As part of an event to promote the upcoming Filipino Reader Conference, I’ll be participating (or trying to) in Filipino Fridays, where Filipino readers discuss a weekly topic. For this week, I’m going to talk a bit about who I am as a reader.
People talk all the time about “literary snobs”, those who read only literary fiction and look down on anything else, particularly genre fiction. For the longest time, I was their polar opposite, and true genre snob who simply didn’t see the point in a book that dealt solely with the possible, much less than actual. I went after the longest, most intricately detailed, science fiction and fantasy books I could find, cutting my teeth on every lengthy saga that graced National Book Store shelves: The Guardians of the Flame; Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn; The Belgariad-Mallorean; The Farseer Trilogy; The Elenium-Tamuli; Shannara; Thomas Covenant; Landover; The Saga of Recluce; The Ender-verse; The Homecoming Saga; Xanth; The Star Wars Expanded Universe; The Wheel of Time… I could go on, but then it might not be “Filipino Friday” by the time I’m done.
I still enjoy the occasional hefty fantasy, but my tastes have expanded quite a bit. I now admit that you can create a riveting story without the presence of a single wizard (although I’d still rather read a Dresden Files novel than a Man Booker Awardee, unless it was written by Michael Chabon), particularly in the field of YA, where the fantasy instead takes the form of, for me at least, having that degree of self-possession as a teen. (Favorite authors: John Green; Richard Cormier; Cynthia Voigt) Of course, when you combine YA and genre, all the better. (Favorite authors: Philip Reeve; Cory Doctorow; Scott Westerfeld). I still love traditional science fiction and fantasy, but I love it more when it’s in a subgenre that didn’t saturate my youth, like the caper-fantasy (Scott Lynch), modern urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Harry Connolly), or steampunk (see Reeve and Westerfeld).
Comics and manga still make up a large portion of my reading diet, but I tend to focus more on the works that have a definite ending in mind (sorry super-folks)… oh, and Yotsuba&!, which should never, ever end. I also grew to enjoy the virtuoso technique and imaginative breadth of short stories, so I’ve really gotten into collecting themed anthologies (superhero, steampunk, and of course, most anything with a focus on Philippine speculative fiction). I love non-fiction books too: those that untangle complicated issues or illuminate unknown history (particularly Philippine history/mythology); those that show me the beautiful unity of science (“The Canon”, many books from Clifford Pickover); those that provide insight into the genre books I know and love.
As for best (fiction) books of the year, so far? “Child of Fire” by Harry Connolly, “Hopeless Savages: Greatest Hits” by Jen Van Meter, “Dash and Lilly’s Book of Dares” by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, “Little Star” by Andi Watson, “Cross Game (vol. 1)” by Mitsuru Adachi.