Weekend Reading: July 22, 2016


Reader’s Corner: Stealing Books

In Islamabad, readers know that when they’re looking for a book, it’s best to check out the Saeed Book Bank. One of the world’s largest bookstores, it’s a three-story institution with nearly a hundred employees that stocks just about everything—and in English, too. According to this profile of the store and its owner Ahmad Saaed in the New York Times, they once operated in Peshawar, but:

… the rise of terrorism and fundamentalist Islam made Peshawar, capital of the wild frontier lands of Pakistan, a dangerous place for a bookseller — especially one who insisted on carrying magazines like Cosmopolitan and Heavy Metal, books by Karen Armstrong on Islam, and even the scientist Richard Dawkins’s atheist treatise, “The God Delusion.” (“You just wouldn’t believe how that sells,” Mr. Saeed said. “We buy a thousand copies from Random House every year, year after year.”)

Saeed, inherited the store from his father, Saeed Jan Qureshi, who was such a book lover that he took a gentle approach to book thieves. After Ahmad took over, an apologetic academic appeared, explaining that he had once shoplifted an Archie comic from the store:

“He came to say that when he was a child, 6 years old or so, he stole an Archie comic book and my father saw him,” Mr. Saeed said. “He said he was afraid he was going to get slapped, but my father said, ‘This is good that you like books. So every day you can take a book but keep it in mint condition and return it when you’re done so I can still sell it.’”