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Books we love in Singapore: What to read in March 2014

Get stuck into our round-up of fantastic books hitting the shelves in Singapore this month. Look out for great reads for little ones below too.


Oriental Rugs: An Illustrated Lexicon of Motifs, Materials and Origins
Peter F. Stone
University of Washington Press | 267 pages

This well-researched reference guide is an excellent resource for rug connoisseurs, art history enthusiasts or simply those with a penchant for interior design. It contains hundreds of images, illustrations and explanations of rugs from countries across Asia, including Pakistan, China, Turkey and India.

The author, Peter F. Stone – touted as one of the world’s leading Oriental rug experts – guides you through the terminology and history behind different types of carpet and methods of rug-weaving traditions.

This works as a great guide to dip in and out of for those seeking to understand more about identifying and selecting Oriental carpets, and includes some sound advice on how best to upkeep and care for them in the home, too.

Susannah Jaffer


Own Your Financial Freedom
Andrea Kennedy
Marshall Cavendish Business | 381 pages

Every woman should read this book. Though it’s sub-titled “Money, women, marriage and divorce”, it’s not just a how-to guide on negotiating an equitable financial settlement in the event of your marriage coming to an end – though it is that, too.

Instead, it’s a supremely practical guide to making effective money decisions at every stage of one’s life – a broad-ranging series of master-classes on diverse financial topics that many women shy away from for various ill-founded reasons.

Never did I think a book on personal budgeting, financial goal-setting, retirement planning, investing in property, stocks and shares and the like could be such a page-turner. But it is, partly because Andrea Kennedy speaks in refreshingly honest, direct terms that are easily understood by the layperson, but that are never in the least bit condescending. (If you’ve had dealings with the financial fraternity – especially investment consultants – you’ll know what a rare commodity that is.)

Best of all, Andrea Kennedy is a certified financial planner who has lived and worked in Asia for 20 years, so the advice she dispenses and the real-life scenarios that she uses are directly relevant to our milieu. The women she quotes as true examples live in circumstances that we can easily relate to. In fact, they’re all residents of either Singapore or Hong Kong.

Own Your Own Financial Freedom is an act of great generosity from one woman to the rest of us.

Verne Maree


The Swiss in Singapore
Andreas Zangger
Editions Didier Millet | 240 pages

Handsomely illustrated and bound in a retro style to match its slightly older sibling, The French in Singapore, The Swiss in Singapore is an absorbing account of the contribution made by the relatively small Swiss community to the development of this country.

Historian Andreas Zangger himself is Swiss; and he received his PhD from the University of Zurich for Koloniale Schweiz, a thesis that examined the relationship between Switzerland, Singapore and Sumatra in the late colonial era.

Instead of clocks and watches, the earliest commodities traded out of Switzerland to Southeast Asia in the 1830s were high-quality woven and printed textiles – exactly the reverse of the current situation. Some of the earliest settlers were very young textile merchants, who served as assistants in trading firms and often rose quickly through the ranks.

Interesting accounts of the rigid 19th-century hierarchies and divisions within Singapore’s mixed society include a wealth of detail about everyday life for both men and women. Ever wondered about the origins of the Swiss Rifle Shooting Club, or the lovely Swiss Club? It’s all covered here, together with up-to-date reports on the Swiss community’s modern-day embassy, school, business association and other bodies. A worthwhile if niche addition to the histories of Singapore.

Verne Maree


Just for Kids


Mountain of Fire
Radhika Puri, illustrated by Nuo
Monsoon Books | 200 pages

Mountain of Fire is a captivating story set in a village in Indonesia. The book is based on a real life event, but the characters are fictitious.

The story is about an 11-year-old girl called Fitri and her younger brother Agus. The emotional bond between the two siblings is extremely strong and I could personally empathise with the emotions the characters went through. If you have a sibling, you can really relate to the beautiful relationship the characters share.

Besides the emotional factor, this book also contains a lot of information about Mount Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. The adventure-seeking characters discover a long-lost kingdom inside the mountain.

It’s a riveting adventure with a storyline that is gripping and keeps you engrossed throughout. It is bound to appeal to the age group of 10 to 14 years.

Siona Mitra (13)


Monkey Magic: The Ghostly Thieves of New York
Grant S. Clark
Monsoon Books | 208 pages

This is the marvellous third book in the Monkey Magic series. As with the previous two, I was excited to read this one. The setting of the story is New York City, which made me feel very nostalgic, as I lived for a few years in the US.

It is a magical story of an 11-year-old girl called Romy Alexander who has the mystical power to turn into a monkey. In this story, she discovers that there is no escape from this strange power.

A series of unexpected twists and turns keeps the reader fully engaged. My favourite part of this incredibly adventurous book is how Romy uses strategy and magic together dauntlessly.

This book also brings a great environmental message about conservation. It is a special treat for all young animal lovers. I strongly recommend this book to students aged eight to 13.

Siona Mitra (13)