An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

29 June 2006

My life these days

There used to be a time in my life when I read purely for enjoyment. What I especially liked about reading then was how it kept me connected to the world of ideas while I myself remained isolated from the nitty-gritty of daily life. Reading for me used to be both a form of escape and a way of learning. It allowed me to live on a different plane where I thrived on introspection and melancholy. Why worry about socks, hair, and a particularly inept history teacher when there's Charles Dickens? It was heaven.

My being a writer ruined all that. Now it’s a race to deal with books – books I don’t especially like but have to read because it’s part of the tradition of writing (Thackeray, Defoe, Hardy), books I would like to read at my own pace but can’t because I’m on a tight schedule (Dalisay, Rosca, Yuson), books I would really like to read just for pure escape but can’t because I have to read them as a writer (Saramago, Garcia Marquez, Allende), books I would love to read just for the heck of it but have to put off because I’m too busy (Hawking, Greene, Ocampo), and books I have to read for work (Rees, Gordon, various books on intelligence, armed conflict, international crisis, faith at war, and the world’s elite special forces). I have a thirty-book backlog that keeps growing week by week, and reading, for me, has changed its face.

But in a good way. Aside from being able to squeeze in one or two books that I really really like that has absolutely no connection with the books I read for work, I am, admittedly, beginning to enjoy reading the books that I do have to read for work, perhaps because I get them mostly from the bookshelves of the man in my life, and I am fascinated with his world, which also happens to be the same world I am temporarily in because of a two-year writing contract.

This is my life these days. For the month of June alone, on top of transcribing one interview, writing the first draft of the first five chapters of the history of the PNP Special Action Force, and working on the articles for the anniversary and maiden issue of Force & Valor magazine, as well teaching my man how to download reports from the International Crisis Group and Amnesty International -- and the inevitable Ultimate Fighting Champion, K1, and Pride video clips, and various media on firearms, assaults, attacks, bombings, wars, entrapment, and the occasional dirty cartoon -- I was able to read the following books:

1. Gideon’s Spies by Thomas Gordon
2. Cradle & Crucible: Faith and History in the Middle East by The National Geographic
3. Dining with Terrorists by Phil Rees
4. The Art of Fiction by David Lodge
5. We Filipinos by F. Sionil Jose
6. A History of God by Karen Armstrong

I’m still reading Karen Armstrong, and the F. Sionil Jose I can only tackle a chapter at a time, although I am past halfway now. But on the whole, I’d say that six books a month isn’t bad. If I could read this much while still being able to write fairly well, deal with work, and beat my deadlines, then maybe six books a month is a more or less comfortable reading pace.

Thus, here are my monthly reading targets:

For July
1. The Knowing is in the Writing by Butch Dalisay
2. Muslims in the Philippines by Cesar Majul
3. Nation, Self, & Citizenship by Randolph David
4. Martial Law in the Philippines: My Story by Sen Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.
5. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington (a rereading)
6. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

For August
1. Faith at War by Yaroslav Trofimov
2. State of War by Ninotchka Rosca
3. A History of Warfare by John Keegan
4. The History of the Siege of Lisbon by Jose Saramago
5. The Commanders by Bob Woodward
6. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

For September
1. Rizal Without the Overcoat by Ambeth Ocampo
2. Meaning and History by Ambeth Ocampo (a rereading)
3. The First Filipino by Leon Ma. Guerrero
4. Writing & Difference by Jacques Derrida
5. Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
6. Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

For October
1. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
2. The Fabric of the Cosmos by Briane Greene (a rereading)
3. E=mc2: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis
4. The Modern Principalia by Dante Simbulan
5. Gimpel the Fool by Isaac Asimov
6. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

There’s no fixed topical theme to the monthly reading targets. And they’re not all for work, too. The combinations are largely based on page volume, and I’d probably lose my mind if I don’t read at least one literary work or book on literature in a month. Some books I want to read just for the heck of it, like The 48 Laws of Power, just to see what the fuss is all about. (Although honestly, if it turns out to be just another The Purpose Driven Life, I’d throw lighter fluid on it and burn it, and scatter the ashes over some filthy estero. Or I could give it as a gift to someone I really really really hate.) Sadly, though, I have had to relegate the physics books to October, but I get the feeling that the titles are going to keep shifting as I finish reading them book by book, and as I keep finding more books. For example, there is one really thick and fabulous book on the history of Mathematics that I have been lusting after, and a fascinating-looking set of volumes on Trotsky. Those, and three of my man's new books on the MI6, Afghanistan, and Mossad.

Apparently, there is no end to this, but it’s just so much fun that I don’t really care.