Anvil’s Best Books of 2017

  1. Ang Larawan: From Stage to Screen by Culturtain Musicat Productions, Inc.

A quintessential text for any disciple of Philippine literature and theater, Nick  Joaquin’s play “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” has seen adaptations of all sorts, from countless university drama guild productions, to the 1965 Avellana-directed film, to the musical “Larawan” with lyrics by Rolando Tinio and music by Ryan Cayabyab, to Anton Juan’s 2002 production where the sisters were turned into gay men, to the 2017 movie Ang Larawan, The Musical directed by Loy Arcenas. To celebrate the play’s long history from stage to screen, Ang Larawan: From Stage to Screen compiles the original Joaquin play, Tinio’s “Larawan” libretto, and the screenplay for the movie musical. Also included are sixteen colored pages from the musical and the movie, the last interview with Tinio, a learning guide, and behind-the-scenes photos from the film, among others. For students and teachers, theater beginners and devotees, Ang Larawan: From Stage to Screen is a comprehensive volume that cannot be missed.

2. An Open Book: Thursdays With Nanay Coring by Cecilia Ramos Licauco with Yvette Fernandez

What have you achieved before you turned twenty? Just before reaching her second-decade mark, Nanay Coring, as Socorro Ramos is fondly called by her loved ones, has already married her lifelong partner and started building what would eventually be a thriving family business: National Book Store. Through all the hardships and obstacles she faced, Nanay Coring has persevered, spending her life nurturing both the company and its employees while also caring for her family. In this book, her daughter Cecilia Ramos Licauco narrates memories and anecdotes that share the wisdom gained through experiences and passed on by Nanay Coring. Get a glimpse of the life of the much-loved Nanay Coring through this little book sharing her core values to people of all ages.


3. French Kusina by Xavier Btesh

You no longer need to turn to fancy restaurants to get your taste of French cuisine because Chef Xavier Btesh brings it right into your homes. With his easy-to-follow recipes, you can learn to whip up classic French dishes from salads and soups to pastas and gratins and you can experiment in making it your own through his helpful tips, making it more enjoyable. Chef Xavier makes his recipes even more accessible by providing simple measurements like espresso cups, mugs, and spoons that allow anyone to cook with even just the basic equipment already found in your kitchens. With this book, it’s like having the international chef himself right beside you in your kitchen, and so cooking in your French Kusina will be much less intimidating and more fun.


“. . . His food, whether French or not, never fails to amaze me. It has always been prepared with a touch of home-cooked taste. It has always been delicious and you can feel the passion he has for food and cooking with every bite.”—Pepper Teehankee, columnist, The Philippine Star


“Glamorous French food simplified and doable! Chef Xavier is a great fave of mine! I so love to cook and create out-of-the-box dishes with him! It’s just cooking as it should be! Pure, healthy, fresh and gorgeous!! That’s Chef Xavier.”—Sabrina Artadi, 1985 Bb. Pilipinas-International, cookbook author, and TV host

4. The First Impulse by Laurel Fantauzzo

The murder of young film writers Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc in September 2009 is, sadly, still among the unsolved cases in the Philippines. But this is not the only thing that makes Filipina-American writer Laurel Fantauzzo’s debut novel haunting and at the same time poignant. Aside from the author’s account of embarking on her own investigation of the case, The First Impulse also explores cross-cultural relationships (which Alexis and Nika’s relationship is) and search for identity, politics in art (specifically the film industry), and the challenges of the Philippine judicial system. The book takes readers along in a filmic journey from the Rotterdam Hotel where Alexis and Nika first meet, to the flourishing banks of Slovenia’s Lake Bled, and to the slums of Manila vis-a-vis the classy residences in Times Street. As to what drives the creation of art, the search for identity, and the struggle for justice, the book has a simple answer: “The first impulse,” as Alexis himself said, “is always one of love.”

Review: Ruel S. de Vera’s “‘The First Impulse’ is stranger, sadder–and better–than fiction”

5. All My Lonely Islands by VJ Campilan

Can you find redemption for those sins that life has cornered you into committing? Do you inherit the sins of your parents? These are the questions that hang over this Palanca Award-winning novel. At the heart of the story is a death that Crisanta witnessed as a child, and must now bear the weight of to her adulthood. In the poetic and introspective narration, this memory is teased and held off, like a child fiddling with a strip of Band-Aid–afraid to see the ugly gash beneath, yet unable to keep herself from picking at it, knowing that she’ll have to peel it off sometime. And peel she does, revealing a bustling map of the rickshaw-laden streets and the dense and dangerous forests of Bangladesh, the traffic-infested streets of Manila, and the shores of Batanes. Crisanta dredges up the pieces of her childhood as a third culture Filipino kid, dealing with the loneliness of displacement among kids similarly lost and struggling to figure themselves out.


