Tag Archives: Essays

Book Report: September 2014

Book Report: September 2014

September was a great month for so many reasons. First, I managed to read a substantial number books. By substantial, I mean the number of books finished is greater than or equal to the number of Saturdays in a month. September had four. I finished five.

Second, the Manila International Book Fair was held. I usually go to the MIBF for the books and discounts. No, you can’t make me turn over the tables and shelves to hunt for marked down books. I guess I’m already beyond that (the truth is, my back is starting to hurt more). I just walk around and spot whatever it is that can be seen (the front list, usually). And how can you make me go to the other events in the MIBF if there are books everywhere? And long queues? And little time?

Third, I discovered new Facebook booksellers. I bought a few books from one. I swore that September must be a frugal month, but I can’t help it.

Books Finished:

  • Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman – 3 out of 5 stars. A quick read. The illustrations are pretty. If I have kid, I’ll buy him Gaiman books.
  • The Summer Book by Tove Jansson – 4 out of 5 stars. Beautiful. It was supposed to be my beach read but the ugly weather came in the way.
  • Twisted 8 1/2 by Jessica Zafra – 3 out of 5 stars. Dated because of all those product reviews. There are still entertaining moments though.
  • Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson – 5 out of 5 stars. Oh. My. Fucking. God. This is my new favorite book. Of all time.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – 4 out of 5 stars. See? I told you that I’m going to conquer this. I restarted instead of resuming from where I paused. Besides, it has been around eight months. A restart is called for.

Currently Reading:

  • The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford – Currently on page 140 of 240. This was recommended by a snobbish friend who claimed this to be one of his two favorite NYRB Classics. And it’s easy to understand why. The first chapter alone blew me away. It’s going to be a runaway winner, I can tell.
  • Object Lessons by The Paris Review – Currently on page 58 of 358. This is one of the book challenges that I accepted. It’s time to face it, although I have to say that it’s not much of a challenge because I love reading short stories anyway.
  • Twisted 8 by Jessica Zafra – Currently on page 54 of 159. This should complete my Twisted back list.

New Books:

  • The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo – A freebie from my roomie. (from Jonathan, September 2)
  • Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo – Another freebie. (from Jonathan, September 2)
  • Home by Toni Morrison – Probably my roomie feels like being a September Santa Claus. Thank you! (from Jonathan, September 2)
  • From Here to Eternity by James Jones – Another NBA winner. (Php 79.00, Chapter IX Bookstore, September 25)
  • The Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan – Replacing my dilapidated mass market with this NYRB Classics edition. (Php 249.00, Chapter IX Bookstore, September 18)
  • Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson – I first bought a paperback copy. When I finished it, I bought a hardback copy. (Php 249.00, Chapter IX Bookstore, September 18) (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, September 25)
  • The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty – A National Book Award winner. It’s one of the six best of the NBAs. (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, September 25)
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – One of the books which I told myself I should buy at the MIBF. (Php 510.40, Fully Booked – MIBF, September 20)
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner – I’m going to collect the available Vintage Classics editions of Faulkner’s novels. (Php 279.25, National Book Store – MIBF, September 20)
  • Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace – I have all his novels. I should start buying his short story and essay collections. (Php 487.25, National Book Store – MIBF, September 20)
  • The Late Mattia Pascal by Luigi Pirandello – A Nobel laureate known for his plays, but this novel also brought him fame. (Php 155.00, Book Sale – SM MoA, September 20)
  • Tinkers by Paul Harding – Finally! I was about to buy get a brand-new copy. (Php 115.00, Book Sale – SM MoA, September 20)
  • By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham – One book off my wish list. My Cunningham collection is almost complete. Thank you! (from Monique, September 23)
  • The Elephant’s Journey by José Saramago – And another one. You see how important it is to maintain a wish list shelf on bookish social media? Thank you! (from Meliza, September 27)
Book Report: July 2014

Book Report: July 2014

This is super late. If you really want to know why I am only posting this now and why I haven’t been keeping you updated, I just moved to a new place. Hurrah? Hurrah! And I am still in the process of transferring my Internet account to our new humble hole.

So yeah, I’m using my break time at the office to blog. Here’s the July Report (plus the first ten days of August):

Books Finished:

  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong – 4 out of 5 stars. I didn’t give a flying fuck about morality when I read this. Yeah, I just typed fuck because this is about a woman’s search for a zipless fuck. It’s our August book of the month. (Php 648.00, Fully Booked – Rockwell, July 12)
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – 5 out of 5 stars. Read with Kristel, Maria, and Monique. This is such a great book that I managed to post a review of it a few days after I finished it. A discussion over lunch with two of my reading buddies topped off my HoL reading experience.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – 5 out of 5 stars. I’m a fan! Each character in this book is just so real.
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – 3 out of 5 stars. Our September book of the month. I’m ahead because I only borrowed Monique‘s copy. Should I get my own copy? If you read my rating again, you’ll find out the answer to it.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – 4 out of 5 stars. Our July book of the month. This is my second serving of Dickens and I think there’s still space for me for more.

