I've been a reader all my life. As soon as I learned to read I began to devour every book in sight. Always eclectic in my tastes, I read everything I could get my hands on including even dictionaries and the phone directory! Growing up, I think I spent most of my spare time in libraries and bookshops... a true bookworm. Whenever I got out of line, my parents would punish me by not allowing me the privilege to read for a day or two.
When I moved to Libya in 1989 I had to make the choices of what to bring, and what to ship, and what to leave behind. I whittled my library down to books that would fit into eight boxes and watched as they were put into the shipping container. That was the last I ever saw of them as they were seized immediately upon arrival in Libya by the censorship authorities. So sad, especially as I had been very selective in what I had packed to make sure that nothing would be looked upon as being taboo. I kind of suspect that a bribe would have released them, but neither my husband or I work that way. In a way it felt as though my children had been wrenched away from me. I was upset and very bitter.
After settling in I met others who loved to read and we exchanged what few books we had. Anyone going home would bring a few books back in their carry-on luggage and they would be added to the small lending library. After some time the restrictions were eased slightly and my sister and friends would send books, shipping them using a special postal rate that was cheap but slow to arrive. Each arrival of books was a special day.
There have been a few bookshops in Tripoli that deal in mostly Arabic books, and mostly those of an academic nature. The majority of books in English were related to learning or teaching the language along with some books about Libya. On the first day of the year I went to the opening of a new bookshop in Tripoli and was pleasantly surprised to find a nice selection of books in English. Not only that, you can even place orders with them. I bought a few books and placed an order for Remarkable Creatures, a new book written by Tracy Chevalier.
How wonderful to have the New Year begin with books. Libya is changing and I feel truly blessed!