Tag Archives: Essays

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. :)

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge

The Best, the Honorable Mentions, and the Worst Reads of 2013

I am so glad to have finished my reading challenge of 52 books this year. And indeed, this has been a challenging year in reading and blogging. Blame it on the occasional reading ruts that I have gone through. This does not mean though that I didn’t get to read great books. In fact, there are a number of surprises for this year thanks to the “cheat reads” that I took off my shelf, just so I could reach 52.

On the other hand, quantity should not supersede quality. Yes, I pulled out thin books from my shelf, but these are in the forms of novellas, plays, and poems, forms that I don’t usually read, so it’s not really cheating. As I’ve mentioned, there are surprises.

I’ve prepared nothing fancy this time. No Top 12 (like in 2011), no elimination (like in 2012), just plain rants and raves on the books that I’ve read this year.

The Best

  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?; What We Talk About When We Talk About Love; Cathedral; Short Cuts by Raymond Carver – It’s hard to choose among these four, so I’m rolling them into one. Mundane lives of ordinary Americans magnified with such subtlety.
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda – Love in its many forms. I Have Gone Marking is my favorite in this collection.
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – On being trapped and on being unable to escape. On feeling superior yet living with the inferiors.
  • Mysteries by Knut Hamsun – A man comes to town, causes some controversies, and vanishes like he never was there. He unsettles the people’s peace and steps closer to his own destruction.
  • A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe – A man’s life spirals down when he finds out that there’s something hideously wrong with his baby. He turns into alcohol, sex, violence, and would it be too late to turn him away from death?
  • This Is Water by David Foster Wallace – A primer on how to deal with the daily frustrations in life. After reading, watch the video.
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – What can the absence of intimacy do to a marriage? How will a frigid woman and an excitable man compromise?
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – A girl’s coming-of-age story intertwined with an old man’s reminiscence. It can also be entitled The History of Loneliness.
  • Small Memories by José Saramago – Small memories, big love. Saramago’s stories from his childhood are endearing.
  • Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot – Time. Art. Humanity. My best read for this year.
  • Harry Potter 1, 2, and 3 by J. K. Rowling – I’ve predicted this. I just didn’t find the opportunity.
  • How Fiction Works by James Wood – Now I keep thinking about the authorial voice and I think I’m getting a pretty good grasp on it. And yes, all those books referenced makes me want to read them soon.

The Honorable Mentions

  • The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness – Would you choose Your Mum’s Lullabye or The Billboard Top 1?
  • This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz – A guide for the cheating heart.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – A literary feast for the young at heart.
  • Ulverton by Adam Thorpe – A challenging and haunting read about an uncommon character: the town of Ulverton.
  • Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis – A classic tale of jealousy that seems like it was recently written.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – My great expectations were met.
  • Steps by Jerzy Kosinski – Disturbing scenes of violent and dark sex.
  • The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro – A masterful collection from this year’s Nobel laureate in Literature.
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – Of books, writers, writing, spying, and questions on reality.
  • The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing – A keen observation on the racial divide and tension in apartheid South Africa.

The Worst

  • The Tin Drum by Günter Grass – I recognize Grass’s stylistic prose, but anything overdone is not fun.
  • Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan – The pretentious characters didn’t help me in trying to appreciate the suspense/thriller/detective genre.
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – A homophobic misogynist is unlikeable enough. Entangle him in ugly prose and you’ll hurl this outside the window. Coincidentally, it belongs to the same genre as the book above. And yes, this is my worst read for this year.

Recommended Rereads

  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

There you have it. Cheers to all the books that I’ll be encountering in 2014. Happy New Year!