Essential Reading: August 2014

Another milestone of sorts. My very first Essential Reading post was published on August 2012 so I’ve been keeping this feature up for 2 years now which is, quite frankly, an achievement for a guy like me. Anyway, before we proceed with the books I’ve read last July, let’s take a  trip down memory lane and look at the books that I were planning to read two years ago:


It was Buwan ng Wika so I decided to do some thematic reading and picked books written by Filipino writers. That Kind of Guy by Mina V. Esguerra was a book that held my interest surprisingly which is something that could not be said about Fairy Tale Fail which was written by the same author.  Ilustrado was, for me, a revelation and proof that Filipinos can keep with the postmodernists of the world. Reportage on Lovers introduced me to Nick Joaquin (using his pen name, Quijano de Manila) and his numerous articles detailing the many forms that love take in the Filipino psyche. Gagamba, although it somehow failed in its execution of multiple POVs of a single event, was still a good and captivating read. Finally, Jose Rizal’s seminal and important masterpiece, Noli Me Tangere, is something that every Filipino should read and understand.

But enough of such memories and let’s move on to what I read last July:

  • Sylvia by Leonard Michaels (5/5)
  • The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (4/5)
  • In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders (5/5)
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (5/5)

Definitely one of the better months for this reading year. Sylvia came as a surprise because I didn’t expect to love it this much. It has less than 200 pages but it is very dense and beautifully written. The Sound of Things Falling is another addition to the reasons why my favorite literary continent is South America. Vasquez joins the company of Marquez, Neruda, Llosa, and Borges who make me want to read every book written by a Latin American author. In Persuasion Nation is great but what else do you expect from Saunders? Finally, The Sense of an Ending has just left me reeling with its tragedy written in elegant prose that I wasn’t able to read anything for a few days after finishing Barnes’ masterpiece. All in all, a very good month indeed.

Now, for my August reading list:

ER August 2014

  • Moon Palace by Paul Auster – I haven’t read any of Auster’s works in a while but I suddenly had the desire to read Moon Palace just as I was about to leave the Philippines so I quickly packed this book with my carry-on luggage and, because providence smiles upon me, it turns out that I’ll have the opportunity to meet Auster at the end of the month.
  • In Love by Alfred Hayes – I bought the other book by Alfred Hayes, My Eyes For The World To See, last May along with Victor Serge’s The Case of Comrade Tulayev. Anyway, R. read My Eyes For The World To See and she loved the book. It seems a good indication so I got this from Barnes & Noble for me to read here and see for myself if Hayes is indeed a good writer.
  • The Hour of The Star by Clarice Lispector – I’ve already expressed my love for Latin American literature but my love for that particular geographically-inclined genre is limited to its male writers. The only Latin American female writer that I have read is Silviana Ocampo who co-wrote When There’s Love, There’s Hate with her husband, Adolfo Bioy Casares. Reading The Hour of the Star is a way of remedying my own oversight.
  • The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark – Muriel Spark is another author that I want to be acquainted with. I have three of her books back in the Philippines but the editions published by New Directions just beckoned at me from the shelves of Barnes & Noble that it was very hard for me to resist. In the end, I chose The Ballad of Peckham Rye over her other novels because how can I resist a novel about a neighborhood thrown into chaos by the sudden appearance of a man who appears to be in league with the devil.
  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong – Our book club’s August selection is Erica Jong’s erotic masterpiece about a woman who indulges her sexual fantasies by having sex outside of her marriage. Fear of Flying is considered a landmark work in feminism and courted controversy due to its depiction of female sexuality. I’ve read the first few chapters of the book and I’m enjoying the experience so that’s a good sign.

That’s it. I hope August can keep up July’s momentum but no pressure.

4 Responses to “Essential Reading: August 2014”
  1. Monique says:

    That cover of that Paul Auster book looks very psychedelic!

  2. Looks like it really was a great reading month! Three 5-stars? Argh. I want more Saunders! And what sense did you make out of TSoaE?

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