No Ban, No Wall

I was going to publish a post today about how I was looking for a reader-inchief at the White House, but things have just gotten way too messy in the country to even focus on literature at this minute.

Source: Design Action Collective

For the past two days, I’ve been protesting Trump’s Muslim Ban executive order at San Francisco International Airport, where people from seven Muslim-majority countries are being detained. This executive order suspends the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days with exceptions; suspends the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely; and suspends the entry of lawful permanent residents, refugees and nonimmigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days. Xenophobia and Islamophobia in this country has reached new, horrendous heights and we can not idly stand by.

Instead of my usual posts about books and literature, I’m reposting a list of things to keep in mind created by Prerna Lal, a queer Indo-Fijian lawyer in the U.S.

1. If detained at a CA airport under Executive Order, call the local ACLU hotline:

SFO 415-621-2488
LAX 213-977-5245

2. A federal district judge in New York has stayed the Executive Order. The stay is temporary but effective immediately and nationwide, and is an order to CBP to not remove people under the Executive Order (and should also extend to those who are trying to enter the U.S.). If your non-citizen family or friends are traveling from countries that have been designated on the list (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen), tell them to print out a copy of the stay order and carry it on them: http://documents.latimes.com/deportations-stay-trump/.

If non-citizens continue to be harassed, detained, interrogated, tell them to make copious notes and get names and details of how long they waited, what happened, who they spoke to and precisely what was said. Keep demanding access to counsel and not sign anything.

Lawyers for other families who are detained can use the pleadings filed in the New York case so they do not need to reinvent the wheel.

Additional orders issued by judges:

Washington, D.C.
U.S. District Court in Massachusetts

3. Anyone who holds a passport from a designated country is considered as being “from” the designated country. This includes dual citizens who hold passports from a designated country, as well as a non-designated country.

4. For lawful permanent residents, DHS is admitting people on a case by case basis, following additional and invasive screenings. Any green card holders from designated countries should make sure not to sign the I-407/Record of abandonment of lawful permanent residence. CBP officers often coerce and deceive people into doing this as a condition of release from detention. If detained for extended periods, people should similarly, take notes, take names, ask for their lawyer, ask to speak to the Congressional representative, and demand to see an immigration judge.

5. People from designated countries, even dual nationals, should try to not travel abroad at this time, unless one absolutely must. Reports indicate that people abroad are not being allowed to board airplanes (even with visas) and even visa interviews for citizens of these countries have been canceled (with the exception of those who hold diplomatic visas).

6Contact your Congressperson:

If you know who your representative is but you are unable to contact them using their contact form, the Clerk of the House maintains addresses and phone numbers of all House members and Committees, or you may call (202) 225-3121 for the U.S. House switchboard operator.

7. For those persecuted in their home countries or fear of persecution in countries CBP would return them to, individuals should speak to their lawyers to discuss claims to asylum and demand a credible fear interview at ports of entry.

8. There are some rumors that USCIS will stop processing applications for naturalization, work permits, travel permits, green card renewals, and other immigration benefits for people from these designated countries. We are waiting for an official announcement. This is very clearly outside the scope of Presidential authority and the executive order, and will lead to many more lawsuits.

9. Media:

NY Times.  If you have been impacted by this Executive Order, willing to share your story with the media and public, the New York Times is asking for those stories to be shared with them via email to immigration@nytimes.com.

There are many other outlets looking for stories of people who have been impacted.

10. For everyone else, see you at the airports!

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James Baldwin on Martin Luther King, Jr: “For one thing, to state it baldly, I liked him.”

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James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I think the first time I learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. was on MLK day in 2005. It hasn’t been a year yet since my family moved to the U.S., and I started working at a small business owned by my aunt’s ex-husband. Like many new to the country, I was infinitely curious about American culture and a holiday as big as MLK day prodded my young, immigrant mind to inquire.

Since then, I’ve seen his name quoted by several writers, read his name on many books, watched films that memorialized him. Given my own struggles as a queer, brown, immigrant woman in the country, I cannot not know who he is. His legacy meant survival for a lot of folks — for black folks, but for immigrants and people of color as well. People from the Third World like myself owe it to the Civil Rights Movement and black leaders for their work and struggle for justice and equality, which has continuously inspired us to struggle for self-determination ourselves.

