Read a good book lately? We try

My stack of to-read books beside a Japanese sandal

By Cristina DC Pastor

I’ve been reading “A Year by the Sea” for almost two years now. The book by Joan Anderson about a journalist who takes a sabbatical from marriage has been sitting in a little corner of my bedroom along with other books on food, true crime, politics and the Taliban. It’s a slim book of about 200 pages that can easily be devoured in less than a day, the crisp prose that can float you into the Cape Cod cottage where this “recovering wife” recreates herself as a fish market worker.

But what I found out as I retreat into my thoughts is how reading a book has not always been the relaxing activity it was once when I was a young student. When your work calls for reading other people’s writings, the newspapers and the Internet, reading a book becomes just another way to tire the eyes. The lovely art has become a chore.

I sought the comments of friends — and people whose minds I respect — who love to read and find time to be in the company of books. A friend who read through an 11-hour power outage with nothing but a book light and an open window. Thirty minutes to an hour before bedtime, and reading becomes a ritual, a discipline, a way of life.

Do my friends still read? How do they find the time, and what types of books? Or are they, like me, who read when they can, skim the first few pages and then toss it away never to lay eyes on that book again?

Grace's business-neat bookcase

Grace Hufano-Labaguis, marketing executive
I have a couple of unread books. Most are about marketing and finance. I have the “Power of the Mind,” which I enjoy reading especially when I’m traveling.
On my bookshelf are books like “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,” a gift from my staff; and “The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart.” Books written by successful businessman and professionals also inspire me, like “The Road Ahead” by Bill Gates, and “Outside the Box, A Memoir” by Lynn Sherr. What I’m hoping to spend time to read when I get the chance are books about mystery and law & order like “Justice: Crimes, Trials and Punishments.”

With my busy schedule, I still make a point to read “The Power of Now” because there are a lot of food for thought there applicable in my daily activities.

Jocelyn's shelf. There’s a Kindle in there somewhere

Jocelyn Gonzales, multimedia producer/editor; film teacher
This is my “to read” shelf. Or really “I hope to read these sometime soon.” I’ve read a few chapters of most of these books, but haven’t got around to finishing. On the left are my “Dark Shadows” books. “Dark Shadows” was a 1960s vampire soap opera that ran on ABC. Next are a number of books I picked up during my recent trip to Reykjavik, Iceland: the requisite travel book and one about local folklore. I like to read mysteries, so “Last Rituals” and “Hypothermia” are by two of Iceland’s crime writers.

“Perfecting Sound Forever” is a history of recorded music that I’m supposed to be reading for research on a radio piece I’m working on. The book with the white spine is actually a galley of film critic Roger Ebert’s memoir. It’s delightful so far. My editor gave me the massive new book of essays by Christopher Hitchens. I will finish that book if it takes me years because Hitchens does write “like a drunken angel,” even if you don’t agree with most of what he says.

The green case on the upper right is my Kindle, which has about 28 other books on it. That’s a very low count for a Kindle, I think. I wish I could read all day, every day. I try to read something before I go to bed at night, but I don’t get that far because often my brain is too fried. I have three jobs where I have to listen and read constantly, and frequently I’m just too burned out to lose myself in a good book. But I try!

The Congen's library at his Official Residence. Note elephant bookends from South Africa.

Consul General Mario Lopez de Leon Jr.
I’m very partial to nonfiction, usually current events, history, international politics. I’m currently reading “That Used to be Us” by Thomas Friedman. It’s about the current state of the U.S. — politically and economically. It was released only in September. I have the hardcover. I’ve read many of Friedman’s books, like “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” “The World is Flat” and “The Lexus and the Olive Tree.”

I usually read at night when I have my free time. I find that reading relaxes me until I fall asleep. I have a very active mind. With my kind of work, I need to relax myself.

I’ve read quite a number of books about New York in the past and not because of my new assignment. I’ve read about the history of the city when it was still New Amsterdam and the Dutch were among the first immigrants.

On my bookshelf are mostly nonfiction. I have a collection of books about South Africa, the African National Congress, Mandela. When I was in London, I read mostly about British politics and history, the Conservative class, the Conservative mind. I have a kindle, but I haven’t really gotten around to it. I prefer to read the book.

Kevin's campy home collection

Kevin Nadal, professor, psychologist, performer, activist and author
As a professor who is constantly reading textbooks and academic journals, I hardly have any time to read anything for pleasure. If I do, it is usually on a long airplane or Amtrak ride, or while on a vacation in a beach far away from Internet access! Most of my leisurely reading comes from books that people give me as presents or books I buy in airports. What I love most is that bookshelf differs immensely from work and home. At work, you’ll find books on psychology, education, and social justice; at home, you’ll find books that became movies, campy books by gay fictional writers or celebrity autobiographies.

Emmanuel Palatulan, youth organizer
Top to bottom, I have two treatises of government, history of American law, a collection of FHM Philippines magazines, a few volleyball magazines tucked in by a von Clausewitz book that’s collecting dust, Spanish (“Dos Mundos”) and a pile of poli sci papers I’ve written over the years at Hunter.

I read Sunday mornings, the most beautiful part of my week, when I have hot tea at a Starbucks near my house. I love the ambience. I read a chapter and then I watch people for two minutes and I read again. I’m now reading a book that my girlfriend’s uncle wrote in the Philippines: “Creation, Fall and Redemption” by Edwin Catacutan. Not a fan of Kindle. I try to keep as much humanity as I can.

Steven's bookcase; there's two more of this around the house.

Steven Raga, youth organizer
I usually read three to five books simultaneously, taking one book with me when I leave my apartment to read on the subway. This week, I’m rotating “Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years,” “Justice” by Michael Sandel, “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman and “Selected Writings” by Jose Marti. I do have an unfortunate habit of starting novels and never finishing them. Currently halfway read but nevertheless ignored on my shelves are “Kangkong 1896,” “All the Conspirators” by Carlos Bulosan and “Mass” by F. Sionil Jose.

Kata Rojas, copy editor
My love affair with books — and words — began when I was a kid. My mom and I always had a “reading time” in the afternoon. She had her “Mills & Boon” novels, I had “The Princess and the Frog” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

My taste has become a bit more eclectic since then. On my shelf? Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” sits next to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” They’re neighbors with Jose Garcia Villa’s “The Anchored Angel,” J.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and Amy Tan’s “The Hundred Secret Senses.” From the library, I’ve just picked up Lars Kepler’s “The Hypnotist” and Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” Not sure when I’m going to finish those as I only get to read a couple of chapters when I get home from a full day of reading/editing.


  1. A. Mabini wrote:

    I wish I was at least half as cool as Steven raga is

  2. Brandy wrote:

    Great post. I can only hope others can learn from this.

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