Books Reading Themes

Gathering Books Asks: Mary

Happy New Year!

I’m so excited to open 2011 for Gathering Books. For the next few days, we’ll be doing something ‘special.’ It’s short of a meme, but it’s more personal. Having discussed with my fellow GB friends (fats and myra) we’ve decided to hold this little ‘interview.’  Each one of us will answer a few questions. We felt we needed to say more about us. All our posts either are reviews, book musings, or on book splurges. There is very little on ourselves as readers and bloggers. So, here’s us UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL (haha). My, my, this is getting me very very self-conscious.

*shies away* LOL. Doesn’t suit me much does it? I’ll try to answer the following questions as candidly as possible. Ahem Ahem…let’s begin.

How were you involved in Gathering Books?

What most of you do not know is that Gathering Books began as a REAL book club with 5 members: 2 gifted young girls, Fats, Myra and myself. However as Fats moved to the US and Myra to Singapore we created a private online book club at Ning.  At Ning there were other members that were personally invited to join. However, our ‘free’-dom at Ning was cut short and Myra broached the idea of creating an actual book/readers resource site. We chatted over YM about it and next thing I know, 2 to 3 weeks down the road we had GB up and running. My involvement at GB was something that organically flowed from that little book club to what it is now—a blog/a site that has a life of its own.

Briefly, tell us how you began your reading journey? Fondest reading memory?

I hate reading. While my dad brought us to bookstores every Sunday and asked us to buy books with the 100pesos (roughly 2 USD) he gave us, I never was that much of a reader. At that time, I only read from cover to cover Black Beauty and The Christmas Carol, the rest I read a few pages of.  I wasn’t proficient in English and reading novels in English was too much of a chore. However, one fateful day in 5th grade I discovered Nancy Drew at the school library. They had the complete hardbound collection. I read every one and ever since then I’ve been hooked.  At the same time, I discovered poetry. My appreciation for words grew and since then words, as hard as they were sometimes, were magical things to me. J

What are your reading habits? (Do you earmark? Highlight? Write on the margin?)

My reading habits have evolved. I used to stop midway a paragraph and copy into a notebook passages I love.  I’ve abandoned that for some time. Now, I use post-it  to note the passages I like. I am very strict about using bookmarks. YES, I USE MY BOOKMARKS! Hahaha. There are moments I’m tempted to highlight, but I don’t.  I’m fine with spine creases, but I hate folding books, that annoys me. I rarely earmark (only on the most desperate of moments).

Which author can you not resist to buy when in a bookstore?

Murakami. Murakami. Murakami.

LOL. I’m short of being in love with him. But I’m not blind, so my reviews will still have some objectivity to it. I do add disclaimers in case I get all fangirl over Murakami.

Other authors would be Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Banana Yoshimoto. My current exposure to new authors sort of grew this list. Now it might also include Muriel Barbery, Alain de Botton, and Elif Shafak.

I also love reading Japanese Literature, so sometimes when I spot a Japanese Author (by this I mean the work is actually translated and not an author who has Japanese Origins but writes in English. i.e Kazuo Ishiguro) I tend to buy the book. Hahaha.

Seriously though….

I can’t resist buying books. Period.

Of the books you read this year (2010), what was your favorite?

I’ve read so much in 2010. My favorites would be:

  1. Muriel Barbery’s Elegance of a Hedgehog: I can’t stop gushing over this book. It simply blew me away.
  2. Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimio’s Trese: I love this series. It’s local, engaging and just plain wonderful.
  3. Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul: This is the very first book I’ve read from a Turkish author. I read her book after watching her talk. Shafak’s gift is in storytelling. I’ve read many beautiful books. Her plot could have been written in a thousand different ways, but this story was beautifully woven by a modern day Scheherazade.

What books do you hope to read next year (2011)?

Now given my enormous TBR (to be read) pile, this could be wrong. However, there are a few that I hope to finish sooner than later, namely: Book 2 and 3 of Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, Books 2 and 3 of The Benedict Society, The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk,  and The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata. These books I already have.