Beyond his infamous speeches and his legacy, I wanted to know and understand his persona from a writer’s perspective. I found this through James Baldwin’s profile on him, “The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King” first published on Harper’s in 1961. The article can also be found in Baldwin’s collection nonfiction anthology The Price of the Ticket where I was finally able to read it. 

Baldwin seemed to know exactly what I wanted to know: “I wanted to ask him [King] how it felt to be standing where he stood, how he bore it, what complex of miracles had prepared him for it.”

What follows is a Baldwin’s account of meeting, listening and witnessing MLK from the church to the solitude of his desk, where he was working on a book. Baldwin wrote that he liked him, that he was “winning” (there’s really no other word for it). He described a man of modesty, of steady temperament, someone incapable of grudges. And because he himself wanted to be a preacher, Baldwin draws on MLK’s gift for speaking:

The secret lies, I think, in his intimate knowledge of the people he’s addressing, be they black or white, and in the forthrightness with which he speaks of those things which hurt and baffle them. He does not offer any easy comfort and this keeps his hearers absolutely tense. He allows them their self-respect — indeed, he insists on it.

This intimate knowledge of the people he’s addressing speaks to me on so many levels, particularly at a time of political uncertainties. MLK Day this year is just a mere four days away from the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country’s next president, a sure cause for alarm.

With the new president’s predisposition to spew racism, misogyny and bigotry towards everything he’s not, it is perfectly right to be scared. When I saw Zadie Smith at Book Passage in Corte Madera for a reading, I remember her saying that Obama must have loved his enemies because they were also a part of him. I can’t help but be reminded of MLK himself, as Baldwin was a close witness.

I overheard him explaining to someone that bigotry was a disease and that the greatest victim of this disease was not the bigot’s object, but the bigot himself. And these people could only be saved by love. In liberating oneself, one was also liberating them.

What does it mean, in our times, to know that people like Trump and his army of bigots, could only be saved by love? How does that look like, and how can that even be manifested?

It’s been one of the many questions I have as of late, as I navigate different movements centered on liberation. It’s either my own political consciousness hasn’t transcended anger yet, or that I am caged by what I think is the only solution. Nevertheless, his vision remains and while it is hard for me to grasp, I believe there is a continuum of light.

To read Baldwin’s profile on MLK, you can go here (p. 249).

Libro-Resolutions: 2017 Projects

Though 2016 brought so many of us anger, grief and bewilderment, may 2017 be the year that we reckon with our humanity, fully.

While reflecting on the many lessons the past year has brought through literature, I started thinking more about the purpose of Libromance and what it meant for me as the blog’s creator and curator.

The books I wrote about were carefully selected, each brimming with a promise of enlightenment. They were also almost always socially and politically relevant, affirmations but also challenges to my own beliefs.

So many of the books I read and the pieces I published revolved around deepening political consciousness and nourishing emotional intelligence. This year, I resolve to do the same but focus more on specific themes:

  • #DiverseBookBloggers: If there’s anything that I love more than anything, it’s finding out about the existence of book blogging communities online — and on Twitter nonetheless. I found out about #DiverseBookBloggers, folks who explore and write about books celebrating diversity and related issues. My challenge this year is to contribute to the conversation at least once a month, and encourage others to read books by diverse authors.
  • Fil/Lit: Last year was all about Alain de Botton, a British philosopher whose work I admire and tout quite religiously. This year, I want to read and feature more work by Filipino writers; I’ve already started by reading Mia Alvar’s In the Country. Midway through last year, I read Juan Miguel Severo’s book of poems which broke my heart in a thousand ways. His work reminded me of the tenderness of Filipinos and Tagalog, and the many ways that my folks live and love.
  • Book Look: I had ambitious projects for 2016 — none of which came to fruition as I tried to find the rhythm of posting three times a week while juggling reading, working full-time and organizing with the Filipino community. I have a better grasp of my capacity after a year’s worth of work, so I want to delve into a project called “Book Look” which will feature beloved readers in the community. I’m partnering up with Bay Area based-photographer John C. on this project, the genius behind thextinct.

While I’m getting ready for these projects and prepping behind the scenes, here’s a preview of this month’s book list:

Have any reading projects you’re starting this year? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Happy Holidays from Libromance!

Jólabókaflóð (which is Icelandic for “book flood”) is the annual flood of new books in Iceland during the Christmas season. I read somewhere that on Christmas eve, Icelandic people give each other books and spend the evening reading.

