‘Tis the Season for Cuffing: A Book Lover’s Edition

Sunday Spotlight

To be real, cuddling up with a book is how I’d really like to spend this cuffing season. With so much more titles and best of the year lists coming out, it’s enough to hole yourself up in a cozy cabin with a steaming mug of hot cocoa and the most delicious book you can get your hands on.

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Ah, this is the life.

A queer Pinay can dream right?

While I scheme of ways to actually make the above photo a reality for me before the season ends, here are a few notable literary things to tide all of us over:

  • Longreads has also compiled their best story picks for the year, which includes a piece on the beloved writer James Baldwin and gentrification in San Francisco. Go through this list propitiously — it definitely isn’t the time for tl;dr.
  • Over at The Millions, Lisa Lucas of the National Book Foundation reviews her Year in Reading for 2016. What exquisite joy it must be to read & revel in the literary world! She mentions a few titles that I’ve been wanting to read, like Jesmyn Ward’s The Fire This Time (Baldwin-esque sighs) but what surprised me was a title she referred to as a “true sparkler of the year”: C.E. Morgans The Sport of Kings. Duly noted.
  • If you’re like me, you probably wait for Pamela Paul’s weekly newsletters from The New York Times Book Review to see which books are making waves (or should be making waves), which books are new and notable releases, which books deserve your time and company. I particularly enjoyed reading about Paul’s process of selection as revealed on reddit and compiled by Lithub here: how planning for the best books list starts in January, how it’s an emotional process.
  • Lastly, check out the third edition of Nepantla, a journal dedicated to queer poets of color. There is a poem by one of my fave poets — r. erica doyle — in it so don’t miss out on this anthology:
                           dear trees, please sculpt the byway; dear breeze, whisper a map;
                           dear magnetic field, make of me a sail in the solar wind,
                           that I may unwind into the light of my own throat’s longing. (from wander)

I’m currently finishing two books: an advance copy of Han Kang’s Human Acts (to be released in January 2017) and Alain de Botton’s The News: A User’s Manual. I’ve been sick for the past two weeks but I really can’t complain, because laying in bed only means one thing: more time for reading while I’m recuperating.

Also, here’s a preview of next week’s posts on the blog: a lot on classics, like Gabriel García Márquez and Kahlil Gibran. Going back to the classics may be a theme next year, as you can never learn enough from past literary greats.

“Life is too short to read a bad book.”
–Pamela Paul

Charting the Inner Landscape of our Lives with Krista Tippett

Book Reviews, Soul + Spirit


It was a cold Saturday morning in a hospital in San Francisco and I was huddled on a desk, silently cursing the winter chill. I wasn’t supposed to be at work that day. The department was eerily quiet, too bright with all of the fluorescent light panels on. And then from a corner of my inbox, I noticed an email from Seth Godin that has illuminated my life since then: his interview with Krista Tippet, host of the podcast On Being.

I’ve been a fan of Seth for some time now, religiously devouring his daily emails (you should really subscribe if you haven’t), books, interviews and classes. Seth’s humbling brilliance, punctuated by Krista’s insightful wisdom stunned me. The hour flew by. Even though I was unfamiliar with Krista’s tone and style, it was easy for me to slide into the show’s rhythm.

That interview made me a Krista fan, as I relished episodes wherein she conversed with luminaries I’m both familiar and unfamiliar with: Pico Iyer, Maria Popova, Alain de Botton, Paul Muldoon, David Whyte, Elizabeth Alexander. It wasn’t until later, after ten episodes or so, that I finally started to grapple the depth of the show; I slowly felt its impact within the inner workings of my own being.

What is striking with these conversations is that although Krista’s guests/partners are not necessarily spiritual nor religious, she is always able to take them to a field where the heart, spirit and soul meet, bringing her listeners with her. Each episode always leaves me feeling a little more grounded, embracing the length of being human even more.

As soon as I found out that she was releasing a book, I knew that Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living would be just as generous as Krista was (also Seth’s words in the interview).

Remembering the Grief and Reality of War, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book Reviews, Fiction

I finished reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun a day before April 14, 2016, which marks the 2nd anniversary of #BringBackOurGirls. Back in 2014, the militant group Boko Haram kidnapped about 276 Nigerian schoolgirls from the Chibok Government Secondary School in the middle of the night. Over the weekend, Pope Francis also arrived at the isle of Lesbos in Greece to show support to the Syrian refugees. To date, there are 4.6 million refugees from Syria, with 6.6 million displaced within the country after civil war broke out in 2011.

With the news cycle and a heart-wrenching experience with the book, all of these things were on my mind.

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Photograph: Philip Ojisua/AFP/Getty Images

Half of a Yellow Sun is a novel set in Nigeria in the ’60s —  before, during and after the country’s independence, followed by a brutal civil war. The twins Olanna and Kainene are two of the story’s main characters, whose lives shift dramatically at every turn of event that rocked the country’s political, economic and social stability.

The twin’s lives are intertwined: Olanna leads a life with Odenigbo, her “revolutionary lover” as Kainene calls him, along with a group of intellectuals they drink and opine with in the cool evenings; Kainene opts to run their family businesses along with her lover, an aspiring British writer, Richard Churchhill.

“This Odenigbo imagines himself to be quite the freedom fighter. He’s a mathematician but he spends all his time writing newspaper articles about his own brand of mishmash African socialism. Olanna adores that. They don’t seem to realize how much of a joke socialism is,” said Kainene to Richard.

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Artist: Ayeola Ayodeji

How to Have a Traveling Mindset, with Alain de Botton

Book Reviews, Soul + Spirit

Alain de Botton does it again — for me at least, with his book The Art of Travel (Shop your local indie bookstore). As a Pisces through and through, the mind is always in another place, city, country or continent far from where the feet are planted. There is a restlessness everyday, and I’m one to daydream all day long until I’ve had my fill of whatever place I want to be in.

But the fill is never enough, with the advent of the internet and all the travel subscriptions and newsletters and travel promos. The more begrudging each day becomes, the more the incessant need to wander.

This book was gifted to me by a friend who knew my wandering ways. After reading the book, I realized that I was actually more grounded than I thought I would.

There is an art to traveling, de Botton explains, something that is intricately tied to our happiness more than we care to think of. To illustrate his points, he observes and parallels the conditions of the soul with writers, poets and thinkers as he himself engages in its art.

From his explorations in Barbados to Denmark, here are four notable things to think of in when it comes to traveling: