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Book Report: January 2016

Book Report: January 2016

The 2016 reading race gave me a bad handicap known as the Slump, which is quite surprising because I usually go through such phases during the middle of the year. In previous years, I was usually enthusiastic about planning what books I’d like to read for the year. Like last year, I planned to read NBCC winners. Of course I failed at it but I really don’t see it that way because I’ve been able to read other books. It’s not like I didn’t read anything; I was merely sidetracked by equally good books.

Now that it’s a new year, I can put the NBCC plan back into action, yes? Well, I have another reading plan set up this year but before I babble about that, let me tell you about the number of books that I’ve finished last month. It’s a grand total of zero. Yep, I’m still at the starting point. In fact, I only started reading again last week since November. So that’s roughly two months since I last finished a book.

Actually, I wasn’t really not reading. I tried to reread Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things for our book discussion last month, which I moderated and which I happened to finish last November. But since it was still fresh in my head, I just didn’t have the heart to reread it. I might end up getting exhausted with it, not to mention that I went through another phase of anxiety and restlessness, so I just gave up and waited until our book discussion was held.

And so after our book discussion, I introduced this very original reading challenge to our group called TFG Book Bingo. You know, that game where you mark out squares until you form a linear pattern? Hah. Anyway, I’ll be framing my reading plan with it even though we are only challenged to read five books at a minimum. But I want a blackout. So that’s 25 squares, 25 books (we don’t have a “free” square because we’re masochists). Even with my occasional slumps, I should be able to do this. That is, if I manage to fit most of the books that I’ll be reading this year into all those squares.

Speaking, when I got my bingo card, I was elated to see a handful of bingo squares/categories that match the books that I’m itching to read. These books are mostly the new shines that I got during the last quarter of the year. I wish though that I got the bingo square for tomes because I want to read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Come on, it was a headliner last year so I’m curious. Anyway, once I get a head start on my bingo card, I’ll post an image of it and probably include it in these monthly reports.

Books Finished:

  • The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – Doesn’t count but I’d like to put it in here so that this section wouldn’t look lonely. (Well I’ve read around a hundred pages, hee.)

Currently Reading:

  • Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish – On page 204 of 417. My gosh, this book has harrowing and hilarious parts. I’m nervous at how it will end because I feel that it’s not going to be happy one and that it’s going to break me.
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan – On page 61 of 448. Why do I feel that the rest of the book has already been summarized in the first part? I hope there would be a lot to look forward to in the next four parts.

New Books – I’m retiring this section from Book Reports since my new books are getting their own posts under the Ex Libris category.

Hopefully I get to review books as soon as I finish them. Yeah, right. I’ll try my best. Oh I wish I could just whip up reviews without being too self-conscious about them.

2016 Books, #2

2016 Books, #2

My copy of The Narrow Road to the Deep North (USD 13.14) arrived at a perfect time: on a weekend when I have nothing to do but stay put at home. I was starting to worry that this would be delivered by February. I had to have it ASAP because it’s our book of the month. And I’m not a fast reader. So when I got out of our office, I surreptitiously eyed the deliveries stocked at the ground floor reception area. I noticed the familiar Book Depository package. I asked the guard on duty if the package was for me.

Of course it was. In the course of my stay at our office, it seems that I’m the only one who has ever had deliveries from TBD. Yes, I always check out the deliveries at the reception area whether I’m expecting one for myself. I hope I’m wrong because it’s quite sad if I were the only person who works in a building with 35 floors and who orders books online.

After a reading slump that lasted for two months, I’m back on the reading road again. I’m not yet done with the book that I’m reading now but I’m excited to start Richard Flanagan’s Booker Prize winning novel (I’ve already read a couple of chapters on but I wasn’t feeling it on an electronic copy). I don’t have problems reading books concurrently, so long as there are only three, tops.

I won’t keep this long. Happy Friday Reads to you!

Twirling with joy upon receiving a bookish postcard.

Because you are so good at recommending books, you win a book

I posted my traditional bloggy birthday giveaway five days ago, and even though there are only two valid entries (come on, was the prompt that hard?), I’ve got a handful of books that I already want to read. I hope getting my hands on these books will give me my much needed reading boost. I haven’t been reading lately because I’m currently rereading a book that I just read a couple of months ago. It’s book club duty, so until this book discussion blows over, I guess I’ll just wallow in this slump.