According to Kristjan B. Jonasson, the book-giving culture “is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday.” Jonasson, former president of the Iceland Publishers Association, explained to NPR that “normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it’s the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland.” (Source)

What a beautiful way to spend the holiday season — surrounded by family and friends and books! From my bookish heart to yours — happy holidays!

happy-holidays

Release the Yellow Butterflies: FARC, Fidel & Gabo

“Tell Mauricio Babilonia, over there in Macondo, to release the yellow butterflies,
for the war has ended.”

It seems like it was just a few days ago since I finished Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, so vivid was the book and Gabo in my memory that I was part amazed, part nostalgic that the lines were what the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) used to relay a cryptic message:

The line, a reference to Gabriel García Márquez’s foundational was a response to the public announcement that, after fifty-two years of war and four years of negotiations, the head of the Colombian delegation, Humberto de la Calle, and the chief FARC negotiator, Iván Márquez, signed the agreement at a ceremony in Havana.

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FARC guerilla women

I’m particularly excited about Guernica’s The Female Fighter Series which “pairs female writers with women who are fighting, or have fought, in armed resistance movements worldwide to bring to light the distinctive personalities, politics, and circumstances of participation.”

The first essay on the series features Sandra, an ex-combatant from FARC who is now being reintroduced to civilian life following the peace accords between FARC and the Colombian government. She was interviewed by the writer’s mother, who was part of Mexico’s Zapatista movement.

What follows is an enlightening conversation between two revolutionary women, as they both try to make sense of life after their time in the revolutionary front.

“Where do you plan to start?” I ask.

“I don’t know. But I will tell you this: ‘relinquishing weapons’ is only the tip of my little finger compared to everything else that has to be done, on both sides. What has to be done implies a monumental effort; a lot of work has to be done after the peace is signed.”

I came across another article which referenced the late Fidel Castro in the realm of literature. I am a big fan of the Cuban revolutionary figure, and I think that 2016 couldn’t have been any worse until news of his death. So imagine my surprise upon finding out that Castro and Gabo were pretty close, that Castro actually worked on Gabo’s manuscripts.

The Cuban president, who died on 25 November, acted as unofficial copy editor for the acclaimed novelist Gabriel García Márquez, providing line-by-line corrections for the writer after the two struck up a close friendship in the late 1970s.

fidel_castro_garcia_marquez

Fidel & Gabo

I think I’ll close off 2016 by rereading One Hundred Years of Solitude, and deepen my resolve and commitment to liberation movements, one revolutionary book at a time.

A Guide to Gifting: For the Literary Lover(s) in Your Life

libroholiday

I’m over here burning this Charles Dickens candle from one of the nifty bookstores I came across at a local bookstore in San Francisco, and I have a feeling that every literary lover in your life would love to have it. Except when they don’t, unless they’re a huge fan of any of these writers: Dickens, Tolstoy, Poe, Austen, Emerson, Steinbeck.

Not all bookworms are alike, and while you can find something nifty and literary-esque for that person in your family whose nose is always buried in books like this set of literary matchboxes from Portmanteau Paper Co. or this scarf which displays fifty titles of banned books that they would totally appreciate, gifting does require a little bit of thought and effort.

So how do you pick something for that person? Here are a few tips:

tip1

Goodreads is an online community of book lovers where you can create book lists, leave reviews, put up quotes and other activities. The chances of that person having a Goodreads account is pretty high, so be sure to see what kinds of books they’ve marked as “to-read,” or get a feel for what kinds of books they like on their “read” list. Remember: not all books are created equal, and not every reader likes every book. Pay attention to genre and form.

tip2

This is really important. Die-hard aficionados like myself prefer holding a real book and turning the pages, although one cannot deny the ease and convenience of e-readers (specially on your phones). Before purchasing that Kindle or Kobo, figure out how that person likes to read.

tip3

If you’re unsure of what books they prefer, get a gift card from the nearest local book seller in your area. You can’t go wrong with that. Plus, it’s a great way to support your local bookstores.

tip4-2

There are plenty to choose from, literary magazine subscriptions are a delight. There’s a lot to choose from too like Granta, The Paris Review, etc. A personal favorite: Lee Gutkind’s Creative Nonfiction.

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And if you’re completely stumped and unsure on what to get that person, you can always make a donation to the local library on their behalf. It’ll go a long way and show your appreciation not just for that person but for the community as well.

Got some other tips? Leave them in the comments below!

