How to Read More Books

How to Read More Books


reading a book while drinking coffee


I always try to read no matter how busy I am. That's because I put so much value in reading that I always think of it as part of my routine. How can I improve my writing skills if I am not going to read, right? Plus, given how fucked up the world has been these days, it's always nice to distract oneself with books. (Well, apart from other things like Netflix, of course.)

But how do I do it, really? I'm sharing some of them with you.

I bring a book or my Kindle wherever I go.

Yes, I am that kind of person who reads whenever and wherever there's a chance to. I read while waiting for my food at the restaurant. I read while waiting for my turn at the checkout counter. I read at the laundromat. I read to avoid awkward situations and people I don't want to talk to. And yes, I can do all this because I always bring a book or my Kindle wherever I go.

This way, I don't have any excuse not to read. Plus, I don't waste any time. Reading is definitely more productive than obsessively checking my phone for social media notifications while waiting for people and things.

I set reading goals and I make them public.

I like challenging myself when it comes to reading, so I always sign up for Goodread's Reading Challenge each year. What's great about it is that everyone can see the number you've set for yourself since it appears on your profile. People would know if you're going to fail. 

For people like me, that's a big deal. Many friends know how vocal I am when it comes to my passion about reading books, and of course I wouldn't want them to see me fail. Now that's additional motivation to read.

I follow websites and podcasts about books.

Hearing and reading about books excite me. In fact, many of the great books I read in the past years were titles I only heard or read about in the podcasts and book blogs I follow. Whenever a title piques my curiosity, I take note of it and get a copy of it shortly after. This keeps me motivated. I get excited to finish whatever I am currently reading, so I can move on to the next one.

My favorite podcast is All the Books! while my go-to book-blog is bookriot.com. I also read reviews from reputable publications like The New York Times and New Yorker to get updates on what the new releases are.

I visit bookshops and follow online bookstores.

Nothing beats the feeling of seeing books carefully shelved in a bookshop. They just seem more enticing that way. Plus, you get to see their covers, which are powerful enough to intrigue you. Before you know it, you're already at the checkout counter. And you feel so satisfied.

Following online bookstores is also exciting. You see the books that are up for grabs, and if you want to buy certain titles, you have to be fast enough to be the first person to comment "mine." It's like a game. Of course, I check booksellers' and publishing houses' official online stores as well. In fact, many of them are now on e-commerce sites like Lazada and Shoppee.

I talk to friends about books.

Thankfully, I have a lot of friends who also love to read. And yes, they've been such a great help in my reading life. 

No matter how curious I am about books, there are still titles and authors that are outside my radar. That's where my friends come in. Since their interests differ from mine, they also help me discover authors and titles that I am not yet familiar with. Plus, sometimes we lend each other books as well. Or, we trade, like when there are special occasions. That's actually more fun and practical, instead of buying new gifts.

I'm not afraid to put a book down when I don't find it engaging enough.

There are moments when I'm simply not in the mood to read, like there's no spark between the text and me that no matter how hard I try to focus, my mind just drifts away.

Whenever this happens, I simply put the book down and read something else. Although it's nice to challenge oneself by still trying to read a book even though you don't find it engaging enough (or when you find out it's not as exciting as you imagined it would be), it can also affect one's motivation. It can make you feel stuck or simply pissed. So instead of annoying yourself, why not read something else, right? Anyway, you can pick it up again when the right time comes.

I always have a quiet time.

It's hard to read when there are a lot of things happening around you or if you are surrounded by people who can interrupt you every now and then. So if you really want to read more, you have to ensure that you're getting enough quiet time--just like I do.

Sometimes, I sit in a cafe for hours just to read. I read when I travel alone, too. Apart from being able to concentrate of books, solitude also allows me to process whatever I am reading.



Although fun, reading can be challenging, especially in a world we are currently in. There are just too many distractions, and it's so easy to lose motivation. This is why having specific strategies makes a lot of sense to me. With their help, I can push myself to read more and not let my reading life suffer.

(Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
White Tears by Hari Kunzru

White Tears by Hari Kunzru


white tears book by hari kunzru

The first time I heard about the premise of this book, I almost could not sleep.

A white guy roams around New York recording all sorts of sounds from the environment. He’s a sound engineer and he intends to use his recordings in a project he’s working on. One time, while reviewing his recordings, hears a song sung by a mystery man.

He’s fascinated, so he tells his white business partner about it. The business partner gets obsessed with the said song, until he decides to play with the recording in the studio they own. Once done, he uploads in online, under the name of a made-up singer. He even makes the track sound as though it were extracted from some old blues record, thanks to his skills in sound engineering.

Things get weird when a stranger gets in touch with them, saying that he knows the singer of the song. They try to convince them that they simply invented the singer, but he does not believe them. He swears he knows that person. So, it the singer a ghost or what?

It’s safe to assume that it is indeed a ghost story. It’s not the usual type, though, for it goes beyond haunting on a supernatural level. It does, in fact, tackle other complex topics like race and cultural appropriation.

(Image from Amazon)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams


my friend anna: the true story of a fake heiress book by rachel deloache williams

I really enjoyed this book, even though I have some issues with it.

Of course, my enjoyment comes from the fact that it tells a really interesting story about a fake heiress. It’s not every day that we hear of stories like this. It really proves that reality is stranger than fiction.

I don’t trust the narrator much, though. In many parts of the books, she just sounds like some self-righteous person eager to get everyone’s validation by emphasizing how different she is from her friend Anna Delvey (or Anna Sorokin) who happens to be a con artist.

But of course, I am also trying to understand that she must have simply been hurt and traumatized because of her experience. Just reading about her financial struggles after their failed Morocco trip is already exhausting. What more for someone who experienced it first-hand, right?

I still see the importance of this book. As a creative nonfiction writer myself, I understand that sometimes, one’s courage to share a painful story alone already deserves merit. Especially now, when truth is easily twisted by some for their own advantage.

So yes, it may not be perfect, but still, it’s the kind of book that people need to know about.

(Image from Hachette Australia)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement by Nadya Okamoto

Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement by Nadya Okamoto


period power: a manifesto for the menstrual movement book by nadya okamoto


It’s already 2020, but period-shaming is still a thing.

In fact, in some communities, menstruation is still frowned upon that they continue to observe questionable practices that do nothing but put women’s lives in danger. Worse, these traditions are mostly baseless.

Let’s take chhaupadi for example. It’s a practice in Nepal wherein menstruating women are made to stay in menstrual huts or sheds. The goal is to isolate them in the belief that they are unclean because of their flow. This exposes women to risks like snake bites, physical assault, freezing temperature, and even suffocation caused by poor ventilation.

This is why we need more books like Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement. All these stigma and misconceptions surrounding periods stem from people’s ignorance about the nature of menstruation. For us to put an end to these silly practices and all other negative norms associated menstruation, we need to raise awareness on menstruation. This is what this book does.

In this book, Okamoto begins with the story of her first-ever menstrual flow. She then proceeds to her story of how she got involved in the menstrual movement, including the foundation of the organization she’s been leading for years now. Her story is really inspiring.

In the following chapters, she talks about an array of topics related to menstruation. These include period stigma, period products, the history of period stigma in the US, period poverty, period policy, and menstruation in the media. Then, she ends with discussions on what can be done to contribute to menstrual movement.

I really wish more menstruators around the world would be able to read this book.

(Image from Amazon)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer


the art of stillness: adventures in going nowhere book by pico iyer


This is perfect for anyone who’s invested in inner work, especially now that many of us are still in isolation because of the pandemic.

It is also for those who have been seeking quiet for a long time, probably because they have been tired of the chaos they usually experience in their lives. As the book suggests, we need more and more quiet time as our means to connect grows.
In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.
In this book, Pico Iyer talks about the beauty of motionless journeys, in which one can go deeper into their thoughts. He also shares his encounter with individuals who have been constantly seeking stillness. It also tells the story of some famous personalities who thrived in solitude.

Despite its shortness and simplicity, this book has left a mark on me. I’m a writer and an introvert, after all. Plus, I am the kind of person who usually gets lost in the woods of their own thoughts. In fact, it is due to this habit of mine that I am able to process past experiences thoroughly and find gems in them that I can write about.
Writers, of course, are obliged by our professions to spend much of our time going nowhere. Our creations come not when we’re out in the world, gathering impressions, but when we’re sitting still, turning those impressions into sentences. Our job, you could say, is to turn, through stillness, a life of movement into art. Sitting still is our workplace, sometimes our battlefield.
Also, this book reminds me to always take as much as I can. Although I value having quiet time on a regular basis, there are also days when I simply let myself drown in the noise of the modern world. Due to the nature of my full-time job, I sometimes feel obligated to stay connected all day during work days, which can be really exhausting. Besides draining my energy, this phase also keeps me from being creative.

But of course, having the time to simply do nothing but be alone with one’s thoughts remains a privilege. In reality, a lot of people don’t have the luxury of time to sit down and remain still for hours as they take on a motionless journey.

I think one of the biggest challenges we have right now is how to fight for a better society in which people won’t simply be enslaved in the trade they are part of, so that they can also afford to cherish the art of stillness.

(Image from Simon & Shuster)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I See You by Clare Mackintosh


i see you book by clare mackintosh


This is another creepy yet exciting book.

The story begins when Zoe, a middle-aged woman, sees her photo in the ad section of a local newspaper. It seems like an ad for a dating site, except the website URL and phone number indicated do not seem to work.

Zoe tells her family and close friends about it, but they seem unmoved by it. It may just be someone who looks like her, they convince her. But of course, she remains bothered.

Eventually, she is able to confirm that it’s really her photograph--cropped out of an old picture of hers. How did it end up there? Was it some kind of mistake or coincidence? She keeps on wondering.

Later on, she finds out that a different woman appears on the same spot in the same paper each day. What’s weirder is the fact that some of these women have already been victims of a wide array of crimes, ranging from theft to murder.

What follows is Zoe’s attempt to trace the person behind the ads. It is a Black Mirror-ish tale that gives a glimpse of how fucked up the world has become, especially with all the means to exploit data and use them to harm people.

(Image from Amazon)


Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata


convenience store woman book by sayaka murata


This book tells a really interesting story about Keiko Furukura, a woman who has worked for the same convenience store 18 years.

She knows how strange her life has been, and she’s okay with it. She has never been in a relationship. She doesn’t have a lot of friends, too. Her life has always been so monotonous; it just revolves around the convenience store. Yet, she doesn’t have any problem with it.

Things change when she meets a guy who’s as weird as she is. Of course, he piques her curiosity and she begins thinking about other possibilities. And that is where things get a lot different.

To be honest, I like this book not just for its plot but also for its mood. I think it perfectly captures the charm of convenience stores. Although cyclical, convenience stores are bright and colorful. It’s a place where you can see different kinds of people, too. It’s weird yet exciting.

No wonder, the protagonist likes her workplace. She has always been referred to as “strange,” but it does not matter in a place like a convenience store. As long as she knows the right spiels and is attentive enough to provide the assistance customers need, she’s fine. It’s clear that she finds belonging here.

I think her character is also used cleverly to have a glimpse not only of the convenience store life, but also Japanese society. Her observations are peculiar, and in them, one can always find gems that reflect the interesting aspects of the society she’s part of. And, of course, it touches on how women are perceived and what the society expects of them.

(Image from Kobo)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
Book Hunting Tips

Book Hunting Tips


bookstore


The romance with books is not just about the actual reading experience. It also involves other things, including hunting and buying.

Walking into a store and sniffing the pungent scent of books, for instance, is a unique experience lots of book lovers really cherish and treasure. There is also the thrill of looking for a book you want so badly or simply falling in love with whatever you accidentally find among the piles of books in a shop. All these (and more) make visits to bookstores truly magical.

Yet in case you’re wondering what else you can do to make your visits to bookstores or encounters with independent booksellers more fruitful, here are some book hunting tips that you may find useful:

Know what you really want before going out for a hunt.

Before going to any bookstore, ask yourself first, “What do I really want?” This way, you can determine which particular types of bookstores to visit. If you already have a specific title in mind, make sure that you visit a bookstore where there are people to help you what you are looking for. You may also opt for bookstore chains, so you can simply proceed to the customer service desk and ask about the book you need to find.

You can also look for these books in shops that are selling second-hand books, as long as there is someone you can talk to about the titles available. Otherwise, you will just spend several hours dealing with piles of books without any guarantee that you will find what you need to.

Yet if you are up for anything, feel free to check out any type of bookstore you please to. You may even check out a warehouse sale. Expect to do lots of hard work, though, as you will probably need to move a lot around the store and go through the books one by one to find titles that suit you. Don’t worry; your efforts will surely be worth it, especially books here are generally cheaper.

Do some research.

Widen your horizons. Why settle for the usual establishments you frequent (especially the ones in malls) when there are other local bookstores you can explore? Ask fellow book lovers where else they get their latest finds. You may also read articles and join fora online to gain more information. For sure, you will be surprised as you learn about bookshops in places you never imagined.

I myself have discovered lots of great bookstores and independent booksellers by simply doing some research. I also learned about certain individuals selling books on sidewalks of certain streets in Metro Manila.

Survey each bookstore; talk to people managing the shops if possible.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed whenever you are surrounded by lots of books and it’s pretty understandable. However, if you plan to come up with a strategic book hunting plan that you can use in the near future, you may need to take a step backward and do some work.

Survey the bookstore and try to see what kinds of books it offers. This is necessary because even branches of the same bookstore chains have varying selections. You have to find out which branch sells more titles under the genre you are into, so you can make the most of every visit.

You may also talk to the people overseeing the store to get more information. It shall give you an idea where their books come from and when they are usually delivered. Through them, you may also find out if there is a way to reserve titles. Who knows? These individuals might even give you great book recommendations.

Follow your favorite bookstores or booksellers on social media.

Lots of businesses now already have Facebook and Twitter pages, including bookstores and booksellers. In fact, some local booksellers use their Facebook pages to showcase their new arrivals and allow patrons to reserve books.

Book hunting, indeed, is one of the most exciting parts about collecting books. While it is something that’s truly enjoyable for every book lover, it is still better to be wise and to make the most of every visit to a bookshop or a meeting with a bookseller. Hence, the use of strategies like these are something worth taking note of.

Happy book hunting!

(This article was originally published on Meg Streetwear; minor edits have been made. Photo by Alex Bello on Unsplash)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman


bird box book by josh malerman


I first learned about this book while listening to an episode of All the Books! podcast some time in 2017.

It was a scary book, according to the hosts, so it immediately piqued my curiosity. After that, I read about it a couple of times more on different websites. I also thought its premise was so clever, something I’d really enjoy reading and thinking about.

The book is about Malorie and her unique journey to the unknown in a post-apocalyptic setting. She is a young mother that seems to be hiding in a house with her kids. Now here’s the twist: they aren’t supposed to open their eyes outside. There is something there that causes death, although they do not what exactly. This is why they need to wear blindfold when getting water from the nearby lake.

Eventually, times comes when Malorie finally finds the courage to leave the said hiding place with the kids. Blindfolded, they try to walk and sail on a small boat, hoping to find a safe place.

Overall, I had a great time reading the book. It was a real page-turner, with its gripping and clever narrative. I loved how developed the characters were, and how their motives were used to create additional layers of conflict that made the novel even more suspenseful.

I already saw the movie adaptation and while I had fun watching it, I can say that the novel was still a lot scarier and more exciting.

(Image from Amazon)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
In Defense of eBook Readers

In Defense of eBook Readers


kindle ebook reader

Anyone who has ever loved a book is pretty much aware of how sensory the reading experience can be.

As you try to make sense of the printed word, you also feel the texture of the paper and smell the pages. All this, as your ears pay attention to the sound of each page turn, the crispiness of the high-quality paper manifesting as your fingers suddenly and forcibly hits them, to the point of bending or even folding.

I myself have fallen in love with the whole experience and I can forever talk about how lovely it feels to have a date with a newly bought paperback on a rainy night. The cover, free from folds and wrinkles, can always be a great source of inspiration, as if telling me that yes, I’ve got my shit together!

And oh, I won’t forget about those beautiful summer days when all I do is hop from one cafe to another while embracing a huge hardbound book. Its thickness and hardness give me assurance; they make me feel safe, especially as I enter crowded cafes where I worry about bumping into someone I know but don’t want to talk to.

Clearly, there is something truly special about the physicality of books and the comfort it provides. However, as much as I would love to just depend on actual books, I can’t. I also have to let eBooks and eBook readers into my life.

When I moved into E’s unit three years ago, it was almost free from clutter. Quickly, days passed, eventually turning into weeks and months. On my first year as one of the unit’s occupants, I had a realization: I was slowly turning the place into a jungle of books. They were everywhere–on the top of the table, on the floor, on the top of the dresser. Even some of the storage spaces originally intended for his sister’s stuff was already filled by them.

On my second year in the unit, we finally decided to buy a shelf to hold them. It was a bit taller than what had been originally planned, so at first it still had a lot of free spaces. But just a couple of months into my third year as a resident there, I was already filling it with new titles.

It was when I considered owning a Kindle. I was hesitant a first, but with ample research, I was finally convinced. And so, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite from a local reseller.

The first book ever I read using this new gadget was Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. That particular reading experience had exceeded my expectations, so I easily fell in love with Kindle.

Now let me tell you about some of the things I’ve loved about this gadget:
  • Adjustable backlight, perfect for night reading
  • Adjustable brightness and font-size
  • Long battery life
  • Impressive memory capacity
I have been using it for over a year now, and I’ve already taken it to a couple of travel destinations, including Baguio. I even endured an almost life-threatening boat ride to Mantigue Island in Camiguin with it, since I usually take it with me everywhere I go.

What about actual books?

I had already sold some of them before I moved to my new place in Quezon City. It was also partly because I just wanted to declutter and limit my possessions in general. But of course, I have still saved a couple of favorites, including some local books that aren’t available yet digitally.

Some all-time favorites have also been kept, regardless of whether they could easily be bought from local bookstores or not. These include F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, and F. H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles. I’ve also saved my copies of Michael Chabon’s books, namely Telegraph Avenue, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay, and Moonglow.

Of course, signed copies should also stay. These included a couple of books written by my professors, and other local literary idols like NVM Gonzalez. Same goes for favorite local literary anthologies, as well as books on literary criticism. In short, all books by Gemino Abad, one of my favorites, have also remained on my shelf.

How do I know if I am getting an actual book or an eBook version instead?

It’s simple: I simply have to ask myself whether I’d be willing to keep it on my shelf or not, or if I would want to let it occupy some space in my new place. This way, I can keep my home from being taken over by books. And since I’m just renting here, I have to make sure that I won’t have a hard time transporting stuff to wherever I’d move to in the future.

I also have to consider reading time into consideration. If I am just going to read a novel in one sitting, not even keeping as possibility of a reread in mind, then I might simply go for the eBook version of it.

Therefore, owning an eBook reader is practical. While I can guarantee that holding an actual book is still the best thing a book lover could ever do, I also have to be honest that we, lover of the printed word, also need to be more practical at times, especially if our circumstances demand us to be. In my case, I am forever haunted by concerns involving space and logistics.

I’ve also been trying to give mindful living a shot, so eBooks work so well with me. And, of course, let us not forget about the fact that one eBook reader could already contain hundreds of books. It’s light, portable, and it can easily save me from any awkward situation I would simply want to avoid.

(Photo by Olga Tutunaru on Unsplash)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian by Han Kang


the vegetarian book by han kang

"I had a dream."
This seemingly plain and simple sentence hadn't meant that much to me until I read this book.
This novella has three parts: The Vegetarian, Mongolian Mark, and Flaming Trees.

The Vegetarian focuses on Yong-hye, who decides to stop eating meat after having a nightmare. Her husband finds this sudden dietary change weird and even gets mad at her for her seemingly useless decision. He tries to get his in-laws involved, in the hope of changing his wife's mind. But his wife just won't change her mind; she just wouldn't have meat anymore.

In Mongolian Mark, we learn what happens with Yong-hye after a violent confrontation with the entire family about her being a vegetarian. Told in the point of view of her brother-in-law, this part shows how bizarre things have already become for the characters. It is when we finally realize that this story isn't just about the major change in Yong-hye's diet.

Finally, in Fire Trees, we get to know more about Yong-hye's sister, who is another important character in the story. At this point, her marriage has already been compromised. Yet, we also get a glimpse of how much she loves her sister and how she tries to stick to her till the very end. It is also where we get hints on the connection of Yong-hye's dream to their current realities and struggles.

This book is definitely a must-read. It is quirky and thought-provoking at the same time. I especially like how it is able to tackle some important topics like patriarchy, food culture, and sexuality. It also details sharp observations on the modern society, as well as the changing nature of relationships between people.

(Image from Amazon)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon


wonder boys book by michael chabon


This novel is so close to my heart.

Besides the fact that it’s a book by Michael Chabon, an author I've been obsessed with these past few years, its story also focuses on a writer who, for seven years, has been trying to finish his latest novel.

I have to admit, though, that this protagonist can be really annoying at times. Known as Grady Tripp, this writer teaches at the university where he's also having an affair with the chancellor and occasionally flirts with a female student. It can be said that he still adores and cares for his wife, but he somehow can't stop doing stupid things. In fact, he even ends up impregnating his mistress (and oh, this woman has been married to another colleague from the same university). He's stoned and/or drunk most of the time, too.

However, there is something that makes him appealing, despite all his unlovable qualities as a human being and as a man. One of them, I think, is his fighting spirit as a writer and an artist. No matter how shitty things have been for him, he's still so keen at finishing his work.

I also like how beautiful his friendship with Terry Crabtree is. Sure, the guy is as fucked up as he is and their relationship isn't perfect, but what they have is really admirable.

Most importantly, Grady's character reminds me that no matter how difficult it is to produce art, particularly in the midst of everything bad and crazy when it comes to the realities we still have to embrace as writers and creators, things are worth trying. There will be tough times, of course; sometimes, we even have to just let go and start anew. But, we have to go on. For me, a young writer struggling to produce something that could be worth other people's time, this kind of hope means a lot.

And of course, I can't miss the fact that it also tells a lot about how fun life as a writer, especially around equally crazy writers, can also be. I'm sure, anyone who's been a part of a writing program or a community of writers can relate to this book.

(Image from Kobo)
Continue reading »
Mina Deocareza
0 Comments