Our Ultimate Library booklist this edition focuses on all things Egypt – and yes it includes the Agatha Christie classic – Death on the Nile! There’s also a great holiday read from Jodi Picoult about a love affair between two Egyptologists and an immersive historical novel by Latifa al-Zayyat set in 1950’s Cairo and a fascinating history of the Nile…
1. Being Abbas El Abd by Ahmed Alaidy (translated Humphrey Davies)
“What is madness?” asks the narrator of Ahmed Alaidy’s jittery, funny, and angry novel. Assuring readers that they are about to find out, the narrator takes us on a journey through the insanity of present-day Cairo – in and out of minibuses, malls, and crash pads, navigating the city’s pinball machine of social life with tolerable efficiency. And then there’s Abbas, the narrator’s best friend who surfaces at critical moments to drive our hero into uncontrollably multiplying difficulties.
2. The Open Door by Latifa al-Zayyat (translated Marilyn Booth)
Young Layla and her brother become involved in the student activism of the 1940s and early 1950s in Egypt and in the popular resistance to continued imperialist rule. This novel traces the pressures on young women and men of that time and class as they seek to free themselves of family control and social expectations. The story culminates in the 1956 Suez Crisis, when Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Canal led to a British, French,
and Israeli invasion.
3. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
Dawn Edelstein was once a young grad student working on a dig in Egypt, in love with a fellow Egyptologist. Fifteen years later, Dawn is married, with a teenage daughter, and working in Boston as a death doula. When Dawn has a near-death experience, she is confronted with the question of whether the good life she has could have been a great one. Dawn doesn’t just ponder the
question-she returns to Egypt, and the man she once loved, to see if she can find the answer.
4. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting
nothing is ever quite what it seems…
5. The Nile: History’s Greatest River by Terje Tvedt
Professor Terje Tvedt, one of the world’s leading experts on the history of waterways, travels upstream along the river’s mouth to its sources. The result is a travelogue through 5000 years and 11 countries. This is the fascinating story of the immense economic, political and mythical significance of the river. Brimming with accounts of central characters in the struggle for the Nile from Caesar and Cleopatra, to Churchill and Mussolini, and on to the political leaders of today.