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.
Limitless | Jim Kwik
If you’re anything like me, with lots of books on the shelf but no time to open them, then you need to read this book first! Not only will you learn step by step methods to read faster, you’ll also learn how to remember everything from your grocery list to peoples’ names, or memorising that speech you have to make at an event. I even use the tools to remember my fitness routines (so I don’t have to rewatch videos!).
Author Jim Kwik is an American “brain coach”, and in Limitless he also shows you how to take care of your brain with the right nutrients, simple lifestyle habits and activities that will boost your brain health – which for me, means living a fuller and more exceptional life.
– Anna Tserlingas
How We Disappeared | Jing-Jing Lee
I have heard snippets of stories from my grandma about the Japanese occupation in Singapore so this book really piqued my interest when I came across it. Jing-Jing’s authentic storyline is a blend of fiction and her own family history from the Japanese occupation. It’s set in Singapore during the Second World War and tells the stories of two individuals, one who became a “comfort woman” for the Japanese soldiers and another about a boy trying to unravel his Grandmother’s secret about his father’s origin.
The two timelines are cleverly weaved to reveal a very much-needed happy ending for the protagonist after all the heart-wrenching experiences she has had to endure. It’s a must-read for historical fiction enthusiasts!
– Harsharan Kaur
Lucky Number 11 | Jess Kitching
This is the third book by Jess Kitching and with Halloween around the corner, I couldn’t miss reviewing her newest thriller. Lucky Number 11 revolves around a serial killer’s eleventh victim, Hannah Allen. The 14-year-old manages to escape, and then ten years later there are murders in town that are eerily similar to those committed by the serial killer she survived. But who is behind it this time? And will Hannah make it out alive?
This novel uses an interesting perspective, focusing on the victim and leaving the serial killer character more or less completely voiceless. As per the author’s style, expect nuanced social commentary about society’s views of female victims of abuse and the role of social media – along with plenty of plot twists.
– Megan Hobson
Sputnik Sweetheart | Haruki Murakami
I picked this book out of the many Murakami reads because I was drawn to its premise: Sumire is a woman who is struggling to become a novelist, and the narrator K is an introverted, introspective man who has unrequited feelings for her. Both are misfits in a conformist society, but K is able to appear normal with his job as a schoolteacher.
I enjoyed the conversations between the two characters, which are often random, at times philosophical, but mostly attempts at making something out of their own confusing experiences. Then things took an unexpected turn when Sumire began to have a crush on a refined older woman that chipped away at her own individuality.
In classic Murakami fashion, much of the plot is left unresolved. Readers are left to simmer in the loneliness of not fitting into society’s brand of what’s “normal”, and contemplate the consequences of both fitting in and standing out.
– Yimin Huang
Men Without Women | Haruki Murakami
I’ve often read about heartbreak from women’s perspective but rarely from men’s, which is what prompted me to be curious about this book. In this 2014 collection of short stories, renowned Japanese author Murakami often dives into the subconscious of his narrators with his characteristic use of magic realism and sometimes mind-boggling imagery.
From men recovering from affairs to heartbreak and brief encounters with women, his stories tell of suppressed emotions and the importance of women to men. This is a refreshing and revealing puzzle piece in what we know about relationships.
– Yimin Huang
Anxious People | Fredrik Backman
Award-winning Swedish author Backman has penned a satirical novel on a curious bank robbery case that resulted in seven people being held hostage. What appears to be a dramatic situation descends into both tragic and comical consequences. From policemen who feel ambivalent in their careers to overly enthusiastic real estate agents and dysfunctional family patterns, this novel is full of familiar absurdities in everyday life. I found it a liberating read, reminding us of how banal, imperfect and relatable our experiences can be.
