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By the book



The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale is coming to Pampanga for the first time on July 12 – 22, 2019 at the Laus Group Event Center in the City of San Fernando! It is the World’s Biggest Book Sale that aims to provide affordable books by offering a wide range of brand-new English books across various genres with discounts of up to 50% – 90% off recommended retail price. The Book Sale will be open 24 hours a day, for 11 days straight and entrance to the Sale is FREE!

Tidings of great joy that instantly pushed me to the old reliable Lenovo to pound something in words of a lifelong affair with books, and, but of course, reading. Only to remember this short piece five years ago articulating this same delectation:

…THE VORACIOUS reader Ding Cervantes preaches the convenience of the tablet with its vast library of e-books, adjustable fonts, lightness of weight over the old hardbounds and paperbacks.

No tech-savvy like Ding, I prefer my books as they are – the smell of pulp actually an inducement to read, a stimulant to greater understanding, indeed, to internalizing both spirit and letter of the book.

So, to each his own preference, reading is its own reward anyways.

Comes to mind Francis Bacon’s Of Studies, thus: “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”

Impacted during my formative years at the Mater Boni Consilii Seminary, the best of Bacon’s Essays has since served as my reading beacon.

In the choice of books, he cautions: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

Many times, a cursory browse of the teaser or gist on the flaps is all it takes to “taste” the book, and finding it unsavoury promptly return it to the shelf.

Of the great finds – I read “wholly with diligence and attention” and re-read with greater diligence and interest. Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Machiavelli’s The Prince, The Confessions of St. Augustine, The Communist Manifesto, Pablo Neruda’s 20 Love Poems, and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil are among the most prized of the over 1,000 books I have collected for my modest library. (Later additions are G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and Heretics.)

It is to Bacon too that I owe this habit of reading three books at every sitting, categorized to heavy, light and inspirational. Currently I am into the thick of Fidel Castro’s spoken autobiography My Life, the atheist Chris Hitchens’ god is not Great subtitled How Religion Poisons Everything, and Paulo Coelho’s Manuscripts found in Accra.

Earlier were American Lion of Andrew Jackson’s years in the White House, a re-read of William Safire’s The First Dissident subtitled The Book of Job in Today’s Politics, and, finding an eternity to finish, Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror subtitled The Calamitous 14th Century.

For inspirational, restful intermissions – from all the heavy reading – Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali, the poems of Rumi, and the Dhammapada, the Buddha’s Path of Wisdom I find most pleasing.

In the wake of Putin’s audacity (mis) addressing the crisis in Crimea, I am dusting off a biography of Stalin and the history of the Crimean War with Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade on the side. Still remember, “…theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die: into the valley of death rode the six hundred…”? (In the era of Duterte, it was Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars that I readily referenced, particularly its accounts of Caligula and Nero, and Bullock’s Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. Amid this regime’s propensity for “fake news” and penchant for “alternative truths,” I re-read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World.)

Obvious by now my preferred reads: history and biography, philosophy and poetry, morality and religion. Again, in submission to Bacon: “Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend.”

Alas, the last fling I had with mathematics was in third year high school trigonometry. The only connection to the subject now exclusive with my Tokyo-based actuarial specialist son Jonathan.

Wise. Witty. Subtle. Deep. Grave. Not only able to contend but contentious even. The fruits of reading, the very requisites to writing. One who rarely reads but appends “writer” to his name is no more than a pompous pretender then. Not unlike the idiot who thinks anyone who can read his mail is a man of letters.

Bacon, fittingly: “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know, that he doth not.”

So, I read. So, I write. So, I am.

Indeed, there is life in books. There is life to books. Inhering in human life itself.

Read John Milton in Areopagitica: “Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.

Unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye.

A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”

The Good Book, aye.


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