A Question of Identity

Reflect on your place in the world through these three timeless novels that probe complex questions of identity, history, journey and the place of the individual in a changing world.

1) A Sultan in Palermo by Tariq Ali 12th Century, Palermo

Set in the boundaries of medieval Muslim empire, this historic novel explores questions of Christian-Muslim co-existence and complex notions of identity, knowledge, geography and history through the life of the cartographer Al-Idrisi, set against the challenges of a changing world.

2) My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

It is 1591 and the long Ottoman decline has begun. Set against 9 snowy days in Istanbul, Pamuk deftly weaves a thrilling murder tale that tugs at the timeless concerns of East-West tension, art and its place in society and the idea of God and authority.

3) Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

How does food define our culture and our relationship to ourselves? This novel traces two diverging journeys of siblings Uma and Arun. Uma is forced to stay at home and take care of her family while Arun has the chance to go the USA for education. Through their experiences and desire to escape these disparate cultures defined through fasting and feasting, the reader can relate to human conflict present within each of us.

Journeys

Get inspired to embark upon your own voyage through these stories of metaphorical, heavenly, and physical journeys.

1) Conference of the Birds by Farid ad-din Attar

This celebrated Sufi poem uses the metaphor of birds as a way to depict the human journey towards spiritual fulfilment. The birds decide to travel to meet the legendary Simorgh and en-route discover their human faults that lead them to abandon it halfway. Those successful to make it through the seven levels will discover the real truth of their existence at journey’s end.

2) What I talk about when I keep running by Haruki Murakami

This revealing autobiography of celebrated writer Haruki Murakami looks at his life from 1982 when he sold his restaurant and started running to keep fit. It spans wide geographical locations from Tokyo Jingu Gaien Gardens, to Charles River in Boston. Part training log, part travelogue and part reminiscence, it reveals how sport played an important role and an answer to questions of inspiration, triumph, and ageing.

3) 5 People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

This novel follows the life and death of a man named Eddie who dies in a heroic attempt to save a girl from a ride in the amusement park. On his way to Heaven he meets 5 people who have had an impact on his life. Through this journey he learns lessons such as the meaning of sacrifice, the importance forgiveness, the power of love and the purpose of existence.

New Directions

Take up a new hobby, practice a new talent, find a new beginning through these inspiring anecdotes on topics as vast as organizing, compassion and food.

1) The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

This bestselling work by Marie Kondo is a good start for anyone inspired to de-clutter, and re-organize this summer. Her ‘KonMarie method’ encourages a transforming one-time organizing event that will not only cleanse your room but also your soul. Being unencumbered by unnecessary baggage can be the right catalyst for a new focus on the future.

2) Wisdom of Compassion by Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama offers golden nuggets of wisdom by offering insights into his work and life. This account reveals his efforts to translate compassion into action through deeply engaging, behind the scene stories about his interactions with remarkable individuals. His optimistic, playful and empathetic approach to the world is an inspiration for all.

3) Faith in Food by Sue Campbell and Susie Weldon

This book emphasizes that eating is a moral act. Collecting inspiring stories from all over the world, such as Buddhist monks who rescue farm animals in Nepal to Christian urban gardeners in Philadelphia, this volume explores the role of food in major faiths. An ambitious effort, it seeks to change our relationship to what we eat and how we obtain it.