When I will look back on this year, I know I will remember it with content. At this point, I can already describe 2019 as my period of serious self-care, which I hope to continue in 2020: I was able to eat properly, sleep well and longer under the pressure of deadlines, exercise several days a week, take walks around the neighborhood, attend events I want to go, read books I want to read, nurture a potted garden of ferns, write about the things that are special to me, and connect more with people I choose to be with. I’m in my thirties now and, at my age, I am fortunate to be living with heartwarming consciousness what I perceive to be a simple life, one that is a preferred contrast to my rushed existence during my teens and twenties.
One of my fortunes in 2019 was becoming a member of the Women in Literary Arts (WILA)-Cebu. I attended my first monthly meeting of the group in November during which exciting plans were put forward for 2020, whetting my interests in creative nonfiction and short story writing. Another good thing that happened to me this year is the reading of books I wanted to read either by design or by impulse. These books are:
1. The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker by Gilda Cordero-Fernando. Although it was published in 1962, it consists of 13 short stories that reflect moral issues that are too real to be ignored even in this day. As a new fan, although quite late to the party, it is only natural for me to seek her other works, especially A Wilderness of Sweets. Where can I find a copy?
2. The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories by Agatha Christie. This was a surprise for me. In her usual tone and voice, I discovered her other shorter fiction (nine of them, to be exact) and renewed my appreciation for how short stories can be a reflection of one’s train of thoughts, the writer’s personal answers to his or her own what-ifs. While Christie is synonymous to the word mystery, I want to read her unique explorations into fantasy, slice of life and romance, and I hope I can find these in The Golden Ball and Other Stories. It’s an old title so I hope I can find one in the future.
3. Manila Noir edited by Jessica Hagedorn. The 14 short stories found in this book are representations of social issues found in the urban areas in my country, or perhaps in the world. Because I had these 14 shots of sad truths, I temporarily stopped reading midway Yiyun Li’s short story collection titled Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, and I am not even tempted to buy and read Li’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayers from my regular book seller (unless it’s gifted to me). But I know I will brave through Gold Boy with my resolve to read more works by Asian writers.
2 novels: one is a Japanese literary fiction, the other on spirituality
4. The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue. If John Hersey’s Hiroshima introduced me to Japan and reinforced my interest in creative nonfiction, then it is this particular work by Inoue that formed the foundation of my fascination of Japanese literature. And that fascination has turned into a shopping binge of works by Japanese writers. My husband gave me Rashomon and 17 Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa for my birthday (it was more like I picked it up in a bookstore and asked him to pay for it). Before this, I already bought around six or seven books by Japanese writers. But this did not stop me from putting on my family’s Christmas wishlist two more books: Masks by Fumiko Enchi and The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. But I didn’t get them for Christmas; I guess my family is thinking I already have too many books.
5. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. This was another interesting book for me. It reflects human weaknesses and man’s ability to overcome them when they put their heart and soul into doing so. I am not sure if I will be able to read another book of a similar vein, but I included in my wishlist Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.
2 mystery novels
6. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. I bought it and read it because it is the first the Hercule Poirot series and I wanted be introduced properly to him and to his new friend Hastings. I wanted to read the series in the order the books were published but finding the next title, The Murder on the Links, is hard and waiting is a virtue, so I read the closest one I can find, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
7. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I guess you can say it’s a Christie year for me and I don’t think 2020 will be another one given that I told myself I won’t be reading another Christie book for a while to keep myself pleasantly surprised and in suspense, unless it’s another of her short story collections. Diverting from Christie, I turned to possible alternatives, in print, I hope to get my hands on next year, such as the Phryne Fisher Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood and Doctor Syn by Russell Thorndike.
2 classic novels
8. The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan. What makes this book suspenseful is how the character actually knows how to escape from the most inconvenient situation. It also points out the fact that leaders make war through the decisions they make, no matter how ordinary people try their hardest to stop it. In the same vein, I hope to read my copy of Ian Fleming’s Quantum of Solace: The Complete James Bond Short Stories in 2020.
9. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
1 young adult book
10. Project Pawai by Jose E.C. Añozo. This short novel is set during the EDSA revolution. As people walk in hordes to where the silent revolution is, a young couple and later on with their friends go on to fight bad elements to the best of their youthful capacity.
1 children’s book
11. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lefting
While I only read a few books in 2019, I am proud at their diversity--different types and genres of works by writers with different genders and nationalities--because that is the kind of reader that I am, curious with and awestruck by the creations of the world while maintaining pride of my own country’s contributions to the literary. My only regret was I was not able to finish reading books of essays, particularly Patti Smith’s M Train and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo’s Stella and Other Friendly Ghosts. I hope to finish both soon. All the same, I look forward to another year of diverse colored portals to different worlds through reading.
What were your memorable books in 2019 and what are your book-related wishes for 2020?