2014 Reading Goals

I know I’m a month too late but I thought I’d share with you my reading goals for 2014. If you are on Goodreads like me, you’re probably powering through achieving your 2014 Reading Challenge. Apart from achieving my Goodreads book challenge (24 books – cause I’m seeking to redeem last year’s failure.), I thought I’d share here the rest of my reading goals.

1. Read contemporary writers
It’s no secret that I am sucker for the Classics, especially those from the 19th to the early 20th century. As much as I strive for diversity in my reading, I find myself gravitating towards the Classics most of the time. While this is well and good, sometimes when one starts to use the expression “What a capital idea!” one too often, it’s a sign that one needs to delve into the modern every once in awhile. The good news is that some new titles published last year have been likened to the 19th century novel (uh-oh!) like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I’ve also started on the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, a gothic mystery written by Spanish novelist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

2. Chunkers
I am currently reading my first chunker for the year – Thackeray’s Vanity Fair and have another Victorian novel (see what I mean about being a sucker for Classics!) waiting for me, George Eliot’s Middlemarch. I recently discovered 2666, Robert Bolano’s complex book about literary sleuths. It’s one massive read and contemplating on whether to add that to my list of chunkers.

3. Share through reviews
I am convinced that our journey with the book doesn’t end once we’ve reached the last page. No. Each book is an experience, a life lived and to discuss and share our experiences (even if it’s in a form of a review) opens us up as readers. It challenges us to more actively articulate our feelings, our learnings and take-aways from each and every encounter with a book. This is the reason why I started this book blog so I could have a place to put down these thoughts to whoever will care to listen.

So onwards to an awesome and bookish 2014!

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Fully Booked in Manila

Spent the Christmas holidays at home in Manila and I’m glad I got to spend time to check out

Fully Booked, the biggest book store in Manila. I spent some time at their High Street store and it was 3 floors of heaven!

I especially love this book wall and I have to give props at the well-curated titles on display. 

fully booked

Being a huge sucker for Classics, I immediately gravitated to the Classics section where I was impressed by their huge collection of titles. I picked up the following:

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Daniel Deronda by George Eliot and The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

Fully Booked makes me so happy to know that there are options for bookish folks out there in Manila who have a passion for more than the usual book sellers (National Book Store, I’m looking at you!).

The Book Thief: A Review

Where do I even begin? Thematically, The Book Thief is so layered that I need to spend some time to unravel them.
In a lot of ways, it is a typical Holocaust story. Set in a small, made-up town of Molching near Munich, we see the transformation of the residents of Himmel St. as the country is swept into the Nazi ideology. The Book Thief is young Liesel Meminger. She enters the world of Himmel St. via her adoptive parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. As Liesel struggles to adjust to her new family set by a harrowing trip to Molching (she loses her brother on the way while her Mother left and disappeared forever), we also see this tiny town struggle to make life in Germany seem normal amidst the onset of war.
Because of a promise made, the Hubermanns find themselves harboring a German Jew in their basement, a sin equivalent to death – if found out – in Nazi Germany.
But in a lot of ways too, The Book Thief is not your typical Holocaust story. For one, it is set not in occupied Poland nor Austria, but in Bavaria where Nazism was born, featuring Hitler’s most prized Aryans – blonde, blue-eyed Germans. Rather than painting the characters in black and white – the bad Germans vs the persecuted minority – it explores the dichotomy of human nature. How can average men – shop owners, teachers, tailors – actively participate in the persecution and killing of a fellow, or even worse, stand back and let it all happen?
While hiding out at the basement during one of the air raids, Death addresses this complicated dichotomy. “Did they deserve any better, these people? How many had actively persecuted others, high on the scent of Hitler’s gaze, repeating his sentences, his paragraphs, his opus? Was Rosa Hubermann responsible? The hider of a Jew? Or Hans? Did they all deserve to die? The children?
…I pitied them, though not as much as I felt for the ones I scooped up from the various camps in that time. The Germans in basements were pitiable, surely, but at least they had a chance. That basement was not a washroom. They were not sent there for a shower. For those people, life was still achievable.”
And yeah, another unique factor – Death narrates!*
But the theme that resonated with me the most is the redemptive power of books and words. While the rise of Nazism in Germany demonstrated that words can destroy and hate, words can also heal, save and give hope.

* On a side note, Jeffrey Eugenides employs a similar literary trick in Middlesex by making his narrator, Calliope/Cal, all-seeing and all-knowing.