My life in eleven books

I found myself killing time, again, at Fully Booked last night. Yes, the one at Bonifacio High Street. As expected, it triggered all these idle thoughts, spurred by seeing ladies wearing plaid jackets and really short shorts, or seeing all those books that you suddenly have interest in. What else do you expect when you're alone, accompanied only by a pair of earphones and a half-decent take on a funky-slash-jazzy playlist?

"I love that bookstore," Gwen replied. At least she replied, I thought, else I'd feel a little more terrible seeing all these shelves. I've written about this before - that feeling when you're in that particular bookstore, surrounded by all these seemingly self-assured people, the sort who spend time drinking expensive coffee and talking (in English) about art. It still makes me feel a little iffy about myself. I just had to send that text message, although I'd think minutes later that I sent it to the wrong person.

Still, the conversation continued. "I'm intimidated," I said. "What to buy?"

"Go splurge. But not too much. It might be what you need."

"I don't even know what to splurge on. And I have a book that's unopened after three weeks ago."

That book was Andrew Collins' third book, That's Me In The Corner. I picked it up out of impulse, well, three weeks ago. I've been listening to him on the radio for most of the year, and when I discovered that Fully Booked - it's the branch in Cubao - was selling his book, I promptly snapped it up. It also helped that a review described it as "a punchy self-help book for aspiring journalists" which, considering my mindset of late, seemed like something I'd really need.

"You should start on that first. Or go buy Hunger Games. And read it."

"I'm not opening it because I'm finishing a magazine. And fiction ain't my thing. I told you that, right?"

The one thing I don't like about the flagship Fully Booked branch is the cumbersome way to getting around. Sure, the escalators are convenient, and they're not always packed, but for a person like me who can't absolutely decide on anything, having to go up and down - and up again, naturally - the building just to make sure you didn't miss anything you'd probably want to buy is, well, cumbersome. There aren't any good magazines, so I skipped the first floor and went up the second, and upon realizing there's nothing there for me, I went up the third. The non-fiction section is a savior.

I went up the fourth anyway, to their seemingly impeccably-stocked music section, where a wide variety of albums is refuted by the fact that the place doesn't seem to be updated a lot. Still, the thought of that place putting Allison Iraheta's CD on one of their listening spots makes me happy.

And then I went back to the third, going through the biography section. I was hoping they were selling copies of this particular book - Phill Jupitus' Good Morning Nantwich, which I heard is pretty much a love letter to what's more or less the best radio station in the world - but, then again, I'm in the Philippines, and it's pretty much impossible to find anything about British media on our shelves.

"Yup. How about The Diary of a Young Girl?"

"And that is?"

"Anne Frank's struggle as a teenager during the war."

But, then again, this isn't like every bookstore, and true enough, I found the media studies section. Disappointing, in a way, because it was just half a shelf, and apart from the academic stuff (which I've probably read in school anyway) there's all these snarky books about being popular. Or books that proudly carry the "unofficial" badge, reminding me that, despite the stuff I did in the past, there are gleeks out there who'd publish a book about Glee.

It was right beside the non-fiction section, which would've captured my attention if not for the fact that the books there seemed out of place in the biography section - two whole corridors! - or the history section. I felt bad for The Men Who Stare at Goats, but I didn't appease it by buying it. I was a bit amused at the idea of seeing Andrew's second book - Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, the predecessor to the book I eventually bought - lost in the non-fiction category when it's clearly an autobiography. And again, in the media studies section. And eventually, in the biography section, with an earlier book. I would've bought those two to complete my sudden collection, but I didn't.

"Am I terrible for saying I'm not interested in Anne?"

I drifted towards the history section, and went up the escalators again. And down. And down. And up again.

"Nope. How about The Prince by Machiavelli?"

"You're giving me things I'll prolly get bored with! Which makes me fussy."

"Hmmm. You're just not into books as I am."

I'm still impulsive, really. I realize the last handful of books I bought were a result of those trips to Fully Booked. You enter the store and you realize that there are a lot of books that you wouldn't find elsewhere, and you feel obligated to pick up a book. Then again, I'm starting to shift from magazines to books. You can only take so many advertisements, really, especially for things that won't fit you.

In the usual circumstances I'd mention the suspect timing of my interest in books right about now. But since all my books are non-fiction ones - I'm counting Stephen Colbert, whose book also suffered from some fussy categorization, despite it being in a Singaporean bookstore: humor or American affairs? - there's no point in saying that I feel like I'm just pretending to be interested in books. I buy books about topics (or writers) I'm interested in. It's precisely why I find myself adrift inside bookstores.

"I guess. Or I'm picky. Too picky."

"That's okay, I guess."

"Ironically I just got into books lately. I only have six. My sister, a hundred. She had to."

Actually, I have seven. Ten, if you count my college yearbook, split into three volumes. I'm already running out of space in my corner of the living room bookshelves, one that's inevitably dominated by half of my sister's books. Now that she's graduated from college, those books she's accumulated have lost their purpose, sort of. But she'll still read them - and reread them - when she has time, while I pretty much stick with my collection, not knowing what to get next, if circumstances allow.

"Never too late."

"I guess. I just can't be too 'oh wow' about it."

Gwen didn't reply. I drifted up and down the escalators again, getting slightly electrocuted at one point, and in another considering just leaving the bookstore and returning to my dad. I was just wearing a shirt and jeans, which I felt was inappropriate attire for a cocktail event. I felt like a smelly armpit, in other words. Half an hour later, I was at the ATM, withdrawing a thousand bucks. I really should be saving up for the future, I thought, totally invalidating my already invalid "wala akong luho" claim.

"Ended up buying Ingrid Betancourt's account of her six-year captivity in the Colombian jungle," I said. It was, as expected, an impulsive buy - although I anticipated that I'd end up buying something anyway, so I don't know if it counts as impulsive. I didn't receive a reply until roughly fifteen minutes later.

"Wow. I haven't had a clue."

"A clue of what?"

"The book you bought."

"I just chanced upon it. Catch my attention, voila. Might read that book in Bangkok."

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