I am in the middle of a really absorbing book, The Shack by William Young, recommended to me by my Tito Nick, brother of my dad. The story is about a sweet little girl abducted and possibly murdered. I initially resisted reading it but the reviews said there was a lot of wisdom to be found in the pages, a lot of love even, a lot of God, naturally.
Page after page after page, through short and long breaks during taping, in the car, deep into the night, I read it. It is absorbing all right and hard to explain in words other than the author’s. Beautiful thoughts and truths tumble out like gold nuggets that you want to keep in your pocket, comforting, easy to understand, too lovely to grasp in just one night.
You say to yourself “Really, God loves me this much?” You will want to remember the beautiful feeling you walk away with for a long, long time to come, but impossible to explain it to others in my own words. So, yes, please grab a copy and find out for yourself. It is one of those that you can read over and over again and each time will be just like the first time.
For Christmas, I received a lot of books. They never fail to make me happy. Every bookshop feels like a playground, a candy store. I chance upon a bookstore anywhere and I will always find something to buy: some new pens (I have a thing for pens) and a handful of books to give away as presents.
Growing up in Ormoc, I remember being surrounded with a lot of books. My sister and I shared them; bedtime stories were the norm. Thick volumes of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, stories by Hans Christian Andersen, Disney tales, animals that talked, people who visited the sun, the moon, the stars and came back glowing and with magical powers. I read Anne Frank’s Diary and Anne of Green Gables as a little girl. I remember Snegourka the Snow Maiden, and a story about an old lady so poor but so joyful because she had these magic glasses. Every little thing she owned was big in her eyes. A little slice of steak looked like a juicy, fat slab, her tiny house looked like a mansion. They were stories that taught me a thing or two about life camouflaging as fantasy or magic. I wish I still had all my old books so I could pass them on to Juliana now, who loves to read. But a lot of them got swept away during the big, bad flood of 1991. It is easy to find volumes of Grimms Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, Disney, but what of lesser known but just as wonderful stories like Snegourka and the plump, old lady? I do not remember their authors.
For a while I lost my passion for reading books. Mommy would bug me to read, but the more she asked, the more I resisted. I think I was too busy collecting stationeries, stamps and stickers, and worrying about this big bully of a girl, Malu, who was several grades higher than me and tortured me relentlessly.
Soon the novelty of collecting wore off and I picked up where I left off reading. My favorite place was the elementary library. Manned by Nida, it was sunny and bright and filled with wonderful books I could borrow and take home. This is where I met Amelia Bedelia, The Bobsey Twins, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I completed all the volumes, thanks to my best friend Elaine Palugod. She was a voracious reader, she was like my reading compass, directing me to the right books at the right time.
In High School I became very good friends also with the librarian, Ma’am Obejas. By then I had already started to move on to romance novels, starting with Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High, which they did not have there but mommy bought them for me at National Book Store in Cebu. There was only a sprinkling of love stories and even that was restricted to certain ages. Elizabeth and Jessica of Sweet Valley High were like my friends, and I also dreamed that one day our school could have lockers like theirs. The first mature romance novel I read was The Ghost of Monte Carlo by Barbara Cartland, about a beautiful lady who was so mysterious because she always wore gray. She wore diaphanous gowns in shades of gray and gray pearls. I remember telling myself then that when I grew up I would also have my own set of beautiful gray pearls. I still don’t have them now, and the wish is alive. That was the title of the book. I think I would love to read that again.
Because I loved books and reading I could go on for days, weeks even, without ever leaving the house. I do not know if there is really any connection but my English subjects were always the easiest for me. I had no trouble making my sentences and tenses agree with each other and even compositions were a joy to write. If only I could say the same for math.
Mommy and Daddy were totally supportive and my sister and I could have as much books as we wanted. There were hardly any glossy magazines and we were not allowed to read mommy’s Cosmopolitan so I asked if I could subscribe to Seventeen. It took forever to arrive in Ormoc because we ordered it all the way from the States, but we had access to Reader’s Digest.
In college, I went full swing into the romance genre, starting with Harlequin Romance and Danielle Steele but I let the latter go after the eighth book, when I noticed that she always killed someone in her stories. I got tired of crying.
I loved historical romances, especially those by Judith McNaught. Her heroes were always tall, dark, and handsome, I think that is what got me praying on my knees for my own tall, dark, and handsome man. I did not really enjoy stories that are unrealistic, about galaxies and aliens and witchcraft, but one book changed that for me. Entitled Moondust and Madness it was just beautiful, and I read it four times in one year. I loved it so much I told myself that if I had my own company, whatever it did, I would register it with the SEC under the name Moondust and Madness. I read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights after watching Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit.
My love for books has not waned one bit. I think it has grown even more with the advent of well stocked, beautifully designed bookstores like Fully Booked, which rivals Barnes & Noble and Borders abroad. It is fueled each time I click on Amazon and the choices roll down before me like a long veil. I wish though I had put a date on the first page of every book I have ever purchased or received — that is already a story in itself. I will make an effort to do that with every book in my hand this year.
On really good days, I will pick up a book at random from the shelf, just because the title or the book cover is nice, never mind if I am totally unfamiliar with the author. I will go home, precious package in hand, and start a journey I somehow always hope will end in a happy way. Lost in the pages of a good love story, an autobiography, a thriller, a dramatic or fantasy fiction, I allow joy and madness to curl around me like a warm blanket, interrupting my life as I live it, but in a most delightful and welcome way.