Essays

Book Report: January 2015

Book Report: January 2015

It’s February. Already? Since we’ve just finished the first month of the year, let’s take a quick look at my progress of the reading and blogging goals that I set for this year:

  • Finish 50 books – I’m on to a slow start. I should be on my fifth book now if I want to meet this goal without rushing at the last quarter of the year, but I’ve been distracted by films. This distraction would not go away unless I finish all those Oscar nominees. But I’m not that behind. I’m halfway through my fourth book.
  • Read NBCC winners – I’m going to start this next month. One of my Goodreads groups will be discussing so I might as well join. I’ve originally intended to read my unread NBCC winners chronologically, but since I like discussing books with others, I’m ditching that rule.
  • Use Goodreads – I’ve started rating books on Goodreads again. One goal achieved.
  • Review ASAP – Blame it on the awards circuit. But hey, I wrote a review a few weeks back. I’ll consider this as another slow start.
  • Read and review more short stories –  I read the selections for The Short Story Station but I failed to review them on time. However, I managed to sneak in a review of a short story that I listened to via The New Yorker Fiction podcast. Uh, slow start?

I’ll check on this again in April. That’s a few more months away. Let’s get back to the present, shall we?

Books Finished:

  • Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams by Alexander McCall Smith – 3 out of 5 stars. I’ve wanted to read this for so long because hey, I have a Celtic god namesake!
  • Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – 4 out of 5 stars. Click link for my review.
  • Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool – 3 out of 5 stars. Our book club’s book of the month.

Currently Reading:

  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike – On page 160 of 284. Quite slow for a quartet that begins with running away but I don’t really mind. The descriptions can test your patience but they are quite wonderful.

Maybe:

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
  • Inverted World by Christopher Priest
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  • October Light by John Gardner

New Books:

Argh. I knew it. I’m glad that I didn’t decide to lessen my book buying because I would have pulled my hair now for not following my resolutions. Anyway, I need subcategories for this month’s haul.

  • The Nobel laureates
    • Auto-da-fé by Elias Canetti – (Php 449.00, Chapter IX Books, January 13)
    • The Family of Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela – (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul – (Php 189.00, Chapter IX Books, January 30)
    • The Plague Column by Jaroslav Seifert – (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • Small Memories by José Saramago – A second copy (a different edition, actually) wouldn’t hurt. Thank you! (from H, January 20)
  • TheNYRB Classics
    • Inverted World by Christopher Priest – (Php 797.50, Solidaridad Book Shop, January 24)
    • Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang – (Php 200.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • The Pilgrim Hawk by Glenway Wescott – (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • The Way of the World by Nicolas Bouvier – (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
  • James Salter Mania – I haven’t read this guy yet but my intuition tells me that I might like him. In fact, I’m so liking the title and cover of theTPB edition of All That Is. Heh.
    • All That Is – (Php 319.00, Fully Booked – BGC, January 15)
    • Solo Faces – (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • A Sport and a Pastime – (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
  • The Mass Market Paperbacks
    • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – (Php 379.00, Fully Booked – BGC, January 15)
    • A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov – (Php 149.00, Chapter IX Books, January 13)
    • Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac – (Php 99.00, Chapter IX Books, January 13)
    • Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm – (Php 79.00, Chapter IX Books, January 13)
  • A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers – A pretty book. I’m not really into HBs but I can’t resist this one. I forced a friend to buy it for me. Thank you! (from Kim, January 16)
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

Weekend Book Review – Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is a collection of essays that provides bookish conversations to bibliophiles. It’s also a literary memoir because Fadiman injects bookish anecdotes about her reading life, which includes her family. Some favorite topics include arranging books in one’s own library, classifying the kinds of readers, buying second-hand books, and growing up and still living in a world of books.

In Marrying Libraries, Fadiman discusses the various ways readers may arrange their books on their shelves. Shelf description is expanded in My Odd Shelf, My Ancestral Castles, and The P.M.’s Empire of Books, which is about the strict shelving habits of four times British Prime Minister Gladstone. Although such a political figure is mentioned in this book, it remains true to its subtitle: it’s still wholly confessions of a common reader.

What are the merits of writing and critiquing books right on their pages? What books have surprisingly made an impact on you? On what page should you write an inscription when you’re giving a book to a friend? How can your perception and experience change when you read a description of a setting while being right at that place? Why are some people obsessed with long words, pens, catalogues, and proofreading? Is there any benefit to reading aloud?

