Mar 16, 2020

Since the announcement of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and the declaration of community quarantine soon after, it hasn’t been easy to keep up with the news. Social media has been filled with headlines that are anxiety-inducing, and although there have been stories that inspire people to help each other, it can get pretty taxing to stay updated.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to (temporarily) keep your mind off of things. If you’ve been buying books here and there but haven’t had the time to open them, this is the perfect time to finally make a dent in your to-read list. With malls and other places for leisure closed, we’ve put together some of the titles on the Nolisoli team’s backlog that we’re finally dusting off and cracking open this week.

“A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki

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“On a remote island in the Pacific Northwest, a Hello Kitty lunchbox washes up on a beach. Tucked inside is the diary of a 16 year old Japanese girl named Nao Yasutani. Ruth– a writer who finds the lunchbox– suspects that it is debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami. Once she begins to read the diary, Ruth quickly finds herself drawn into the mystery of Nao’s fate. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Nao, uprooted from her home in the U.S., bullied at school, and watching her parents spiral deeper into disaster, has decided to end her life. But first, she wants to recount the story of her great-grandmother, a 104 year old Zen Buddhist nun, in the pages of her secret diary…” #ataleforthetimebeing 📚 This book took a lot longer to read than anticipated and it’s because of the heavy topics covered and I’ll admit, I did cry a couple of times or more lol. (WARNING: attempted suicide, sexual harassment, bullying). The book is divided into 2 perspectives: Nao and Ruth. Nao’s diary entries were written well and I immediately just wanted to read all her parts. While I was intrigued to keep reading about both, Ruth’s lack of character development at the end fell flat for me. The ending overall did leave certain questions unanswered and went in a whole different direction that I didn’t particularly like. Nao, however, is a complex, multi-dimensional and well written character that you can’t help but feel sympathy for. Her great grandmother is also so cute and one of my favourite parts of the book. If you do like reading books that portray the struggles of mental illness with a range multi-dimensional characters, this is for you!!

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This book has been on my to-read list for quite some time now, and I recently caved and bought my own copy of the book. “A Tale for the Time Being” follows the story of Ruth, a writer who finds a diary and letters sealed in a ziplock bag—possibly washed up from Japan following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The diary and the letters belong to Nao, a teenage girl who hopes to document the life of her great-grandmother.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m really drawn in by the way the book is written and by the footnotes explaining the contexts behind the translation of the text. A lot of people have said that the book delves into some pretty interesting topics, and—given how wonderfully the text is written—I’m really looking forward to reading the rest. – Angela Suacillo, junior content creator


“Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata” by Ricky Lee

I borrowed this from a friend. It’s about Amapola, who’s gay but has two alter egos, and suddenly becomes a manananggal. I’m sure the story is better than what I’ve just described, but cut me some slack, I’m only two chapters in! What I do like about it so far is the very conversational tone it’s written in. A mix of Tagalog, English, and gay lingo, which makes the already interesting premise even more entertaining. – Pauline Miranda, associate managing editor


“Severance” by Ling Ma

Yesterday, after I’ve run out of Switch games to play, I started reading Ling Ma’s “Severance” per New York Times’ Books suggestion under: “books to read that’s closer to reality now in the time of COVID-19.”

I have to admit that I was initially drawn to this book because of its cover (lol) but beyond visualizing a post-apocalyptic world, what I am finding interesting about this work is it’s underrated incorporation of racial politics, capitalism and the diaspora of being a third generation Chinese-American born into the excessive idea of living the “American dream.” I must also point out Ma’s pop culture savvy and humor.

I’m two chapters in but so far the depictions from the beginnings of its fictional Shen Fever outbreak to the company announcement is so on point. Can relate! – Christian San Jose, content creator


“A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in the Trash” by Alexander Masters

This was one of the books that caught my eye during this year’s Big Bad Wolf book sale, which was described as a biographical detective story. “A Life Discarded” explores how biographer Alexander Masters slowly uncovers the history behind 148 diaries thrown out in the trash. Part of why I picked up this book was the cover, but I was really drawn in by the premise: the book offers a glimpse into the kind of work that a biographer and investigative journalist sets out to do. – Angela Suacillo, junior content creator


“Mga Piling Dula Mula sa Virgin Labfest 2013-2016 (Ikatlong Antolohiya)” edited by Rody Vera

I got this anthology at last year’s Virgin Labfest at CCP. For context: Virgin Labfest is the annual theater festival by CCP and Writer’s Block, where they stage one-act plays that have never been staged before—hence “virgin.” Some of the notable plays in this anthology are “Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady” (which was eventually turned into a full musical) and “Hintayan ng Langit” (which was adapted into a film). 

