Looking for something to entertain yourself during your days at home? Check out our reviews of recent releases and classic titles by EL editors and readers.
The Rainbow Upopo
If you’re into fantasy meets modern politics, this book by Singapore-based Daniel Cheng is fascinating. The author weaves mythical creatures with science overlays, and uses a range of fascinating settings, from murderous trees to black-sand beaches. The story follows a “David versus Goliath” story arc, featuring a minority indigenous tribe called the Ainu, who face off against an American/Japanese capitalist consortium. The book hauntingly brings to the fore real-life cultural, political, economical and societal issues, while operating in the realms of mystery and magic. Dee Khanduja
One-to-One – A practical guide to learning at home
I’ve been researching the world of home-schooling to find creative activities to do with the kids. I came across this gem of a book by Gareth Lewis, which is loaded with practical tips, advice and activities that any parent can take on. A lot of the activities hark back to the “good old days” – think embroidery, cursive writing, growing vegetable patches and more. But the book also has some evergreen ideas around making subjects like geography, history and science fun. One-to-One is aimed at kids aged zero to 11 years, and the author has a follow-on book catering for older ones. This is a good read for parents looking for bonding activities with their children, while supporting their learning at the same time. Dee Khanduja
My seven-year-old son enjoyed the detective theme of this children’s book. Two “food” characters are best friends who find themselves thrown into a mystery and an adventure to find their aunt’s missing necklace. They search high and low, and end up finding the piece of jewellery in the most unlikely of places! The book draws on Indian themes and it really comes alive if you get involved with dramatising the scenes as you read – yup, silly voices and big actions work well, so it’s time to get into character mode! Dee Khanduja
This book is an oral history of foreigners in the Far East from 1920 to 2020. It’s a fascinating collection of first-hand stories and reflections showcasing, among other things, Singapore’s progress over the past 100 years. There are some interesting never before-published photos from personal collections of the contributors, which makes this a rich read. Dee Khanduja
The Amazing Development of Men
This insightful audio book is narrated by Alison A Armstrong – an educator and relationship expert – with her own quips and cadences; she does an excellent job at explaining men! As a woman listening to this, I now “get” to some degree why men behave, think, feel and act as they do. Alison gives useful tips for women to help them understand the men in their lives, as well as sons they are raising. I’d say couples and parents should listen to this audio (as well as the one about women, below), to help deepen their understanding and improve communication. Dee Khanduja
Another great listen by Armstrong to get your head around how women think, feel and act. I could totally relate to the examples the author narrated around “why” women behave the way they do. Men listening to this may do away with years of frustration in trying to understand women (Alison deciphers it easily!), and women can also get to the bottom of why we are wired the way we are. It’s a really insightful listen for couples and parents of daughters; I’m sure many relationships can be strengthened with the knowledge and tips Alison provides. Dee Khanduja
If Forever Exists: The moments that lasted a lifetime
This book is a soulful recount of moments, events and emotions we wish could stay with us forever. It has a collection of 87 soulful poems that reflect on how any ordinary individual feels, processes and expresses complex emotions while reacting to the successes and failures of relationships. The poems are presented in 13 sections, each representing a specific phase of the emotional journey of one’s life, love, friendship, family and relationships. Each poem is a memoir of the author’s experiences at various stages of personal relationships. Dee Khanduja
World of Science – Adventures with Birds
This is one in a series of five comic books that takes a look at birds, insects, sea-creatures, the human body, and plants and fungi. My kids aged seven and nine enjoyed the comics, particularly the AR (Augmented Reality) sections. The AR allows kids to view videos, hear sounds and take part in quizzes as they go through the comics. It makes for an enriching and engaging reading experience. Dee Khanduja
Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene
This book is an anthology of essays by young activists and environmentalists in Singapore, presenting climate issues through a localised lens. It aims to raise awareness firstly, and then interrogate our complicity in the problem. The anthology presents fresh perspectives on ecocultural issues. Find it at ethosbooks.com.sg/products/chilli-crab. Dee Khanduja
Mr Tino Volume 2
In this comic book sequel, Mr Tino finally finds out who’s responsible for the missing children in his neighbourhood; but it’s someone he never expected to see again. In order to save the kids, he must offer someone he holds dear to his heart in exchange. The question is: can he live with the consequences? This is the second outing for Filipino author Russell Molina, who now works with artist and illustrator Mikey Marchan. It’s a further unravelling of Mr Tino’s story and his hero’s journey. Plenty of questions were left unanswered in the first book; Volume 2 aims to answer those questions. Available at epigrambookshop.sg. Dee Khanduja
The Good Guys
This thrilling novel takes the familiar whodunnit and gives it a superhero twist. In a medical facility deep beneath the Singapore General Hospital, mentally and physically broken superheroes check in to recover from their stressful lives. But when one of them gets killed, the facility is locked down. And that’s when they realise that being cooped up with unstable superheroes who have immense power may not be such a good idea after all! Available at epigrambookshop.sg. Dee Khanduja
This book is easy to read, with 10 essential strategies to position you and your business using social media. With the increasingly digitised way of functioning, I felt this book was a useful handbook to get started with personal and business branding, and to understand how people buy, and thus how we should “sell” in today’s age. Available at Amazon. Dee Khanduja
The Untethered Soul
This is a deep and profound read that focuses on your inner self. The author uses simple logic to explain our inner limitations and how to have a better relationship with ourselves. It’s the type of book you don’t really “read” but instead need to study and contemplate. I found myself re-reading sentences, reflecting deeply and considering how I can apply the principals. A mustread if you’re looking to elevate beyond your own “self-set” boundaries. Dee Khanduja
A fiction book with non-stop action, and parallel plots containing twists and turns and unexpected chapter endings, Dan Brown’s Origin doesn’t disappoint. Set in Spain, the events centre around the Guggenheim Museum and feature Robert Langdon (the same protagonist from The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons). Brown does a good job with his location descriptions to transport us into his scenes. In his typical writing style, he weaves fact with fiction and science with religion, to have you constantly asking, “Who did it?” Dee Khanduja
Created to honour “everyday Singaporeans”, this book by expat photographer Marie Dailey presents snapshots taken during her wanderings between 2014 and 2020. She hopes to show that there’s more to the island than what appeared on screen in Crazy Rich Asians. Dailey has captured unique shots that showcase the best of Singapore’s culture and diversity, as well as soon-to-begone scenes for today’s youth to view with nostalgia. This would make a great gift, coffee-table book or visual conversation starter. Order it for $98 from mariedaileyphotography.com. Dee Khanduja
Master Clarice Chan’s Guide to 2021 – Yin Metal Ox Year
In her new book, Master Clarice Chan gives us the lowdown around what to expect in the Year of the Ox. Every year, we look forward to what she forecasts for us, to help us plan and make decisions for the year. In true holistic style, Clarice can also provide home feng shui services and tarot card reading, too. Available for $15 from claricegvchan.com.
KI$$: Keep It Simple, Stupid
This is a small book by a Singaporean author about how to build a second source of income and all sorts of other helpful info about money – for instance, understanding compound interest, doing your own research and not following the “experts”. There’s also information on saving versus investing and a bit about CPF, as well as the history of money. A useful read for 2021.
A Life Intertwined
Leslie Danker rose through the ranks at Raffles Hotel for almost 50 years, becoming the hotel’s first resident historian. This book covers his own journey and the hotel’s journey through two renovations. There are a few interesting animal stories, too!