In terms of acquiring and reading, I’m excited about Murakami’s 1Q84 being translated in English by 2011 ( I think), Grimm’s fairy tales, and another Elif Shafak book.

Having said that, I do hope I get to read all the books I own now and not carry them over to 2012…

What makes a good and bad book for you?

There are many ways a book can be good and bad. I’m not a literature major, hence my judgment of a book is, if anything, uneducated. A good book to me is able to speak to me. This is highly subjective, but is connected to my belief that books needs to engage the reader. Another is the book should be written well. I don’t like unnecessary dialogue, editorializing, and cliché phrases. These three things have a tendency to jump off the page and irk me.  Storytelling also matters. Plots are few, but the way the story is being told, the freshness of the author’s eye always gives a novel life. I don’t appreciate novels that is all ego—those that try too hard to be ‘intellectual’, as well as overused storylines. Oh, a bad book also lacks fluidity and cohesiveness. I’ve seen novels that are all over the place and as a completist, its painful to read.

Do you read one book at a time or do you read multiple books at a time?

I read multiple books. Usually I have 3 books in circulation. One in my bag when I travel, one in my night table, and the other in the toilet (for reasons you should be able to guess…hahaha.) Sometimes one of those three books can engross me that I end up finishing it first before reading the other books in circulation. However, given my current very busy schedule I read one book at a time as some of my work require me to read other materials as well.

Can you share a picture of your book shelf?

This isn’t the complete shelf. I don’t keep all my books in one shelf as some are at my childhood home, some are in boxes, and some are on the shelf as seen above.

We all know we’re busy in one way or another, so I wonder when do you read? When do you find time to write in your blog?

I read during my morning toilet routine and before sleeping. On weekends I read most of the day when I’m home. I also try to read while waiting for my class to start or during break time in the office.  I read whenever I can. I write my blogs most often during the morning or when I’ve lost interest in a particular work I’m doing.  While I try to tell myself I’ll write the reviews over the weekend, I end up writing my blog posts when I best feel it and during the morning even while at work. I’m lucky that my job simply requires that I deliver on time. I’m quite a fast worker so during downtime I write a review or two.

Best thing about being in GB?

Having an excuse to buy books and read books. Hahaha. Also, I love being able to connect with fellow readers. If anything this site has developed me as a reader and blogger. NYRB week for instance allowed me to connect with other readers while at the same time discover new writers.

Hopes for GB and your reading next year?

One of my biggest hopes is to grow our readership. I also hope to grow our interaction in the blogsphere and feature more writers and illustrators on a monthly basis. I also hope that 2011 will be the year that GB makes a mark not only in the blogsphere but also in society. There are projects brewing and I hope it all pans out.

There are moments when I wish I could live off reading and writing. I once told my family I would build a house that had three rooms—a kitchen, a library and a bathroom. I’m going to sleep in the library amongst the books and the stories I’ve learned to love. One of my fantasies is creating a café that doubles as a public library…sigh..what a beauty would that be.  Where I’m being led by being part of GB is uncertain, but I am grateful that I have it as part of my life…

For what am I without my books….

4 comments on “Gathering Books Asks: Mary

  1. Pingback: GatheringBooks Asks: Myra |

  2. myragarcesbacsal

    Wonderful post, Mary! I love it. I just posted my responses while in the midst of attending a New Year’s party. Talk about multi-tasking. Wifi is everything. Hahaha.


  3. myragarcesbacsal

    I love this line of yours: “What am I without my books?” – Just Beautiful. I am enormously blessed to have you and Fats and GB in my life as well. =) Happy New Year. Don’t work yourself too hard.


    • Mary of GatheringBooks

      The more I reflect on my love for reading the more I believe that books contributed in helping me deal with the most difficult times of my childhood.
      Also, I think we too are blessed to have you in our lives during and after college. 🙂 Mutual admiration club nga! hahaha.


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