There are also topics on poetic attempts (Scorn Not the Sonnet), gender equality on print (The His’er Problem), originality and plagiarism (Nothing New Under the Sun), and cooking (The Literary Glutton). There’s nothing about ebooks and how the Internet revolutionized reading because this was published in the late 90s. The general tone of the essays is candid, which is just right for a fun book. Other sources are not abundant, but when there are any, references are drawn from her editor and writer friends, who also are big readers. In Fadiman’s tight literary circle, one can’t not notice erudite background, and this may lead one to suspect that she’s a snob and not a common reader after all.

But the common love that we all have for books makes her as common as any book lover, and this love can be felt right from the first page. It is hard not to at least like a book that is about books, the reading life, and bookish conversations, such as the one below:

“When I was leaving work that day, I noticed that the proprietor had put one of Clive’s books in the fifty-cent cart we kept on the sidewalk. It was an Edwardian compact Shakespeare with an ugly typeface and garishly colored plates. Inside, in a round adolescent hand that must have been dated from his teens or early twenties, Clive had written his name and the lines from The Tempest ‘We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep.'”

I asked Adam what he had done with the book.

“I bought it,” he said, “and took it home.”

[Read in January 2014.]
[4 out of 5 stars.]
[162 pages. Trade paperback. Borrowed.]
[A book club traveling book.]

Book Report: December 2014

Book Report: December 2014

I am perfectly aware that I just did a 2014 annual report regarding my reading affairs but I’m still going to do the only regular thing on this blog so far: the monthly book report.

Books Finished:

  • The Bibliophile’s Devotional by Hallie Ephron – 3 out of 5 stars. I got this last year and decided to read one entry per day because it’s designed to be read that way (the truth is I binge-read them at the end of each month). A lot of the 365 quick reviews may inspire you to pick up the books. If not, they may at least whet one’s literary cravings.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – 4 out of 5 stars. I started this last September 2013. On page 500-something, I paused for a bit but it extended for some unknown reason. I went back to it in  the last quarter of 2014. Now I’m done. I did it! I actually don’t know how to summarize this book. Hence, that little story. But I’ll give it a try. It’s about the relationship of the dysfunctional Incandenzas among themselves, the life and routines of students at the Enfield Tennis Academy, the antics and the drama of the people recovering from alcohol and narcotics at the Ennet House, and the search for the master copy of the film Infinite Jest by the Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents aka the Wheelchair Assassins.

Currently Reading:

  • Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – On page 45 of 162. I wanted this to be my first read of the year and so far, I’m enjoying the mutilations, I mean the marginalia, that I’m inserting here and there. It’s our book club’s traveling book, and I’m excited for the next person to see what stuff the previous readers and I have highlighted, written, dog-eared, etc.

Maybe – This is a new section on the monthly reports. I will merely mention the titles because, well, there is the probability that I might not read them.

  • Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams by Alexander McCall Smith
  • October Light by John Gardner
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

New Books:

  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare – Haven’t I told you that I’m going to read more Shakespeare? (Php 188.10, National Book Store – Araneta Center, December 3)
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson – A Christmas gift. Thank you! (from Veronica, December 6)
  • Open City by Teju Cole – A Christmas gift. Thank you! (from Louize, December 6)
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I set my eyes on this prize, yahoo! (from the book club’s Christmas Auction, December 6)
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – I found this pristine copy while waiting for a very late office mate. (Php 125.00, Book Sale – SM Mega Mall, December 13)
  • The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster – A Christmas gift. Thank you! (from Maria, December 15)
F2F34: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

TFG’s Book of the Month for October: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat Face to Face Book Discussion Details:

  • Date: October 25, 2014
  • Place: Wood Neighborhood Deli, Salcedo Village, Makati City
  • Time: 3 PM to 6 PM
  • Discussion Leader: Kristel
  • Attendees: Me, Aaron, Gwaxa, Louize, MelizaMonique, Ranee, Tina
  • Food I Ate: A chicken salad sandwich, brewed coffee.
  • Activities: A hat contest. I borrowed this horned hat from a friend and I won second place.
  • After the Book Discussion: Some of us had dinner at Robinson’s Galleria, which is two cities away. I suppose we are all allergic to Makati.
  • Other Nominated Books: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Discussion Goodies

Discussion Goodies

The F2F34 Attendees

The F2F34 Attendees

  • Next Month: Dwellers by Eliza Victoria. It is one of the book club discussions that will take place during the Filipino ReaderCon 2014. If you wish to join us, please visit the discussion thread for more details.

Photos courtesy of Monique.

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)