– Yimin Huang
The Girl She Was Before | Jess Kitching
Your high school bully has returned to town and suddenly your best friend is murdered. The perfect life you carefully created is crumbling apart – and to find out who the killer is, you must dredge up a past you hoped to forget. This is a gripping thriller – think Mean Girls meets Big Little Lies – and one that keeps you on your toes. The way the plot unravels as the characters become relatable and unlikeable, showing the scars of bullying, creates an absolutely riveting read. Every detail leads up to a huge twist that you definitely won’t see coming! Plus, it touches on important topics about society today – perfect for interesting book club discussions.
– Megan Hobson
The Nightingale | Kristin Hannah
If you’ve ever watched Firefly Lane on Netflix, you’ll be familiar with Hannah’s work. She’s brilliant at historical fiction and moments of joy in difficult situations. This book is set during the Second World War and revolves around two sisters and their struggle to survive German-occupied France. Vianne and Isabelle couldn’t be more opposite as sisters. Vianne is timid, but she has a young daughter to protect as her husband is on the front line. Isabelle the younger sister is rebellious, intelligent but reckless, and when a German soldier comes to occupy her house, she wants to join the Resistance. I won’t give any more away other than it’s a real page-turner – and I loved learning more about the time period from a different perspective.
– Michaela Bisset
Before the Coffee Gets Cold | Toshikazu Kawaguchi
I came across this book while browsing the Japanese section in Kinokuniya and thought it looked promising. It starts really slow, and I nearly wanted to give up after a couple of pages but I was too intrigued by the theme of visiting the past. So I decided to be more patient with it – and I’m glad I did!
Everything takes place in a small, windowless café in Tokyo that has three clocks on the wall, each with different times, and which offers a unique opportunity to those who visit: they can return to the past. While this sounds tempting – who wouldn’t want to grab such a chance? – there are strict rules with heavy consequences for those who break them, and for me this was the hook. You must sit on a specific chair that is occupied by a ghost and your only chance to do that is when she goes to the washroom; you can’t leave the chair while travelling; you can go back to the past, but it won’t change the present (which is a bummer); and you have to return to the present before your coffee gets cold or you might turn into the café ghost forever.
There are four different stories and four different travellers, therefore certain things get repeated, but I still found it engaging. And, while it’s a bit theatrical and melodramatic, I like the magical realism touch and found the stories charming and emotional. Because of this, I was happy to go straight on to reading the sequel, Tales from the Café. There’s a third and a fourth book in the series now too.
– Judit Gál
A House of My Own: Stories from My Life | Sandra Cisneros
American Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street) is one of my favourite authors because her writing style is just so enjoyable – lyrical prose that reads like poetry. This book is no different. Another bonus is there are images in the book for extra visual impact. In this collection of stories, Cisneros recounts her experiences living in various houses, including her childhood home, places she has lived while being a travel writer, and finally having a house of her own. The memoirs also detail her journey as a growing writer and a woman who does not follow society’s ideals
– Yimin Huang
Seven Days in June | Tia Williams
An intense, passionate story centred on the unexpected return of a teenage love, Seven Days in June is a rare romance that exists in the real world. Eva, the bestselling author of a vampire series, is struggling to write her dream novel while parenting her precocious 12-year-old and managing crippling migraines, when Shane Hall, the boy who broke her heart after a seven-day love affair and who has now become a literary star, re-enters her life.
Writing across two timelines, Williams creates an incredible amount of tension as well as empathy for her characters by slowly unfolding the childhood trauma and neglect that drew these two young people together, raising the question of whether adults with intense history and baggage can reconnect and heal. An emotional read which handles heavy issues sensitively.
– Kehinde Fadipe
Wahala | Nikki May
Wahala follows three mixed-raced women in modern-day London as they bond over their love of Nigerian food and the lack of acceptance they experienced growing up. Boo resents the demands her husband and daughter place on her while Ronke keeps settling for a mediocre partner who treats her like an option. But it’s Simi, whose indecision about having a baby is threatening her marriage, who allows childhood friend and halfRussian half-Nigerian Isobel to infiltrate their lives. Although the book opens as a mystery and a crime is hinted at throughout, it is Isobel’s hidden motives as she uses her oligarch father’s wealth to seduce the women with country spas, extravagant gifts and deliberately terrible advice that pulls you in. Wahala is a light read filled with a juicy balance of family secrets and friendship rivalry.
