In May of 2014, I fell in love with reading books again. Thanks to Jennifer Egan and her brilliant novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad”. The words she put together beautifully became my escape from the realities of riding the public buses jerking their way through EDSA and inside our unfortunate metro that’s void of any kind of personal space. I look back at the past year and see a lot of myself smiling alone in a sea of people who were either mad or tired. And so I wanted to do a different kind of “looking back at the year post” by sharing with you the books that filled my year!
They aren’t a lot, I know, but they were more than enough to make me promise never to stop the cycle of reading again, no matter how long it takes me to finish one. 🙂
It took me three months before I got to reading past the first chapter of A Visit from the Goon Squad but this ended up to become my most favorite book. It was different from what I was used to reading [my leisurely reading then was limited to Gaiman books and short stories] causing the struggle at the beginning. But as the characters came out, one by one, at different points in their lives, I fell in love with each of them. I finally found a book that did not bank on the characters’ manufactured charisms but on the genuine complexities of their relationships and of themselves. It also helped that Egan wrote so beautifully, I have forgotten how it felt like to marvel at beautifully crafted sentences. Sentences like “You all dance together, subdividing the space between now and tomorrow until time seems to move backward,” made me snap back into my younger self’s wonder and hunger for things that move and inspire people. I told Calvin who lent me this book that it’s the type of book that deserves a book club, there are just so many elements in the book that made it awesome.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Gaiman growing up. If you’ve read his short stories then you’ll know his are unlike anyone else’s. Every time I read his stories, I just wonder how he would ever come up with such stories. They’re crazy and magical and brilliant. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was every bit as magical and crazy as his old stories with the ever-so-current theme of the struggle of growing up – a recurring theme in his works and always a favorite topic of mine in books, movies and dinner conversations.
A Whole New Mind sparked my curiosity after a conversation with a researcher who greatly enjoys graphic design. The book explains how an eye for design, empathy and ability to tell stories (among others) are necessary skills to excel in this age. The book provides pretty good evidence to support each of its claims. What’s great about it is that it helps you out when you don’t have those skills. For example, he argues that artists have the ability to see things differently, he sees negative spaces (blanks, spaces, etc) instead of the actual object. To develop this skill, the author attended a workshop on sketching. You’d be shocked by how much he’s improved (there are before and after sketches). If you know of any sketching workshop, let me know! I’m a sucker for these things.
I purchased The Art of Travel from Eslite’s 24-hour bookstore in Taipei. I was the first to wake up in our hostel that morning and while waiting for my friends to finish showering, I read an article on my FB feed regarding this book. It was a no-brainer – I loved to travel for reasons even I have difficulty explaining and this book promised to look into the philosophical why’s of travel. Finding it in that big bookstore was definitely worth it (especially after finding out it was sold out in most bookstores here). The author broke it down to the different aspects of travelling (e.g., in transit, scenic places, hotel rooms, etc.) It was impressively cohesive and I love that the author draws from his own travels, different novels, lives of artists and famous paintings. He just gets it, you know?
I was about to finish The Art of Travel when I knew I needed a new book for the long weekend to keep the reading fire burning. Somehow no one lent me a book or told me about one so I had to do it the old school way. I went around Fully Booked and narrowed it down to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore or a Murakami novel. There was only one Murakami left and though I was very curious about this author everyone’s been raving about, this one is apparently about a childhood love story so the novel about a magical bookstore took the cake. The book had pretty good parts as it tries to tackle the consequences of technology in a very light and fun way (I think it was what it was going for, at least). Though I expected a grander ending, I did learn quite a lot from the book especially from the protagonist’s girlfriend who worked in Google.
I am currently just halfway through The Unbearable Lightness of Being but I’m including it here because I love it so far and I have a strong feeling I will love it until the end; plus, the picture above wouldn’t look nice with an odd number of book covers. I ended up getting this book because once again I didn’t know what to read next. I remembered seeing this on my IG feed and thinking, what a great cover and what an intriguing title. It reminds me a lot of A Visit from the Goon Squad as it looks deep into the characters’ lives and tries to explain why they act a certain way, or why they made certain choices in their lives. The difference is that there is an all-knowing narrator here who is bold enough to make statements like, “The goals we pursue are always veiled…The thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us.” I’m slowly realizing that these are the types of books that interest and move me the most – I’m so glad I found them last year.
So there goes my year in books! As you may have noticed, I am no book critic and I have only recently started reading books again, books that I’ve only heard from someone or randomly stumbled into. I wanted to share this list with you in case you hit that slump where you can’t find books other than those that fill up the shelves of bookstores these days that don’t really excite you. In case our tastes are similar, I hope I gave you a nice reading list which I bet you can finish in a much shorter time than me! Haha. In case you’re interested in any of them, I’d be happy to lend them to you, except for the first one as I have yet to buy a copy for myself! And if you happen to have any book recommendations, just comment or let me know! So that I can avoid going up and down Fully Booked for hours again.
The past year has been a year of discovery and rediscovery for me. Somehow I am back on track in searching for what truly excites me and what I am truly passionate about – and in certain things (such as the books above), I am finally getting some things right.
In 2014, I took many first steps – some progressed on to becoming more than just a start, some didn’t and some are still works in progress. What matters is that I have learned a great deal, finally took some risks, and, gathered what I needed to increase the chances of turning ideas and dreams into reality this new year! I know it’s not going to be easy, but according to one of my favorite quotes, “nothing truly good is ever easy.”
Oh, and of course, my ultimate favorite: Tiwala lang.