#GetLit: So Many Books, So Little Time

#GetLit

The 2017 Man Booker prize longlist came out this week! I was thrilled to see the work of three authors I’ve reviewed here on the blog:

The Ministry of Happiness by Arundhati Roy
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Swing Time by Zadie Smith

If you haven’t read any of these titles, check out my book reviews to get an idea. I loved Whitehead’s book the most, one of the finest novels I’ve read in a really long time. I finished reading Roy’s book a couple of weeks ago and even though I only gave it four stars, it is truly a must-read. I didn’t enjoy Smith’s novel unfortunately, although it was very promising. I still love me some Zadie smith anyways, so best of luck to her, Whitehead, Roy and all of the others on the list.

While I’m mostly rooting for these three, my excitement was short-lived. It was dampened by the fact that there are still so many books out there that I haven’t read and will never be able to read in my lifetime. Ok, I know I’m being dramatic.

I was thinking of reading every single book on the list but then I remembered I have a tall pile of books to be read, and also some books coming in the mail. What’s a bookworm to do? According to this article, the books I will read in my lifetime — provided I live up to 86 — will be about 2,800. That’s not even a fraction of the millions of books out there!

Anyways, I’m finishing up F. Sionil Jose’s book Gagamba and I’ll be moving on to Magda Szabo’s The Door after that. I also posted my book review of Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire this week, check it out when you can.

And as if I’m not sad enough about how many books there are that I’ll never get to read, I came across this literary fiction summer sampler. It features excerpts from new books this season, and I’m anticipating receiving one of the books below in the mail. In the meantime, this will suffice.

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Got any reading blues / tips / habits you’d like to share? Leave me a comment below!

#GetLit: Peace, Pasta & the Pulitzer

#GetLit

This week’s biggest news: the Pulitzer Prizes! Even bigger? Black Pulitzer Prize winners:

Screenshot of a tweet from my favorite person/poet/writer ever, Saeed Jones AKA @theferocity.

I was elated to find out that Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with The Underground Railroad (Amazon | Indiebound), which I read and reviewed on this blog last year (Read: A Lifetime of Remembering with Colson Whitehead).

I have yet to read Tyehimba Jess’s book of poetry Olio (Amazon | Indiebound), but I am planning to while getting into this month’s poetry books. We’re about midway through April, National Poetry Month, so are you getting your daily dose of poems? Check out a girl’s lifelong affair with poetry.

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If you’ve been weary from the news these days, from Trump’s brand of all-the-things-your-worst-dreams-are-made-of, here’s a little reprise: hope. I’ve been using Deepak and Oprah Winfrey’s latest meditation series (cost: free) called Hope in Uncertain Times and it’s been giving me the kind of peace and calm I need. I’ve been a fan of these series since 2013, and trust me — this stuff is gold.

Me on a Saturday, at Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

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After doing the necessary inner work, there’s a ton of things happening around us we can always be plugged into. Unless you’re a monk, of course, but for folks like me (brown, queer immigrant activists in the belly of the beast) there’s this: Peace Tour 2017.

In this week’s book review (War and Turpentine by Steffan Hertmans), I wrote about reading the story of the author’s grandfather, who was a soldier and a painter. I intentionally omitted the war years, because 1) honestly not a fan of war novels and 2) here we are in another war again, dropping missiles on other nations (Syria).

What I don’t see in the realm of international geopolitics are attempts to address the root causes of conflicts, which is why the Peace Tour 2017 gives me infinite hope. As a Filipino, I’ve long wondered about the longstanding civil war between the government and the “other government,” led by the Communist Party of the Philippines. If you’re interested in finding out more, look up to see if the tour will be making a stop in your city!

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If you follow me on Instagram (and I think you should 😉), you’ll know that I like to eat my feelings. Here are a few things that have brought me joy in the past few days:

Damn good homemade pasta at Affina.

Also: live music in someone’s living room in San Francisco (yes, like the good ‘ol days). Lattes in the rain, specially turmeric lattes like the one pictured below from As Quoted in San Francisco.

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Have you ever fallen in love with a magazine? Because I have, four times a year for three years now. Kinfolk magazine, to be exact, which is one of a kind. It’s a lifestyle magazine filled with thoughtful pieces on philosophy, music, culture, art, design, fashion and cooking. Reading it is almost meditative; you can’t help but be completely present to the page. 

