nearly 20 countries, from the advent of photography until the present day, author Immy Humes reveals and reframes how women and men have related socially in surprising and poignant ways. The book features both unknown and well-known women from a diverse range of backgrounds including writers, conductors, civil-rights leaders, domestic workers, sportswomen, and lawyers as well as princesses, railway workers, boxing promoters, and astronauts.


Immy Humes is an Oscar-nominated documen­tary filmmaker from New York whose work treats social and political themes through the prism of real stories about unconventional people. She has been pursuing the idea of “the only woman” for years collecting historical photos to capture and investigate the breadth of the phenomenon.



* This story by Tanja Beljanski first appeared in the November 2022 issue of L'Officiel Arabia.