World’s Coolest Jobs
This is a great read for children, with some fascinating career ideas. Examples of the “off-the-beaten-track” job options mentioned include Drone Pilot, Formula 1 Pit-stop Crew, Artisanal Chocolatier and Mystery Shopper! There’s something quite inspirational about this book during this odd time, when kids may be questioning their future. Rebecca Bisset
This book was a godsend as we have a new Maltepoo puppy who needs to be trained to stop piddling anywhere he likes. It’s full of science facts and both humanand doggie-based analogies that are super useful to understand how your dog “thinks” and behaves. Yes You Can Train Your Dog is the first dog training handbook to be published in Singapore. $24.99.
Our Folktales – The All-Time Favourite Folktales from Asia
Here’s a lovely collection of Asian folktales for children. I read the stories to my six-year-old son who loved the animal-inspired stories the best. A great read for young kids wanting to learn about magical tales from the Asian region. $22/$36 (paperback/hardcover) from worldscientificedu.com, Amazon, Kinokuniya. Dee Khanduja
The First of Everything
A lovely book for adults and kids to learn about interesting facts like the first clothing, who invented the toilet and the keyboard, and so on. I actually learnt a thing or two myself, like who the first winemaker was, and what is considered to have been the first city. A nice family read that is educational and interesting. $18.50/$38 (paperback/hardcover) from worldscientificedu.com, Amazon, Kinokuniya. Dee Khanduja
This book is about how we end up growing up “caged” by various doctrines. The author Glennon Doyle is raw, quirky and funny, and gives lots of relatable examples to show how she (and we) play small in life. She encourages us to live our wildest and “bestest” lives yet, by literally unlearning and unleashing ourselves. Untamed is definitely a good “sisterhood” type of a read, which you will refer to a girlfriend once you’re finished, and so on and so forth. If you’re looking for inspiration to “break free” in a light-hearted narrative, this book is worth a read. Dee Khanduja
This book was fantastic! A story set in the US Depression era in Kentucky, it centres around the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians. Although this is what would be classed as historical fiction, it’s based on the incredible mountain women who were a part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s travelling library programme. Simply put, this is about friendship, life struggles, perseverance and female empowerment. It reads like a beautiful love letter to those of us who respect and understand how important books are.
The story follows Alice Wright as she transitions from her “standardised” expectations of life, moving from England to Kentucky after she marries Kentuckian Bennett Van Cleve. But all does not pan out how she expects it to, and her life takes on a new purpose. The characters in the book are personable and they add colour and vibrancy to a story which, on the surface, may not interest all readers.
Everyone and their neighbour has read, or at least heard of, Jojo Moyes’ most famous book, Me Before You, and, although this is not the same, in my opinion it’s just as good. I devoured it in a matter of days and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too. Alisha Leow
This book written by an American expat living in Singapore provides great advice for anyone leading, managing or working within cross-cultural teams. There are clear and practical tips given throughout, which are nicely summarised in an integrated approach at the end, along with a really useful global survival kit for improving your effectiveness at working “across a shrinking planet”. I particularly like the stories and anecdotes that Hegarty uses throughout to illustrate his own fascinating (and, quite often, hilarious) journey of discovery. A must read for every budding globally savvy executive. David Young
I devoured the Hunger Games trilogy. I loved each and every word of those books and almost went into mourning when I was finished with them. So when the prequel I pre-ordered months ago showed up at my doorstep last week, I was pumped (though not as excited as my daughter who likes the books even more than me!).
Instead of following our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, the book shows us just how President Snow came to be so ruthless. Sigh. I miss Katniss. Even so, I’m enjoying the read. It’s fun to be back in the middle of all the turmoil and to glean an understanding of how the Hunger Games came to be. It’s not quite the page turner the first three books were, but it’s pretty darn good. Melinda Murphy
Many of us have been forced to take a hard look at ourselves in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, and I have certainly come to realise that I have a lot to learn not only about the issues faced in America, but the ongoing racial divide that exists back home in Australia.
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe is a deep dive into the agricultural practices, architecture, fire management, and democratic processes that existed for a hundred thousand years before white colonisation. The understanding of the land held by the First Nations people is unparalleled, yet colonisation has led us to completely disregard the tradition and effective forms of cultivation.
