Whenever I enter someone’s house, I feel myself irresistibly (perhaps unresistingly would be a more honest way of putting it) drawn to his bookshelves. All flesh is grass, of course, but since Gutenberg at least, all mind is print. And absences from shelves are almost as telling as presences.

What is true of people is true of countries, particularly those in the grip of official orthodoxies. He who would know such a country must visit its bookshops. They won’t tell him everything, but they will tell him quite a lot.

Two cities could hardly be more different—in this age of globalization and cultural homogeneity—than Dubai and Havana, but recent visits to the bookshops of both taught me a lesson that I should not have expected to learn: that, accustomed as I am to deplore the superficiality and simplifications of the Enlightenment, I am nevertheless a product of it. No Enlightenment, no me: and...