[#RapplerReads] The books we loved in 2022

Marj Casal Handog

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[#RapplerReads] The books we loved in 2022
It’s the first year of #RapplerReads! We are celebrating with a fresh list of book recommendations just for you.

Editor’s note: #RapplerReads is a project by the BrandRap team. We earn a commission every time you shop through the affiliate links below.

It was in December last year when my fellow BrandRap producers/book lovers and I were just toying with the idea of forming a book club. We all love reading and recommending great reads with one another. So, we thought, why not just write about these books we were gushing about and share it with other book lovers outside of our circle? 

And so, #RapplerReads was born. It’s not exactly a book club as far as book clubs go, but we have been reading books and writing about them as planned. We’ve also formed bookish partnerships with publishers, books stores, and organizations along the way like Penguin Randomhouse, Kado Publishing, CANVAS, Fully Booked, Looking for Juan, and more. 

Our partners have introduced us to whole new genres of books that we usually wouldn’t pick up in a bookstore. So, we’re happy to share some new (and old) finds that have found their way into our favorite books of 2022 plus some from our own favorite genres as well.

After Lambana: Myth and Magic in Manila

I’ve always been a fan of beautifully illustrated books, and this one from Eliza Victoria and Mervin Malonzo was absolutely breathtaking. Malonzo’s mastery over composition and color really showed in this graphic novel. Even months after first reading this book, I’m still haunted by the way he drew a mermaid’s victim (with his head floating while the rest of his body sinks straight down as if it were standing), and mesmerized by how he depicted the MRT in EDSA. Victoria’s storytelling too was just as interesting.

Modernized Filipino mythology isn’t a new idea, but I tremendously enjoyed Victoria and Malonzo’s approach, which is why it made my top list of books I’ve read this year. More collabs between these two creators, please!

Harvest Moon: Poems and Stories from the Edge of the Climate Crisis

Climate change is a topic that is filled with all kinds of emotions – from pain, loss, and anguish, to hope and love for one another. And this anthology of experiences takes us through that.

Harvest Moon is a collection of works from people all over the world who are witnessing disasters caused by a changing world firsthand. In many ways, the pieces in the book expressed thoughts I couldn’t articulate myself into essays and poems. It also made me empathize with emotions that other people have felt in photographs.

If there’s one thing I want each person to take away from reading this, it’s that climate change isn’t a danger looming around the corner. It’s here. We are experiencing it right now in disproportionately different ways. Harvest Moon reignited a passion to help fight for the environment within me, which is why it’s made my list of top books for the year. 

– Julian Cirineo, BrandRap producer

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Despite half of it being juvenile diary entries from a dark-humored teenager, A Tale for the Time Being was a deeply ruminative experience for me. The book, a metafictional novel written by a Japanese-American Zen Buddhist priest, centers around the stories of two characters: Nao, a 16-year-old who narrates her harrowing adolescent life in 2000s Tokyo through a diary, and Ruth, an American novelist in the present time who finds Nao’s diary washed up on shore as debris presumably from Japan’s 2011 tsunami. The book touches on themes of time, biculturalism, family, and spirituality, among a myriad of things only an author with a background like Ruth Ozeki’s can tie together.

Personally, the past year was filled with a lot of opportunities, disappointments, euphoria, internal turmoil – most of which were caused by what felt like the universe’s design, and nothing close to what I planned for at all. I felt,  “…like a little wave person, floating around on the stormy sea of life,” as what the book’s 16-year-old protagonist Nao wrote. This book helped me swim out of the often-overwhelming tugs and pulls of the universe and look outside of my life to realize that on a spiritual level, I am just another entity existing from moment to moment until the moments run out – or a Time Being, if you will.

How to Read Now by Elaine Castillo

I find myself engaging in reading as a passive activity. Just more stimuli to feed my media-addled brain, processing words with just as much mental effort as I exert to read tweets through endless scrolling. But Filipina-American (and Virgo) author Elaine Castillo challenges her readers to do better, because we can all be more mindful, active readers who can respond to the text and, in turn, the institutions supporting it.

