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Controversial book Girls of Riyadh (or Banat Al Riyadh) has succeeded in sparking an interest in reading for a whole new generation, according to publisher Housam.
"We have noted that young boys and girls in their pre-teen or early teen years have read the novel and are asking for similar books. Some of these youngsters told us that they never really cared about buying or reading novels until they stumbled or were told about Girls of Riyadh,” said Housam who works for Al Saqi Publishing and was attending the Al Ayam Book Fair in Manama.
The novel, by Raja Al Sanea, was written in the form of e-mails about the personal lives of four young Saudi girls as they challenge strict social conventions.
It caused ripples of controversy across the region when it was first published in 2007, but was a worldwide success both here and abroad.
Thousands of copies were bought by Saudis in Bahrain.
"We are still selling the book to many people, both young and old. Many say they relate to the characters and to the way it was written," Housam. "Whenever we participate in a book fair in any Arab country, we have people who ask for the book."
The 10-day book fair, organised by Al Ayam for the 18th time, has, this year, not had of any of its booked banned. .
In Kuwait, however, the information ministry had to defend itself against accusations of limiting people's reading options, after it banned 25 books from the Kuwait Book Fair on the grounds that they had blasphemous or pornographic content, attacked prophets and Prophet Mohammad's companions or insulted Kuwait or neighbouring states.
The banned books were among the 24,000 to be displayed by 38 publishing companies at the Al Ayam book fair.
"We simply applied the laws and regulations," the ministry said following harsh criticism that the ban meant an attack on personal freedom.
"We act upon the view of an expert committee made up of representatives from the League of Writers, the University of Kuwait, the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, the Ministry of Information as well as some specialists," the ministry said, Alaan newsportal reported on Tuesday. "The committee rules out books that clash with the publishing laws, and not the authors. In one instance, the author of a book, that has been banned, is displaying 182 other books at the fair."


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