– Kehinde Fadipe
It Starts With Us | Colleen Hoover
Just as the previous book by Colleen Hoover, It Ends with Us, highlighted and addressed signs of domestic violence and how quickly and easily it can escalate, this sequel shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.
We continue to follow the protagonist Lily as she struggles with child care, breastfeeding and running a business while trying to find time for herself.
However, even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free either. Her abusive ex-husband conceals his jealousy and resentment with civility as she tries to make a new life for herself. The story also gives readers more insight to childhood friend Atlas’s life from when he was in an abusive family, and his journey thus far.
Fans of the first novel are in for a treat as Hoover gives readers the conclusion they wanted, delving further into the reignited romance between protagonist Lily and her childhood friend Atlas. It Starts with Us beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.
– Deepa Chevi
Hero | Rhonda Byrne
What’s true intimacy without connecting to your inner self? Everyone has heard of Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling book The Secret, but her lesser-known Hero perhaps deserves more attention. This book is not focused on the mindset aspect of the Law of Attraction, though that is part of the equation. Instead, it puts emphasis on the importance of responding to your calling, a piece of advice that can potentially change our life trajectory.
Quotes like, “What would you do if success were guaranteed?”, “Life seems to call us to a size of a dream we can handle”, “Follow your bliss” and “Dreams are attached to each other, and once one comes, the rest will follow” are designed to set us thinking. Throughout the book, there are snippets of advice that we can apply to our own situations. This is for anyone who is currently confused or just needs a nudge to go after what matters to them.
– Yimin Huang
Untamed | Glennon Doyle
Make your Valentine’s Day all about self-love by picking up a copy of Untamed, my favourite read at the moment. This soulful memoir is about one woman’s journey to unravelling the societal training that caged the wild within her. The American author’s powerful imagery in her writing will light a fire in your soul. Follow Glennon’s journey through anger, heartbreak, sacrificing her identity for motherhood to unleash her truest, wildest nature and trust herself again.
This book will make you re-imagine womanhood and help you fall in love with your beautifully untamed self.
– Megan Hobson
Flèche Mary | Jean Chan
This poetry collection offers a scathing yet tender look into the experiences of Mary Jean Chan, a Hong Kong Chinese poet growing up as a lesbian in a conservative household. But it goes much further than that.
Chan’s complex relationship with her own mother reflects the polarity in most mother-daughter relationships. Chan’s mother also has an in-born writing talent and a troubled past, but she disagrees with fundamental aspects of Mary Jean’s identity. The poems weave in and out of her mother’s trauma growing up during the Cultural Revolution, and Chan’s own struggles with acceptance of self. The word “flèche” relates to a method of attack in fencing, and it’s an apt metaphor for the constant tension in the author’s experiences.
The use of traditional Chinese characters adds texture and authenticity to the cultural and historical references in the writing. Even non-Chinese readers will appreciate the visual impact and deduce the multi-layered meanings themselves, avoiding the messages from getting lost in translation.
– Yimin Huang
Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me & Other Stories | Cyril Wong
Cyril Wong is a local author who was the recipient of the Singapore Literature Prize in 2006 and 2016. As a result, I had high expectations for the book – and I wasn’t disappointed. I had the mistaken idea that Wong primarily wrote stories about LGBT lives in Singapore and his strained relationship with his father. While there are stories in this collection that explore these themes, others delve into a range of different topics like mental illness, the elusiveness of love and more.
One story in particular, Susan’s Certainty, written in the voice of a sensitive young woman with unfulfilled expectations of love, is testament to Wong’s versatility and his ability to step into the shoes of his characters with unpretentious honesty and intimacy.
