2013 Mid-Year Report

I saw some of my friends do a post similar to this, and I was checking my archives and as it turned out, I haven’t really made a list like this in my past years of book blogging. Since this book blog has been feeling a little bit lonely lately, So I figure I’d write something like this. And yeah, maybe do a check on my goals, too, to see if I am still sort of on track. :)

Image from we heart it

Image from we heart it

Best Books of 2013 (So Far):

In no particular order:

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel: “The ending left me…reeling. A friend told me about the twist in the story, but I wanted to be surprised and boy was I surprised. I couldn’t wrap my head around it for a while, and I had my first case of a book hangover for the year, which was extended right after watching the movie.”
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: “One last thing: I hope that when Death comes for me, he’ll find my soul sitting up.
  • Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee: “Would there have been redemption for Judas, if he had just waited? Could he have become someone like Peter, who denied Jesus but accepted mercy which led him to become the great church leader that he is? If he had just waited until Sunday, would he have believed that Jesus was indeed the person he had been waiting for his entire life?”
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff: “If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much.
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver: “Because really, what do people talk about when they talk about love? My friends and I do this a lot, and while we all have these ideas and dreams and everything, I don’t think we will ever grasp what love really is about. The best we can do, I think, is try.”
  • Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra: “Let’s just say this book had me…er, squeeing more than half the time. Hee. There were many, many things I wanted to ask at the end of the second book, but I’m very glad to report that this third book delivers.”

Honorable Mentions:

2013 Goals Checkpoint:

  1. 52 Books – upped to 75, when I realized that I will probably reach 52 a bit earlier. Then I got into a reading slump. Heh. But I am at 38 books now, and Goodreads tells me I am 1 book ahead. So yay.
  2. 5 Classics – 1 out of 5. Eep. I have to catch up.
  3. 4 Chunksters – 2 out of 4. Reading my third this month!
  4. 20 Filipino Books – 10 out of 20. Good job, self. *pats*
  5. Required Reading – I am surprisingly managing this well. There were some books that I postponed reading (for the future (hello, May books), but other than that, I think I hit my monthly goals quite well.
  6. The Reread Factor – I’ve reread several books but I didn’t get to review them. Oops. Maybe next time. :)

I don’t review all the books I read now because sometimes I get too lazy to review and by the time I realized that I should review it, it’s been too long and I can’t remember what to write anymore. So…there. But don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere. :D I’m just a little busy with other life things. :)

Happy reading for the rest of 2013!


Gilead by Marilynne RobinsonGilead by Marilynne Robinson
Publisher: Broché
Number of pages: 291
My copy: paperback, bought from Bestsellers

Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows “even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order” (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.

* * *

A good friend has been pushing this book to me for a while now, saying that this is probably one book I will like. Note that this friend and I had different tastes in books, and it’s only just recently that we started reading similar ones and it was mostly because of the book club picks. If this book was recommended to me say, early in 2011, I wouldn’t have picked it up, but since I feel like I’ve been growing as a reader, I was actually quite excited to read this when I finally found a copy. This wasn’t my first choice for our book club’s book of the month for April, because there was an initial plan of reading this book with a some friends. But I guess everyone else wanted to read it for April, and who am I to disagree with that, right?

Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead is actually a long letter of Reverend John Ames, a dying pastor, to his young son. There are stories of his father, and his grandfather, of his first wife, of his friendship with old Boughton and his complicated relationship with Boughton’s youngest son who was named after him. He mused about life, and death, and wrote what he can to give his son a memory of him, his old father, who can only do so much now that he’s about to leave his family to go to his Heavenly Father.

