Required Reading: April 2014

You know what? My decision last March not to set any reading lists was actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my reading this year. It was actually so nice not to worry about what I will read, or if I will finish anything that I set myself to read. I picked up whatever book I wanted and read at my own pace. That was definitely refreshing.

So here’s what I read last month:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (5/5) – Definitely one of my favorite reads so far. So many gems in this one. :)
  • The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding (3/5) – Fun contemporary YA, with theater and musicals and a writer mom.
  • Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins (4/5) – Heee so much fun and swoon! You can never go wrong with a Kristan Higgins.
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver (3/5) – Finally finished this! I wasn’t as in love with this as I was with What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, but I really liked the longer version of Bath, entitled “A Small Good Thing”, here.
  • Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (3/5) – Still magical and still lovely. I want to go and be lost in Lost Lake, too.
  • 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley (5/5) – This is a retreat book, so I started this on February and ended on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Definitely life-changing. To Jesus, through Mary.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (reread) – A reread because I was asked to moderate a book discussion about this. I liked it better the second time around. :)

See, I read a lot last month! (And of course, I wrote zero reviews for them. Haha)

But now it’s April, and it’s sorta back to the reading list reality. Sort of. I have a reading list, which I bet I wouldn’t be able to follow as strictly because I always get distracted by other shiny books nowadays and I am just a slow reader now, so there. :)

Required Reading 2014 - April

Holy Week falls on April, and I’ve always tried to have a Holy Week theme for my books whenever it rolls around because it sets the right mood. I realized that I didn’t have fiction that’s good for Holy Week this time around (I had the last two Narnia books in 2012 and Iscariot in 2013). But now that I seem to be taking a liking to some non-fiction books, and we keep on talking about some of these titles at SFC meetings, so I figured it’s time to actually read things that the Pope wrote. (And Pope Francis is cool.)

rrapril2014

  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino – our book club’s book of the month. :)
  • The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) and Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis – because like I said, Pope Francis is cool. And it’s about time I read some encyclicals. And The Joy of the Gospel has joy in it, and it’s my word for 2014. :)
  • Illusion by Frank Peretti – This has been on my TBR for years, and it’s kind of suprising because I love Frank Peretti. I should have started reading this ages ago. :)

I also plan to read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, but I didn’t put it here because I’m pretty sure I won’t finish it this month. :P

Daring Greatly

daringgreatlyDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
Publisher: Gotham
Number of pages: 260
My copy: Kindle edition

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

* * *

I first heard about Brené Brown from one of my favorite personal blogs, and there I found her TEDx talk on vulnerability and shame. From then on, I was a fan, and I really wanted to read her book that talked more about vulnerability. I considered my 2013 as a year of learning about vulnerability (besides learning how to be brave), and I thought that it was such a mind-blowingly simple thing, this vulnerability. I mean, it’s simple because it’s all in us, but it’s also possibly quite the hardest thing anyone will ever allow themselves to be. But it’s necessary, right?

2013 came and went, and it was a rollercoaster of a year for me. Sometime near the end of the year, I decided that I was going to make Daring Greatly one of the first books I will read in 2014, because the end of 2013 kind of steered me in that direction. So when 2014 rolled around, I opened the book and started reading.

10% in, and I was already learning so much, that I wondered why I didn’t try to read it earlier. I mean, this could have helped me deal with life things back then!

On a serious note, Daring Greatly is a book that dares us to dare greatly. If you’ve watched her TEDx talks, this book is pretty much an expanded edition of what she said there. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead is about how we can practice vulnerability and cultivate shame resilience in our everyday lives so we can dare greatly and help others to do the same. Using comprehensive research on shame (the one she talked about on the video — yes, this is me urging you to watch that video), Brené talked about her personal experiences and the results she received from interviews and surveys that shed light on shame and how it is to be the “man in the arena”.

I loved this. Like I said, 10% into the book, I was already nodding and noting and highlighting so many parts, because they rang true. These were the things I was trying to learn myself last year, and the things I tried to practice. These were the things I desired to have with practicing vulnerability. I loved how open and relatable this was, and I could feel that the writing itself was very vulnerable, with the way Brené shared bits of her life and research in the book. And it’s compassionate, too, because even if some parts hit hard — as in, I can’t believe I didn’t do this, I’m so stupid, la la la — she always brings you back to the fact that our mistakes don’t make us. We may make wrong choices, but it doesn’t tell us what we’re worth.