Indigenous groups around the country are referenced, but I particularly connected through the references to many Western Victorian sites of significance such as Lake Condah and Lake Bolac that are so close to where I grew up. Pascoe really highlights to me how “the belief that Aboriginal people were ‘mere’ hunter-gatherers has been used as a political tool to justify dispossession.”
This book is a wonderful place to start unlearning and relearning about the extraordinary knowledge and culture of the First Nations People of Australia. Catherine MacLean
Kate Elizabeth Russell has knocked it out of the park with this, her first novel. It’s the first book I’ve finished within a week. This story is about damage, not love. Reading this book and following Vanessa’s story from when she was only 15 years to when she becomes an adult and on to her mid 20’s is like being on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Vanessa tells a compelling story of how she experiences what she thinks is love with her 35-year old English teacher, Jacob Strane, but the truth is, what she is experiencing is grooming and child/teen abuse – she just doesn’t want to admit it. When reading this book, I felt all sorts of emotions towards the characters: sadness, guilt, anger, confusion and being annoyed with Vanessa lots of times because she simply is in denial. It’s a gripping story and certainly a page-turner. Susan Knudsen-Pickles
As a person who has been the class mom at least eight times (seriously), I totally related to this book written by a friend of mine, Laurie Gelman. It’s a follow up to her earlier book, Class Mom, and I finally got around to reading it during the Circuit Breaker. I wish I’d read it sooner because, once again, the story of Jen Dixon left me laughing out loud. Oh, the things that woman does and says! It’s perfect light reading and will make you miss school (or maybe be grateful that you haven’t been in school after all). Melinda Murphy
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
One would think that a book about death would be a downer, especially in times such as these. But this memoir by Caitlin Doughty, also the host of YouTube channel Ask A Mortician, approaches the topic with a healthy dose of humour. She demystifies death without trivialising it and offers a peek behind the opaque curtain of the American funeral industry. Natasha Lee
11-Minute Face Yoga
One of the benefits of being mostly at home is that I can build yoga into my daily routine, which often doesn’t happen when I’m working. In this book, there are only 10 actual exercises. There’s deep breathing to start, and then a facial massage, and then it launches into such movements as: ‘Bye Bye, Turkey’ for that pesky double chin and saggy neck muscles; ‘Hungry Lizard’, which includes looking up and darting your eyes from side to side; and ‘Speedy Boat’ – a part of which involves saying “wow, wow, wow” as if you are facing into the wind on a speed boat.
The ‘Tongue Twister’, meanwhile, has you running your tongue in a big circle between your teeth and closed lips, three times in each direction – it actually does use the muscles under your chin and around your mouth. Some instructions are a little vague, but the pictures help. Like after a yoga session, your muscles will feel a bit stimulated and active. I’ll definitely keep up the 11-minute ritual while at home and see what the results are over time – if nothing else, to entertain the kids! The book is available at thenordicglow.com. Vivii Avellan
I don’t know about you, but I just need a book to make me smile, and this photo book did the trick. One of the world’s largest Barbie collectors lives right here in Singapore. Stuck in a hotel room one day, he started making truly stunning gowns for his Barbies out of – ready for it? – toilet paper! Granted, with the state of toilet paper in the world today, this book may seem a little wasteful, but the book was at print before COVID-19 made its debut! The dresses would make Vera Wang swoon. Melinda Murphy
Again, I wanted something funny to read because, let’s face it, there’s not much funny about life right now. Rarely does a humorous book win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but Less did just that in 2018. It’s the story of a struggling writer who gets an invite to his ex’s wedding. He doesn’t want to go because it’d be weird, but saying no would look like he’s avoiding the thing. So instead, he accepts invitations to everything else which takes him on a hilarious journey around the globe. It’s a great laugh and also satisfied that the side of me yearning to travel again. Melinda Murphy
BOOKS FOR KIDS
Miguel Builds a New House
Miguel was happy in the beginning, even if his house was really small and made out of wood and scraps, but when the storm came and his house fell apart, he was very sad. They had lots of friends and neighbours who they helped after the storm, then the neighbours helped them to rebuild the house and it was stronger because they rebuilt it together. It teaches a real lesson as we need to help other people who cannot afford to build a brick house. Edwin Davies (6)
Well, I really liked this book – it’s about an undercover princess that gets trained in kaito, which is a Japanese martial arts. And she’s mastered it! She goes to the National Museum in Singapore; I like how the book is based in Singapore and so is the author too. My favourite part is when she goes in full kaito mode and she totally breaks a boy’s arm – and the boy had a crush on her.
