Book recommendations from 5 acclaimed Filipino authors

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The author Dean Francis Alfar recommends Gabriela Lee's short story collection, "Instructions on How to Disappear: Stories," and Ronald Cruz's pop culture biology book, "Cosmic Wild: The Biology of Science Fiction."

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It’s a given that great writers learn through great literature. Even the best of us have to start somewhere, and the truth is, that search for inspiration, or something that makes one think and feel, or even just a few minutes or hours of literary escapism, never really goes away — even for people who aren’t writers, let alone particularly voracious readers, themselves.

With this in mind, CNN Philippines Life asked five acclaimed Filipino authors to allow a peek into their reading lists and share titles they think everyone absolutely must check out. And as can be expected from a group of people whose primary craft deals with words, they couldn’t help but gush about their recent and all-time favorite books.

Sarge Lacuesta recommends Scott McCloud's graphic novel, "Sculptor," and Teodoro A. Agoncillo's two-volume historical study of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines, "The Fateful Years."

                                                           Sarge Lacuesta

I’m a fitful reader, and I’m always reading and rereading a bunch of things — not necessarily books, and not necessarily all the way through either. Right now it’s Scott McCloud’s graphic doorstop “The Sculptor,” Teodoro Agoncillo’s two-volume “The Fateful Years,” a monograph on the film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and “Patay Kung Patay,” a comics series by Mike Alcazaren, Noel Pascual, and AJ Bernardo. Up next: A PDF of the South China Sea Arbitration Award of July 12, 2016 (of which I will really just read the exciting parts), and a fiction manuscript a publisher sent me to review.

Sarge Lacuesta is the author and editor of several collections of short fiction, including “Life Before X and Other Stories” and “Flames and Other Stories.”

Eliza Victoria recommends Andrew Drilon's genre-bending "Kare-Kare Komiks" and Paul Tremblay's horror novel, "A Head Full of Ghosts."

                                                              Eliza Victoria

“Kare-Kare Komiks” by Andrew Drilon

Genre-bending comics, from the silly (“Bagoong Boys” - “It’s so condimentary!”) to the heartbreaking (“Pericos Tao”). The collection also has an amazing meta-commentary (the author appears in its pages) running through the stories. As always, Andrew’s art is amazing.

“A Head Full of Ghosts” by Paul Tremblay

I’m always in the mood for a good horror story, and this book tackles a family undergoing a crisis: Their eldest daughter is possessed. Or is she? Does she need an exorcist or a psychiatrist? The family is eventually featured in a six-episode show called “The Possession,” and the novel is interspersed with a horror blogger’s comments on the episodes, tackling the effects of pop culture and the internet on teenage minds. Excellent pacing, and the story is genuinely horrifying.

“A Dangerous Fortune” by Ken Follett

This book, which features the collapse of a bank and the family that runs it, was published in 1993. I was in high school when I read it, and I loved it. I lost the book to a schoolmate who borrowed the copy and failed to return it, and eventually through the years I lost the title as well. I just couldn’t remember! When I graduated from college I asked a LiveJournal (remember LJ?) group to help me find the title of this book. Some scenes were crystal clear to me, so the group recognized the story fairly easily. Thank you, LJ. I got a Kindle version and reread it this month. It’s enlightening to read it years after the financial crisis of 2007.

Eliza Victoria is the author of several novels and collections of short fiction, including “Dwellers” and “Wounded Little Gods.”

Eric Gamalinda recommends the classic work of Fernand Braudel on history in the 15th to 18th centuries, the three volumes of "Civilization and Capitalism."

                                                            Eric Gamalinda

I have very little time to read new works nowadays, so my reading is strictly focused on what feeds my own work: the classics, philosophy, and history. Current on my list: the new translations of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” and the three volumes of “Civilization and Capitalism” by Fernand Braudel.

Eric Gamalinda is the author of several novels and collections of short fiction and poetry, including “Empire of Memory” and “The Descartes Highlands.”

Dean Francis Alfar also recommends the English-language retelling of Thomas Olde Heuvelt's original Dutch novel, "Hex," and Sonny Liew's "The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye," which presents Singapore's history through the eyes of its protagonist.

                                                          Dean Francis Alfar

A nonfiction book on biology, a collection of speculative fiction, a horror novel, and a graphic novel make up my reading recommendations. I love literature that challenges my imagination and these authors (from the Philippines, Singapore, and the Netherlands) deliver.

“Instructions on How to Disappear: Stories” by Gabriela Lee

Gabriela Lee’s first collection explores the vistas of fantasy, science fiction, and horror while articulating who she is as an author, as a woman, and as a Filipino writer of the marvelous in her social/political/cultural milieu. Her stories carry a sense that what is written about is true, and matters.

“Cosmic Wild: The Biology of Science Fiction” by Ronald Cruz

At the heart of human progress is the spirit of curiosity. It is this spirit of speculation that moves us forward. Science fiction offers strange conceits or bizarre worlds and challenges us to think. It is such a delight to now have a book that teaches biology from artifacts of popular culture, written by Ronald Cruz.

“Hex” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Here are the core elements of this novel: a witch and a town of people who cannot leave. The slowly creeping sense of dread plus adept characterization and attention to telling details makes this English-language retelling of the author’s original Dutch novel a must-read.

“The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” by Sonny Liew

“The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” is a tour de force of sequential storytelling, deploying multiple techniques of narrative and art to great success. Singapore’s history is told through the perspective of its fictitious protagonist, but always through the lens of very human and very personal concerns.

Dean Francis Alfar is the author of the novel “Salamanca” and several collections of short fiction, including “A Field Guide to the Roads of Manila and Other Stories.”

Karl De Mesa recommends Jeremy Haun's dystopian comic, "Beauty," and the Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon's memoir, "Girl in a Band."

                                                                    Karl De Mesa

“The Beauty” by Jeremy Haun

A great surreal future dystopian comic where a majority of the population has been stricken with a disease that has a very interesting side effect: It makes the sick more attractive.

“Kitchen Confidential” and “A Cook’s Tour” by Anthony Bourdain

My fave guy these days is Anthony Bourdain. I just finished “Kitchen Confidential” and am halfway through “A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal.” The guy’s incorrigible and a misfit. He’s also, like me, a jiu-jitsu practitioner, which somehow I find a lot of comfort in.

“Girl in a Band” by Kim Gordon

This memoir by Sonic Youth’s bassist is a tell-all on the 90s and the noise-pop NY art scene, and it’s also a scathing indictment of marriage and the various sacrifices made by creatives in pursuit of their projects. It’s one of the best music biographies around and I’ve read quite a lot.

“The Truth” by Neil Strauss

The sequel to “The Game.” What happens when the dude who invented and organized pick-up artist education realizes that the culture he’s created leads to a spiritual and romantic dead end? This is where we find out.

“The Girl With All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey

A very smart and well-crafted zombie novel that deals with feral children, viral evolution, and the twilight of human dominance over the world. I’m a tad disappointed with the ending — feels rushed — but overall can’t really complain. Can’t wait to see the movie.

“Hawkeye,” “My Life as a Weapon,” and more by Matt Aja and David Fraction

Borrowed all the trade paperbacks from my friend, a comic geek. Funniest thing I’ve read this year. Also breathes a lot of life into the Avengers’ bow-and-arrow guy, whom I previously thought of as a very two-dimensional character.

Karl De Mesa is the author and editor of several collections of short fiction, including “Damaged People: Tales of the Gothic-Punk” and “Report from the Abyss.”