I enjoyed reading this for the most part because it’s not just a self-help book, but also a book packed by research. Brené even talked about her research process at the end of the book, and you she knows what she’s talking about. It’s so refreshing to read this, and find someone openly discussing something that we all want to be (even if sometimes we didn’t think we want it). I really enjoyed the chapters on debunking vulnerability myths, and that chapter she named after Harry Potter. :D (Because when you think about it, shame is like a dementor.) I think I just sort of spaced out with the vulnerability in a corporate setting (which is funny because I should be interested in that given that I live in corporate world). The parenting section was interesting even if I’m not a parent, and you know that these are just the things you want to note for when you have your own kids.

So overall, I really liked this book, and I was glad that I read this to start off my 2014. I really liked Brené’s Final Thoughts in the book, about that guy who was inspired by Brené’s TED talk, and decided to tell the girl he was dating for several months that he loved her. He got rejected.

She told him that she thought he was “awesome” but that she thought they should date other people. When he got back to his apartment after talking to his girlfriend, he told his two roommates what had happened. He said, “They were both hunched over their laptops and without looking up one of them was like ‘What were you thinking, man?'” One of his roommates told him that girls only like guys who are running the other way. He looked at me and said, “I felt pretty stupid at first. For a second I was mad at myself and even a little pissed at you. But then I thought about it and I remembered why I did it. I told my roommates, ‘I was daring greatly, dude.'”

He smiled when he told me, “They stopped typing, looked at me, nodded their heads, and said, ‘Oh. Right on, dude.'”

I truly believe that Brené Brown had it right: Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. There were many things in Daring Greatly that I wished I had known earlier, but it’s also okay that I learned it now, because I don’t think I would have appreciated its value then. To live an authentic, wholehearted life, we need to dare greatly, over and over again. Even if we fail, because guess what — our failures have nothing on us, because we are enough. :)

I was daring greatly, dude. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 74

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity…to let ourselves sink into the joyful moments of our lives even though we know that they are fleeting, even though the world tells us not to be too happy lest we invite disaster – that’s an intense form of vulnerability.

The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.

Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and cultivate hope. The joy becomes a part of who we are, and when bad things happen — and they do happen — we are stronger.

“What are the gremlins saying?”

Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither.

Shame resilience is the ability to say, “This hurts. This is disappointing, maybe even devastating. But success and recognition and approval are not values that drive me. My value is courage and I was just courageous. You can move on, shame.”

If you own this story you get to write the ending.

I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.

Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer.

Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.

Rating:

Required Reading: February 2014 + January Recap

Hello, and happy February! How was your January? I hope it was filled with joy and lots of good books. :)

Before I go to the books I read in January, and the books I will read for February, let me talk about some things first. You know, for a change, to shake things up. :D

First off: the Bloggy Birthday Giveaway Winner!

I meant to announce this earlier, but life and work got in the way. Eeps, sorry about that! But thank you to everyone who greeted and left recommendations in my blog’s birthday post. You just made my wish list longer! :) Here are the recommendations:

  • From Goldie: I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman, Airport by Arthur Hailey, Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella, and The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • From Maria: A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
  • From Louize: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • From Bennard: Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
  • From Monique: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • From Lynai: Hinds’ Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard
  • From Tin: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • From Chris: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  • From Kat: The Devil and Miss Prym by Paolo Coelho

Thanks so much for the recommendations! :) I will find a way to read all of sometime (probably not this year, but I will find a way :P). Thank you so much for the well-wishes for the blog, too.

And now the winner, thanks to random.org:

Chris

Yay, congrats, Chris! I will send you an email about this soon (and figure out what will go in the package :D).

Second: First Book Club Discussion for 2014 + Book Club Feature

Our book club had our first discussion for the year last January 18. We talked about The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and we dared each other to read books. It was a fun afternoon, as always, except that my immune system gave in the middle of the discussion, so I started to get sick by the end of it. Massive headache, followed by my voice going away, perhaps as a sign not to speak! ^^;

TFG's F2F25 - Photo c/o Joy

TFG’s F2F25 – Photo c/o Joy

Thanks to everyone who attended, and thanks to The Appraisery in Cubao X for the venue! :)

Speaking of the book club, we were featured in Wanderrgirl! :)

TFG at Wanderrgirl

TFG at Wanderrgirl (And that photo there is so family-ish)

My friend Isa asked if I could write about the book club for Wanderrgirl last December, so of course I said yes. :) It was an absolute surprise to see it posted yesterday. Click here to read the entire post (and yes, I may have gone a bit sappy there :’) )!

