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11 Captivating Reads to Keep You Engaged and Cozy on Long Winter Nights
Jan 13, 2022
Layla Abdullah-Poulos
contributing writer
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Layla Abdullah-Poulos
contributing writer
The winter months often bring an empty feeling; the days are short, the nights are long, and it seems as though everything is closed. As the weather gets cold in many areas, we retreat to our homes and try to keep warm. A new surge in the spread of COVID also has many of us hunkering down in our houses as a means of social distancing. Whether it is frosty temperatures or a pandemic, many of us are searching for ways to fill our winter hours.
Scrolling your phone or binging on some TV show is all fine, but trust me when I say that reading is one of the best ways to pass the time and keep your brain active. A few hours of reading is a lot better for you than watching TV. Reading is an active pastime that can reduce stress, increase brain connectivity and lower blood pressure. And, there’s nothing like a cozy or compelling read to get one through a long winter night.
In my work of writing fictional books, I make it a point to be connected with authors and keep up on the latest in fiction and nonfiction reads. There are so many captivating books to read! I’ve curated 11 book selections for you, which include enthralling nonfiction and fiction reads written by a spectrum of Muslim and non-Muslim authors. There’s something for everyone in this list, and I hope you choose something to indulge yourself in on these long winter nights!
Please note, I have included the books’ Amazon blurbs, edited and adapted for publication.
Non Fiction
Women of Desire by Habeeb Akande
Sexually empowered women have long existed in Islam, but their stories are often untold. Female sex experts and pleasure\positive Muslim women were often cited in erotic Arabic literature dating back to the ninth century. According to early African and Arab writers, feminine women have a greater capacity for desire and pleasure than men. Medieval manuals emphasized the physical needs of women and the importance of emotional intimacy for a fulfilling marital relationship.
Natural aphrodisiacs and sensual practices were recommended to improve connection and sexual satisfaction. In drawing upon ancient erotica and contemporary research, this book provides a cross-cultural guide for God-conscious women to overcome desire problems and achieve sexual compatibility with a spouse. The book presents stories of 40 sexually empowered Muslim women in history, including religious scholars, poets, activists, anti-FGM campaigners, sex educators and historical figures.
Beyond race, class or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma and more. Using riveting stories about people – including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others – she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day.
Wilkerson documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their outcast of Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.
Legally Savvy by Zarinah Nadir
If you think prenups are just for greedy men, wills are just for the wealthy and lawyers are just for bad things, think again! This easy-to-read, fast-paced, unique guide is the raw lowdown on how to courageously and intelligently access your rights, approach your next new relationship, make that exciting boss move or face a confusing decision.
Zarinah Nadir reveals with dazzling wit and humor her personal insights as a licensed attorney for 13 years. She unlocks the secrets the rest of us were locked out of, from how to avoid headaches and heartbreaks in love, life and business – the secrets traditionally only passed down at dinner tables of super-wealthy families or behind gilded country club gates. Dive into Legally Savvy and emerge more confident, competent, capable, calm and legally empowered!
Better Not Bitter is the first time that one of the now “Exonerated Five” is telling his individual story, in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the '80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry and exoneration. Yusef connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life's experiences.
He inspires readers to accept their own path, to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action, and through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change.
Before the Nikah by Dr. P Aneesah Nadir
Most people spend more time preparing for their wedding than their marriage. Before the Nikah provides Muslim singles with the principles and skills to help them choose wisely and prepare for a healthy, long-lasting, sakinah-(tranquility) filled marriage. Based on two decades of teaching Muslim singles in her course by the same name, Dr. Nadir helps answer questions such as, what does a loving, compassionate, peaceful marriage look like? How do I choose someone who is compatible with me? What skills do I need to build a fulfilling relationship? What if my parents don't agree with my selection? What are the questions I need to have answered before we marry?
Before the Nikah can be used as a self-study guide or as a companion book to Dr. Nadir's pre-marriage course.
Rebuild: Money Management for Single Moms is the ultimate single mom's guide for getting back on track and staying on track with your finances. This book will teach you common money mistakes to avoid, provide you with real-life money tips, and help you develop a plan to build your "boss mom" muscles and take complete control of your finances once and for all. There are many ways our money can get funny (divorce, work loss, health issues, death), but regardless of how your money story began, this book will empower you with the mental, emotional and financial awareness needed to get your money right.
When a young man is found dead, killed in the same manner as a martyr slain on the fields of Karbala some two hundred years before, there is no mistaking it as anything other than an attack on the Shi’a community of Baghdad. The city is on edge as religious and political factions are exposed, sending the caliph’s army into the streets. Investigators Ammar and Tein have to clear the case, one way or another, before violence erupts. But amateur sleuth Zaytuna has had a visionary dream of the murder that holds the key to solving the murder. Can she read its signs? And, will Tein and Ammar listen?
Honor: A Novel by Elif Shafak
Internationally bestselling Turkish author Elif Shafak’s new novel is a dramatic tale of families, love and the misunderstandings that follow the destinies of twin sisters born in a Kurdish village. While Jamila stays to become a midwife, Pembe follows her Turkish husband Adem to London, where they hope to make new lives for themselves and their children.
In London, they face a choice: Stay loyal to the old traditions or try their best to fit in. After Adem abandons his family, Iskender, the eldest son, must step in and become the one who will not let any shame come to the family name. And when Pembe begins a chaste affair with a man named Elias, Iskender will discover that you could love someone with all your heart and yet be ready to hurt them.
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
Roya, a dreamy, idealistic teenager living amid the political upheaval of 1953 Tehran, finds a literary oasis in the kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood stationery shop, stocked with books and pens and bottles of jewel-colored ink.
Then Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer – handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry – and she immediately loses her heart. Their romance blossoms, and the little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.
A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square when violence erupts – a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she moves on – to college in California, to another man, to life in New England – until, more than 60 years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did you leave? Where did you go? How is it that you were able to forget me?
The Certified Accountant by Papatia Feauxzar
Issata Waree once enjoyed the life of an ethical accountant. When her genius mentor Gahussou Ledger snaps and quits corporate accounting, she finds herself reassessing her own careful and lackluster life choices. Soon enough, she becomes a rogue-certified public accountant and drowns blissfully in that thrilling and short-lived happiness.
When the underworld crime boss business Issata is involved with lands on the FBI's radar, she is compelled to provide a client list in order to save her neck. The resulting shock wave is the rapid number of foes she amasses. So, Issata does what she knows best; going on a rampage to protect herself and seek revenge for the loved ones who lost their lives due to her actions.
The Certified Accountant is a well-rounded thriller that combines the unseen world, different faiths, redemption, politics, fantasy, ethics, and most of all testifies to the ultimate fact – that all mankind sins.
The Storm by Arif Anwar
Shahryar, a recent Ph.D. graduate and father of nine-year-old Anna, must leave the United States when his visa expires. In their last remaining weeks together, we learn Shahryar’s history, in a vil­lage on the Bay of Bengal, where a poor fisherman and his wife are preparing to face a storm of historic proportions. That story intersects with those of a Japanese pilot, a British doctor stationed in Burma during World War II and a privileged couple in Calcutta, who leaves everything behind to move to East Pakistan following the Partition of India.
Inspired by the 1970 Bhola cyclone, in which half a million people perished overnight, the structure of this riveting novel mimics the storm itself. Building to a series of revelatory and moving climaxes, it shows the many ways in which families love, betray, honor and sacrifice for one another.
So, y’all ready? Good! Make something warm to drink from one or great recipes and start clicking to build your winter TBR (To Be Read) lists! What are you reading this winter? Share with us in the comments below!

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