– Yimin Huang
Saffi Squirrel: Alessi’s Pot of Gold | Monique Leonardo Carlos and Clarissa Seriña de la Paz
When I was introduced to this book, I thought the illustrations looked amazing, so I was keen to find out more about it. The book (whose co-author Clarissa is Singapore-based) acts as an introduction to themes, habits and values around money and finance. The characters are wonderful, and as I read it with my six-year-old son Muhammad, interesting new words and questions emerged. He was very inquisitive about how funds work, both on the spending side and the saving side, as he went through the book.
We’ve read it a couple of times over the past two months, and he now understands the basics of how money flows. This is a great book for children this age to learn the value of money. I give it an eight out of ten!
– Hana Kamal
The Accomplice | Steve Cavanagh
Irish author Steve Cavanagh has outdone himself once again in the latest instalment of the Eddie Flynn thriller series. Conman-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn is thrust into yet another knuckle-gripping plot as he takes on Carrie Miller as his client. Everyone believes Carrie helped her husband, the Sandman, carry out a series of gruesome murders. Flynn plans to prove she had no part in them, while the Sandman will stop at nothing to save Carrie from a life sentence.
As with the other books in the series, The Accomplice is fastpaced – an absolute rollercoaster for lovers of legal crime thrillers; I finished it in one sitting! I also thought I had guessed how the story would unfold, only to be proven wrong in the big reveal. This was hands down Cavanagh’s best book yet, and I can’t wait to see what Eddie Flynn has in store for us next.
For the ultimate thrill – or a chill down your spine – try having The Chordettes’ “Mr Sandman” playing in the background while reading The Accomplice. You’ll never hear it the same again.
– Deepa Chevi
Love Marriage | Monica Ali
This novel is a story set in modern-day multicultural Britain. Trainee doctor Yasmin Ghorami and fellow medic Joe Sangster are the newly-engaged protagonists, the former’s parents originally from India, and the latter, the son of an outspoken feminist. As Yasmin and Joe begin to plan their wedding, two families, differing cultures, faiths, political viewpoints and family values are brought together. What ensues are inevitable clashes of ideas, unexpected allies and, above all, a wrestle with past demons.
This story explores the complexity of our desires, as well as who we perceive ourselves to be, weighed against the expectations of others – in our careers, in our sex lives. The characters navigate the fine line between truth and betrayal. You will speed through the pages as Ali creates characters both intriguing and familiar at the same time, in particular that of Yasmin’s father, Shaokat. Her storytelling is rich and absorbing. This is a solid page-turner that leaves you thinking about the choices and mistakes you make, and the paths fate brings you down. It’s a story of love, in all its surprising forms.
– Amanda Ruiqing Flynn
Manifest: 7 Steps to Living Your Best Life | Roxie Nafousi
I used to have doubts around books written about manifestation. Usually, the advice given is pretty repetitive and can be found for free online – like “how to raise your vibration”. However, when I looked through this book, I found lots of practical advice, some of which sounded counterintuitive, prompting me to want to explore further.
Along the way, I’ve learnt many valuable lessons that I have begun to apply to my own life. I like that the book is less about the “fluff” in manifestation and more about aligning your daily habits and self-concept to what you want to achieve. For instance, the book mentions that procrastination is against self-love, as it creates negative consequences for your future self. It also encourages us to turn envy into inspiration and use it to go after what we desire.
As a whole, I find the steps in the book clear and useful for anyone looking to go in a new direction or improve their current circumstances.
– Yimin Huang
The Pilgrimage | Paulo Coelho
Coelho’s most famous book is The Alchemist. Before he wrote that, though, he published The Pilgrimage. It’s an autobiography of his experiences as he travels the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. As he describes his thoughts and encounters, you get the sense that he is describing his personal revelation of his life’s dream.
Each chapter includes a practice done by initiates of Regnus Agnus Mundi, an obscure Catholic order that studies symbols. Coelho did these on his journey to amplify his self-awareness; they can be done by anyone to be more mindful of what they’re doing and feeling in the present moment, something that many of us neglect.
