LITERATURE

10 books to read when the world gets you down

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When the real world gets tough, it always helps to turn to an uplifting piece of literature that will give you comfort, hope, or even profound wisdom.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — We’re at a point in time when just trying to keep up with the news can be draining and exhausting. (And trying to process it is another matter entirely.) Every day feels like it’s just a matter of time before a new disappointment or senseless turn of events rears its head.

It’s easy to let what’s happening get to you — but it takes more guts to move through it and try to find your way to the other side. And when the real world gets you down, it always helps to turn to an uplifting piece of literature that will give you comfort, hope, or even profound wisdom.

Here are 10 books, comics, and zines by Filipino creators that are bound to do just that.

“Dear Universe” by Pierra Calasanz-Labrador

In her second poetry collection, Pierra Calasanz-Labrador trades in the verbal equivalent of cry-dancing for introspective pieces that map out wishes, fears, and an ongoing journey to put oneself out there, get by with a brave face, and cast away the uncertainties. Through these 50 poems, illustrated by Frances Alvarez, the reader is left with a single powerful reminder: that they are not alone.

“Dear Universe” can be purchased through Anvil’s website.

“From This Day Forward” by Marla Miniano

The stories and poems in this collection all revolve around a wedding, framing its characters in the before and after. From the bride who returns where she grew up after a decade and contemplates what it means to build a life and how she defines home, to a teenager, much later in the future, who gives a tour of her house and thinks aloud about how much things change and how much they stay the same. Marla Miniano's second anthology captures heartbreak and hope with equal candor, showing the ways life goes on and gets better.

“From This Day Forward” is available through Summit Books.

“Feels; 21” by Shin

Squiggly lines and half-scrawled, surprisingly earnest drawings are on every page of this zine — you can almost feel the artist's frustration and effort to make sense of things like intimacy and existential dread. From adorable, nihilistic puppies to flowers and humans both on the verge of wilting, “Feels; 21” is by turns coolly ironic and unflinchingly honest. In poking fun at and shedding light on how absurd life can be, it rings true and provides some much-needed laughs.

“Feels; 21” can be bought through Shin’s Storenvy.

“Heart on Your Sleeve” by Gia Duran

In this (mostly) wordless comic, a girl is born with a literal heart on her sleeve that begins to sprout thorns. She grows up folding in on herself, avoiding being close to others for fear of hurting them, opting instead to push them away. She learns, however, that people are kinder than we give them credit for — and that being different is no reason to be alone. With its charming and poignant use of magical realism, “Heart on Your Sleeve” is an important story of support and self-acceptance.

You can find the artist’s works through their Facebook page.

“Kew Conversations” by Annix Sarmiento

Through neat, boxy illustrations and stark, clean lines, Annix Sarmiento shares personal yet universal experiences and conversations. A comic about kimchi rice asks tough questions, and in calling Taft Avenue a “toilet,” she reminds the reader what it's like to both be tired and fond of a place at the same time. Plants, the quiet moments, the mundane — “Kew Conversations” is a reminder to pause, breathe, and do it all over again.

The artist’s works are available for purchase through their online shop.

“My Cat Minggoy” by Conchitina Cruz and Adam David

When life gets to be too much, sometimes all it takes is a beloved pet to make it all better. In this handwritten and hand-drawn poetry zine, Conchitina Cruz and Adam David share a vivid and heartwarming portrait of their cat Minggoy, who proves to be mysterious, intelligent, and fascinating.

“My Cat Minggoy” may be found at BLTX and Lako Lako expos.

“Mga Tala ng Isang Super Fan” by Vladimeir B. Gonzales

In this collection of fiction and poetry written in Filipino, author Vladimeir B. Gonzales implores readers to have a whole new perspective on fanfiction. Whether you regularly bookmark on Archive of Our Own, have your nose turned up at it, or don’t really get what it’s about, Gonzales’ alternate universes and explorations of many different worlds we know and love — from “Naruto” to “Fullmetal Alchemist” — are sure to beckon to your inner child and your imagination.

“Mga Tala ng Isang Super Fan” is available from UP Press.

“Heartbreak and Magic” by Ian Rosales Casocot

Horror has become an unlikely safe space and source of comfort — a chance to face the worst of our fears and come out on the other side. Ian Rosales Casocot’s collection of speculative fiction is a fine balance of wonder, laughter, and thrills. In these eight stories, first love can be a pain, history can be explored firsthand through time travel, there’s a clone of Jose Rizal walking around, and attempts at gaining requited love may just lead to the end of the world.

“Heartbreak and Magic” can be purchased through Anvil and Kobo.

“Banana Heart Summer” by Merlinda Bobis

Twelve-year-old Nenita, who has grown up in a big family with five siblings, spends long, sweltering summer days learning the myth of the banana heart, nursing a devastating crush on the local heartthrob, helping out with cooking, and longing to bridge a gap with her mother. Merlinda Bobis’ rich and immersive debut novel has become a modern classic, an ode to the way food brings Filipino communities and families together as well as a stark reminder of how one summer can change everything, especially when you’re young enough.

“Banana Heart Summer” is available on Kindle.

“Quiet Thoughts” by Ross Du

”When I feel bad about the news, I read scary stories.” Illustrator Ross Du's zine pairs striking art with the plain truths we tend to take for granted, highlighting that the things that make us different should be the things that bring us closer together (unless we're talking human rights, of course). Here's to every person who's ever been embarrassed when things get awkward — i.e. all of us — and anyone who's ever realized that we'll probably never step inside the buildings we pass every day.

Follow Ross Du on Instagram for updates on where the zine can be purchased.