It’s a super thick volume, around 700 pages… and I’m only 1/7 of the way through. But since all theater productions for March and April are canceled or postponed, I decided to pick this book up again to at least get some semblance of theater back into my life, haha. (Also to hype me up for the upcoming Virgin Labfest this June. Which I hope doesn’t get canceled.) – Pauline Miranda, associate managing editor


“Stories of Your Life and Others” by Ted Chiang

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These stories made me pay attention. For me to really *get* Ted Chiang’s world-building, I had to focus on every sentence. Which, NGL, is pretty nice bc I tend to cheat & skim when I read fiction, let alone science or speculative fiction. Side note: I’ve loved reading a bunch of Ted Chiang interviews and profiles. Turns out, his family diaspora story is the same as mine! That, and he until v. recently worked as a technical writer in Seattle, even after his stories were making it big. In terms of craft and formal structure, Chiang himself says, “[My] stories are primarily attempts to use mathematics and science as metaphors to illuminate certain aspects of human experience” (2002 interview). A lot of that math, physics, and capital-P philosophy went over my head… which is probably why, of the 8 stories in this collection, “Tower of Babylon” and “Story of Your Life” were my faves. The story notes in the back were extra fun behind-the-scenes glimpses into how/why each story got made. (Apparently Ted Chiang loves writing story notes, because he loves reading story notes — this, from a great, v. recent author interview by James Yeh for Believer Mag. Highly recommend you check that one out!! 👀) ∙∙∙ #bookstagram #currentlyreading #booksbooksbooks #books📚 #books #bookrecs #SciFi #ScienceFiction #TedChiang #StoriesOfYourLifeAndOthers #Arrival #bookish #booknerd #bookishlife #booksofinstagram #IGreads #instareads #bookstagrammer #bookstagrammers #bookstagrammersunite #bookblogger #bookbloggers #bookbloggerlife #bookbloggersofIG #bookbloggersofinstagram #booksmakemehappy #librarybooks #publiclibrary

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I just finished Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (It has one of the stories where “Arrival” was based on). It’s an anthology that’s all about sci-fi, but what I loved about it is that being sci-fi was just the setting for very human stories about societal inequalities, environmental awareness, family, and even love and empathy. I think it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to expand their mind a little bit more! – Thea Torres, junior content creator


“Extraordinary Means” by Robyn Schneider

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I’ve been listening to this book this week and I’ve been really enjoying the story. It’s got a pretty heavy speculative plot line where Tuberculosis is drug resistant and kids that are diagnosed with it are sent to a boarding school of sorts to stabilize and wait for a cure. It’s got a love story and a fun cast of characters. I am sure something big and sad is going to happen. – Someone on goodreads described this as “the fault in our Alaskas” and man, do I agree! ETA: it has the feeling of a mix between TFIOS and Looking for Alaska with the setting and the themes. – #bookstagram #booknerdigans #yalit #yalovin #ireadya #booksbooksbooks #alwaysfullybooked #extraordinarymeans #robynschneider #thefaultinouralaskas #amreading #audiobooks

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Although it takes off from a fictional case of a drug-resistant tuberculosis strain, “Extraordinary Means” is perhaps one of the most realistic contemporary young adult novels which dwell on plots about teenagers with terminal illnesses. This makes it even more bittersweet and tear-jerking, especially as it reminds readers of second chances, hope and finding strength amid a tragic situation showing how unfair life is.

It also wasn’t completely devoted to selling off a romance theme as well—although you would find yourself rooting for the characters’ love to be stronger than anything else in the world—which gave it more space to develop the characters as is. Just a heads up, you won’t be able to finish this book without crying, especially if you found yourself connecting and relating to the characters throughout its chapters. – Yann Magcamit, junior content creator


“Animal Liberation” by Peter Singer

A coworker recently (well, one month ago) lent me Peter Singer’s seminal book on the philosophy of animal rights activism “Animal Liberation.” I had gone on a vegan challenge from December to January, which then caused me to reevaluate my own eating choices and eventually switch to a pescetarian diet for the long term. Still, there were a lot of things I felt conflicted over and I felt that my resolve was weak—one bad day and I’d go back to eating red meat. I confided in my coworker, who’s been a pescetarian for five to six years, over it, and she lent me her copy of “Animal Liberation” to help guide me. I’m usually a really quick reader, but I’ve been reading this slowly, and in chunks. There’s a reason why this book started a movement, and is still considered the animal rights movement’s bible. – Zofiya Acosta, content creator


“The Probability of Miracles” by Wendy Wunder

Another contemporary young adult novel with a lead character dealing with a terminal illness, “The Probability of Miracles” is also something that I had started re-reading in my free time while telecommuting.

Without giving spoilers, “The Probability of Miracles” takes you into the headspace of a character diagnosed with cancer who does not believe in medications anymore. However, as she goes on, she finds reasons, and people, to continue living for. Although her overly cynical attitude will make you roll your eyes at first, you’d find yourself sympathizing with her as the story continues—along with understanding how her pessimism comes with her illness and the other terrible things thrown at her by life. Moreover, the raw ending of “The Probability of Miracles” helped it make up to some unlikable elements like its quick pacing. – Yann Magcamit, junior content creator


Header photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash

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TAGS: A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in the Trash A Tale for the Time Being Alexander Masters Animal Liberation Extraordinary Means Ling Ma Mga Piling Dula Mula sa Virgin Labfest 2013-2016 (Ikatlong Antolohiya) nolisoli Peter Singer reading list Ricky Lee Robyn Schneider Rody Vera Ruth Ozeki Severance Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata Stories of Your Life and Others Ted Chiang The Probability of Miracles Wendy Wunder