Tuesday, December 28, 2010

10 for 2010

2010 was an awesome year in books for KyusiReader. I've managed to read 70 books this year, despite my very hectic schedule. What can I say, if you find something really important, then you find the time to do it, right?

So what books did I like this year? It was a tough call, considering that I've read so many different genres and discovered new authors this year. Nevertheless, I've narrowed my favorite reads to 10. Here they are (in no particular order):

  1. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower: This fascinating collection of short stories will leave you wanting for more. Tower's debut collection features a cast of misfits in modern-day America in very unusual scenarios. I'm not a short story reader myself, but EREB left me satisfied.
  2. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli: The best graphic novel that I've ever read. Mazzucchelli's work touches on several themes such as architecture, Greek mythology, and music
  3. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer: Dyer's novel art and love is one very memorable read. It's actually two novels in one.
  4. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness: Ness's brilliant young adult trilogy, Chaos Walking, makes other YA novels seem amateurish. The best in the trilogy is this book.
  5. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende: I love the movie, but I love this book more!
  6. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray: Murray's Booker longlisted novel is the funniest novel I've read this year which is set in a prep school in Ireland.
  7. The Monk by Matthew Lewis: This is the first book I've read this year. It has also become my favorite Gothic novel.
  1. Born Round by Frank Bruni: Reading this memoir by Bruni, the New York Times restaurant critic, made me realize how difficult it is to review restaurants. I don't know how I'll manage to eat 3 dinners in a day!
  2. Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch: This brilliant memoir by a former captain in one of New York's finest restaurants is not to be missed. What is it about books and food that make them go well together?
  3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: This book appealed to the science geek in me.
So there you go, dear reader. Looking at the list, I can't help notice how my reading patterns have changed through the years. Before, all my top 10 for the year were purely novels. Now, I see:
  • 2 contemporary novels
  • 1 classic novel
  • 2 young adult novels
  • 1 graphic novel
  • 1 short story collection
  • 2 biographies
  • 1 science non-fiction book
How about you, dear reader? What were your favorite reads for this year? And would you like to guess which of these 10 is my favorite book of the year?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sadly, the story ended too soon

More than 20 years ago, I saw a cute film entitled The Neverending Story. I loved it. I saw it 8 times. When the sequel came out, I didn't even bother to watch it. I believe that sequels generally, big time. I wouldn't want to spoil my experience of watching the first movie by going through a mediocre sequel.

It was only last month, after a conversation with my book club, that The Neverending Story movie is an adaptation of a young adult novel. And two weeks after that, I saw a copy of Michael Ende's novel at a used book store. I opened it two days ago and finished it within 6 hours straight. I think it's the best young adult novel I've read this year.

The novel The Neverending Story is richer and more wonderful than the movie, whose plot involved only half of the book. Come to think of it, the novel is actually two books in one, each having the capacity to be a stand-alone work.

In the first half of the novel, we meet Bastian Balthazar Bux, who steals a book from a used book store entitled The Neverending Story. He reads about the imperiled world of Fantastica, a magical place which is being destroyed into nothingness. He reads about how the Childlike Empress chooses a young man named Atreyu to look for the person who can give her a new name and thus restore Fantastica in all its wondrous glory. Little by little, Bastian finds himself playing a more pivotal role in the story, knowing eventually that he is the chosen one who can give the Childlike Empress a new name.

The first half of the novel is truly magical. It's an adventure story featuring Atreyu and his journey throughout most of Fantastica and meeting strange and mysterious creatures along the way. Ende's description of these adventures are so rich in detail that it singlehandedly beats the imagery in the movie.

The second half is more of a coming-of-age story. Bastian is now in Fantastica and is recognized as its savior. He has also been given a new appearance. No longer do we see the fat, clumsy and geeky kid, for Bastian now looks like a handsome and strong nobleman. His storytelling gift also finds a place in this magical realm, with each of his spontaneous stories becoming real. Whatever he wishes, it comes true. But this gift comes at a price: for whenever he makes a wish, he loses a piece of his memory of his life in the human world. It becomes up to Atreyu and the luckdragon, Falkor, to show him this consequence.

While the second half of the book does not feature the same adventurous theme as the first, it is definitely the book's heart. Bastian realizes that, despite having been given a different appearance, he must come to terms with who he really is. The way Ende writes this realization is very touching and never condescending to his readers.

The Neverending Story is a very beautiful book in all aspects. Aside from the deftness of Ende's writing, the book opens each chapter with a full-page illustration. The artwork features the first letter of the word of each chapter and other illustrations about the chapter. And it took me until the second half of the book to realize that the order of the letters of the first word of each chapter follows the alphabet! Just look at two of the chapter openers below.

Ende's novel is one big adventure story filled with memorable characters. I was surprised to note how fast paced the novel is, considering that it was written more than 30 years ago. It's truly enjoyable indeed.

Read this book if:
  1. You like young adult fiction.
  2. You enjoyed The Neverending Story movie.
  3. You can say "Bastian Balthazar Bux" 10 times fast without stammering.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The bookshelf project #27

Oh my goodness! I just realized since I last featured someone's bookshelves in my blog! I have lots of catching up to do then.

This week's bookshelves are from Elizabeth. I just love Elizabeth's Billy bookcases and how she laid them out in the room. It's a wonderful way of maximizing space, don't you think?

In the first picture below, we see a lot of books on foreign languages. I also spy several Lonely Planet travel guides! Tres interesting! I notice that that the bookcases are displayed prominently in the room, and I love it that Elizabeth has found an ingenious way of adding a sound system on her shelves. The music sheet notes are a giveaway -- she's definitely a music lover. I wonder what instrument is in that black bag.

Here in the second picture, there are lots of Oxford Classic Editions on the top shelf. Inside the white boxes are notebooks, art materials, craft supplies, needlework things, among other things.

I do wish that Ikea has a store here in Manila, so that I can buy those Billy bookcases by the dozen.

What do you think of Elizabeth's bookshelves, dear reader?