Gilead felt like a pretty short book, and I was kind of expecting that I would finish it real quick. But instead, I found myself reading it a lot slower than I expected. The book was slow, and it meandered, and its lack of chapter breaks made it a little bit harder to devour (what, I’m used to the normal structure of books), but I guess there was a reason for that. Gilead is actually meant for slow reading because of its content. Gilead is really more about…memories. Wishes. Regrets. Hope. It’s a journal and a letter, and you just can’t rush through something like it because it contains wisdom from the eyes of someone who has lived long. The number of pages I have dog-eared in my copy is the sure indication of this, but I do not regret a thing because there were just too many beautiful passages in the book. Some examples:

The twinkling of an eye. That is the most wonderful expression. I’ve thought from time to time it was the best thing in life, that little incandescence you see in people when the charm of the thing strikes them, or the humor of it. “The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart.” That’s a fact. (p.61)

Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness, a miracle was preparing. So I am right to remember it as a blessed time, and myself as waiting in confidence, even if I had no idea what I was waiting for. (p.64)

I must be gracious. My only role is to be gracious. Clearly I must somehow contrive to think graciously about him since he makes it such a point of seeing right through me. I believe I have made some progress on that front through prayer, though there is clearly much more progress to be made, much more praying to be done. (p.145)

And grace is the great gift. So to be forgiven is only half the gift. The other half is that we also can forgive, restore, and liberate, and therefore we can feel the will of God enacted through us, which is the great restoration of ourselves to ourselves. (p.190)

I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave – that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. (p.290)

Many times, I had to stop a bit in reading this because some of the passages hit home, a bit too hard. I have to stop and reflect on them, and sometimes I feel the tinge of guilt in some because I know that I have failed in what Reverend Ames has written. That particular bit about graciousness is a hard to swallow, because I find myself being in his position ever so often, and it’s always a hard battle to think graciously of someone who you somehow dislike. I can’t say that I am a truly gracious person just yet, but I definitely agree that there is a lot of praying yet to be done. Will you pray with me about this?

There was a little question of whether this book was a sad one before we started discussing it online, but our moderator just said that it’s a book that will make us heave deep sighs. And she was right. Deep sighs, indeed. I found myself close to tears in the end, and it made me wonder what kind of legacy would I be leaving, and if I would be ever able to say or write that same last line in the book with peace and surrender, just as Reverend Ames did for his son. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.

My friends (who I have linked below) have said it a lot, but I will say it here, too: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is beautiful. There is no other word that can be used to really describe it.

There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient. (p. 287)


Required Reading: April

Other reviews:
Book Rhapsody
It’s a Wonderful Book World

Required Reading 2013: April

Well, March was a pretty fantastic month, if I do say so myself. (But I am biased because it’s my birthday month. Still, I can definitely say: Best. Birthday. Month. Ever.

I read a lot of good books for March, too, and I actually finished all my Required Reading books!

  • Iscariot by Tosca Lee (5/5) – Intense, and perfect for Holy Week.
  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (4/5) – I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I think I like this as much as I liked The Sugar Queen. :)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (4/5) – Ah. So many words, so many feels. I really liked this one, and we had a pretty great discussion over this book, too. :)

I read a lot of other good books, too, but of course, I didn’t have much time to review them. I’m thinking of upping my books to read this year, because I’m a little almost halfway to 52. But maybe after I finish my April books.

Speaking of.

Required Reading: April

Now that my favorite month has come and gone…I see I will have a busy April ahead! There’s the usual work, among other things, and the book club’s anniversary events — so yeah, my April is packed. :) This would explain why my reading list this month is just this:

Required Reading books for April

Required Reading books for April

  1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – my second chunkster for the year + buddy reads with several friends in the book club. It’s still 500+ pages less thick than Les Miserables, so I am pretty sure I can do this. :D
  2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – Our book club’s book of the month. I’ve been meaning to read this, and I’m glad it was chosen (although my original vote for our list was The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao). I think this will balance JS&MN well.

I am also currently in the middle (or at least, in the first fourth) of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which I am taking my sweet time to read. I am also reading through Kristan Higgins’ back list because she’s such a fun read, and I am reading it for research for my romance writing class. :D

What are you planning to read this month? :)

Check out my friends’ reading lists for April, too!