If you enjoyed The Alchemist, you’ll love it even more after this – and it’s an easy read that can be completed in an afternoon.
– Patricea Chow
What We Inherit: Growing Up Indian
Conceived by AWARE during a rise in hate crimes against Indians, this is an anthology of 38 personal essays and poems by Indian women and men in Singapore. It’s divided into five sections: What We Inherit, What We Endure, How We Speak, How We Identify and How We Find Joy. Contributors include Akshita Nanda, Balli Kaur Jaswal, Constance Singam and others, who, through their writing, question the expectations foisted upon them, discover new ways of looking at traditions, and create space for joy amid anger and sorrow.
Copies are available from ethos.com.
Arabia | Levison Wood
I really like books that show us the world from the author’s perspective – real people, and not-so-well-known places and situations. This is one of those.
Levison Wood’s travelogue is an easy and engaging read. It spans 13 countries and 5,000 miles in the Arabian Peninsula over six months. It begins in Syria – he travels by whatever mode of transport is available, including camel, hitchhiking and on foot.
Along the way, he gives us a glimpse of the lives of the friendly locals, soldiers, refugees, guides and even terrorists. We also get to read about the challenges people face in this part of the world, his own challenges with authorities while crossing borders and the desert, and the present situation with some history of the region.
Wood is either brave or insane enough to travel to some of the war-zone areas, sometimes having no choice but to rely on hostile people. He does get himself into trouble, but of course he always finds a way out.
– Judit Gál
Psycho-Cybernetics | Maxwell Maltz
It’s common for people to attribute success in careers, relationships and other areas to things as arbitrary as luck. This book – which was written by American cosmetic surgeon Maxwell Maltz in 1960 – challenges that notion by showing us how the subconscious mental limits we place on ourselves drive our behaviour, which in turn impact our future.
By teaching practical techniques for constructing healthier self-esteem and self-image, the book shows how we can create new opportunities and turn our circumstances around. Instead of staying in powerlessness and blaming external problems, readers will learn that, just like success and happiness, failure and unhappiness are also caused by habits that can be changed.
– Yimin Huang
All Our Shimmering Skies | Trent Dalton
When I reviewed Aussie author Trent Dalton’s incredible first book (Boy Swallows Universe) in these pages in 2019, my final words were “Here’s hoping it’s the first of many”. Thankfully, Trent has kept the creative juices flowing, and the result is his second novel, All Our Shimmering Skies. Set in Darwin in the Second World War, it revolves around 12-year old Molly Hook; she’s a gravedigger’s daughter whose life is already arduous enough when Japanese fighter pilots arrive to rain bombs down on the town. The resulting upheaval leads tenacious Molly on a strange quest, accompanied by one of those pilots, Yukio, and a cast of characters who are in turns flawed, violent and mystical.
Trent’s gritty yet poetic debut was a hard act to follow, and while this one doesn’t quite reach those lofty heights for me (it’s just a fraction too long in spots), I was still enthralled and entertained throughout. This guy can write.
– Shamus Sillar
News for young bookworms
The National Library Board (NLB) has launched a subscription service that gives children more access to its variety of resources. The Little Book Box will contain eight curated titles that are delivered to each child’s home. The titles are selected by NLB librarians across fiction and non-fiction genres and are suitable for children across age groups of four to six and seven to nine years. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s a look at five titles chosen for The Little Book Box.
For 4-6 years
#1 A Fox Found a Box by Ged Adamson.
A picture book that introduces the concept of mindfulness, with a little fox that discovers the rhythm and music in a forest.
#2 There’s an Alien in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Gregg Abbott.
The third book of a bestselling series that includes There’s a Monster in Your Book and There’s a Dragon in Your Book, this interactive fun read conveys a message about openness, acceptance and inclusion.
#3 Bunny in the Middle by Anika Denise and Christopher Denise.
A picture book that celebrates middle children and sibling love.
