May’s Reading List

Call to Action, Fiction, Fil/Lit, Sunday Spotlight

The month of May is a lot of things: May Day or International Workers’ Day (May 1), Mental Health Awareness Month, Memorial Day in the U.S., Mother’s Day (May 14), Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Malcolm X Day (May 19) among a slew of other celebrations and observances.

I’m still reading Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World (Amazon | Indiebound) and it’s been an eye-opening experience as I read about Humboldt’s passionate pursuits. His curiosity and drive is infectious, coupled by Wulf’s engaging writing. I find myself looking at plants and trees a little more closely these days, to see with Humboldt’s eyes and find the connection in everything. File this under Japan’s Greenery Day celebrated on May 4th (which is also Star Wars Day).

After being immersed in Humboldt’s world, this month’s reading list is shaping up to be an exciting one! I finally get to some titles I’ve had for a while but haven’t found the time to delve in. Knowing myself, it’s easy to get swayed into reading a book not on my monthly list once it has arrested my attention and my imagination. Sometimes it’s worth it though — see Wulf’s title above.

Keeping up with my year-long commitment of reading a Filipino book author a month and participating in the #DiverseBookBloggers projects, here are this month’s goodies:

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I’ll be reading Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: img_5724Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Amazon | Indiebound) up next, after coming across a Lithub piece on the historian’s take on Russia, Trump and Terrorism. I’m always curious about what historians think of current political contexts and with tyranny on the rise, it would be a good read to see how it dissects democracy as well as people’s movements. The book is a short read, with only 128 pages. I thought of this book for this month right after reading Claudia Salazar Jimenez’s Blood of the Dawn, which I reviewed just last week about the Peruvian’s communist group The Shining Path.

img_5723Right after is Ambeth R. Ocampo’s Bones of Contention which I picked up in Manila when I was in the Philippines a month ago. When I was at Arkipelago Books a few weeks ago, I had the chance to chop it up with the new owner and I asked about the popularity of Jose Rizal books versus Andres Bonifacio’s. These two Filipino men are heroes in the country, although the former is more prominent. As expected, Rizal’s books are being sought more as opposed to Bonifacio’s. I can go on a different tangent here about the legacy of these two men but I think I’d save that for another post. Watch out for my book review of Ocampo’s book — I’m just as excited to read about Bonifacio as I’m part of a movement he started. I also just looked it up on Amazon recently and whoaaa — it is selling for $651.02! Hit up Arkipelago Books in San Francisco if you want a copy, they may have it or help get it for you.

Another one that I’m already giddy about thinkingimg_5721 of reading is Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World: Stories (Amazon | Indiebound) because the title alone gives me all the feels. I’m a little bummed that I missed her reading in San Francisco at Green Apple Books in February but I’m all eyes. I’ve recently enjoyed reading short stories and this one is a must, having coveted several literary awards. Keeping up with the #DiverseBookBloggers project, I’m so eager to dive right into the work of a Persian novelist hailed as “our generation’s Flannery O’Connor.”

img_5722And last but definitely not the least, I’m diving back into one of my favorite marketing guru, philosopher, author, blogger, overall life coach’s book The Dip (Amazon | Indiebound). From the day I started reading his work, I’ve been a fan. The conceptualization of this blog came out of reading his daily emails, inspired by the wisdom he imparts. To be clear, he’s a marketing guru professionally. To me though, he is what I would call a modern-day philosopher. Subscribe to his blog if you want to know what I mean. There should really be a national holiday for Seth’s book because it was released about ten years ago this month. It’s only fitting that I end this month on that wonderful note.

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Have you read any of these books? Tell me what you’re reading this month!

Still on the same frequency after publishing this post because I just came across this gem — Don’t Be a Dick: Colum McCann’s Advice to Young Writerswhich had this essential quote:

Trying to write without reading is like venturing out to sea all by yourself in a small boat: lonely and dangerous. Wouldn’t you rather see the horizon filled, end to end, with other sails? Wouldn’t you rather wave to neighboring vessels; admire their craftsmanship; cut in and out of the wakes that suit you, knowing that you’ll leave a wake of your own,and that there’s enough wind and sea for you all?

— Téa Obreht

So read with me! Currently: America is in the Heart (Amazon | Indiebound) by Carlos Bulosan, and an ongoing read/lesson/roadmap in creativity, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (Amazon | Indiebound). Got book recommendations? Drop me a line!

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In other news, I just finished watching the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s powerful stuff, yo. First published as a young adult book by Jay Asher, the series revolves around 13 tapes that a teenager made and disseminated after her suicide. While the show tackled issues like rape, bullying and toxic high school culture, the biggest thing for me is that it opened up the discussion around mental health in the mainstream.

