Pakistan's bestsellers that entertained readers in 2019

December 29, 2019

You won’t find these titles on any international lists of award-winning bestsellers but these books were extremely relevant and popular in Pakistan. Here’s why…

The intellectual community of Pakistan is a hard breed to impress; they will criticize the most successful drama serial and write off an actor on the basis of his or her off-screen activities. However, they will stand united on one front - reading books - even those that are related to the field of entertainment. Throughout 2019, book enthusiasts quenched their thirst for entertainment by reading novels, non-fiction books and autobiographies; however, five books came out as bestsellers due to reasons mentioned below. You might not agree with the list but the truth is, without these books, the outgoing year wouldn’t seem complete. And if you haven’t already, then you definitely catch up on reading them in 2020. Happy reading!

1. Aangan by Khadija Mastoor

Believe it or not, Khadija Mastoor’s iconic novel Aangan sold like hot cakes in 2019, the reason being the non-availability of its adaptation on YouTube. Due to some reasons, Hum TV executives thought that by not posting the drama on YouTube they will make the audience watch the drama when it is aired on TV. The viewers, on the other hand, went for the next best thing – reading the novel and fantasizing their own adaptation. Be it at the Karachi Literature Festival or the Adab Festival in Karachi, Aangan was in demand as readers ended it way before the drama ended. Readers and viewers were well aware of the story even before it unraveled on television.

2. Alif by Umera Ahmed

Second on the list is Umera Ahmed’s Alif, which is not just a modern-day classic but one of the most read novels on this side of the millennium. As soon as director Haseeb Hasan announced that he would be adapting the novel for TV, its sales went up because people wanted to know about the plot, the story and the characters beforehand. The director smartly changed the narration from linear to non-linear format, making the audience wait for the suspense that came later in the drama but was revealed to the readers at the beginning of the novel. And since the makers were smart enough to post the episodes on YouTube, the drama became a huge success on the digital platform, despite being aired opposite the most happening play of the year, Mere Paas Tum Ho. Actor Hamza Ali Abbasi’s decision to quit acting for religious reasons only made readers more curious about the novel, as Hamza was doing exactly what his character Qalb-e-Momin does on screen, and in print.

3. Neta Abhineta:   Bollywood Star Power in Indian Politics by Rasheed Kidwai

The General Elections in our neighboring country India were held earlier this year; although people on this side of the Wagah Border know a little about Indian Elections, Rasheed Kidwai’s Neta Abhineta: Bollywood Star Power in Indian Politics made them aware of a lot of things. The book explained to readers that, in India, film and TV actors are treated as demigods and that’s why political parties depend on their popularity to win seats in the Elections. How did Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna, and others fare in the political arena and who were the underdog actors chosen to represent specific parties in their constituencies, this book tells you all there is to know. The decision to launch the book ahead of the General Elections was a masterstroke as fans of Bollywood on this side found it as entertaining as a Bollywood film, with an ensemble cast, twists, and turns.

4. Lisa Ray: Close To The Bone

Although Lisa Ray mesmerized fans years ago when she appeared in the music video of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s ‘Afreen Afreen’, she became bigger news in 2009 when she was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. Instead of going into a shell, the actress stayed strong throughout the turbulent period and after recovering, decided to share her ordeal and escape in her autobiography, Close to the Bone. The book is an honest commentary on life by a person who lived through cancer with valor. However, she doesn’t just discuss cancer in these pages but celebrates life, and encourages others to stand tall when the chips are down. She talks about her discovery of Buddhism, her failed relationships, and most importantly, her fight against bulimia – an eating disorder – which not only shows her brave side but also makes women realize that they are not alone.

5. Game Changer: Shahid Afridi

It is impossible not to mention Boom Boom Shahid Afridi when one is talking about entertainment. Yes, he is not an actor who works in films or TV but he is more confident and popular than all actors combined. Who else could have chewed a cricket ball during a match that was being covered by over a dozen TV cameras and was being aired live around the world? Who else could go scoreless in the final of World T20 yet criticize the one man who nearly won the match for Pakistan? That’s Shahid Afridi for you and he released his autobiography (written in collaboration with Wajahat S Khan) earlier this year; as expected, it went from New Arrival to Sold Out in no time.

The chapters were short and explosive, just like Shahid Afridi’s batting that mostly lasted for fewer balls than runs, but won matches for Pakistan when the going got tough. Yes, he misses a lot of things in his book, including writing about his fastest century and his many embarrassing incidents like tampering with the pitch, being part of a rebellion, etc. but that’s classic Shahid Afridi. He blames Indian publishers for putting an incorrect date of birth whereas lists many historic instances from his memory than history books, thus getting the dates wrong.

In his opinion, everyone is to be blamed for destroying Pakistan Cricket but himself, but then what else were you expecting from a batsman who always wanted to go Boom Boom even when all that was needed was a gentle single!


– Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist who can be contacted at [email protected]

Pakistan's bestsellers that entertained readers in 2019