Imagine my joy at As Quoted cafe with Kinfolk as pictured above, as I read and learned about Shoshin, a Buddhist concept of “a beginner’s mind which refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions.” Total hyggeligt.

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Please say hi.

Until the next post,
your friendly Libromance creator + curator, Pia

The Best Books of 2016

Sunday Spotlight

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

A Lifetime of Remembering, with Colson Whitehead

Book Reviews, Fiction

I’m usually a tad bit late to everything but for Colson Whitehead’s reading at the Green Apple Books in the Sunset, I was an hour early. His book The Underground Railroad has just been longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for fiction and while the reading wasn’t for another hour, the place was already packed.

While waiting for the event to start, I resumed reading as I was only halfway through the book. And while I have read the work of many black writers and poets (Baldwin and Lorde and Finney are favorites), I haven’t read a lot of books on slave narratives. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing at the time of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s deaths at the hands of the police, shaken with anger at a system that does not remember.

The Underground Railroad is 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.

In South Carolina, Cora got her first taste of life outside the plantation as “Bessie.” She lived in a dormitory with other free women, overseen by white nuns who facilitated their job placement, made sure they were getting some education, took care of their health. It was here that Cora was reminded of her mother Mabel, who ran away from the plantation herself. She was never caught, but she never came back for her daughter either.

It had been a whim. Once Mabel ran, Cora thought of her as little as possible. After landing in South Carolina, she realized that she had banished her mother not from sadness but from rage. She hated her. Having tasted freedom’s bounty, it was incomprehensible to Cora that Mabel had abandoned her to that hell. A child. Her company would have made the escape more difficult, but Cora hadn’t been a baby. If she could pick cotton, she could run. She would have died in that place, after untold brutalities, if Caesar had not come along.

Along with her pursuit of freedom from slavery, Cora struggled with a child’s yearning for her mother and the pain of abandonment. There were times when this gave her hope, that she knew if her mother could do it so could she. At other times it filled her with the unspeakable anger of being left to suffer, of terrible loss. Cora never finds out what happened to her mother (whether she made it to Canada at all), but this is where Colson’s genius becomes apparent. Towards the end of the book, there is a chapter on Mabel.

After having to flee South Carolina for fear of being caught by Ridgeway, the slave-catcher, she lands in North Carolina where she hid in the railroad conductor’s attic for months. She couldn’t come out, as the white conductor and his wife did their best to conceal harboring a runaway slave. From the attic, she watched bounty hunters and informers rewarded with every black life caught at the park across the house.

Sunday Spotlight: End-of-Summer Reads

Sunday Spotlight

I think I read too many “beach reads” posts, came across “summer reads” lists that it deterred me from creating my own in this blog. I even had a somewhat contentious relationship with the term itself that I wanted to explore but as fall wonderfully sets in, I’ll save that for 2017.

These past few weeks have been slow-moving for me, with my writing and reading pace down to a snail’s speed. Having come back from trip in Puerto Rico and jumping right into community organizing, nourishing the bookworm in me has taken a back seat. (I did take two books with me in PR: Teju Cole’s books of essays Known and Strange Things and Juan Miguel Severo’s book of (love) poems Habang Wala Pa Sila).

As I finish both books, there are a number of books I want to read and finish as fall brings in a new wave of literature. I can almost guarantee that I’ll get every book on this list from Huffington Post, which features new work from Zadie Smith and Rabih Alameddine.

Literary Hub also came out with titles to read this September and although the only author I’m familiar with is Jeff Chang, reading about new books gives me tender-hearted feelings.

So before I get in on fall’s new titles, here are books that I want to read throughout this month:

Esmeralda Santiago’s Conquistadora | This came out of my own travel experience and research of the history of Puerto Rico. After Cole and Severo’s book, this one is next on my list.

Coulson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad | I first heard of this book after seeing Saeed Jones talk about it on Twitter. It went on to become the new Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection and I can’t wait to immerse myself in this novel.

Joshua Hammer’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu | The title of the book alone is enough for a bibliophile’s eyes to widen. We all know that librarians rule.

Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet | This one’s a classic — I read about it in Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman. The protagonist constantly referred to Pessoa, her favorite writer, and I couldn’t help but be curious about him.

Considering my reading speed as of late, it’ll be quite a challenge to get through this so wish me luck! If you have end-of-summer reads that you’re looking at, do share in the comments below!