Reading for pleasure
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2019 - 12:00am

I am still in the process of completing my list of 60 books that I intend to read this year. In two previous columns, I already reviewed six foreign books and six Philippine published books that will definitely be on my list. I am now reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, a well known historian and author. The book talks about a future world which will be upon us in the next few decades. For those who value liberalism, humanism and individual freedoms, the book has frightening scenarios.

I still intend to keep to my target of a minimum of 60 books. Reading books is a key to success and fulfilment as recommended by people like Barack Obama and Bill Gates who regularly come out with their list of favorite books. Jose Rizal had a collection of 2,000 books which was a big collection during that period. He loved French literature and his first favorite book was the Count of Monte Cristo.

After my columns on books, a reader told me that my list were mainly non-fiction books and seemed serious. That is partly true. So far the only fiction book on my reading list is Insurrecto, a Filipino novel by Gina Apostol. However, I also want to say that I derive pleasure from reading most of the non-fiction books. Books on history, geopolitics, biographies and modern life are enjoyable and educational at the same time. It is true that books on business and economics are normally read for knowledge; but, I find that business books by Peter Drucker are also pleasure reading.

I once read about a research that reading for pleasure can result in increased empathy, improved relationships with others, reductions in the symptoms for depression and dementia and improved well being. There is evidence that shows a correlation between reading for pleasure regularly and lower levels of stress and depression. Reading is also said to reduce the risk of dementia, with frequent readers having lower incidence of dementia in later life.

Reading for pleasure

I told my reader that I do read fiction books simply for pleasure. My family is a family of readers and writers. My wife, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, reads children’s books which is her advocacy. For sheer pleasure, she prefers contemporary fiction written by women authors. Among her favourites are The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. My son Roel, who majored in Creative Writing in La Salle, enjoys books written by authors like Shakespeare, Kafka and Camus. This year he keeps talking about Insurrecto.

The genres that I fell in love with during my school days and until now were historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy novels. During my high school days in La Salle-Bacolod, I discovered science fiction especially Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels and Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. During my La Salle college days, I discovered the books of J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillon. This was in the 1960s; and I never imagined that these books would be transformed into movie classics within my lifetime. 

Sometime in the late 1960s  I read a science fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert. At that time, I did not know that this was just the first book of a series of seven novels. Eventually, it became one of my favorite readings and I ended up reading the other six novels – Children of the Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Dune Messiah, Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse Dune, and Dune: House of Atreides.

Dune has won the most prestigious science fiction awards. It is a novel set in the far future where warring noble houses are kept in line by a ruthless galactic emperor. The heroic House of Atreides is forced to move from their home planet of Caladan to the desert planet known as Dune where the climate is hostile and water is scarce.  The great enemy of House Atreides is House Harkonnen “...a bunch of sybaritic no-goods who torture people for fun.”

Although Dune never became a great movie, many observers believe that the movie series Star Wars is really derived from Dune. In the early Star Wars movies, the setting is a desert planet and there is an evil emperor. Then there is a boy with a galactic destiny and a princess involved in a fight among warring noble houses.  The author of Dune, Frank Herbert also believed that he had been ripped off and thought he saw the ideas of other science fiction writers in George Lucas’s Star Wars series. Herbert and a number of writer-colleagues formed a joke organization called the “We’re Too Big to Sue George Lucas Society.”

A Song of Ice and Fire

I have been planning to read this series for the past two years; and, hopefully will find the time to get started this year. A Song of Ice and Fire is a series of epic fantasy novels by novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin. The first volume of the series is  A Game of Thrones. The next four novels in the series were A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance With Dragons. These became the basis for the highly successful television series –The Game of Thrones. I am not sure whether the sixth book – The Winds of Winter – has been published; and, there is supposed to be a seventh book forthcoming –A Dream of Spring. Martin was inspired by the “War of the Roses” and the French historical novels The Accursed Kings.

According to author Ray Bradbury: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Jan. 26 (1:30 pm-3 pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration,  email

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