Gifts from book publishers


I feel very grateful to have met so many developing country book publishers during my career as an independent textbook publishing consultant. Book publishers are often called gatekeepers, but to me, they are so much more. Fearless visionaries. Passionate supporters of the written word. Gifted minds with eclectic tastes and a never-ending curiosity about the world. Well-read, articulate, and fierce advocates of stories that need to be told, beauty that deserves to be promoted, and wisdom that is worth sharing. No wonder theyalong with their indispensible partners, booksellersmake great friends! 

A very selfish benefit of befriending book publishers and booksellers is their propensity to give away books. Every since my mother taught me to read, the summer before grade one, I have loved opening a present and finding it was a book. 

On so many occasions, I have come home from a long consulting mission with a new book, complete with a touching dedication. 

One of my favorite gifts is a gorgeous coffee table book on Lake Retba, courtesy of the manager at Clairafrique, an independent bookshop in Dakar, Senegal. Entitled, RETBA - LA ROSE DU SENEGAL, this is a trilingual (Italian, French, English) publication. Freelance Dakar-born journalist (Ms.) Ouleye Matou Diallo wrote the text. Italian photographer Franco Merici took the stunning shots of Lake Retba (also called Lac Rose, i.e. Pink Lake) and the captivating portraits of the men and women who extract salt from the bottom of the lake. This body of water is located a short distance from the capital of Senegal. Its striking pink color is caused by a micro-algae (Dunaliella salina), which thrives in the very salty water. 

(And in case you wonder, the batik fabric under the books was purchased in Mali. A talented tailor in Benin, working on a pedal-operated sewing machine turned the fabric into a pair of slightly baggy and very comfy pants that I love wearing at home.)

Although I worked mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, I undertook some missions in the Arab World and South East Asia. I feel privileged to own a special edition of THE PROPHET by Khalil Gibran. This gift from a Lebanese textbook publisher, means a lot to me. I was born in Beirut (where my Canadian father was posted) and while I was growing up my (Swedish) mother frequently quoted passages from this book at family gatherings. The particular edition I own features the Arabic original on one side, along with a gold-covered ceramic plate and the English translation on the other. Every time I look at this book, I just have to take the time to soak in the beauty of the colour plates featuring the author's watercolor paintings.

A fun gift came from the President (now, President Emeritus) of the Philippine Educational Publishers Association. I love the dedication: "To Diana, please accept this humble and lilliputin publication". The book only measures 5.5 cm x 8 cm. Amazingly, it contains the full text of the remarkable "Book Publishing Industry Development Act" (BPIDA), along with other related documents. I've always believed passionately in the importance of supporting thriving book publishing industries around the world and have the deepest admiration for the dedicated behind-the-scenes work and political will that allowed the BPIDA to be passed into law in 1995. 

I'd like to mention one last gift: a fabulous cookbook published by Editions Gandall, a book publisher in Conakry, Guinea. In addition to illustrated recipes (as a vegan, I particularly like the "peanut nougat" made with peanuts, lemon juice, sugar, and water), the book features works of art by West African painters, poems, photographs, and some background information on Guinea. 

These days, with the Ebola outbreak so prominent in the news, my heart constricts whenever another case in Guinea is reported. I haven't heard from my friend at Editions Gandall for a long time and can only hope that he and his loved ones, as well as his friends and employees are all safe. And of course, that hope extends to all who are affected by the Ebola virus. 

The day a highly effective vaccine against Ebola becomes widely available and this terrible illness no longer threatens anyone will be a happy day indeed.

Till then, I hope all is well with you, wherever you are in this beautiful world. 

Take good care and thanks for dropping by.

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