Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller

Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller

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The warm and winning story of opening a modern bookstore where there were none, Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller recounts Nadia Wassef’s troubles and triumphs as a founder and manager of Cairo-based Diwan

The streets of Cairo make strange music: the echoing calls to prayer, the insults hurled between enraged drivers, the steady crescendo of horns honking, the shouts of street vendors, the television sets and radios blaring on every sidewalk. Nadia Wassef knows this song by heart.

In 2002, with her sister, Hind, and their friend Nihal, Wassef founded Diwan, a fiercely independent bookstore. They were three young women with no business degrees, no formal training, and nothing to lose. At the time, nothing like Diwan existed in Egypt. Culture was languishing under government mismanagement, and books were considered a luxury, not a necessity. Over the next decade, these women would contend with censors, chauvinists, critics, and one another in establishing Diwan as Cairo’s leading bookstore.

Frank, fresh, and very funny, Wassef’s memoir tells the story of this journey. Its eclectic cast of characters features Samir, the driver with CEO aspirations; the meditative and mythic Nihal; the cool but cutting Hind; the dictatorial and exacting Nadia, a self-proclaimed bitch to work with; the store’s impassioned regulars, including the demanding Dr. Medhat; and the many people, mostly men, who said Diwan would never succeed.

Shelf Life is a portrait of a country hurtling toward revolution, a feminist rallying cry, and an unapologetic crash course in running a business under the law of entropy. Above all, it is a celebration of the power of words to bring us home.

ISBN: 9781250858863

Published Date: October 4, 2022

Publisher: Picador

Language: English

Page Count: 224

Size: 8.25" l x 5.40" w x 0.58" h