The Best Books of 2016

I was talking to a friend the other day, someone who shared my love for literature and I mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary fiction and nonfiction as of late — that I feel like I should delve into classics a little bit more. She said that there are a lot of contemporary fiction that are good which made my literary heart swell.

And it’s true, most of the releases I had the chance to read this year blew my mind. The New York Times came out with their best books of 2016, two of which I reviewed on the blog. Buzzfeed also came out with their own list, similar to what has been featured in the NYT and on this blog.

Coming up with only five books was hard, but there were a number of considerations. I like to think of Libromance as a living and breathing part of the world, wherein books featured reflect the struggles of our time. Whether these are external factors — political nightmares, increasing state violence, etc. — or internal factors — the need for security, means for survival, our capacity to love — the decision to narrow it down to just five was a meaningful and intentional process.

Libromance’s Best Books of 2016

30555488The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

…the story of Cora, a slave who ran away from a plantation in Georgia through a real-life railroad built underground. She used the railroad three times: one heading towards the Carolinas, the second towards Tennessee and then Indiana. Historically, the “underground railroad” was a network of secret routes and safe houses, established by abolitionists and free slaves to aid black folks to get to free states.

colson

Known And Strange Things, Teju Cole9780812989786-us__61976-1469673476-600-600

…I usually try to finish a book in a week or two but I stayed with Teju’s new book for about a month, as I processed each essay and its significance differently, in the context of a queer Filipino immigrant experience in the United States.

teju-1

9781501134258_custom-201bae6fcf21665b6797b267a2ff34dc2357b50a-s400-c85The Course of Love, Alain de Botton

…the love stories we see and hear about are really only the beginning of those relationships, Alain de Botton argues, in his new book The Course of Love. What happens after the proposal, followed by the wedding, are the lives of two people bound not by romance alone but by the humbling reality of living with another person.

alain

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasihomegoing_custom-09de3d52d3ab0cf5400e68fb358d53da9c78afe6-s400-c85

…reading Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing at the time of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s deaths was surreal, as if I was looking at the lives of these two black men from a generational perspective, with Gyasi’s historical fiction lens.

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512bu33tf8nlThe Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen

…writing about war is never an easy task, it involves remembering what must not be forgotten, slowly treading a path in one’s memory that is never neutral. It is filled with opposing forces — of heroes and villains, of the noble and the wretched, of the conqueror and the conquered. But it must be done. This, I believe, was Viet Thanh Nguyen’s task with his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Sympathizer.

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These books shook, carried, woke me in infinite ways, beyond my own experiences as a queer Pinay immigrant. There were many that didn’t make the list and you can always check those out here. Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments below!

For #NoDAPL & Native American Heritage Month: A Reading List

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Water protectors at North Dakota #StandingRockSioux #NoDAPL

The resistance is stronger and more alive these days — everywhere you look. From the streets of Oakland to the streets of Manila all the way to Camp Oceti Sakowin in North Dakota, people are mobilizing to stand up and resist forms of fascism, capitalism and imperialism.

In the past few months, the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe against the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota has been at the forefront of grassroots resistance. The $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline cuts through sacred land, and if completed can potentially poison waterways such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahu, the source of drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

As I write this, the entire country has just celebrated a holiday (Thanksgiving) rooted in the genocide of Native Americans. This day is followed by “Black Friday” also known as hyper-capitalism as throngs of people descend retail stores and malls for discounted goods. The irony is not lost.

There are many ways of supporting the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe — signing petitions, participating in actions and mobilizations, calling the Army Corp Engineers, emailing the executives of Energy Transfer Partners L.P., donating to the camp — and I think that each one contributes in large and meaningful ways calling for an end to this pipeline.

On Thanksgiving morning at around 5:00 in the morning, I boarded a ferry to Alcatraz, once the home of Native Americans in the Bay Area, to commemorate and mourn the massacre of 700 Pequots killed that day. More than ever, the struggles of Native Americans back then against their colonizers is still evident today.

History repeats itself and if there’s anything that this blog aims contribute to the struggles of Native Americans, it is to foster consciousness among its readers through literature. November is also Native American Heritage Month and I am grateful for blogs like Literary Hub and Read Diverse Books who have compiled books by Native American writers. What’s happening in North Dakota isn’t isolated — it’s backed by centuries of genocide, colonialism and resistance of the Native American people that all of us should know.

