SINCE I am a writer myself, many other writers feel that I must read their creations and I have received scores of books this year. After tearing up the wrapping, I go through these, a reflex action I wish I could control. My mind is still tuned to the old belief that books are meant to be read, whereas it is probably no longer so. The quality benchmark of Urdu publications has plunged in Pakistan. There is an avalanche of pseudo-religious inanities without an iota of what one would expect from a serious study of religion, or even Islam, (that incidentally deeply interests me), a flood of collections of ghazals, a sleep-inducing plodding through metre and rhyme that is often out of metre, and a newly invented genre of dead prose being passed off as 'novels.'
There is also a developing tendency amongst budding and not-so-young authors to write autobiographies. Why they expect that the details of their most mundane activities such as selling a house in Sargodha in 1954 and buying an apartment in Islamabad, or a visit to a convalescing stepsister-in-law in Gujranwala would interest a reader, is beyond the comprehension of an ordinary mortal.
Good books are also being published mostly by small publishers such as Scheherazade of Karachi and a couple of publishers in Punjab; Sangat Academy in Quetta has also published several books on Baloch literature in Urdu this year. Balochi Zuban-o-Adab ki Tareekh by Dr Shah Mohammad Marri is the book that stands out in my mind, and I am appreciative of this informative and aesthetically pleasing addition to my bookshelf . Then there was yet another memoir by the inimitable Kishwar Naheed, (she has already written two), Muthi Bhar Yadain, highly entertaining pen sketches of her friends and acquaintances. This year I mostly found good reads in literary journals and some good poetry on social media. Now that is a place where many a discovery has to be made.