Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

The novel is set in 19th century Russia. It is about the tragic love and fate of a high society aristocrat, Anna Karenina. Being already married to an elder man, Karenin, Anna falls in love with the charming young officer, count Vronsky. From there on her life changes for ever. The story is enriched with the relationships of other surrounding characters and the strong powers of their feelings, which lead their lives. Just by telling the story, Tolstoy educates and warns the reader of the great danger in emotions gone wild.

This is my copy of Anna Karenina, the great classic Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy. This volume was printed in Soviet times, in the age of Big Brother, the Communist regime of SSSR, in April 1979. 80,000 copies were printed during that edition. It cost nearly 5 Rubles, which was a lot of money at the time. It is in a cloth cover with a golden stamp surrounding the illustrated figure. It has about 610 pages. The text is printed in a small intimidating font, typewriter style. A worthy challenge and a must-read for any book lover.

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The amazing book holder from Uzbekistan

This amazing book (actually, Quaran) holder is made from a single (sic!) block of wood and can be used as a book stand, tablet/phone stand or anything you fancy in so many varied ways! Amazing craftsmanship there, and fantastic ingenuity!

tinkinson channel, Youtube

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“Read Dating” Book Club Dates – Blog Challenge Post 3

That's What She Read

This post is part of Bookish Ardour‘s ‘Posting Challenge’. To see all of my posts so far, click here.

Book Club Quirks

Did you know there’s book clubs out there focusing on stories full of culinary delights? What interesting quirks would you like a book club to have? Tell everyone if you’ve joined one already or know of one


Today I am going to discuss a new phenomenon – Read Dating!

Read-Dating is a book-club/speed-dating hybrid, where you move around the room spending a few minutes with each of the other attendees, all armed with their favourite books! Organisers claim that this form of Book Club dating helps people avoid awkwardness as they can chat about their books as well as find a love-match who enjoys the same kinds of literature.

To add to the literary enjoyment of Read Dating, each person is given a…

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Agada – The Only Bookstore in Acre

Inside Agada

Inside Agada

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” 

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

This is the only bookstore in Acre. Well, the only real bookstore. The owner named it ‘Agada’ meaning ‘Legend’ in Hebrew, and legend it is. For keeping a bookstore in Acre IS legendary. Not long ago there wasn’t any bookstore around for almost two decades. It felt like I was living in a remote, god forsaken little village. I had to travel to other towns in order to visit a bookstore. Later I discovered that I could buy secondhand books online, from various bookstores throughout the country. Thus begun the rapid, increasing evolution of my book collection. Today I own more than 250 volumes and going. But nothing can compare to the exciting adventure of arriving at a real magical place, packed from top to bottom, with endless old books.

The owner of Agada

The owner of Agada

This man is doing the impossible – he keeps a bookstore in Acre. If we had bookstores instead of every restaurant or clothing store, we would be the city of books. Unfortunately, the locals don’t read anymore. His audience is Russian immigrants like himself and myself. The survivors of a communist regime, where ironically enough culture, education and books were the essence of a person’s life. The only ones who regularly consume literature are middle-aged, retired pensioners. The owner gets the goods from Russian publishers in Moscow. Those books are new and pricey but they are being bought nonetheless. He also buys secondhand books from locals and sells them for a low price. Books you’d never find anywhere else. In addition Agada functions as a library. If you buy one expensive book, you can then take another book for 5 ins, read it and return it and then take another one for 5 ins. But all this is not enough to keep the book engine fueled and running. To keep a bookstore in Acre you need the tough guerrilla reinforcement – guided tours. The owner offers tours around the country and abroad, for a reasonable price and flexible payment, otherwise unavailable to many elderly immigrants who don’t have a credit card. This is not just a bookstore, this is a cultural and intellectual center, the only place in Acre where true enthusiastic book lovers can interact.

The entrance to Agada

The entrance to Agada

I visit Agada once a month or more, to catch up on what’s new. The place is small and doesn’t have a great variety, but sometimes, if you’re patient you can find real gems. Agada offers classical literature, fantasy, poetry, art and crafts and how-to books, specialized magazines, dictionaries and encyclopedias. Also the store has the Holy Land souvenirs, post cards, calendars, gifts, gadgets, sports equipment and more.

Recently I have come across this splendid album series of art books and purchased the three about Russian masterpieces and artists. This subject is extremely hard to find in bookstores in Israel.

A set of books about Russian art, purchase at Agada

A set of books about Russian art, purchase at Agada

Many have tried and failed in keeping a bookstore in Acre, but this man has done it for some years now, despite of the great hardships and challenges. I can only offer him my utmost respect and strongest support in this endeavor, wishing him the best of luck and a bright bookful future. For his sake, and ours, the few readers of Acre.

Contact Agada bookstore: rash12@walla.com, a_skalt@mail.ru

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Book map for the bookworm

Book of words

Book Map
In this age and era, most of us do not really need a map in our lives since we can pull out an interactive one straight away on our smartphones.

