Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller (Hardcover)
“As a bookseller, I loved Shelf Life for the chance to peer behind the curtain of Diwan, Nadia Wassef’s Egyptian bookstore—the way that the personal is inextricable from the professional, the way that failure and success are often lovers, the relationship between neighborhoods and books and life. Nadia’s story is for every business owner who has ever jumped without a net, and for every reader who has found solace in the aisles of a bookstore.”
—Emma Straub, author of All Adults Here
“Shelf Life is such a unique memoir about career, life, love, friendship, motherhood, and the impossibility of succeeding at all of them at the same time. It is the story of Diwan, the first modern bookstore in Cairo, which was opened by three women, one of whom penned this book. As a bookstore owner I found this fascinating. As a reader I found it fascinating. Blunt, honest, funny.”
—Jenny Lawson, author of Broken (in the best possible way)
The warm and winning story of opening a modern bookstore where there were none, Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller recounts Nadia Wassef’s troubles and triumphs as a founder and manager of Cairo-based Diwan
The streets of Cairo make strange music. The echoing calls to prayer; the raging insults hurled between drivers; the steady crescendo of horns honking; the shouts of street vendors; the television sets and radios blaring from every sidewalk. Nadia Wassef knows this song by heart.
In 2002, with her sister, Hind, and their friend, Nihal, she founded Diwan, a fiercely independent bookstore. They were three young women with no business degrees, no formal training, and nothing to lose. At the time, nothing like Diwan existed in Egypt. Culture was languishing under government mismanagement, and books were considered a luxury, not a necessity. Ten years later, Diwan had become a rousing success, with ten locations, 150 employees, and a fervent fan base.
Frank, fresh, and very funny, Nadia Wassef’s memoir tells the story of this journey. Its eclectic cast of characters features Diwan’s impassioned regulars, like the demanding Dr. Medhat; Samir, the driver with CEO aspirations; meditative and mythical Nihal; silent but deadly Hind; dictatorial and exacting Nadia, a self-proclaimed bitch to work with—and the many people, mostly men, who said Diwan would never work.
Shelf Life is a portrait of a country hurtling toward revolution, a feminist rallying cry, and an unapologetic crash course in running a business under the law of entropy. Above all, it is a celebration of the power of words to bring us home.
The Inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival was a huge success!
Collected Works was very proud to have been on-site all weekend as the official bookstore of the Santa Fe Festival. Bestselling, prizewinning authors and literary legends like Margaret Atwood, Joy Harjo, Colson Whitehead, Sandra Cisneros, Jon Krakauer, amongst others, spent time in our mini-bookstore in the lobby of the Convention Center and signed hundreds of books, which we now have in stock. So if you missed the festival but are looking for a signed copy of one of their books, please call us or come in to browse.
Purchase your books by festival authors directly from CW below:
Margaret Atwood; Freddie Bitsoie; Sandra Cisneros; Lynn Cline; William deBuys; Ashley Ford; John Grisham; Roshi Joan Halifax; Joy Harjo; Anne Hillerman; Cheryl Alters Jamison; Craig Johnson; Asma Khan; Phil Klay; Jon Krakauer; Valeria Luiselli; Deborah Madison; Emily St. John Mandel; George R. R. Martin; James McGrath Morris; Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co.; Carmella Padilla Douglas Preston; Kirstin Valdez Quade; Bob Shacochis; Henry Shukman; Hampton Sides; Bryant Terry; Darryl Lorenzo Wellington; Colson Whitehead; Don Winslow; Lawrence Wright