Currently Reading:

  • The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer – Currently on page 69 of 267. Gordimer’s death pushed me to read this. I’ve paused for a couple of weeks and now I’m back on track.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Currently on page 211 of 604. Now I can really face this again. I have more time for I am done with my required readings and I’m done unpacking my stuff. Wooh!

New Books:

  • A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion – Didion is known for her nonfiction, but her fiction is also great. (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart – How can you resist that cover? (USD 14.00, The Book Depository, June 26)
  • The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz – From a Polish Nobel laureate. (Php 200.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman – My second Grossman. I haven’t read him yet, but I can’t resist this copy. (Php 200.00, Indio Bravo, July 23)
  • Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser – Instead of refunding money from TBD, I refunded a book. (USD 12.27, The Book Depository, July 31).
  • The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion – Another novel from someone whom I think will be another favorite writer. (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantes – This is also another refund. (USD 10.50, The Book Depository, July 31)
  • Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth – A National Book Award winner. I’m not keen on those winners, but since I have too many of those books, it wouldn’t hurt to add another one. (Php 180.00, Indio Bravo, July 23)
  • Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton – Yes, this is an NYRB Classics month. (Php 646.20, Fully Booked – BGC, August 2)
  • View with a Grain of Sand by Wisława Szymborska – From another Polish Nobel laureate. (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
My Thirty Greatest Books

Thirty Years, Thirty Books

At the moment of typing this, I realize that I’m spending my last couple of hours as a twenty-something hacking at my book shelves and sorting through my memory for my greatest books. I haven’t read a lot yet, but I already have my small personal canon.

There are the random books of my childhood, the limited choices in high school, the varied selections in college, and the hordes of them all in the last decade. And before I realize it, I’m already thirty. Actually, the realization has not yet hit me hard (should it?). I look at my shelves and wonder at the space that I could have emptied had I not been a reader. But no, I’m happy to be a reader.

I selected my list of greatest books based on my Goodreads ratings and on how important they are to me at multiple points in my life. If you are a keen reader of my blog, I think you will have a pretty good idea on what most of these books are. But there are surprise picks, which I put in my this list because they are an integral part of my reading development.

I wish I could rank them, but this is so hard. This is because my literary taste is continuously evolving and expanding, and everyday is different. I may like Novel A now more than Novel B, but next week could be a different story. So I decided to list the books alphabetically.

Without further ado, here are my thirty greatest books:

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan – Recently reread, I must say that it’s still as stupendous as the first time.
  • Children Around the World by Various Authors – I found this at the book shelf of my aunt. When I grew up, I never found it again.
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – When you thought that there’s nothing new that emerging writers could do, my favorite living author comes out with this extraordinary feat.
  • Death at Intervals by José Saramago – My paternal love for my favorite Nobel laureate started with this novel: Death’s love affair with an ordinary cellist.
  • Fatelessness by Imre Kertész – Read this and you’ll thank your provider for the cheap instant food on your plate.
  • Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot – Possibly the best poetry collection on life, time, and everything in between.
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – The follow-up novel after twenty years of waiting is graceful with its lilting spirituality.
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers – I find the title too endearing to ignore. After reading the book, I realize the truth in the title’s spaces.
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham – Reading this as a bumbling college student amazed me at the writer’s mastery of the novel’s form.
  • Hunger by Knut Hamsun – Still my greatest book, so far.
  • Independent People by Halldór Laxness – Still my second greatest book, so far.
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – At some point, it made me want to buy every copy that I see in book stores.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Because Jane Eyre is badass. I wish I have read this sooner.
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones – an immensely under-read and important contemporary novel.
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
  • Malice by Danielle Steel – I can still remember when me and my friends gushed at the sex scenes while restraining ourselves in a corner of the school library.
  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem – Possibly the funniest book in this list.
  • The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek – It’s not the literariness of it but the intensity of reading it.
  • Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion – Short, terse, and devastating. Read only when emotionally stable.
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – The first book that you discuss with a group of bookish friends is certainly unforgettable. And that’s the least of the reasons.
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – This came at a low point in my life. Thus, it felt like a book that was written for me.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy – The man and the boy’s journey to the sea in a post-apocalyptic world will grip you, not without shedding a tear.
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – A book that I feel I will always reread. I haven’t scheduled a reread yet for this year.
  • The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever – New York stories from the masterful writer. The pieces are varied. There’s something for every reader out there.
  • This Is Water by David Foster Wallace – Something that I read when the jagged teeth of realities are snapping at me.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee –  The first novel that you read is always in the heart.
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda – Possibly the most romantic poetry collection.
  • Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Years ago, I was only following her Twisted series. Now, I’m writing a novel that she would possibly publish.
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – Beautifully haunting, those Lisbon girls.
  • Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver – What more could you ask for when pieces from the writer’s three major collections are collected here?