For 7-9 years
#4 The Iron Man: A Story in Five Nights by Ted Hughes.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2020, this illustrated edition of the 1968 book details the struggles between mankind and the Iron Man, and the arrival of a terrible monster from outer space.
#5 Ace Agent Spycat and the Flying Sidekick by Darren Lim.
A new adventure series that recounts the crime-fighting escapades of Spycat, a Singaporean agent extraordinaire, with the First Enforcement League for Inter-National Emergencies, better known as FELINE.
You Deserve Happiness Jit Puru
Self-development book lovers will appreciate the wellnuanced narrative contained in this easy-to-read slimline book. Readers are presented with no-nonsense, simple principles, strategies and techniques on how to control the mind and emotions, to create better outcomes. I particularly enjoyed the passages related to “utilising the power of focus” and “the art of taking immediate action”. Singapore-based Puru has a way of cutting straight to the point while presenting ideas in a logical way backed with research.
Death on the Nile Agatha Christie
Mystery and crime-fiction lovers can’t go wrong with any of Agatha Christie’s classics. With a Kenneth Branagh movie based on the novel due for release in 2022, I nestled into one of her best-selling books to guess “whodunnit”. Featuring the man with the moustache, Detective Hercule Poirot, this story is set aboard a cruise on Egypt’s famous river. In classic Christie fashion, characters are beautifully described and the plot twists and turns. Just when I thought I’d narrowed in on who must have killed socialite Linnet Doyle, the lies and deceptions from fellow cast members plonked me firmly back to square one. If you enjoy a page-turner, this classic is bound to thrill.
The Rebirth of Bao | SJ Garland
If you fancy a swirl of mystery with some localism too, then this book will have you turning the pages until the very end. The author – a Canadian living here in Singapore – does a decent job of adding in plenty of twists and turns, to keep you on page. I enjoyed the familiar setting, and the foray into Asian culture. Though it’s a work of fiction, you can totally see how there are real elements in the story. Venturing into the murky world of the black market and its shady controlling elites makes you wonder about the underbelly of the world that truly exists today. Dee Khanduja
The Book of Two Ways | Jodi Picoult
Protagonist Dawn’s job as a death doula sees her guide her clients towards a “good” death. But when she herself finds herself in mortal danger, the life that flashes before her eyes is not the one she has with her husband and daughter, but rather the life and love she left behind 15 years ago in Egypt. Whether it’s a midlife crisis or a sliding doors moment, the book weaves between her life as a 20-something Egyptologist to her death doula life, which she juggles with her role as mother and wife. Her passions and love are brought vividly to life. The way the book delves into death and the way we face it (or, in some cases, the way we don’t) is fascinating to read. As it wraps up, you do feel she may have gotten away with her decisions a little lightly, but having grown to like Dawn as a character, I found myself forgiving Picoult for letting her off! Amy Brook-Partridge
Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behaviour | Thomas Erikson
This book explores how different forms of communication are required to bring the best out of different personalities; to get the desired result from your communication, you have to understand the listener’s behaviour and talk to their listening style. Each person’s listening style falls into one of four categories: Analytical (Blue), Dominant (Red), Stable (Green) and Inspiring (Yellow). Once you’ve figured out which colour a person is, you’ll be able to easily adapt to their behaviours. While the book’s method isn’t fool-proof, it will help reduce misunderstandings and the feeling of “being surrounded by idiots”. I’d recommend it to leadership teams or those who need to influence or persuade people in their line of work. Patricea Chow
Perfect Pets Books | Various Authors
If you’re pondering a pooch or wanting to learn more about your furry best friend, check out the range of popular dog breed books by Perfect Books (perfect-pets.org). There are over 30 books that work as essential guides for everything related to first-aid basics, microchips, vaccinations, insurance, appropriate breed care for dogs, and dog training. A solid companion for dog owners and lovers. Dee Khanduja
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
For more great reading, head to our Living in Singapore section.