How to Read Now is a collection of essays challenging the stereotypical relationships a reader can form with a book – which are ones often defined through rose-colored reading glasses. For Castillo, readers must not stop at simply “learning empathy,” or “traveling everywhere” through prose. Readers should know that reading is political, and the thoughts we absorb from these works must be illuminated with a spotlight, dissected, and critiqued, lest we insidiously enable oppression. To keep me awake and alert when reading a book, a biting, no-B.S. line from Castillo was better than any cup of coffee.

– Giselle Barrientos, BrandRap producer

Either/Or by Elif Batuman

Here’s a literary genre you’ve probably never heard of: Bildungsroman. It means the journey of a young person’s moral and psychological growth, and though all novels ultimately make the character progress by the end of the pages, Either/Or makes it the satisfying central theme in one of my favorite books of the year.

The novel is set in the late 1990s through the lens of an introspective Harvard student named Selin. Her flaky situationship ghosted her, she just learned how to use email, and she’s doing her best to practice an ethical and aesthetic life by emulating Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. You read that right.

It’s important to take note that this is a sequel to 2020’s The Idiot, another great read to add weight to Selin’s latest point of view here. Through her musings and inner monologues, readers are transported not into mythical realms and grandiose concepts, but in their own inner psyche as Selin tries to understand hers.

All About Love by bell hooks

While others entered their villain era and went goblin mode this 2022, I’m not ashamed to admit that it was my soft girl era. Turning 25 taught me that I’ve spent many years holding back from warmth, simply because it might burn. Enter feminist icon’s bell hook’s All About Love.

This book, as it states in the title, is a quintessential guide on love, and why we should honor love not just in our romantic relationships, but in every bond we create. While there are numerous books on the topic itself, rarely is it discussed as methodical as this, digging deep into feminist theory and psychological concepts to champion radical love, no matter how corny it may sound.

Whether you have a lover this year or simply want to become one, this book will leave you feeling like a more well-rounded, open-minded, and authentic person. Isn’t that why we read in the first place?

– Saab Lariosa, BrandRap producer

Woodrow on the Bench by Jenna Blum

This true story about the author and her pet dog is easily one of my favorite books of 2022. It’s a book about the joys and sorrows of taking care of an aging dog, and how a pet parent should prepare for when the time to cross the rainbow bridge comes.

I have loved dogs all my life but I was never the primary caretaker until I turned into my late twenties. Now that I am one to an almost 13-year-old dog, Blum’s experience resonated with me. It made me sad about the inevitable but it also made me appreciate the time I’ve spent and is still spending with my dog. To some people, dogs really aren’t just pets, they’re part of who we are. I know mine is. And when the time comes, I know she’ll take away a big part of me with her. 

Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki

I’ve recently become a huge fan of books about living with less. Moving out of our parents’ home and into a much smaller condo unit made me rethink the things I consider important to me. I used to like to collect books and other trinkets but living in a small space made it physically impossible.

During our earlier days in our new place, this “limitation” made me imagine what it would be like to live in a bigger condo or a spacious house. This daydreaming kept me from enjoying the present: we are finally realizing our dream to live on our own.

Reading Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki helped me appreciate our little home. I may not be able to live as extremely minimalist as him (he lives in an almost empty apartment) but I do agree with him when he says that smaller spaces are easier to clean, and let its inhabitants spend more quality time together. Having less things also means you actually get to use these things, appreciate them, instead of dumping them and regretting the money you’ve wasted.

How about you? What books did you love in 2022? – Rappler.com

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Marj Casal Handog

Marj Casal heads the content team of BrandRap, Rappler’s sales and marketing arm. She helps create native advertising campaigns for brands like San Miguel Brewery, Shell, GCash, Grab, BDO, and more.