Some of these are not in the photo above either because they are borrowed or they are elsewhere. Now, I am reminded that for the past years, I celebrated my birthday with a bookish giveaway. However, I have to break that tradition now because first, I somehow forgot it (blame it on the lack of activities on this blog) and second, I’m saving money for something more important and more selfless. What could be more important and more selfless than giving away a book?

If you answer this question correctly before April 25, 11:59 PM, you win a prize. Yes, the tradition goes on, although you will have to wait for your prize (a book not more than Php1000) some time in June to be delivered to you. For now, #HappyBirthdayAngus. Thank you. :)

Book Report: February 2014

Book Report: February 2014

Hello there. Yes, this blog is still alive but barely breathing. How can a book blog survive if the blogger isn’t even reading? Last year during this same period, I was also in a terrible reading rut. Is it the weather? Not really. Last year, I was on an extended vacation hangover. This year, it’s the presence of so many distractions, like my anticipation of the Oscar winners, my procrastination with my writing project (yes, it counts), and my upcoming book discussion. In May. Yes, I can be exaggeratedly anxious over any matter.

But I’m back, and I’ll be around, and like I mentioned elsewhere, I’m still planning on how I could get back to reviewing the books that I read. If you have any suggestions about that matter, please let me know. You know I love hearing from you.

Now, let’s go ahead to what little I have in this report.

Books Finished:

  • A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr – 5 out of 5 stars. The only book that I finished this month. Copy was lent by Bennard. Thanks! By the way, the three books that I have read since the start of this year are all borrowed from friends. Hmm.

Currently Reading:

  • The Trial by Franz Kafka – Currently on page 107 of 216. Yes, I managed to read a few bits at the beginning of February. And then.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Currently on page 211 of 604. I may have given up all hopes of catching up with the buddy read with my book club friends Maria, Monique, and Miss Ronnie. But I’m still hoping I’ll finish this soon. I hope to cover even just a few chapters this month.

New Books:

  • The Broken Estate by James Wood – This is supposed to be in the earlier book report but I apparently forgot to put it there. And this is the first book that I bought this year. (Php 50.00, January 14, Book Sale – Starmall)
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding – Included in The Novel 100 list. I’ve always been delaying my purchase of this book. Good thing that I did because I found this nice and clean copy. (Php 49.50, February 18, NBS Bestsellers – Podium)
Gifts Galore

Holiday Books

 

Here are the books that I got over the 2013 holidays.

  • The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski – 50% off. And because I like touching and scanning Danielewski’s books. (Php 520.00, November 29, Fully Booked – Rockwell)
  • The Bibliophile’s Devotional by Hallie Ephron – I got this because I was a badass student at TFG Hogwarts. Thanks! (From Alexa, December 21)
  • The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – “Theory for happy ending. Life’s perspective. Book turned to movie as Phil Wenneck meets Katniss Everdeen.” That’s the description sent by the giver but for the life of me, I didn’t get it (because I didn’t know who that Wenneck guy is). I just heard others saying the title. No regrets though. I love the movie. Thanks! (From Aenna through The White Elephant Exchange, December 21)
  • Indignation by Philip Roth – Because it’s hard to abandon a book. Thanks! (From Bennard through The Book Pile, December 21)
  • Cain by José Saramago – Oi, I must go back to reading Saramago. Thanks! (From Maria through The Owlery, December 21)
  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol – Something to add to my scant collection of NYRB Classics. Thanks! (From Bennard through The Owlery, December 21)
  • Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac – I got this because I am supposed to hate it? Thanks! (Gift from Ella through The Owlery, December 21)
  • The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa – I got this because? Thanks! (Gift from Jonathan, January 1)

This year’s book hoarding “resolution”: I’m going to focus on NYRB Classics. I know I’ve been saying this since August. But what can I do? The titles that I want are hard to find. My interest was refueled when a new bookish friend recommended The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford and Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White. Also, A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr was recommended to me for my writing project. I hope I could find them three, and some of the 60+ others in my NYRB wish list.

And oh, thanks for all the book covers, bookmarks, cards, CDs, DVDs, eco bags, erasers, food, notepads, planners, and shower creams (?) that I got. You know who you are. :)