A Year of Magical Reading

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


2020 is a year I fell off a reader's echelon. I am not proud to admit because this is uncharacteristic of me. If you know me long enough, you'll know that I breathe books. And it's a guilt trip too because the reason why I am brave to maintain a website, author a book myself and take courage to submit my pieces elsewhere is because words are my tools of trade. And all of these words that I know, which one of my friends commented with surprise as if I am just picking them from an easily-reached tree, came from my love for books. If you hover to this website under 'Odds and Ends', you can virtually access all the books that I ever owned and I plan of cutting them half by next year so I can buy new titles for 2022. 

Yep, 2022. Because next year, I promise to topple over my TBRs because they are coming for me in a voice that is loud and clear and condescending. I imagine my books pouting and calling me names because I haven't picked them up from the shelves. There is a Japanese word for this- tsundoku which BBC defines as 'The art of buying books and never reading them'. I feel personally attackedt not only because it defines me hook, line and sinker but also I take pride in it as if it's a badge of honor. So I'll try to disentangle myself from the Gordian Knot of unread piles of readable enchantment and embark on a year of magical reading. Think of Eat, Pray, Love but instead of going to 3 key places, Italy, India and Indonesia, to seek for gastronomic pleasure, evangelical fervor and serendipitous love, I'll do it, armchair-travel style, with the books I chose to read every month. 

In fact and there is a swelling of embarrassment here, I only read TWO books this year: Becky Albertelli's Simon and the Home Sapiens Agenda which has a wonderful movie adaptation and Liane Moriarty's Big, Little Lies which I immensely enjoyed enough for me to not binge-watch the TV series it is based from. There are people who even exceeded their personal reading meter this year and sadly I am not one of them. I can't entirely blame this to the pandemic alone because this started waaaaay before it. So this is me trying to bring the mojo back. 

I'll be committed to finally doing this after failed attempts from past years because every single book that I read shall be reviewed for my website so I will never run out of contents for one year! So how will I do this? 

Easy peasy! 

Enter into the fold the 'Wheel of Names'. Since I overused this for my online classes, I decide that this will chart the course that I will take. I gathered 12 books from my pile, with no grand declarations for my selection except that I haven't read them, or started to but haven't really finished yet, to read for 12 months. And because I am still struggling with longform formats for anything because of the distraction that is THE Internet and my self-imposed book-buying ban that will take effect the 1st day of January. I also don't want to pressure myself by joining Goodreads' Reading Challenge because I can't seem to get past February and my own list mocks me, lol. 

So 12 books for 12 months and this will be in this order which I should STRICTLY follow. If, say, a book is not riveting enough, I'll have to wait for the next month to start fresh. I might sell the book that does not hold my fancy because probably it is not for me. So wait for it to be available! 

Let the wheel-turning begin! 


The Hours by Michael Cunningham  (winner of the Pulitzer Prize, published by Picador USA)


Kissing In Manhattan by David Schickler ( published by The Dial Press )


The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney ( published by Harper Avenue) 


Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg ( published by Shambhala) 

*special thanks to Fae Cheska Marie Esperas for gifting this*


The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides ( published by Picador )


The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler ( published by Ballantine Books )

* special thanks to Rizza Pereyra for gifting this*


One Day by David Nicholls (published by Vintage)


Skinny by Donna Cooner (published by Point)


Riverrun by Danton Remoto ( published by Penguin Books) 


Wide Awake by David Levithan (published by Knopf)


Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman ( published by Picador)

and December: 

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg ( published by Ballantine Books )

So what's your system for your reading journey this 2021? For whatever it is, I wish you'll stick to it ( lowkey advising myself in the process)! 

May the happiest New Year be with you! 

* The title is inspired from Joan Didion's essay collection, A Year of Magical Thinking

Credits: books images were taken from Amazon and Goodreads


My 10 for 2020

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

This year is probably the longest and most harrowing in recent memory and we all can't wait to be done with it so we can start anew for 2021. But if there's one thing that this year has taught us, it is to be grateful always for all the blessings that we receive each year, whether its groundbreaking or mundane. 