The whole thing of the book is that she has to keep her secret identity from her friends – she’s really a princess. There’s a chapter in the museum that has a statue of her as a princess so she has to figure out how to stop it. Another really funny bit is where, on their last field trip, a girl went to get some pork from live pigs to put in her sandwich. At the end of her day, the people found her and she said that it was her best day ever. It’s really good. Read it! Hudson Hiemstra (9)
This book series comprises six books that are about three children, Fleur, Alfie and Mia, and their parents. The family is shipwrecked during a typhoon and are rescued by a friendly pod of dolphins. They are brought to safety to a tropical island that they name “Dolphin Island”. The children and the dolphins become good friends and have amazing adventures. No one in the outside world knows if the family are alive. The family survive many difficulties, understanding how to live with nature and bond together.
I recommend this book because it’s full of excitement, dolphins, adventure, wildlife and survival, and I love how even in the worst of times the family sticks together. I chose this book because I really love dolphins. In today’s world where everyone is worried about social distancing, it shows how families can stay close. I think this book will be best for ages seven to 12, but my mum also liked it. I hope that everyone enjoys it! Lara Herzhoff (11)
This is an extremely funny book about a dog’s tips on adopting a human. Being a pet owner myself, I can really connect with Leia (the narrator) when she talks about certain aspects of training us hoomans. The technique used to write this book is almost like reverse psychology, in the way that Leia recommends walking your hooman regularly and making sure that they are trained well. These tips made my brother and I laugh out loud because we think the same thing about our dog Holly. Furthermore, I thought that the illustrations were beautifully bright and colourful. I also loved how at the end of the book there is a page all about Leia’s life before adopting her hooman and a page about all the other dogs that make appearances in the book.
My brother’s and my favourite page is the one about picking out your hooman as Leia talks about the different types, and our different needs. This was very funny because it was almost like we were being compared to different breeds of dogs! I also loved the detail in the illustrations; it really tied the whole thing together. We thought that this is a beautiful book and it made us smile as we read it. Overall, I would really recommend this book to families with children and pets or just anyone with a dog looking for some comical training tips! I love it! Phoebe McPhail (12)
My parents love Harlan Coben. They have loads of his books that I can’t read, but then he made books for teens that were amazing. He published a new Mickey Bolitar series and it’s like the best thing ever. (It’s recommended for kids slightly older than me – not for me; so ask your parents first!) Shelter is like a cliffhanger and a page turner. Now he is my favourite author. At the beginning of the book, it already got me interested and I never stopped in the first chapter. It’s so good. It started with a spooky bit that got me amazed. Hudson Hiemstra (9)
Also … how to explain coronavirus to young readers
COVID-19 for Kids is a lovely picture book by Singapore-based author Catherine Cheung, and a great way to help explain the current situation to kids. The storyline is about children figuring out how to help their grandpa stay safe. Profits from Singapore sales will be donated to The Courage Fund in Singapore to help those impacted by COVID-19. Profits from outside Singapore will go to a fund to support the WHO’s efforts against the virus. They’re also donating 1,000 copies to preschools in Singapore. Want your own copy? Buy it online at covid19kidsbook.com/about-the-book.
For more great reading, head to our Living in Singapore section.