The Very Extra Book Club Recommends: Rajo Laurel, Stephanie Zubiri, Pauline Juan, Isabelle Daza & Friends Share Their Top Reads
For the longest time, the name on our chat group simply was: “Book Club.” However, as each gathering became more and more elaborate, themed and heightened in intensity, we noticed that the common refrain was “this is so extra!” The Very Extra Book Club was born out of a thirst for intellectual exchange and discourse among a bunch of nerds and blossomed into this really beautiful friendship built on food, wine, literature and deep conversation. From comparatives of Nabokov’s Lolita and Tanizaki’s Naomi over bespoke omakase sushi to passionate divulging of summer romances inspired by Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name, while feasting on out-of-season peaches, each meeting was singular, special and soulful.
Comprised of a diverse cast of characters – Rajo Laurel, AA Patawaran, Marielle Po, Jae de Veyra Pickrell, Farah Sy, Rocio Olbes-Ressano, Pauline Juan, Isabelle Daza and myself – we push each other to read out of our comfort zones and expand our repertoire. So, if you’re looking for a bit of a digital detox or have run out of shows to binge-watch on Netflix, here are some of our recommendations for a good read.
Stephanie is Tatler Philippines Homes Editor, a lifestyle journalist, host, and a published author.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery is set in an exclusive mansion in the 7th arrondissement in Paris is a tale of philosophy, friendship and the search for true human connection. Although it starts a bit slow, you fall quickly in love with the main characters: a homely autodidact concierge, a precocious 12-year bourgeois girl and an elegant, cultured Japanese retiree. The story is deeply touching and like all beautiful stories, bittersweet.
Jae de Veyra Pickrel
Jae is a writer and restaurateur.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is a multigenerational saga set across Korea and Japan. This poignantly compelling novel explores the meaning of home and family. It’s a brick of a book that tackles heavy subjects like racial identity, self-worth, and the Korean diaspora, but Min Jin Lee’s prose and pacing are gentle and compulsively readable, despite the heft—or perhaps because—of her characters’ stories.
I also recommend The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley. With the same keen intellect and memory that catapulted him to the upper echelons of fashion, the former Vogue titan dishes out gossip and grievances (petty and otherwise) from his heyday in 1970s Paris to modern-day New York. Here’s the diversion your quarantine so desperately needs, featuring the most fashionable cast of characters, from Anna Wintour to Karl Lagerfeld, Andy Warhol and Lee Radziwill. And if you truly want to be entertained, listen to the audiobook, where ALT himself narrates in that booming tenor and cadence of his—chin in hand, you’ll be enraptured by the stories behind his fashion-world legacy.
Rajo is one of the countries best fashion designers. He is a household name and a creative force.
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek is perfect during this time in the world where we look towards our leaders for direction, hope, security and safety. Then, sadly, we realise we don’t have them in our midst. We must perhaps teach ourselves how to be these men. This book in a way is a step towards that direction.
Pauline is the executive director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Mission.
Dila at Bandila: ang paghahanap sa pambansang lasa ng Filipinas by Ige Ramos: after 6 months of being inundated with cooking videos and recipes, it’s time to bone up on local food culture and history. Is it just me or reading it in Filipino feels like cultivating stronger roots?
AA is the lifestyle editor of the Manila Bulletin.
I read international bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz by New Zealand author Heather Morris just as we entered the COVID fatigue phase when, the shock having subsided, the long-term reality of the pandemic had set in, adrenaline depleted, compassion and empathy no longer as high as in March and April.
Not the best time to read a novel about the Holocaust, one of the darkest chapters of modern history, but also the best time to remind ourselves that, as humans, we’ve been through worse. For one, unlike the Nazis, Covid-19 does not discriminate against anybody, does not have anything personal against us.
Like moss growing resolutely on cold, lifeless concrete, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the story of hope and love under the most deplorable of human conditions, life in the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland in the early 1940s. It’s the true story of Auschwitz survivors Lali Sokolov and Gita Furman. Even as historical fiction, the book fails on account of many inaccurate details. Still, it’s a good read—a page-turner. Just don’t treat it as a historical document.
Rocio is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Co-founder of the Teh Talks.
Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman was recommended to me by a very good friend. At first, I was skeptical, but soon I found myself turning the pages. Albeit it is not your typical guide to motherhood, that is precisely its strongest appeal. Very funny written, entertaining, and a good light read for any new mother.
Farah is an ardent book lover and dog owner and is currently managing of her family business.
There has never been a better, or more pressing, time to escape into a book than now. While our world is at a pause, I have been drawn to travel literature. A Year in Provence, penned by Peter Mayle, is an old favourite. The story transports us to the idyllic life in the Southern French countryside, where the mistral brings a scent infused with lavender honey on freshly baked bread, wine from endless rows of vines, and the intoxicating aroma of Sunday morning markets. A Year in Provence is a feel-good comfort read that is sure to feed our wanderlust, even for a short while.
Isabelle Daza is an actress, model, entrepreneur and celebrity.
Becoming by Michelle Obama has really inspired me during this time. I love how she worked her way up against all odds and fought for the things she believed in. I find her integrity is so admirable.
Marielle Santos Po
Marielle Santos Po is a homemaker, board member of MovEd and co-founder of Where Two Find Me.
One of my favourite light, fun and easy books to read is Skios by Michael Frayn - it’s a nice escape to the Greek isles, the characters are so charming and all throughout the novel they are placed in funny situations. Another would be Beginner’s Greek by James Collins - it’s a modern love story that starts on a flight, meeting someone who is potentially the love of your life but then things happen.