Third: January Required Reading Recap

I did say that I read more in January, and true enough, I finished 8 books. 10, if you count the rereads. Of course, two of them were pretty short, but still. :) I was quite surprised that I finished two nonfiction books, too. And wrote a bit more reviews than I did in the past months. :D

  • History in English Words by Owen Barfield (3/5) – My first Barfield was an interesting reading experience. I promised I’d write a review, so I’ll save all other thoughts for that. :)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (5/5) – just as lovely as the first time.
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown (4/5) – So, so powerful. This made me laugh, nod, and cry at so many parts.
  • The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (4/5) – I really missed reading contemporary YA, and I’m so glad I had Sara Zarr to fall back on. Really liked this one. :)
  • Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (3/5) – A fun romp back into Kate Daniels’ world. :)

I’ve managed to get ahead with my quantity reading goal, so I can sort of rest easy for a while. I think. :D

Fourth: February Required Reading

February 2014 Required Reading

And now we go to my February reading list! I used to always go for the love theme for February, but this year I sort of decided not to go too much into it. Oh, there’s still love in some of the books I will read, but I won’t go all sappy and read too many romance novels this time around. Like I said, just to shake things up a little. :)

feb2014books

  • The Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson – I’ve tried to read this before in previous challenges but I never picked it up because I lagged behind from the other books. Oops. :D
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver – Our book club is reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love this month, but since I’ve already read that, I thought of picking up this book instead.
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – And there’s my “love” book for February. I’ve heard rave reviews about this book from book club friends, so I’m pretty sure I will be in for a treat.

And there you go. This is quite a long post! I hope you all have a delightful, love-filled February. :)

Required Reading: December 2013

I thought I missed writing a Required Reading post for November, but it turned out I just put it together with another post. Oops. :)

Anyway, November has come and gone and the blog is silent again. I’m sorry about that. It was a busy month, a month where I actually kind of hardly read books, too. Sometimes all I want to do when I go home is lie down and sleep, especially when my weekends are filled with all-nighters and sleeping at five in the morning when you woke up at six the previous day. I am really getting too old for this.

But here, a report for November! I managed to finish both books I set out to read so it wasn’t really so bad. Reviewing them is another matter, though. :D

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (3/5) – I enjoyed this book for the lush setting and the writing and the entire idea of the killer horses and Sean Kendrick. :3 I enjoyed it, but I’m not really much of a horse fan for this to be a 4. But I realize how relaxing it is to read a Maggie Stiefvater novel. Good thing I have two more on my TBR. :)
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (4/5) – Okay this one just…befuddled me. It’s a good book, but also quite confusing and a lot mind-bending. Haha! I finished it hours before our book discussion, and even after the discussion there were still some parts of the book that aren’t clear. But perhaps it was meant that way.

And now we go to December. But wait — can you believe it’s already the last month of the year? Wasn’t it just January yesterday???

rr2013-12

Just two books again this month, even if I am 9 books behind on my reading challenge. December is going to be really busy again, with the new ReaderCon date and the parties and all that. I will still try to reach the 75 books after all the festivities have ended, though.

Anyway, for December, I’m reading something philosophical and something about a philosopher’s stone:

rrdecember

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling – a reread! For our book club’s discussion this month and for the Christmas party! :D We’ve got a lively start to the online discussion — care to join us? :)
  2. History in English Words by Owen Barfield – Back in June, we gave one of our good friends, JL, favors that he can claim from us for the entire year as a birthday gift. One of the favors I gave him was that I’d read anything he lends me, write notes (and now a review) and we’d discuss it (over coffee and lemon squares, I think). He has come to claim this favor and lent me this book. This isn’t something I would normally read, really, but since it is a favor. I’ve finished Chapter 1 today and it’s interesting, so far. Must not forget to write notes.

Wait. 9 books before this year ends. HUH. Crazy…but maybe doable. Maybe. I can do that. Time to bring out those short books and comics. :P

Have a happy December everyone!

The Reread Factor (2): May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is a semi-regular blog feature that is all about the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the past and reread them to see if I like it as much as as the first time and see if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. :)

I realized that I never wrote a review about this book I’m featuring for The Reread Factor, but since it’s a reread and it’s on my favorites shelf, I figure it fits the requirement for this feature. Besides, I need one for this again, since I don’t really have a lot of time doing some rereads lately.

And besides, this book fits Lent and Holy Week well.

May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz KellyMay Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz Kelly
Publisher: Loyola Press
Number of pages: 288
My copy:
paperback, ordered from Amazon

In May Crowning, Mass, and Merton, Liz Kelly, a thirty-something writer and jazz singer, eagerly shares her ardent love for the Catholic faith. While the beliefs of the church are important to Kelly, her passion is really ignited by the holy people and places, the beloved rituals, and the rich spiritual traditions of this living faith. She celebrates them here, with wit, affection, and candor.

Kelly has realized that “the litany of reasons to love being Catholic is extraordinary.” These include every­thing from the crucifix, kneelers, and Ash Wednesday to Flannery O’Connor, the Swiss Guard, and Tenebrae. Though she writes that, “Mine is not an extraordinary faith, so much as a faith growing a little messy, a little rough and subversive around the edges,” it is a rich, inspiring faith, celebrated by a fresh, young Catholic voice.

* * *

An interesting fact about this book: I got this because of a tweet from one of the Twitter accounts I follow that tweets first lines of books from Amazon. I got this purely because it was a Catholic book and it seemed interesting. I was also trying to learn more about my Catholic faith, and so I thought this book would be a good place to start. I read this first during Holy Week of 2008, and that time I wasn’t exactly at the best place of my faith. I remember loving this book because it made me appreciate being Catholic, although that didn’t necessarily mean that I really got what it means to be one.

Fast forward to three years later, I got to attend my first World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. Now if there was any way for a young Catholic to celebrate and appreciate their faith, the World Youth Day is that event. Seeing people — Catholics — all over the world coming together in one place to celebrate and learn about their faith (and meet the Pope) is an event that every Catholic should experience, regardless of age. Suffice to say that it was that event that pretty much defined a lot of my searching in the past years since I first read this book. When Lent came around this year, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this book again.

I thought of writing a review for this book with 50 things about the book, but I realized that 50 is a bit of a big number. So instead, let me just write five:

  1. I like that it is Catholic. Maybe I just kind of suck with looking for books written by Catholics, but I remember being very thrilled when I discovered this because I felt that it was written for me. I know it’s not, but it just felt like that. :P
  2. I like that it’s very personal. Liz Kelly wrote the entries in the book with enough personal anecdotes to make it feel like she’s just sharing the stories over coffee, or she’s a speaker for a community event. She gives enough reference to the Bible, related books, history and to the Catechism of the Catholic Church so readers know that she isn’t just pulling things from thin air, but not so much that it overshadows her personality.
  3. I like that it covers the ones we Catholics are asked the most about: the rosary, Mary, the Communion of Saints, Confession, the Eucharist. In a way, it’s almost like an Apologetics session because readers would understand why we do what we do but with less of the feeling that it is one.
  4. I liked discovering new things about Catholicism that I never knew before. May favorite is the Rosary of the Holy Wounds, which I didn’t even know existed before. I only knew of the rosary, but this one is new to me and seems like a good devotion to start. Another example is the chapter on the Hour of Divine Mercy, which has been a staple in the household since I was a kid because of the 3 o’clock prayer shown on TV everyday. I never really understood much of it until it was explained in the simplest form in Liz Kelly’s book.
  5. There were some entries that didn’t feel like I could really and truly relate, perhaps because of our differences in culture. Liz Kelly talks about her reasons to love being Catholic as an American. I’m not one, obviously, so there were some things that she wrote that I couldn’t really relate to and some that I was looking for but didn’t find because they were aspects of Catholicsm that is unique to the Filipinos. However, though, I think the book isn’t really meant to be a guide on what constitutes being a Catholic anyway, but a book that helps us appreciate what we have in this beautiful Universal Church. :)

I think new and old Catholics alike would enjoy May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, and maybe even some non-Catholics who are simply curious about it. It’s far from preachy, and like I said, it’s very personal so it’s up to you if you’d research more on the subjects Liz Kelly wrote about or if you would just leave it be. Suffice to say that I really liked it still even after the second read. As proof: I ended up marking even more pages now than when I first read it:

To end this review, I thought I’d share my own ten reasons why I love being Catholic (just ten because I don’t think I can get to 50 yet — maybe when I get a little bit older :D). Some may have already appeared in the book, while others are my additions. In no particular order, and no more explanations because it would take a bit of time to write — I’ll post about them soon (promise!) in my personal blog if you are interested. :)

  1. Universal Church.
  2. The Mass.
  3. Mary.
  4. The Rosary.
  5. Pope (Blessed) John Paul II.
  6. The Eucharist.
  7. Ash Wednesday and Holy Week.
  8. Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass/Advent novena mass)
  9. Confession.
  10. The saints.

I am glad I reread this book and I’m glad I reread it at this time. Still a favorite for sure. :)

Rating: