“Off-the-top-of-my-head Book List: The Top 10 (or more)” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Sept. 17-23, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Sept. 17-23, 2014


In a typical knee-jerk reflex, I will now react to the tagging going around Facebook nowadays. As I understand it, the person posts his/her Top 10 books that made a lasting impression on him/her but not to overthink it. Then she will tag other friends of hers so that they in turn can name their Top 10 books, and so on.

Well, I am anticipating that somebody would be tagging me soon, or if not, then I might as well tell you what my Top 10 books are, so that you in turn can email me about your list and we can learn from what each of us recommends. There are some caveats here: first of all, I’m not really a fan of e-books. Most books on my list are still with me and I continue to re-read some of them as the mood hits or time permits. I can hold these books in my hands, turn the pages, and smell the pages as I flip through them if I want to. Another warning is that my list will probably be more than 10 separate books – but not if I group them by author or genre. Having said all that, here are the top books on my list with some explanations as needed.

1. A. Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs – taught me the basics of astrology and character delineation when I was 11 years old
B. Linda Goodman’s Relationship Signs – bought in the year 2000, this book gave me the confidence to draw my own natal charts for family and friends because of the ephemerides (planetary tables) included in it
C. Linda Goodman’s Venus Trines at Midnight – Linda wanted to be known not just as an astrologer but as a poet, too. This slim volume gives her wish justice.
2. Watership Down by Richard Adams – This tale of a hardy band of talking wild rabbits and their adventures first captivated me when I was 12 years old. I believe I revisit this tale every 12 years hence. Bigwig was my favorite, and of course the Chief Rabbit, Hazel. It goes without saying that rabbits have their own language which Adams fleshes out very creatively.
3. Marie Laveau by Francine Prose – This novel about a powerful medicine woman in New Orleans at the time of the Civil War captured my imagination when I was about 12 or 13. The mystical passages, the mention of astrological signs, the gossiping among the “colored,” and the characters from their world of voodoo and superstition all inspired me to examine the supernatural and the metaphysical. It broke my heart that Marie (a Scorpio) can’t hold on to her man, Jacques (a Taurus) (thereby astrological opposites) because they forgot to invite the voodoo goddess of love to their wedding. The goddess therefore lured Jacques to be with herself and not with Marie. With her new man, Christophe (an Aries), Marie learned her lesson and lit an altar to the goddess so that she may not take this one, too. Scorpio and Aries are both ruled by Mars. Christophe and Marie went on to have a child, Ti-Marie (an Aquarius), who eventually took over her mother’s practice. Oh, and have I mentioned that when Marie holds her healing dances in the plaza in the evenings, she has a long and big neon-green snake hiding in her lustrous long black hair? She uses the snake to heal.
4. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD – This autographed book secured by my Mom after she attended Jamison’s lecture at Cal State East Bay inspired me to form the first ever support group in the Philippines for outpatients with mental illnesses. It’s called the Biopsychosocial Support & Interaction Group (BISIG), established on Aug. 13, 2000 in Metro Manila. BISIG still exists and is still based in The Medical City (TMC) in Pasig City.
5. A B N K K B S N P L Ako? By Bob Ong – Funny, whimsical, and nostalgia-inducing adventures and musings of a student from grade school to college and back again.
6. The Portable Magritte with an introduction by Robert Hughes – a collection of the works of my favorite Surrealist painter, René Magritte
7. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – What’s all the fuss about being purebloods and mudbloods? Down with racism and discrimination, even in Potterworld!
8. The Purpose-Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren – Even though I’ll be the first one to admit that I swear no allegiance to any religion, not for a number of years now, I’ll also admit that once upon a time, this book made a lot of sense to me. I have kept the notebook where I jotted down my answers, Biblical passages, and reflections for each of the 40-day commitment requested by the book. Once in a blue moon (rare!) I look at what I’ve written (circa 2003) and the gist of it still resonates somehow, if not the details.
9. The Crossfire Series: Bared to You, Reflected in You, Entwined with You by Sylvia Day – If you want pulsating passion with heart and imagination, look no further than this romance-novel phenomenon who looks beautiful in her inside-cover-of-the-book photo, too. Sylvia Day’s novels are definitely better than E.L. James’ “50 Shades of Grey,” which after Volume 1 I already found boringly repetitive.
10. On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, MD – With my Aries Sun and Pisces Moon both in the 8th house of death and transformation, I wonder no more why I am fascinated by death in all its beauty and ferocity. For Dr. Kübler-Ross to verbalize the “stages of grief” is to me a truly groundbreaking phenomenon, although she said later on in her life that those stages do not follow a neat linear pattern, i.e., they can happen up and down the scale, all at the same time, some of them some of the time, etc. In other words, the experience of grief is unique to each of us. What we share is the universality of being affected by it at all.

Now that I have shared my Top 10 book list with all of you, would you please honor me by sharing yours? Don’t worry about me, I can take it, whatever profound book you dish out that I haven’t read yet. I consider myself a perpetual learner and a literacy advocate. Believe me, somehow I will always find time to read a book or two – but only upon your recommendation. Hit me with your hit list: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com
Maraming salamat and Abyssinia next week!

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