Looking for some good books to read? Check out our reviews by EL editors and readers.
Books for adults
Diary of Lady Murasaki by Murusaki Shikibu | 144 pages
“Murasaki Shikibu lived in Japan in the Heian Period (794-1185), and was a poet, novelist and lady-in-waiting. Heian women weren’t allowed to study Classical Chinese. However, Lady Murasaki had an opportunity to learn thanks to her erudite father. She continued her study during her marriage, and, after her husband died, was invited to serve at the Imperial Palace.
Her diary of court life at the palace begins with a description of the birth of the new prince and follows with details of all sorts of ceremonies, intermingled with Murasaki’s reflections on the look and demeanour of the courtiers. She paints a picture of beautiful gowns and cuffs, gaudy colours, gifts, and flowers. It’s fascinating to read the detailed record of the ladies-in-waiting, dressed so exquisitely, with their hair neatly done. Murasaki’s writing casts a spell over the reader, so that you almost feel like you’re physically touching the marvels she’s describing.
Later in the book, she writes about her own inner life – her moods, and her opinions of her rivals. All these observations are hidden under the veil of a delicate melancholy.
So, dear reader, take a warm bath and dive into the beauty of this medieval palace, with this jewel of a book.” – Gosia Dilmann
Your Dream Life Starts Here by Kristina Karlsson | 330 pages
“Are you looking to reinvent your life? Then this book may be just what you need. Written by the woman behind the stationery giant Kikki.K, Your Dream Life Starts Here is a roadmap to help you figure out what you really want and how to get it. It’s full of simple exercises and wisdom to get you moving towards the life you desire, whether that means making small changes or big ones. It’s well designed and simple to read. The key is taking that first step of buying the book and then buckling down and working through its pages. “– Melinda Murphy
Beyond the Fields by Aysha Baqir Marshall | 276 pages
“Set in early 1980s Pakistan, this is a compelling tale of justice and honour, culture and kinship. It delves into the lives of twins Zara and Tara, around 14 years of age, growing up in a poor and remote village, and their struggle with a patriarchal social system that places them at a formidable disadvantage. During an afternoon of games in the field, Tara is kidnapped and raped. She’s then married away swiftly by her parents within days once a suspiciously timely proposal surfaces. As the story unravels, Zara has to fight against the odds to see her twin once again.
The author’s descriptions are very visual and the themes impactful. Each new turn unfolds in a gripping manner, transporting the reader to the exact scene and time. I was brought through a rollercoaster of emotions, from feelings of injustice and anger, to relief and hope. This easy-to-read tale certainly puts things into perspective – gender equality and progress should never be taken for granted in any modern society.” – Anthia Chng
Before We Were Yours Lisa Wingate | 339 pages
“The five poor Foss children living on their family’s rickety boat are taken by “authorities” when their parents leave them alone to head to the hospital after a home birth became complicated. Before We Were Yours follows these children to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, a place where wealthy people would come to adopt children with a healthy “donation”. The Foss children are desperately hoping and waiting for their parents to come and find them as they get adopted one by one, changing their family’s fate forever.
The story is told through the eyes of the oldest Foss child, Rill, and the reader feels her angst and worry as she and her siblings are abused in the home and then adopted away, breaking the family apart. While the book is fictional, the home described was real and in operation in Tennessee from the 1930s to 1950. Before We Were Yours is a powerful tale of family destiny changed forever, and the love that remains throughout.” – Carol DeMaio
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller | 352 pages
“I’m a bit of a history buff and love some historical fiction, so this sounded right up my alley. I wasn’t disappointed! It’s a story of Greek mythology; of war (“Our world was one of blood and the honour it won; only cowards did not fight”); of love (“Had she really thought I would not know him? I could recognise him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world”); and of coming of age. The Song of Achilles really is a beautiful book and very well written. It’s almost impossible to put down – and be prepared to weep at the end. Turns out that it was Miller’s first book and she won the Orange Prize for Fiction for it in 2012. Her second book, Circe, was published last year; I haven’t read it yet, but it’s high on my list!” – Louise Honner
The Second Attack: A Story of Revenge of a 1984 Anti-Sikh Riot Victim Turned Predator by Dr Rohan Bedi | 178 pages
“This work of fiction by a Singapore-based author is about a boy named Josh, a Sikh who lived through the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India and watched his father get persecuted for his faith. Josh and his mother move to Canada, where he grows up, but he lives a messy life and soon joins the Khalistan Freedom movement, carrying out missions in India.
The book shows the aftermath of crime and war, and how somebody’s feeling of injustice can cause a ripple effect in the future. It makes you think about terrorism in our current day and what the reasons might be for an individual to make certain decisions and actions. It’s full of action, and the details regarding different religions and cultures are spot on. I had to remind myself that this is a work of fiction and not a biography.” – Beatrice Ng
China Rich Girlfriend/ Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan | 496 pages & 560 pages
“These two follow-up books to the smash hit book and film Crazy Rich Asians have it all: romance, comedy and drama, with a bit of history thrown in. Find out what happens to Rachel, Nick and their continuing issues with his overly controlling mother, Eleanor. The author also throws in a few other insanely rich families from the region to make you gasp, laugh and shake your head in amazement. I devoured both books in a week! If you’re looking for something funny and easy to read, with lots of local references, grab yourself the sequels. The lives of the mega-rich living across Asia certainly makes for a brilliant bit of escapism. But, in the end, you’ll realise no matter how rich they are, they still just want to be loved and accepted, and to belong.” – Kel Flanders
The Daredevil’s Guide To Outer Space, Anna Brett
“This is a non-fiction book from Lonely Planet Kids that explains about the universe we live in. Two main characters, Eddie and Junko, race through outer space and explain a lot of facts through a mixture of photos, illustrations and funny text bubbles. I really enjoyed this because the characters developed through the book as they learnt more about the planets, the solar system and how humans have explored it. I would definitely recommend this to any younger reader who is interested in outer space.” – Noah (age 12)
Win! We have three copies of The Daredevil’s Guide to Outer Space to give away
Go to expatliving.sg/competitions to enter!
My Edutainment Book, Petra Haddeman Bullee
This is the coolest book! Whenever I’m bored, I just open it up and then pick an activity. The short stories written by kids are awesome too! My favourite partis the questionnaires you can do with your family and friends. – Holly (age 8)
Win! We have five copies of My Edutainment Book. Go to expatliving.sg/competitions to enter!
Alex Rider, Anthony Horowitz(11 books, with two more to be released)
If you’re looking for something to keep your kids entertained for the whole summer, try the Alex Rider series of books. The audio books kept us sane last year! Alex is a young spy and each book tackles a mission for him to solve – usually saving the world in the process. Our 10- and 14-year-olds loved them, and they kept the adults engaged too! – Rachel Croft, reader and parent to Libbie and Finlay
For more helpful tips head to our living in Singapore section.