Our Reading Resolutions: Afia Aslam, Papercuts magazine Editor

New year, new books, new resolutions! This month, the Desi Writers’ Lounge team is sharing its reading resolutions: goals for the new year, finally tackling those to-be-read piles. Join the conversation by sharing your resolutions in the comments and on Facebook and Twitter.


I spent some days in Islamabad last December sorting through my late grandfather’s books. Several gems appeared, most notably a 12-volume set of the Makalaat-e Sir Syed (1923 edition).

The books, roughly categorized, were about politics, policy, history, Urdu, and health. I was struck by the noticeable lack of fiction, and in contrast, the noticeable lack of non-fiction in my own collection in Karachi. The wasteland that was my Urdu repertoire also stood out in uncomfortably sharp relief, and there was a sense of regret and embarrassment as I packed up the Makalaat to be shipped off to a relative who would be genuinely excited about reading and owning them. “We are not worthy of these,” I thought morosely on my mother’s and my own behalf as the last of the tape was slapped onto the box.

There is so much to read, and so little time to do it in, and even less space to store the books (I remain a staunch supporter of the printed book, however, the only Kindle I ever owned still lying unused and – by now – outdated in my bedside table). But I am in a position to choose the books I read differently, and sorting through Abbi’s books told me quite clearly that I ought to be doing that.

For me, reading is part of a larger project: a life project, an education project, an identity project. In the last year, riding on the wings of the DWL Readers’ Club, I was reading widely but entirely in English fiction (the only exception being a biography of the Prophet Muhammad by Leslie Hazelton). And because of my work at DWL, I tend to read more South Asian fiction in English generally. Those choices need to change now, consciously so.

Hence, these are my reading resolutions for 2015:

  1. Read at least two non-fiction titles on politics
  2. Read two biographies of authors or poets
  3. Read five Urdu titles
  4. Read more Urdu poetry

Here’s hoping!


(Addendum: A fifth reading resolution – read as many as possible of the unread books that I’ve purchased over the years. This is increasingly beginning to look difficult to pull off…)