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Killing the White Man’s Indian: Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century (April 14, 1997)
Fergus M. Bordewich
(History/Politics)

 

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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
(May 15, 2007)
Dee Brown
(History/Politics)

 

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask
(May 1, 2012)
Anton Treuer
(Popular History)

 

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LaRose: A Novel
(May 10, 2016)
Louise Erdrich
(Fiction)

 

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Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories
(October 8, 2013)
Sherman Alexie
(Memoir)

 

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Love Beyond Body, Space & Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-fi Anthology (September 30, 2016)
Hope Nicholson, David Alexander Robertson, Richard Van Camp, Daniel Health Justice
(Anthology)

 

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The Woman Who Owned The Shadows
(May 1, 1984)
Paula Gunn Allen
(Fiction)

 

This list is by no means exhaustive, but starting points as the First Nation Development Institute recommends. Check out the Native American Heritage Month book recommendations here, Literary Hub’s list here as well as the list from Read Diverse Books here.

 

To Mourn, To Honor: Transgender Day of Remembrance

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”
–Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR)

Smith founded the Transgender Day of Remembrance after the murder of Rita Hester on November 28, 1998, to memorialize the victims of anti-transgender hatred and violence. While the U.S. is a country that is generally lauded as a liberal-democratic society, the reality is that it has remained the same throughout decades — largely white, heteronormative, cisnormative and patriarchal.

In the past year, trans women of color, particularly black trans women have suffered different forms of violence: state violence, anti-transgender violence as well as  economic and social violence. Landis Capri. Rae’Lynn Thomas. Dee Whigham. Erykah Tijerina. Shaylene Graves.  I also remember Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipino woman, victim of transphobia and killed by U.S. Marine soldier Pemberton.

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I was reminded of Janet Mock’s book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More which has been sitting inside my bedside table drawer for the past year and a half. I’ve kept it so close (and unfortunately hidden from sight) that I haven’t actually gotten around to reading it.

Still, there are many things and bits of wisdom to be gleaned from the book, as a queer immigrant in solidarity with my trans familia.

“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community.”
–Janet Mock, Redefining Realness

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While today is for mourning and honoring the lives of trans folks, it also serves as a reminder of the work that all of us need to support and to uplift the voices of our trans familia. To acknowledge and affirm so much of the transformative work that has been done to counter the prevailing narrative, and to learn how we can be better allies to the trans community.

This piece on 12 trans folks whose work we should know about is a must-read, written and illustrated by Ronni Ritchie. There are also organizations doing amazing work like the Transgender, Gender-Variant, Intersex (TGI) Justice Project and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project as well as grassroots efforts of compiling resources like this queer & trans survival guide in the age of Trump.

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Check out TDoR events and locations in your area here.

November Reads: Karan Mahajan, Paul Beatty, Rabih Alameddine, Tomas Tranströmer & More

New month, new reads.

My book list is looking good and I’m giddy with excitement. For the next few weeks, I’ll be plowing through a few titles, hurling myself in various worlds and literary texts and I cannot wait. So much so that I had to put Fernando Pessoa’s book The Book of Disquiet down because a third into Soares’s observations of downtown Lisbon, I realized reading it was meant for another time.

I started Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs and I can see why the book was shortlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for fiction (ceremony & awarding is on November 16!). Along with Mahajan’s book, I’m ecstatic about the following books I’ve chosen to immerse myself in this month.

Paul Beatty’s The Sellout recently snagged the Man Booker Prize for fiction making him the first American to win in the category. Here’s an interview with Beatty from the Guernica on the book that “follows a black narrator who reinstates segregation on public transit, becomes the proud owner of a slave, and verbally thunderclaps Justice Clarence Thomas.”

Rabih Alameddine’s The Angel of History: A Novel is also on the list, and I started following him after reading and writing about his previous book An Unnecessary Woman. I got a chance to see him in person at a reading in San Francisco, where he talked about the necessity of remembering, of how easy it is to forget. His newest book “follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS.”

After reading the first compilation of her journals and notebooks in Reborn, I knew I had to get As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh by Susan Sontag who is easily becoming a favorite. I was moved by her writing on love and queerness and by the critical ways she sought to understand the world — I couldn’t help but ask for more.

The next few titles are ones that I’ll be reading sporadically, in no particular order as I would the previous ones. Tomas Tranströmer’s Selected Poems, Alain de Botton’s Art as Therapy and the latest issue of Kinfolk magazine on Home are all supplements to this month as shorter days and longer nights abound.

What’s on your list this month? Do share in the comments below!