But first, let me take a shelfie.
My goal every year is to read at least one novel a month. I read a lot of papers, policies, guidebooks, manuals, etc. for work so my "brain break" is to read for fun. I read books with utmost devotion: I highlight, stick post-its, dog ear, and type/copy-paste my favorite parts into an Evernote notebook. I send quotes to friends who'll appreciate them so we can discuss. Sometimes, I send my thoughts in the form of voice notes, beginning with, "welcome to episode x of my podcast..."
When I quote/share passages from books, people say "Bakit ang dami mong time magbasa?!" or "Wow, buti ka pa may time magbasa..." Sometimes in a judgy way. Fuck you po. Che! I block gadget-free periods (now from 9PM to 8AM) to read with no distractions, and pick up whatever I'm reading during downtimes (like waiting in line, waiting for takeoff/landing) and during long-haul flights. I choose my books based on recommendations from friends and my go-to app/site, goodreads. As much as I would love to read hard copies all the time, I've learned to love e-books too just because they're much more convenient for my lifestyle. My iPad Pro functions as my e-book reader.
Here's my 2019 reading list as of December 12, and short reviews:
Calypso, David Sedaris ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Darker (?) than his usual memoirs because it covers topics like death, suicide, and healing, but still written in the remarkable David Sedaris way. One of my favorite non-fiction writers of all time.
Blankets, Craig Thompson ⭐️⭐️⭐️
My first graphic novel, encouraged by my fellow English major and good friend JM. I found it difficult to “read” text and images at the same time so di ko masyado na-enjoy. I probably need to read it again.
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Fun, quirky, and light read.
Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I really wanted to like this book because of its glowing reviews but it fell flat for me. O baka naman I had high expectations?! I had to commit to finish it. Ugh. I agree with this review from NPR.
Am I There Yet?: The Loop-de-loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood by Mari Andrew ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I bought the e-book but wish I had bought the hard copy. Mari Andrew knows how to make sense of you innermost thoughts through phrases and illustrations. Reading it felt like a tight hug from a childhood friend over coffee and tea on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Mary Grace.
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I first read Big Magic at the beginning of 2016, when I was going through a rough mental/emotional/physical patch. I picked it up again this year because I lent it to my friend Nica and she sent me a photo of a passage I had highlighted. So many gems still resonated with me three years later: to embrace fear, to give less fucks, and to pursue creativity for the sake of it.
The Little Book of Skincare, Charlotte Cho ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Super easy and fun read for skincare and K-Beauty lovers.
Me Before You, Jojo Moyes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I watched the movie on the plane many years ago and cried like I was at a funeral of a loved one. (Siguro sabi nung katabi ko, "anong pinagdadaanan ni 'teh?") I knew exactly what was going to happen but could not stop crying in the last few chapters. I needed to put ice on my eyes afterwards 'cause I had an event. Grabe.
Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion ⭐️⭐️⭐️
This exhausted me but my disclaimer is that I was exhausted from Me Before You. Bad idea to read two novels about death consecutively. I feel bad giving Joan Didion a three-star rating because it's Joan Didion and it was a deeply personal memoir.
Factfulness, Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, and Ola Rosling ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The book presents a new way of looking at the world, history, and societal issues. We may not be as fucked as we think after all.
Daisy Jones and the Six, Taylor Jenkins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Engrossing and entertaining with a plot twist that made my jaw drop. The perfect beach/summer read. (I coincidentally read it in Fiji.)
Outlaw Ocean, Ian Urbina ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I don’t usually read ocean-related books because umay na ako, but I made an exception for this one. Urbina is a gripping storyteller, and some chapters read like suspense thrillers. One chapter is dedicated to Filipino fishers, which created fissures across my chest. I work in conservation but (consciously) choose not to work on fishing issues (unless it's about sharks). It made me wonder how I could contribute to make that industry just a little better in my own way. I learned so much about the lives of advocates, fisherfolk, and enforcers. I try to integrate what I learned at work, bit by bit.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, Lori Gottlieb ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
MY FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR. Memoir/self-help mash-up. Parang nag-therapy ka na rin. I cried while reading the last few chapters on the plane. (You see the pattern here? Stay away from me when you see me on a flight.) I binged on Lori Gottlieb's articles on Atlantic after.
Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This is the kind of book you need to enjoy in bite-sized pieces, because every essay is packed with critique, wisdom, and questions. But also, the writing is so exquisite that you don't want it to end!
Mother of All Questions, Rebecca Solnit ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Solnit's piece "Protest and persist: why giving up hope is not an option" is one that I go back to, quote to friends, and reread all. the. time. It wasn't a good idea to read this after Trick Mirror because it had a similar feel (i.e., full of critique, wisdom, and questions) so it required mental focus. I took a break from this book to read the next one.
Company of One ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.5)
Patch lent this to me because he knew I was questioning the current status of Save Philippine Seas as a small NGO, and my decision to stay small in size with no office and no full-time employees. He hadn't read it yet and asked me to send him summaries instead HAHA. I don't think it's particularly well-written (compared to say, Rebecca Solnit or Jia Tolentino but perhaps that's an unfair comparison LOL). But I read it at the right time, which is why I'm giving it four stars. Its chapters unfolded like one pat on the back after another, reassuring me that I wasn't crazy to ask "how can we do better and scale impact?" instead of "how can we grow larger and scale in size?"
Know My Name, Chanel Miller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This deserves a virtual standing ovation. It is an emotional and sometimes painful read because it covers the depth and breadth of sexual assault, patriarchy, the shitty justice system, and white privilege (among others). Every line is intentional and poetic.
Next on my reading list: Pachinko, City of Girls, Normal People, Three Women, Nudge, Milk and Honey, Dear Girls, Over the Top, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Hyperbole and a Half... Ok ang dami.
Anyone up for an e-book exchange? I'm going to try really hard not to buy new books in 2020 so I can (i) read my unread books and (ii) save money. Just writing that made me sad. I'll guess I'll have to depend on my mom's e-book piracy skills to find new bestsellers for me.