The series isn’t perfect, and can at times misrepresent many facets of suicide, but it’s worth watching. There are tons of local and national resources out there too, like Lifeline and The Trevor Project. I also came across this thing called bullet journaling specifically for keeping up with your mental and emotional health.

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Had the most scrumptious toast and a lavender latte from Home Cafe. Go visit them in San Francisco!

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And if you haven’t read my recent fiction book reviews, here they are:

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What can I become quite good at that’s really difficult for a computer to do one day soon? How can I become so resilient, so human and such a linchpin that shifts in technology won’t be able to catch up?

Seth Godin

#GetLit: A Libromance Round-up

#GetLit

More creating

Less consuming

More leading

Less following

More contributing

Less taking

More patience

Less intolerance

More connecting

Less isolating

More writing

Less watching

More optimism

Less false realism

— Seth Godin, More and Less

Friendly reminders as we move forward in the new year, as we usher in a new era of reality across the political and social spectrum. In just a few days, the “orange bloviator” as Zadie Smith referred to him will attempt to further plunge this country into an even more damning abyss of racism, fascism, imperialism.

I’ve been finding solace in so many things: this 2017 Plan of Resistance from the Transgender Law Center, small acts of resistance like The Booksmith‘s response to the alt-right bigot Milo Y’s 250k book deal and of course, infinite joy from book lists from The MillionsVulture and Kirkus Reviews

A book I’ve seen on many 2017 lists is Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees, a collection of short stories from the famed The Sympathizer author. I’m a big fan of his work and I can’t wait for this one!shortI’ve always been more of a novel/literary fiction fan more than anything but these days, short stories are blowing me away. Mia Alvar is the culprit; her weapon, In the Country: Stories. The last time I enjoyed short stories was with This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz a couple of years ago, and I’m anticipating even more as Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women collection of stories also just came out. Be still, literary heart, be still.

In a time when most of us — queer, people of color, immigrants — are feeling vulnerable, I always come back to books, among many tools of resistance, to ground me. What are you reading this time around? 

Books for Days! (& All the Titles You Should be Reading in 2017)

Sunday Spotlight

Peace & Food

Sunday Spotlight

Build a team of people who work together, who care and who learn and you’ll end up with the organization you deserve. Build the opposite and you also get what you deserve.

– Seth Godin, Function

I’m going through a lot of shifts and changes lately at my economic work, as well as in my organizing (with the Filipino community here in the San Francisco Bay Area). A reminder like this helps me refocus on what matters: building deeper relationships with the people who care.

And when I think about people who care, my heart and mind goes out to people who have been working tirelessly for issues that go beyond themselves. Recently in the Philippines, 14 political prisoners were “temporarily released.” These political prisoners are also peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who were jailed on trumped up charges, in violation of guarantees that have already been in place to protect them.

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I am grateful for their release so the peace process can now be continued in the Philippines, between the NDFP and the Philippine government. If you would like to support the peace process in my homeland, check out JustPeacePH!

In other news, peep this.

Literally mouthwatering isn’t a misnomer, but a fact made possible by Egg in Brooklyn:

For about five years now, we’ve hosted the Tables of Contents dinner series at Egg in Brooklyn, cooking many-course meals inspired by great literature.

In cooking the TOC dinners at Egg, we’re consistently amazed by the power—creative, nostalgic, emotional—of translating text into food. If you’ve never cooked and eaten a dish from a favorite book, do it. Nearly any great book has moments of food in it, not just because characters have to eat, but because our relationship with food exposes so much about our identities, cultures, time, and place.

– Lithub, The Ultimate Literary Ten-Course Meal

#GetLit: On Art & Generosity, With Seth Godin

#GetLit

The internet is a connection machine. Virtually every single popular web project (eBay, Facebook, chat, email, forums, etc.) exists to create connections between humans that were difficult or impossible to do before the web. (Seth Godin)

Coming of age with the Internet has both ups and downs, but I’m one to take advantage of its offerings specially when it’s in the service of learning, reading and writing. The advent of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) was like Christmas for me, as I scoured the first few listings of available classes online. The best part? They were all free.

A MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. Made possible with the Internet, it enables different ways of learning regardless of distance and style. As an introvert who is infinitely curious about the world, this was good news to me. Websites like Coursera, edX, +Acumen are all testaments to new and generous ways of learning.

When Seth writes that the internet is a connection machine, he is also referring to the connection economy which is based on two principles: art and generosity. Art is not merely a painting, but “a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen.” Generosity on the other hand is replete with kindness and trust:

When someone takes the time to share a finite resource, one that they cannot hope to be repaid for, generosity happens. (Seth Godin)

Combine works of art with generosity, genuine connections happen. As a writer, Seth’s insights are worth remembering; they are good principles to use and guide the work. MOOCs are examples of art and generosity, and of which we can further enable the process of making art and expanding our own capacities for generosity.

