It’s been 12 months since the pandemic that changed the world. For many of us, it was an experience of navigating through emotional ups and downs. If I were to summarize my experience in a rather positive way, I describe the last 12 months as a period of self re-discovery. As an avid reader, I started off the self discovery process with reading, listening and watching as many materials as I can.
It will still be months before we can achieve a true sense of normalcy, so if you are looking or are desperate to find your next binge or page-turner, here I share with you a few of my favorites (in no particular order of importance), including from two Filipino-American writers:
Image credits: East Tenth Group, Verywell Health, and See Girl Work
1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
The Obamas need no introduction. As with the former President’s two previous works, this book continues to showcase his ability as a great storyteller, especially for an overly subjective topic of politics and political office. By humanizing the individuals he’d worked with from the campaign trail up to the White House for eight years, his relationship with his wife and his family, and himself with some of the most important decisions he had made as a President he was able to articulate his and their fears, insecurities, anger, aspirations, and hopes in a way that is genuine and honest.
2. Soap, Water and Common Sense by Dr. Bonnie Henry
The author is no less than Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, the first woman in this position. The original paperback edition was published in 2009 but I read the 2020 edition. Notwithstanding the fact that I have a science background, I never expected that reading a non-fiction book about germs would be a page-turner. What I find unique in this work was the author uses her experiences from Ebola in Uganda to polio in Pakistan, SARS in Toronto, and the H1N1 influenza outbreak across North America to offer three simple rules to live by. Dr. Henry provides up-to-date and accurate information on everything from the bugs we breathe, to the bugs we eat and drink, the bugs in our backyard, and beyond.
3. Rage by Bob Woodward
The author is a veteran journalist who has worked for 49 years and reported on every American president from Nixon to Trump. The book is an intimate masterpiece chronicling on the Trump presidency facing a global pandemic, economic disaster and racial unrest.
The book cites 17 on-the-record interviews of the former President with Woodward over seven volatile months; provides readers a vivid window into Trump’s mind, a glimpse of him that portrays part denial and part combative interchange mixed with surprising moments of doubt as he navigates the perils in the presidency.
4. Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan
A book written by a Fil-Am author, Fairest is a widely praised memoir about a gifted and talented boy with albinism, a sun child from Bulacan, who would grow up to become a woman in America. This is beautifully written coming-of-age memoir whose story travels from an immigrant childhood to Harvard as an undergraduate student to a gender transition. It enlightens the illusions of race, disability, and gender informed by the social, historical and political contexts of each environment she has called home. You can feel that the writer speaks from the heart, so it didn’t come as a surprise that O: The Oprah Magazine hailed it as one of the most anticipated books of 2020.
5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This is a fiction story that tells the saga of four generations of a Korean family who moved to Japan in the hopes of a better life. While this is a story about Korean families, it resonates with every immigrant family, especially around the sensitive and barely spoken topics such as bullying and discrimination in whatever shape or form.
The love of family is paramount in this novel. It also highlights the importance of identity. I especially love the portrayal of a woman’s resolute strength, serving as the backbone of their family amidst the most trying times in their lives.
6. Boracay Vows (Carpe Diem Chronicles Book 1)by Maida Malby
Since February is a love month, you may want to indulge in a light, enjoyable novel. This book is the first of a fun and sexy multicultural contemporary romance series Carpe Diem Chronicles, written by a Fil-Am writer. The romance story takes place in Boracay, Philippines, where Krista Lopez’s very last expectation on her week-long vacation is to fall for her American boss, who’s staying at the same resort. This is like reading Mills & Boon all over again with a modern twist.
7. Brené Brown
The author is an academician who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. The author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead.
My favorite podcast is called “Unlocking Us.” It’s about conversations that unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with more courage and heart.
8. Joseph Liu
A keynote speaker, career consultant, podcast host, webinar host, and certified coach providing career change resources to help you bravely market your personal brand and begin doing work you find meaningful and fulfilling. I find that even if you are not at the cusp of transforming your career, his still provides that practical and direct to the point advise about life in general. What I like about Joseph is his talks are genuine and succinct. No circuitous and ponderous blabber that makes an audience wonder “So what’s your point, buddy?”
9. Zac Efron’s Down to Earth (series)
The series’ main theme is sustainability. This is an easy-to-follow Netflix series that uses a celebrity for a travel documentary while attempting to convey a message about saving our planet and becoming more sustainable.
I would like to believe that the underlying motive of the show is to illuminate rather than evoke emotion within the realm of "eco-innovators" and "superfood enthusiasts," citing actual research. Some information had been an eye-opener for me, too.
10. Firefly Lane (series)
Based on a novel of the same title, this is a poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the dividing wall of their lives. Part of it depicts a coming of age but more than that it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. I was hooked from the first episode; it’s definitely an easy binge watcher.
11. My Grandmother is a Lesbian (movie, Spanish)
The title says it all. Two grandmas in their 70s who decides to get married against a unanimous objection of their respective families, this is a rather controversial movie, involving an intercession of the Holy See as part of the narrative. But setting aside our moral and ethical biases, this is a heart-warming movie about family relationships, forgiveness, and acceptance, combined with beautiful cinematography and some romcom elements.
12. The Home Edit (series)
If you’re looking for more home organization inspiration, you might want to consider this. If you like Marie Kondo, you will like T.H.E because I find it more practical and maintainable. Thanks to the T.H.E. I was motivated to organize our pantry a few months ago.
Bonus: YouTube - Gayyem Ben
Let me set this straight. I don’t normally endorse a YouTube Channel, but I felt compelled to do so for this particular one. Here is 22-year old YouTuber from Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines who is promoting life’s simplicity and sustainability and the richness of the Filipino heritage by filming his day-to-day life in the barrio. This is not your typical traveller who goes to remote places and document the culture; he, actually, grew up in a farm and his location shoot revolves around that farm and their family shack, and sometimes promoting the province of Nueva Vizcaya as an eco-tourism destination. The content, his authenticity as a person (language used is Ilocano with good English translation), combined with a decent cinematic and musical scoring (which is impressive for an amateur with minimal standard gadgets) makes it pass for a good cultural reset. I also support this young man so he could buy a drone later from his YT earnings and provide viewers with better and improved content, while helping his family’s livelihood.