8 books to kickstart your 2023
10 Jan 2023 | Ateneo University Press
The start of a new year is usually the time when you build your reading goals. Whether that’s picking up from where you left off last year or curating a new list, it’s always an excellent time to get you excited about books.
Here are captivating reads to add to your #toberead pile this 2023.
Armor by John Bengan
Category: Literature | Adult | Contemporary Fiction
Bengan's Armor is a collection of thirteen stories about people trying “to live happily every so often” despite the prevalence of summary executions, the megalomania of a once and future strongman, and the indifference of witnesses. In one story, a Death Squad recruit goes on his first day on the job. In another, a drug user joins a Miss Gay beauty pageant perhaps for the last time. Meanwhile, a vigilante mayor disguised as a taxi driver prowls the city at night.
Armor reintroduces, beyond the spin doctors and personality cults, a locality that recent events in the country have made more recognizable. Set mostly in Davao from the late ’90s to a not-too-distant time, this debut collection distills what turned out to be the beginnings of a larger catastrophe.
Retail price: PHP 375
Yñiga by Glenn Diaz
Category: Literature | Adult | Ecofiction
Yñiga is the story of the titular character, Yñiga Calinauan, whose life is upended when a retired army general wanted for the murder of peasants and activists in the countryside is captured across the street from her house. Days later the neighborhood is burned to the ground in what some say is retaliation. With nowhere to go, she returns to M—, the small fishing town where she grew up, and now hopes to regain the quiet life she has lost. But soon she discovers that the terror she thought she had escaped in the city is right on her trail, and she must face the “forest of history” that has long haunted her family.
Yñiga was shortlisted for the inaugural Novel Prize in 2020 by Fitzcarraldo Editions, Giramondo, and New Directions.
Retail price: PHP 355
Lost Graves, Found Lives: A History and Memoir by Agapito Labalan Del Rosario with Rosario Cruz-Lucero
Category: Nonfiction | History | Memoir | Philippine-American War
This history-cum-memoir is about two families—the Abad Santoses and the del Rosarios—intertwined by marriage and united by a passionate love of country. It is also the personal story of the main author, who is a descendant of both families. It includes the first full biography of Pedro Abad Santos, founder of the Philippine Socialist movement. Here, his story as a martyred patriot’s son, a revolutionary, resistance officer in the Philippine-American War, and a maverick during the US occupation comes alive in a riveting narrative style.
Retail price: PHP 480
Song of the Mango and Other New Myths by Vida Cruz-Borja
Category: Literature | New Adult | Speculative Fiction | New Mythology | Fantasy
Vida Cruz-Borja, a seasoned fictionist, releases her first illustrated short story collection, Song of the Mango and Other New Myths.
Immensely magical and spell-binding, each story exhibits the truths and complexities of human emotion. Its titular story, Song of the Mango, weaves a tale of familial love and friendship. Blushing Blue puts a new spin on the art of tattooing, where images become ghosts of the real thing, creating dire consequences for a family lost in grief after a storm ravishes their town. Have Your #Hugot Harvested at This Diwata-Owned Cafe shows a world where human heartbreak can be consumed and everyone wants a taste. In the Shadow of the Typhoon, Humans and Mahiwaga Cooperate for Survival, which was longlisted for the British Science Fiction Award, is a story where three diwatas are determined to bring relief goods to those affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
Retail price: PHP 790
Moro Warrior: A Philippine Chieftain, an American Schoolmaster, and the Untold Story of the Most Remarkable Resistance Fighters of the Pacific War by Thomas McKenna
Category: Nonfiction | History | Bangsamoro | World War II
Moro Warrior tells the remarkable true story of the Philippine Muslim (Moro) resistance fighters of World War II—the most successful and least known guerrillas of the Pacific Theater. It is the story of Mohammad Adil, a sword-wielding warrior chieftain commissioned as a junior officer in Douglas MacArthur's guerrilla army while still a teenager. Confident in his secret protective powers learned from a Sufi master, Adil roamed the highland rainforests with a price on his head, attacking Japanese outposts, surviving ambushes, and gaining a reputation as a man who could not be killed.
It is also the story of the colonial official Edward Kuder, foster father to Mohammad Adil and a rare American friend to the Moros, who sheltered him during the Japanese occupation. Kuder was the sole chronicler of the early Moro resistance—an armed opposition so vigorous that the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army found themselves outfought time and again by Moro irregulars.
When the soldiers of the Empire of Japan invaded their homeland, the Moros, sometimes with swords as their only weapons, bravely fought on alone after the rapid American surrender of the Philippines. At the urging of Edward Kuder, they later joined the American-led guerrilla movement that emerged in 1943 and served with distinction, but their exceptional contribution to the defeat of the Japanese occupiers and the liberation of the Philippines has never been properly acknowledged. Here, based on the vivid recollections of Mohammad Adil and the wartime writings of Edward Kuder, the extraordinary achievements and sacrifices of the Moro freedom fighters of Mindanao finally receive their full due.
Retail price: PHP 620
Kites in the Night by Blaise Campo Gacoscos
Category: Literature | New Adult | LGBTQIA+ Literature | Identity
Gacoscos’s debut novel, Kites in the Night, follows Victor Molina’s psychological journey from his childhood in Ilocos to adulthood in Manila as he undergoes various experiences of ever-increasing moral complexity and how he deals with them. This composite novel is vivid, moving, and restrained.
The wonderful cover art is from an acrylic on canvas painting by Marcel Antonio courtesy of Galleria Quattrocento. Each book chapter has accompanying illustrations, also by Marcel Antionio, which add allure to every page flip.
Retail price: PHP 350
Plus/+, at Iba Plus, Maramihan: New Philippine Nonfiction on Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities edited by Rolando B. Tolentino and Chuckberry J. Pascual
Category: Nonfiction | Essays | LGBTQIA+ Literature
Ang mga personal na sanaysay ay mga politikal na pag-akda ng pagiging LGBTQIA+ ng bawat manunulat-mamamayan-tao na kalahok sa antolohiyang ito, dahil ang mga ito ay tungo sa pag-ako at muling pag-ako ng sariling identidad-pagkamamamayan-pagkatao. Hindi lamang ito pangungumpisal kundi pagiging testigo sa sariling katotohanan ng naging kasaysayan, tunguhin, at pagtatanggol sa mga individual na katotohanan ng pagiging dehado natin sa mundong ibabaw. Ang pag-eensayo nito ay pag-eensayo sa kinakailangang rebolusyon o kontraryong imaginary ng pagkamamamayan sa heterosexualidad at estado.
Binubuklod ng antolohiyang ito ang tinig ng LGBTQIA+ na manunulat, ang ating mambabasa, ang ating publiko, ang iba pang mga pahina ng pambansang panitikan at kontraryong politika—ang asersyon na maging kaiba, may solidaridad ng hanay, may kaisahan at pakikiisa sa iba pang identidad at aspekto ng pagkamamamayan na inaapi, ang pangangailangang baguhin ang lipunan, kasaysayan, at modernidad ng pagdanas.
Retail price: PHP 350
Plus/+, at Iba Plus, Maramihan: New Philippine Fiction on Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities edited by Rolando B. Tolentino and Chuckberry J. Pascual
Category: Literature | Adult | Anthology | LGBTQIA+ Literature
Sa pagtitipon ng mga maikling kuwentong nagtatampok sa karanasan ng LGBTQIA+ na nagtatanghal sa iba’t ibang identidad at relasyong personal at pangkapangyarihan, naglalarawan sa kasalukuyang lipunan sa iba’t ibang manipestasyon nito sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng bansa, at patuloy na humihiraya sa posibilidad ng mas maalwang kinabukasan para sa lahat ng kasarian, inaasahang mabigyan ang mambabasa—miyembro man ng komunidad ng LGBTQIA+ o hindi—ng bagong pagsipat sa kanyang paligid at sa mga taong kanyang nakakasalamuha.
Retail price: PHP 390
The titles in this list are equally captivating and have different themes and motifs that refresh your senses, making for a delightful start-of-the-year read.
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