But when I saw this gorgeous book map, I stopped and marvelled at it because contained within the labyrinth of streets and alleys, there are more than 600 literature titles packed into it. Doesn’t that already make this fictional work droolworthy? A Christmas gift idea for your bookworm friend perhaps?

Book Map 2

Book Map 3

The map can be bought online HERE.

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Howard Roark, Architect – a review on ‘The Fountainhead’

Howard Roark, via criticalissuesintheculturalindustries2.wordpress.com

Howard Roark, 1949 film, via criticalissuesintheculturalindustries2.wordpress.com

“To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul – would you understand why that’s much harder?” 

Ayn RandThe Fountainhead

Not only is it okay to be different and to be an individual, but it is also a human need as necessary as breath – that’s the way it should be.

The plot is a marvelous fabric in the hands of Ayn Rand, in which she entwines her views and unique philosophy – the Objectivism. Her philosophy is stimulated by a deep admiration for the human kind. The fate of a person is to be happy. He achieves happiness by self-fulfillment, in creating and using his mind. Each person is an individual, each person is free, each person is talented, each person is valuable and each person chooses to direct his lifestyle to self-fulfillment or self loss.

via fhbs.com

via fhbs.com

Happiness lies within the person himself and in his productivity. There is no need to control other people or to serve other people in order to be happy. Logical analysis of reality allows the happiness to flourish in a person who lives for himself and not for others. If one follows that designation and maintains nobility of morals he is an admirable being. On the other hand, If he betrays himself in order to please others, and does not create anything, he deteriorates into a despicable, disgraceful human waste.

Almost unconsciously you compare between mediocrity and Howard Roark, a sublime, ideal representative of our species that throughout his life has remained true to himself. Howard Roark is a man as a man was born to be – a superior creature. He is driven solely by his desire for self-realization. Intelligent, independent, talented, sturdy in body and especially in spirit, he has his own opinion and the guts to stand by it, he is not affected by anyone, he doesn’t settle for anything less than exactly what he wants, he is his own master and does not take orders from anybody. Even when the situation seems lost and hopeless, he never backs down or hesitates. Even when it gets extremely tough, he doesn’t betray himself. He seems too good to be true. More like an overwhelming notion than a real person.

Rand tells the story of the various types of the human kind and interconnects them during the plot. The history of the characters gives a substantial depth and greater understanding of the main message of the novel.

Roark and Dominique, 1949 film, via listal.com

Roark and Dominique, 1949 film, via listal.com

Dominique Francon is Roark. Well, a female version of him. In a way, you can say that Roark fell in love with himself.

Peter Keating, Roark’s college friend, is a typical example of the mediocre. He is clay in the claws of the society that sculpts him to its norms. Weak-willed, spineless, servile, affected by the rest of the people and incapable of at least one single independent thought. He sells himself, his loved ones, the people around him. He’s jealous of Roark, and hates him on an instinctive level, without realizing why. Roark has never done anything wrong to Keating, on the contrary. Keating is so pathetic, he doesn’t even realize Roark’s superiority as a personality.

Ellsworth Toohey, petty journalist, is a person deprived of acceptance in society since his childhood, due to his sickly appearance and ill health. Society gave him no chance and turned him into a bad-to-the-core monster. A recipe for a ruthless dictator. Cunning, gifted in rhetorics and analyzing the human soul, he has enough brains to perceive the superiority of Roark and that he could never be like him. That’s why he hates Roark so much.

Gail Wynand, publisher of The Banner, complex and tragic. He is human with great faults and misdeeds. He is aware of the superiority of Roark and he admires and praises it. He is also aware of the fact that the same superiority could have manifested itself in him as well, had he the sufficient resilience to the pressure of society. He is an example of a potential superhuman, but one who betrayed himself and became another tool of society.

Man is a social being. He lives among humans and needs human contact and company. The most lone wolf still needs other people. But society naturally strives for uniformity, to homogenize all the individuals composing it, like it’s a key to its survival. When there’s someone that does not match the characteristics of society, an exception, a stranger who does not belong, he is scary, he is rejected and he becomes an outcast. This is what happened to Howard Roark, the only one brave and strong enough to stand alone against all the others. This constant pursuit of total equality limits the progress of the whole species. Every time there was a brilliant person in history, he was suffering, he was persecuted, he was an outcast, he was a victim on the altar of sacred and sanctimonious equality. There may never be complete true equality, because every person is an individual and not a robot on an assembly line. Instead of nurturing the uniqueness in each person, the intellect and talent of every individual, from birth he is forced into a prototype fitting the norms of society. Consequently, being lowered into an equal mediocrity and even lower and more dangerous places than that. This is Rand’s novel, in the love of the human individual, you and me.

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The Matilda Project | Yellowed pages between my fingers make me happy.