“It is a delightful read, its smooth narrative flow and sparkling prose simply take you along to witness Crisanta’s physical and emotional journeys . . . All My Lonely Islands is more than a book; it is a complex, multi-layered, richly textured experience.” –Susan S. Lara, 2015 Palanca Awards Chairman of Judges for the Novel

6. Don’t Tell My Mother by Brigitte Bautista

That the biggest hit of Anvil’s Spark Books imprint is a lesbian romance should come as a surprise, but Don’t Tell My Mother is such a delightful, touching read that its resonance with romance readers, regardless of their sexual orientation, only makes sense. Nineteen-year-old Sam’s narrative voice–at turns comic and irreverent, earnest and vulnerable–is endlessly enjoyable. You keep turning the page, waiting for her next sarcastic quip, or her next astute observation about the snooty Christian mothers, or her next conflicted realization about the mysterious and attractive widow who lives at the end of the uphill street. You root for Sam as she goes through her queer awakening and learns how to navigate her stuffy suburban landscape, where homosexual desire is seen as an illness that can be prayed away. Don’t Tell My Mother is testament to how romance novels can deftly unpack social issues without sacrificing the sweet, kilig factor that we all love.

7. Coconut Kitchen by Maria Regina T. Newport

What is the plant with parts that all give something? It’s the coconut tree, which is also called the “Tree of Life” in the Philippines, precisely because of its all-around usefulness. Maria Regina “Regee” T. Newport delves into this amazing world of coconuts, taking it to your counters and bringing you not only dishes that contain at least one coconut product but also a wealth of information on the health benefits of coconuts. From starters to main dishes, this cookbook gives you simple and doable recipes with easily obtainable ingredients to serve to your family and anyone else who graces your table. With Coconut Kitchen, you can make not only unique and sumptuous dishes but also healthy and nutritious ones.

“Regee has done a magnificent job of bringing the coconut from her kitchen to your table.”—Pia Lim-Castillo

“Nature’s perfect ingredient, the coconut, is the star of this cookbooks! Coconut Kitchen is a truly unique and delicious find.”—Beth Romualdez

“Seldom can you find a powerhouse coconut cookbook with a wide range of tempting dishes plus authoritative information on health issues.”—Editha C. Singian


8. 7 Stages of… Good Grief! Freelancer Na ‘Ko?!: A “Mustering the Nerve to Move On” Travel Guide by Karen Ferry-Fernandez, RaketChick

Any aspiring freelancer will know that there are countless freelancing resources online. That’s the nature of the job after all–be enterprising, and know how to work within your means. But nothing out there makes the career quite as relatable a life choice as this self-help guide, where the difficult and often scary leap from the corporate world to independent work is treated like the stages of a breakup. This isn’t like your dime-a-dozen how-to-get-started-as-a-freelancer guide that pops up on the first pages of a Google search. This is more psychological–how do you deal with the fear of failing as a freelancer? How do you overcome people’s prejudice against the unrooted life of someone who doesn’t have a desk job? How do you deal with people who see your transition from a high-flying career woman–who wears designer suits every day–to a freelancer–who works in bed, in pajamas, perhaps still unshowered–as a downgrade? Let RaketChick push you through those emotional hurdles and help you reach your highest freelancing potential.


9. The Backyard Farm: Growing Your Own Food by Paula Zayco Aberasturi

Do-it-yourself projects have made a huge comeback this year, with everything from week-long meal preps to repurposed fashion articles getting shared and reshared ad infinitum among friends (i.e. distant acquaintances on Facebook and Instagram). The allure of these things is how easy they appear to be–watch a one-minute cooking video and you suddenly feel like the Barefoot Contessa. With The Backyard Farm, Paula Zayco Aberasturi shatters that illusion and tells you upfront how difficult it is to build your own backyard farm or even a tiny kitchen garden. It’s especially hard given the lack of resources on tropical gardening. But she’s here with a step-by-step guide to help you through every odious bug-infested, mud-caked, manure-involving obstacle along the way. This handbook makes no pretense that gardening is easy work, but it sure is easy on the eyes, with full-color illustrations and matte coated paper that’s going to be mostly impervious to the elements if you decide to bring this book out with you as you begin working with soil.


10. Don’t Tell Anyone: Literary Smut by Ian Rosales Casocot, Shakira Andrea Sison

As the first title under Pride Press, Anvil’s LGBTQ+ imprint, Don’t Tell Anyone is a groundbreaker in Philippine literature. This collection of queer erotica smashes through Philippine society’s prudish propriety around not just the topic of sex but of homosexuality–both male and female. It depicts gay sex in all its sweaty, spittle-dripping, cum-stained, even ugly glory. That it is unapologetically graphic is a given; that it is emotionally affecting comes as a quiet surprise. For all the almost animalistic carnality that the characters submit themselves to, they ultimately are driven by a very human ache for companionship, happiness, love–or, failing that, then at least a reprieve from loneliness. That’s what elevates this collection from smut to literary smut. It gets you hot and bothered first, and then it comes in with an emotional punch that’ll stick with you long after you’ve washed off any physical evidence of your… reading experience, let’s say.

Article: Christa I. de la Cruz’s “Anvil Publishing Launches Erotic Homosexual Stories”