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Reading the World!
A 13 year old Pakistani girl set out to do something that very few people in the world have even dared to attempt. She set upon her journey to finish at least one book each from all the 197 (official and otherwise) countries in the world. Here is Aisha Eshbani’s story.
Sep 25, 2018 at 00:00

It wasn't until my brother bought me A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, that I developed a passion for reading. As a child, my mother would buy me books like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, among others, but unfortunately, the books never really caught my interest. A Series of Unfortunate Events made me realise that there were books of different genres in the world, that there were books of my interest in the bookstores of Karachi. 

And soon, reading became a hobby for me. From realist fiction to fantasy, followed by historical and military non-fiction, you name it, and it was all there on my bookshelf. I was quite proud of myself and my habit until I looked upon my shelves of books with a rather different perspective. Most, in fact all of the books I had read, were written by authors from Britain or North America, there was nothing from countries like Tanzania, Swaziland or Peru. And this was a truly heartbreaking and devastating discovery. 

And so, I did some research on African and Asian authors, and world literature when I came across a women named Ann Morgan who had read a book from every country in a year. The idea fascinated me and in April, the very next month, I began my journey, a little different from hers, to explore the world, from the comforts of my armchair. 

A few months in, I started receiving recommendations and motivational messages from people around the world. Authors from countries including Luxembourg, Latvia, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong sent their books to me. I received an unpublished translation of a French novel by the name, 'The Kaafir of Karthala' from Comoros, translated by Allison Charette, who has promised to send me a galley of a book she is translating from Madagascar. Writers, publishers, translators and readers from around the world have been helping me as I move forward with more and more determination to achieve my goal. I have completed 85 countries till now and am very excited to reach 98 soon, which is exactly halfway! 











And now about the books: 

I'm currently reading Shyness and Dignity by Norwegian author Dag Solstad. But my most favourite book yet is probably A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. It's about a child soldier from Sierra Leone. I really empathised and sympathised with the soldier; it was truly heartbreaking. And this takes us to the next point of focus.

It has been established with a common interest that books promote empathy. A book allows one to feel for a victim of war, it allows one to feel for someone who had to migrate and leave their home and it allows one to feel for the people of the world, who don't read. 

This project of mine isn't just about reading, it is about so much more. I want children like me to understand that you have all the right to dream big. If you are dedicated to your purpose, you will achieve your dreams. Let age not hinder us. This quest is to appreciate the authors from the underrepresented countries and allow them to believe that their work too, is brilliant, even if they aren't backed by a big, Anglophone publisher! 

And here's a message to all, Read. Because with Reading comes wisdom and knowledge, and with wisdom and knowledge comes success. 

Aisha Eshbani

Class IX

Karachi Grammar School


In conversation with the three arching musketeers.