Here are a few of free, online courses on literature and writing:

Modern & Contemporary Poetry 
A fast-paced introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry, with an emphasis on experimental verse, from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to the present. Participants (who need no prior experience with poetry) will learn how to read poems that are supposedly “difficult.” Available from Coursera, starts September 10, 2016

Storytelling Fundamentals: Character, Conflict, Context, Craft
A class for creative writers (both aspiring and established), and everyone who wants a deeper understanding of what makes a great story so captivating. You’ll leave this class armed with a tried-and-true framework for writing your own fictional short story, and inspired to put pen to paper. Available from Skillshare

How to be a Writer (A MOOC for kids!)
Writers put words together to tell stories and describe ideas. Language is our tool, and communication our goal. We try hard to be observant, honest, and insightful. Available from DIY

For a list of classes by Seth, check here (not free, but worth every penny).

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Do you know of any free writing courses? Share them in the comments below!

Creating as a Must

Art + Creativity, Sunday Spotlight

Einstein said it is intelligence having fun, Matisse said it requires courage. The word conjures up images of lone painters hurling pain and a thousand ideas in their studios, or of writers cranking away on their typewriters. It’s a catchphrase thrown in conference rooms when faced with an impossible task at hand, used to summon the right side of the brain for insight and imagination. From one end of the world to another, it has also been invoked for the purpose of survival.

Whether it is used for artistic, commercial or life-preservation pursuits, creativity appeals to what is most human about us — the need and the ability to create something out of nothing for a purpose outside of ourselves.

At the same time, it has also become elusive. It’s not that time wears out our ability to be creative; it is because as we get older, we somehow acquire more fear. Our experiences, specially the bad or painful ones, The thought of creativity also speaks to our youth, when we are most fearless and uninhibited. At a time when we are bound by “efficiency standards,” “service level agreements” and “productivity models,” its use almost requires a luxury of time we do not have. Ironically, its employment is what created those terms in the first place, all for the glory of profit.

I’m interested in creativity not for profit’s sake, but for the expansion of the mind, heart and spirit. The kind that propels us to create work that is meaningful, that resonates with our most natural instincts. The kind that sees people as kindred, not competition. And most of all, the kind that stretches our capacity to be kind, generous and loving.

Over the years, I’ve acquired books that have spurred me in the process of creating — titles that have not only nurtured one’s creativity, but have also aided in instilling mindfulness and spirituality as a reader and a writer.

Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must and Seth Godin’s What to Do When it’s Your Turn have all been eye-opening, generous in their lessons.

I picked up Kleon’s books at Green Apple Books in San Francisco during a time when I wasn’t consistently writing. I was always eager to find books and frankly, any advice on how I can bring myself to the page.

And surely, these books helped. A lot.

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I also came upon Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion after reading a post on Brain Pickings, the creation of Maria Popova (her On Being interview with Krista Tippet is unmissable).

Luna’s book starts off with the same dilemmas most of us have when it comes to actualizing our most passionate pursuits. We are beset with innumerable shoulds from our parents, families, religion, institutions and other dictates of modern society. Figuring out our musts then becomes arduous in a sea of shoulds. 

With its playful illustrations, thoughtful prose and lines from beloved artists, the book invites the reader to look within themselves, making the process of investigating our musts a gentler process.


And then there’s Seth Godin’s book What to Do When it’s Your Turn (And it’s Always Your Turn) which arrived in my doorstep back in 2014 with a gift: an extra copy of the book.

I’ve long been a fan of Seth since I subscribed to his blog. His books Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? and The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? were influential guides as I sought to further my own creativity and push myself to create work that matters.

On days that I feel overwhelmed with my shoulds, Seth’s wisdom prods me to remember my musts. One of the most indispensable things I’ve learned from him is that we’re now past the industrial economy; we are now in a connection economy where more than ever, we have the most opportunities of creating work that truly resonates with people.


I was struck by this idea of connecting since then. In a lot of ways, I’ve taken Kleon, Luna and Seth’s advice to heart and created Libromance.

I had a previous blog for six years and created a total of 86 posts, where I published about 20 posts on some years and 5 on others. My blog lacked focus and consistency. Although it was a medium for my writing, it wasn’t until I started fine-tuning what I was most passionate about (reading) and infuse it with the best way I knew how to be creative (writing) that this blog was birthed (January 1, 2016).

It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. The act of creating at a time when we are bogged down by fear, our shoulds and other things in life makes the task of following our musts even more urgent.

Most often than not, creativity has been ssummoned by work that goes beyond ourselves — in the service of our loved ones, our communities, future generations.

So in the spirit of Seth, and everything and everyone worth creating for: Go make a ruckus.