Question Everything | The books I read in 2021

1. UP Diliman: Home and Campus by Narita Manuel Gonzales (Editor), Gerardo Los Banos (Editor). Remembering the early years of the churches in Diliman, tribute to Father Delaney, and the lives of pioneer residents in the campus.

2. China’s Long Revolution by Edgar Snow. Documenting the changes a few years after China’s cultural revolution. It features interviews with Chinese leaders Chou Enlai and Mao Zedong.

3. Salvation: Black People and Love by bell hooks. Explores the dynamics of authentic liberation while battling white supremacy in modern America.

4. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays by Stephen Hawking. A fascinating collection of speeches, lectures, and interviews featuring the life and work of a renowned scientist. Is time travel possible? What was Einstein’s biggest mistake? Can we come out of a black hole?

5. Beyond the Spectacle of Terrorism by Henry A. Giroux. Linking the role of new media, spectacle and politics of terrorism, and ends with a hopeful assertion of emancipatory pedagogy. I like the concept of public time as a counter to the nihilistic legacy of neoliberalism.

6. A History of the Philippines by Samuel K. Tan. Useful introduction of how our communities evolved, the interaction with colonizers, the fight for independence and democracy – only to falter in the end for its partisan support of the Ramos presidency.

7. Hong Kong Junta by S.V. Epistola. Narrating the activities of the Philippine revolutionary government in exile, the independence lobbying efforts from Japan to Paris, and how the U.S. government behaved before turning the Philippines into its colony.

8. Philippines-Mexico Historical Relations, Ambeth R. Ocampo (Editor). Lectures and papers detailing the historical and cultural ties between the Philippines and Mexico. For 250 years, Spain ruled the Philippines through Mexico which was facilitated by the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade.

9. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan. Refreshing, intelligent frame in understanding the history of the world. Manila was described here as the first global city. Compelling narratives about the rise and fall of kingdoms and their forgotten legacies.

10. Hindi Nangyari Dahil Wala sa Social Media: Interogasyon ng Kulturang New Media sa Pilipinas by Rolando B. Tolentino (Editor), Vladimeir B. Gonzales (Editor), Laurence Marvin S. Castillo (Editor). An important new book about our media landscape and its impact on the lives of Filipinos in the early 21st century. Read my previous Bulatlat column for a full review of the book.

11. Intimations by Zadie Smith. Impressions, observations, tender reflections about life, modern life in the age of pandemic.

12. The Silence by Don DeLillo. A curious take on a probable futuristic scenario when our technologies suddenly die on us.

13. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. My favorite book of the year by a Filipino-American artist and scholar about how and why we should recalibrate our thinking and habits in our use of new media tools. What is the link between birdwatching and improving our internet literacy? Her philosophy is progressive, humane, and maybe that Filipino connection made her more sensitive about nature, myths, and the interaction of strangers in communities.

14. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator). An equally hilarious and depressing story about life and work in a neoliberal world.

15. The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell. Questions, only questions, but full of meaning and answers about what it means to live today.

16. Ang Huling Emotero by Mark Angeles. It starts with a brief history of dagli in the past century, then it offers tales about our ancestors, sketches inspired by real-life events, stories about us.

17. The Lessons of History by Will Durant, Ariel Durant. Confident in its sweeping review of history, but careful in reminding readers not to make a final judgment of what has transpired in the past. Apparently, there were many ‘socialisms’ in various civilizations.

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