Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Five books that will always remind me of my 12 years living in Abu Dhabi

Ellen Fortini rounds up some of her favourite reads as she prepares to depart the UAE

Pat Benatar's 'Between a Heart and a Rock Place' is one of Ellen Fortini's favourite reads
Pat Benatar's 'Between a Heart and a Rock Place' is one of Ellen Fortini's favourite reads

As I pack up my belongings after nearly 12 years living in Abu Dhabi, I am reflecting on the books I read here and recall flashes of the path I walked. My time in the UAE has been positively influenced by a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, friends’ stories and even a trendy series.

Ellen Fortini is listings editor at The National

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)

I know for a fact that this is the first book I read when I arrived in Abu Dhabi in 2008. I remember bringing it everywhere, before realising that there was so much to experience that a book wasn’t necessary. I thought my time here would be similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey, but it never really was. That said, the spirit in which she wrote it informed a lot of my cultural exploration and still has me longing to see Bali.

Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (2005)

I have no idea why I read these books other than that they were popular. I remember buying at least one in The Dubai Mall when it opened and devouring it the whole way home. I watched all of the movies, too, making sure to finish each book before its film was released. It was a nice way to be part of a literary conversation among friends, with sparkly vampire chatter taking place locally and on social media.

Between a Heart and a Rock Place by Pat Benatar (2010)

I reviewed this once for The National as part of a round-up of rock autobiographies, which is my favourite genre. Pat Benatar was a childhood hero of mine and learning about her background and classical voice training made her music even more meaningful to me. Now, 40 years after her album, In the Heat of the Night, was released, she remains someone I look up to personally and professionally.

You Knew He Had Kids When You Married Him by Lisa Adams (2014)

My friend Lisa Adams wrote this book based on the real-life experiences of her friends who are stepmothers. Reading it helped me feel closer to my own stepdaughter, who lived on another continent the entire time her father and I lived in Abu Dhabi. The book is purposely accurate to the cliches and falsehoods that many stepmothers endure.

Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety by Nancy Stearns Bercaw (2017)

Nancy Stearns Bercaw and I met the day she arrived in Abu Dhabi and the energy with which she embraced life here, as well as her remarkable transformation, is like nothing I’d ever seen. I don’t want to give too much away, but Abu Dhabi plays a big role in Bercaw’s story, and her expat experience – with all its joys and sorrows – is beautifully expressed and relatable.

Updated: September 19, 2019 05:09 PM

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