Last year, I started listing down all my personal and professional highlights. 2019 was a personal record: I enumerated 19 breakthroughs * I call them breakthroughs* and I fully intended to replicate them for 2020 but alas, Covid-19 suspended everything indefinitely and we have no choice but to slow down. 

I am still as grateful, probably even more intense that I could ever be. 

May I present to you my 10 highlights of 2020:

1. Published my first book Pun Intended: Collected Works under Hinabing Salita Publishing House.

2.  Hosted the red carpet event of HAMAKA Award of Excellence with the incomparable Rizza Pereyra

With DepEd Antipolo Superintendent, Dr. Christopher Diaz

3. Published my short story 'An Inconvenient Love' in Philippines Graphic Magazine ( on a sad note: the website where my story appeared was taken down and I still wasn't able to buy a physical copy. But here's a picture of the magazine and the screenshot of the online article). 

4. Published my essay '#Pride of Passage' in Novice Magazine.

5. Published my review x commentary of 2gether The Series in AnnyeongOppa.com.


6. Received an Amazon Kindle ( and bookshelves, and lotsa stuff) from Chuvaness. Everything that she has given me can be accessed in this tumblr site. 

7. Got featured in an episode of GMA News TV's Stand for Truth. Gratis to my former student and The Farmer Times Editor-in-Chief, MJ Geronimo.

8. Launched my website at ryanleycofaura.com.

9. Published my third international flash fiction 'Cumulus' at Quarterly Literary Review Singapore.

10. Got my book featured for sale at the Manila International Online Book Fair. 

So that's about it. It's not really much but I couldn't ask for more now that everything is in lockdown. I wish that you are able to tick off things from your bucket list, or achieve goals that you deserve. 

So what are your personal and professional highlights this year? 

Screenshots belong to the respective websites.


her music & lyrics

Saturday, December 19, 2020


Before I became anything else, I am a Swiftie and I lost it when she released two albums this year just a few months ahead of each other. It's a feat that probably no one has ever accomplished before. The first one was folklore released last July before I launched this website so it was not featured here so I am making amends. And just this month quite surprisingly I must say, she released evermore- its sister record and I have nothing to do but heap praises to it. 

Damn. What a prodigy. 

Pro tip: Listen to both albums in one go and you'll emerge out of the whimsical world that she created reinvigorated, like you've been dipped into the coolest waters and all your lockdown worries are washed away. Her lyricism which is always her front and center has taken new heights. If folklore is an invitation, evermore is prompting you to linger a little longer. My head is still processing the idea that these two magnum opuses were the legitimately released albums for this brutal age. And what perfect timing! 

As of this posting, folklore is nominated for 6 Grammys including the highly coveted Album of the Year which she won twice for Fearless and 1989. If she manages to snatch it this time and deservedly so, she will be the first woman to have won that category thrice. If you are nominated for AOTY, you have to shoot for two aims. Your effort needs to be 1. Critically acclaimed and 2. Commercially successful. I hate to break this to haters but folklore is actually both. 

This screenshot from the music website albumoftheyear.org will solidify my claim: 

Although Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers and Run the Jewel have stunning outputs this year and just as deserving to be nominated for AOTY, foklore probably trumped them in sales. I mean Swifties are loyal bunch. Taylor may have gone through transitions and morphed into multiple genres, from country to pop to now, folk-indie, fans want all of it. At this point in time, whatever Taylor wants to do will sell like pancakes. And there will be clamor when will be the next one after it. 

But through these sound and melodic reinventions, her flair as a lyricist and a storyteller is a gift that keeps on giving. And in folklore and evermore, it somersaults and ebbs and flows and dips and ultimately soars. And to reecho my favorite Youtube reactor Ajayll, that's what she did. Taylor Swift did that. 



And because she was strongest lyrically in these two albums, I decided to compile all my favorite lines from all of the tracks. From folklore's the 1 to hoax and evermore's willow to evermore, this is for me the best amongst all. 

All lyrical contents are from genius.com

1. The 1: 

2. cardigan

You drew stars around my scars
But now I'm bleedin'

3. the last great american dynasty 

The wedding was charming, if a little gauche
There's only so far new money goes

4. exile

I think I've seen this film before
And I didn't like the ending

You're not my homeland anymore
So what am I defending now?

You were my town, now I'm in exile, seein' you out
I think I've seen this film before

5. my tears ricochet

And if I'm dead to you, why are you at the wake?

6. mirrorball

And they called off the circusburned the disco down
When they sent home the horses and the rodeo clowns
I'm still on that tightrope
I'm still trying everything to get you laughing at me

7. seven

I was too scared to jump in
But I, I was high in the sky

With Pennsylvania under me
Are there still beautiful things?

8. august

So much for summer love and saying "us"
'Cause you weren't mine to lose

9. this is me trying

You're a flashback in a film reel on the one screen in my town

10. illicit affairs

Take the words for what they are
A dwindling, mercurial high
A drug that only worked
The first few hundred times

11. invisible string

Something wrapped all of my past mistakes in barbed wire
Chains around my demons
Wool to brave the seasons
One single thread of gold
Tied me to you

12. mad woman

And you'll poke that bear 'til her claws come out
And you find something to wrap your noose around
And there's nothing like a mad woman

13. epiphany

Only twenty minutes to sleep
But you dream of some epiphany
Just one single glimpse of relief
To make some sense of what you've seen

14. betty

I was walking home on broken cobblestones
Just thinking of you when she pulled up like
A figment of my worst intentions
She said "James, get in, let's drive"

Those days turned into nights
Slept next to her, but
I dreamt of you all summer long

15. peace

But I'm a fire and I'll keep your brittle heart warm
If your cascade, ocean wave blues come

16.  hoax

Stood on the cliffside screaming, "Give me a reason"
Your faithless love's the only hoax I believe in
Don't want no other shade of blue but you
No other sadness in the world would do


1. willow

Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind
Head on the pillow, I could feel you sneakin' in
As if you were a mythical thing

2. champagne problems

Your Midas touch on the Chevy door
November flush and your flannel cure

3. gold rush

At dinner parties, I call you out on your contrarian shit
And the coastal town we wandered 'round had nеver seen a love as pure as it
And thеn it fades into the gray of my day-old tea
'Cause it could never be

4. 'tis the damn season

And wonder about the only soul
Who can tell which smiles I'm fakin'
And the heart I know I'm breakin' is my own

5. tolerate it

While you were out building other worlds, where was I?
Where's that man who'd throw blankets over my barbed wire?
I made you my temple, my mural, my sky
Now I'm begging for footnotes in the story of your life

Drawing hearts in the byline

6. no body, no crime

Good thing my daddy made me get a boating license when I was fifteen
And I've cleaned enough houses to know how to cover up a scene

7. happiness

In our history, across our great divide
There is a glorious sunrise
Dappled with the flickers of light
From the dress I wore at midnight, leave it all behind
And there is happiness

8. dorothea

Honey, making a lark of the misery
You got shiny friends since you left town
A tiny screen's the only place I see you now
And I got nothing but well wishes for ya

9. coney island

'Cause we were like the mall before the internet
It was the one place to be

The mischief, the gift-wrapped suburban dreams
Sorry for not winning you an arcade ring

10. ivy

Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I'm covered in you

11.  cowboy like me

Now you hang from my lips
Like the Gardens of Babylon
With your boots beneath my bed
Forever is the sweetest con

12. long story short

At the golden gates they once held the keys to
When I dropped my sword
I threw it in the bushes and knocked on your door

And we live in peace
But if someone comes at us, this time, I'm ready

13. marjorie

Asked you to write it down for me
Should've kept every grocery store receipt
'Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me
Watched as you signed your name Marjorie
All your closets of backlogged dreams
And how you left them all to me

14.  closure

Don't treat me like
Some situation that needs to be handled
I'm fine with my spite
And my tears, and my beers and my candles

I can feel you smoothing me over

15. evermore

I rewind thе tape, but all it does is pause
On thе very moment all was lost

That's quite a handful but prying open Taylor's songwriting is a joy unlike any other. It's wistful and masterful and you'll have a hard time highlighting the lines that will speak to you because frankly, at one point in your life, all of them will. 

Oh Taylor, never stop writing! 

So what's your favorite? 

image: pinterest