Shelfwalking: To read is to travel

by Alfonso Mangubat

I realized when I started out my blog that it was going to be about books and travels, hence the full name, The Manila Traveler AND Bookworm. Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), I got caught up in the traveling part, and now I’m making up for it by creating this list of my top 10 books.

There are actually a lot of books on my shelf—about 120 or so—but there are a few that have withstood the test of time and favoritism. So here goes and I hope you’ll enjoy! (Just a note: Titles from 10 to six aren’t ranked accordingly; five to one are.)

10. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

A beautiful novel that got me interested in Japanese culture, Memoirs of a Geisha is a great introduction to the subtle intricacies and nuances of the hidden and mysterious world of the famous geishas. Arthur Golden’s writing is easy to understand, his descriptions of places and locales inviting and enticing. The description of different rituals is remind readers that not all traditions should go away, but should be kept for everyone’s enjoyment.

9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a great book exploring the culture of the Middle East and the prevalent racism present in the United States. Mohsin Hamid’s unknown character is thrust into a scary and racist post-9/11 America, where he tries to fit in and explore numerous religious and cultural contradictions as he navigates his way through love and studies in New York. This book is interesting in its exposition, and mysterious because of its cliffhanger ending.

8. The Fall of Giants by Ken Follet

The primary part in Ken Follet’s exhaustive and wonderful exploration of the first half of the 20th century. Clocking in at an expansive 1,000+ pages, this novel follows the lives of five families as they struggle along the first few decades of the 20th century, the bulk of which takes place during the early years before and after the First World War. This one is a great book for learning about a war that seems like a faint memory.

7. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel is a great mystery thriller set during a tumultuous time in Soviet history. Child 44 follows Leo Demidov, a KGB agent, as he tracks down a serial murderer, while harboring doubts about who he truly is and the state apparatus he lives in. Soviet Russia couldn’t be more interesting with Smith’s mystery thriller with the state apparatus watching one’s every move.

6. Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom

C.J. Sansom is famous for two things: his Matthew Shardlake series set during the reign of Henry VIII, and his standalone fictions set in different eras. In Winter in Madrid, Sansom moves forward to a mystery, spy and political story about living in Spain during the Spanish Civil War with the ominous cloud of fascism and the Second World War looming over the horizon. This book creates interesting characters who all seem to have something to gain, but eventually each lose a piece of themselves in their adventures.

5. World War Z by Max Brooks

A rich political and social commentary of the human condition, Max Brooks’ novel may seem like literary trash but it’s actually deep, tackling social issues during times of crises. World War Z isn’t an ordinary linear novel but more like an anthology of “reports” from a UN commission in charge of documenting the effects of the zombie apocalypse on the human population. Rich in its commentaries and satire, the novel has depth and raises the question of how governments would react to a crisis that would undoubtedly question the very fabric of its existence.

4. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

This list wouldn’t be complete without Mario Puzo’s seminal work on the life and times of the Italian Mafia in New York. Following the travails of the Corleone family during the 1930’s and 40’s, Puzo exposes in this book the politicking needed to run a successful criminal empire and, more importantly, the problem of having a family run a business trying to become legitimate. The movie definitely bored me, but the book was amazing and brilliantly written.

3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

The first Stephen King book I’ve ever read and it wasn’t a disappointment. 11/22/63 follows Jake Epping as he travels back in time to 1950’s Americana to change history by trying to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. What follows after is a brilliantly researched and heart-stopping story, King captivates his readers with the mannerisms and expressions of the era.

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind was a surprising find during one of my monthly trips to Powerbooks. Zafon’s novel is a mystery in a mystery set in the beautiful city of Barcelona, Spain. Shadow follows the adventure of Daniel Sempere as he tries to solve the mystery of novelist Julian Carax.

1. Shogun by James Clavell

If there was a book I wouldn’t mind reading over and over again it would be James Clavell’s Shogun. With 1,112 pages, it is a beautiful narrative of feudal Japan.

This novel was great in its exposition of the concept of honor, and the adherence of bushido that I once wrote a paper about it. The political struggles, structure and hierarchy make for an interesting read. The subplots are also wonderful, providing anecdotes to the nuances, complexities and intricacies of Japanese culture (etiquette, music, food and etc).

Any book from my list that is also in yours? Or do you want to recommend a title that might make it to my top 10? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below! 









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