As you enter the shop, there’s a poster on the wall next to the fiction section which I just have to share.  It sets the tone for the rest of the shop and makes any reader, regardless of native language, feel right at home.  It’s Daniel Pennac’s ‘Les Droits du Lecteur’ or ‘Rights of the Reader,’ which are:

1. The right not to read

2. The right to skip pages

3. The right not to finish a book

4. The right to re-read

5. The right to read whatever you want

6. The right to ‘Bovarysme’ (the error of identifying too much with the book)

7. The right to read wherever you want

8. The right to dip in and out

9. The right to read out loud

10. The right to silence!

via The Matilda Project | Yellowed pages between my fingers make me happy..

What I go for in a Woman | exactlymythinking

I saw this video on one of my favorite sites, geeksaresexy.net, and thought I’d share

Basically I feel the same way.  Not reading is pretty much a deal breaker for me.  I want my kids (if I ever have any) to grow up with a love of reading, and the best way for that to happen is if they see both their parents reading.  I already make bi-weekly trips to the bookstore, I want someone to share that with.

I own over 800 books. 819 to be exact and I’ve read 97% of those.  That doesn’t count the books I’ve read and don’t own. Reading is kind of important to me.  I just need to figure out how you meet other people who also enjoy spending all day in their homes reading.  Perhaps this is the answer (pinned from tumbler).

If I ever get up the courage, I’m doing this.

I also just realized when looking at the preview of this post, that I chose this theme because it looks like a leather bound book.  Yeah, I probably have an obsession.

via What I go for in a Woman | exactlymythinking.

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Acre, my love

Acre, Aerial view via Wikimedia.

Acre, Aerial view via Wikimedia.

This is Acre. Five thousand year old ancient city. A triangle of land bursting into the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by strong walls and fortifications. The outburst of land created a little bay, and with it the great potential for a unique southern harbor. Today what’s left of it is a faint shadow of a remarkable past, an unseen glory and wealth.

Long before the Bible period, Acre was already inhabited by ancient nations such as Canaanites, Phoenicians, Egyptians and more. It underwent all world’s greatest epochs. Alexander the great’s army, the Hellenism, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine epoch, the Arab epoch until the third crusade in 1191. King Richard the lion heart captured Acre from the hands of the great Saladin. Then, a new age begun for Acre. It was a Christian megapolis, the heart of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, with a spectacular port and thriving commerce for 100 years. Rich markets, astounding churches and monasteries, famous military orders like the Templars and Hospitallers that defended its walls. A true grander of a medieval capital. But all that wealth was plundered and destroyed by the Mamluks to the ground, leaving Acre to a silent existence of a ghostly city for 500 years. Only buildings, stones and ruins. No people, no ships, nothing but silence… It was silent until the arrival of the phenomenal Bedouin leader, Daher el-Omar. He reconstructed Acre back to its former glory. Then, al-Jazzar, the Butcher made Acre his home and sanctuary during the Ottoman Empire, continuing the vast reconstruction and development. He fought Napoleon and defeated him at the eastern walls of Acre. In Acre was the biggest and most guarded prison in Palestine during the British Empire. Acre is holy for Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Bahai religions. This is just a fraction of its incredible history.

Acre harbor

Acre harbor

Above ground there are the Ottoman Empire remains, about 300 years old. Buried underneath, there’s a whole medieval city of the Crusaders. Amazing halls and secret passages everywhere. The Ottoman Acre is a replica of that ancient crusader megapolis. You can close your eyes and imagine the magnitude of the medieval city.

Now the Israeli government preserves and maintains Acre’s antiquity. It is recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Ancient Acre is alive. It inhabits people, it has a large market, its harbor is used for fishermen and small cruise ships. It offers hotels, exquisite restaurants and lots of activities for all visitors. Even today It’s impressive and absolutely breathtaking. But since medieval times, it could never developed into a large city, being overshadowed by its neighbor port city, Haifa. From being a mountain, Haifa turned into a huge port megapolis, having deeper waters for steam ships. Whereas Acre grew smaller, remaining somewhere between a small city and a big town.

St. Francis church and convent

St. Francis church and convent, Acre

This is where I grew up, since 1990. Acre has it all, but when it comes to books it has almost none to offer. In all this time, I can’t remember even one worthy secondhand bookstore ever to exist here. You would think that a city of such history and magnificence must have plenty of old books in it and people who sell them. None that I know of. There must be old books in private collections. I believe there should be ancient scriptures in mosques, churches and synagogues throughout the city. There has to be an ancient library in the convent of st. Francis. Important Jewish scriptures from medieval times were written here. In any case, it is hidden from the public eye. In addition there is our small college library and the tiny public library. And that’s it. I guess our local population isn’t very interested in the organic keeper of knowledge. In recent years to my great happiness, there have opened up two bookstores in Acre. Bookless or not, there’s no other city in the world quite like this. It’s one of a kind. It’s my city and my home. I’m very grateful for being here, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be.

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