I digress, as always. So here are the winners. Yes, I decided just a few minutes ago to declare two winners because I can’t make up my mind. And it’s a first! I don’t think I’ve had a tie before. So yeah, I’m torn between roughghost‘s recommendation of The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs by Damon Galgut and TinTin‘s recommendation of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders. Let me put here how they recommended these two books:

The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs

Finally, my number one suggestion, one I highly recommend for you no matter what, is THE BEAUTIFUL SCREAMING OF PIGS by Damon Galgut. He is my favourite contemporary English language writer. A gay author from South Africa, Galgut rarely explores explicit gay themes, preferring to examine the unresolved or unrequited tensions between men. This novel originally came out in 1991 but he reworked it in the mid 2000’s and it is the closest to a coming out story he has written. Set in 1989, late Apartheid era, the main character is Patrick, a young man who never fit in with other boys. He lacked the rugged athletic charm of his brother and is very attached to his mother. This is still the time of conscription so after graduating he volunteers for his two year’s military service. Out in the jungle his alienation from other boys is more evident to him – until another young man arrives. Finally he has met someone he feels he can connect to. Without ever really labeling anything, the young men have an awkward encounter one night on patrol. Shortly after his friend is killed and Patrick has a breakdown. Eventually he is discharged.

When the story opens he is heading up to Namibia for the first free elections. His parents are divorced and his mother has been “finding herself”. Her latest obsession is to have a young black boyfriend. Throughout the course of this short trip Patrick begins to come to terms with the fact that he might have been in love, and notices his attraction to his mother’s boyfriend. But it is much more than that. He is becoming politically aware in a time of great upheaval. Suddenly he is assisting with elections in a country he was, one year earlier, engaged in warfare to defend for South Africa. Glagut is an elegant, spare writer. Not one word too many. But he creates images (like the sand dunes of the Namibian desert) that are simply unforgettable. I have read this book more than once and if you take none of my other suggestions do give this one a look. I think you will really like it.

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders – Because I know you loved Tenth of December and I chose this book for the very purpose that it will practically sell itself to you. Haha. Anyway, this collection still has everything I loved about Saunders’ writing in Tenth of December. It is unguarded and offhanded and very conversational. The protagonists in all the seven stories fit the downtrodden and the disadvantaged kind. Vulnerable characters that feel so real, I feel like my heart is being being skewered reading about their day to day lives of bleakness. He is a master at combining realism with surrealism. And the humor, let’s not forget to mention the wicked humor, and the biting satire, and the luminescent redemption (or epiphany) that cuts through the grim events like daggers of light piercing a dark room.

Thank you and congratulations, roughghosts and TinTin! Please email me the following details at angusmiranda at yahoo dot com:

  • Full name
  • Complete address
  • The Book Depository link of the book that you want (not more than USD 20.00). Click this for an example.

Please note that if your post office charges taxes and fees for book deliveries, I won’t be responsible for them, okay? Let’s hope they do not. I hope to hear from you soon!

2016 Books, #1

2016 Books, #1

I usually take pictures of my book hauls and then post them on Instagram. That’s what I want to do when my latest arrived, except that I don’t have Instagram on my phone anymore. Should I reinstall it? The temptation was too strong but I got over it as soon as I opened the WordPress app. Am I being too hard on myself for going cold turkey on social media apps?

Anyway, these books are from a bookish friend who runs Bookulaw, a Facebook store for new and used books. I’ve had three of the four books here reserved for months, so I yeah, I reminded myself to pay for the books despite my (weak) resolve to stop hoarding this year.

  • Burn This Book, edited by Toni Morrison (Php 200.00) – a collection of essays about books, writing, and literature. There’s something by Auster, Gordimer, Rushdie, Updike, Pamuk, and Morrison herself.
  • The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (Php 340.00) – after being disappointed by some National Book Award winners, I’m considering collecting PEN/Faulkner winners instead. Interestingly, this collection beat Jennifer Egan’s Goon Squad, which was the front-runner of major awards during that year.
  • Democracy by Joan Didion (Php 220.00) – Joan Didion, of course. Shamefully, I haven’t read Didion since Play It As It Lays which was maybe three years ago.
  • The Whispering Muse by Sjón (Php 220.00) – I haven’t read anything by this guy but I like the cover design of his books. And he’s from Iceland for whatever it’s worth. He’s friends with Bjork, I think. And hopefully with Sigur Ros and Olafur Arnalds.

The books come with these nice bookmarks, which I think are Starbucks coffee labels.

Bookmarks from Starbucks.

Bookmarks from Starbucks.

Free shipping, too. Not bad!

My favorite book store in 2015: Book Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City, Singapore

Happy Fifth Birthday, Book Rhapsody!

Oh yes, I’ve been blogging, albeit casually, about books for five years. That’s more than half of my blogging life. I started blogging about my juvenile and callow opinions on life back in 2007. Then somewhere along the way, I decided to focus on books instead. And no regrets. That’s because I love books more than anything else, probably even more than my life. This does not mean though that my life sucks, but well, it does not have (yet) the staying power of a wonderful book. And there are so many wonderful books out there. And that’s why I want to give away a wonderful book of your choice worth USD 20.00 from Book Depository. Hopefully it will stay with you for a long time.

All you have to do is to recommend five books that I should read this year. Give me compelling reasons for those recommendations. Make me want to get and read those five books as soon as I read your comments, which will remain unpublished until the contest is over. And yes, since the giveaway is from Book Depository, everyone is welcome to join.

I will give you five days. But there can only be one winner. Game? Thanks!