Tongues on Fire by Conrado de Quiros

Conrado de Quiros is among the country’s most articulate and widely-read political voices. His weekly column called There’s the Rub consistently causes pundits and politicians to either lionize him or accuse him of persecution. To put his influence in perspective, he is one of the very first people who called for Noynoy Aquino to run for the presidency, writing “Noynoy for president” in August 2010, following the death and funeral of Former President Corazon Aquino. Noynoy was not even contemplating the bid at this point, but the phenomenal outpouring of grief during Cory’s funeral and the call of people such as de Quiros snowballed into a movement and eventually became the state of Philippine politics today.

Tongues on Fire do not contain materials from his columns but are either speeches or longer essays that are not necessarily political in nature. However, many of the pieces allude to different administrations–from Marcos to Macapagal-Arroyo–and the scandals and indignities to which they have subjected the country. De Quiros is a political animal and it shows, with even speeches about the Boy Scouts of the Philippines containing jibes about corruption. In one essay (“A real book”), he talks about well-meaning friends and usiseros telling him that his talents can be better showcased in other ways, since writing about Philippine politics is an ultimately doomed endeavor. He blithely tells them to get lost.

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Stiff by Mary Roach

In my quest to read more non-fiction this year, I went ahead and bought this book which I’ve been hearing about for a long time. As someone who gorges on police procedurals on a regular basis (let me tell you about my feelings for Idris Elba’s Luther one of these days), the subject matter is right up my alley.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is a series of long form essays by journalist Mary Roach that tackles the adventurous (after)lives of corpses that are used for scientific research. From the long-standing and ghoulish tradition of bodysnatching for medical schools to the relatively recent educational facility called the “body farm,” Roach examines not only the mechanics of corpse-related experimentation, but also the ethical and practical implications of doing such work.

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Day 15 – Your comfort book

Day 15 – Your “comfort” book

Maria Isabel Garcia’s Science Solitaire: Essays on Science, Nature, and Becoming Human

This is a collection of columns Maria Isabel Garcia has written for The Philippine Star over the years. Here’s a more recent example. Despite my declaration that I never reread books, this one is perfect for a reader looking to dip into short bursts of reflection about the wonders and possibilities of science. I’ve come to appreciate science writing more after reading this book a couple of years ago. In fact, part of my reading list right now is Mary Roach’s Stiff and Oliver Sacks’sThe Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.

Maria Isabel Garcia is also a wonderful and fascinating woman, something I found out for myself after meeting her for a Read or Die event. For a writer who is a scientist by profession, her prose has a lightness to it that renders the discussion of intellectual pursuits (she routinely talks about quantum physics and–dun dun dun–MATH) more engaging. I can trace a straight line from my current fascination with Radiolab to the little sparks of curiosity lit up in my head by this book.

An aside: Holy crap, why is this book priced at 30 dollars on Amazon? D: