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Shadi: From a sidewalk school book seller to a connoisseur of books and bookstore owner

Interview with a bookseller, whose love for and knowledge of books earned him an international reputation and customers.
Book shop owner Shadi Abu Nasser [Shadi Abu Nasser]
Book shop owner Shadi Abu Nasser [Shadi Abu Nasser]

Shadi Abu Nasser, graduate in English literature, has been working in the book trade field since 2007 up to now. He began to work in the field of books by chance, due to financial difficulties while he was preparing for high school in 2006. Nasser says: I had a number of books that I wanted to sell to help myself and my family, so I came to the gate of Yarmouk University with a friend of mine and started displaying books. I was surprised from the first day by the size of the turnout.

It was the first book he sold in high school for $5. The idea was not acceptable to my family, but necessity forced me to do so, and then they accepted it when they saw its success. Then he had an idea. As people started asking him about books, he discovered that people ask about certain books and want books and reading, and this was a source of his happiness. After this, he began investing in books, so he bought the book, read it first, and then offered it for sale.

Knowledge is power

Shadi says: In the beginning, I was selling my own books, and then I began communicating with dealers and publishing houses, buying from them and selling. Then I started importing books from Beirut, Syria and Egypt. And now, thankfully, in my small shop, there are 10,000 different book titles, ranging from thought, philosophy, politics, psychology, literature, medical sciences, children's books and human development.  We have the ability to bring any book that is recommended by readers, in any language, with any title or topic. Shadi continues: The store was established with great effort and hard work. At first, I was selling on the street, but a dispute broke out between me and the municipality. Unfortunately, they removed the store from the sidewalk, so the shop's supporters created the hashtag "#Return Shadi's store." This was at the beginning of 2016, and the hashtag campaign was honoured by the people and supporters, and the municipality retracted its decision, after my agreeing to pay a $5,000 annual license, so the store returned legally. I began organising exhibitions in remote villages and governorates, where neither books nor annual exhibitions reach. We have done exhibitions in schools, trying as much as possible to support and motivate children and young people to read under the slogan "Knowledge is power".

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The way the store works

The idea crystallised and the project was launched, and we were not confined only to this city, Irbid, but to other governorates, cities and countries through activating electronic purchasing. Some countries were our supporters on a permanent basis, such as Palestine, Kuwait, America, Europe, Brazil, Germany and Denmark, and we worked to deliver books to them  quickly and at the lowest cost, according to readers' demand and need.

The store has its followers in the community. Without people and lovers, I would not have succeeded and would never have continued. When the store was removed, the hashtag about "Shadi's store" was leading on social media for 3 days. The news of the store's removal also spread globally, so I was contacted by Reuters, the French news agency, Aj+ and some Swedish, Bahraini and Arab news agencies, and their question was about the real reason for removing the store by the municipality. The idea of the book store is to spread culture and community development through reading. This forced the former Mayor, Hussein Bani Hani, to visit me here in the store and apologise, after the legal order was corrected.

The most memorable situation for Shadi

The situation that bothered me the most was that, when I was in another city to buy books, the municipality came and removed the store and put the books in the landfill. I went to the landfill and collected my books because they are my livelihood.

Funniest situation

The funniest situation was that a person came at four in the evening and, when he saw the books without a guard and no camera system, he wrote on a piece of paper and put it in the store – "Thank you very much for spreading knowledge. It was possible to steal while I was passing by. I like that you left books in this way. I wish you well and thank you for spreading knowledge about leaving books to passersby for those who want to read. I posted it on my page and got a great response from my followers."  And my message is that I leave books without guards or a camera system, and whoever comes and takes a book, I forgive him.

Travel abroad

I felt sad and oppressed, so I resolved to emigrate from my homeland, Jordan, because of the injustice that was inflicted on me as a result of throwing intellectual books in the landfill. I travelled to the United Arab Emirates and worked as a cultural consultant and, after a while, I discovered that working in the Emirates is wonderful, but it is not my favourite place. I discovered that my place is the store which closest to simplicity and that my psychological comfort is in simplicity, far from financial returns and luxury. I tried to re-open the store, but I confronted the municipality and they removed the books more than once, but it was not the first time. Now the relationship is good with the municipality, after correcting the legal situation and paying the financial obligations.

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Most sold books

The novels of Ghassan Kanafani, books of Gibran Khalil Gibran, the "Art of Indifference" by Mark Manson, and the "Facilitated Encyclopedia of Islamic History" by Ragheb Al-Sirjani. There are also some banned books available in the store, such as "King Talal's diary", "The Genius of Failure" by Khaled Al-Hassan, and some of the novels of Ayman Al-Atoum, which were forbidden.

Shadi in the future

I hope to be the owner of the largest bookstore in the Middle East, and this is my ambition and I work on it. I have an idea to build a publishing and translation house to spread our culture and literature to other languages, and to introduce African literature, such as from the Congo and Nigeria, Portuguese literature and South Korean literature, about which we do not know much. It is important to continue working in the store because it has become a cultural and intellectual landmark of the city.

Books on the Palestinian cause

It is present with the strongest and cleanest personalities who fought against normalisation and the Zionist narrative, such as Nour Masalha, Naji Al-Ali, Ghassan Kanafani, Ibrahim Nasrallah, Ibrahim Khalaf, George Habash, Ahmed Al-Shugairi and many others. I strive to have these types of books in stock always, together with the ancient historians and writers I mentioned, such as Al-Khalidi, Al-Shugairi and the new ones, such as Basil Al-Araj who wrote "I Found My Answers" and Abdullah Al-Barghouti in his book "The Prince of Shadow".

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AfricaEgyptInterviewsJordanMiddle EastPalestineSyria
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