Kick back with a glass of bubbly (0r a green tea!) and enjoy a relaxing evening read. Good books can be hard to come by, so if you’re looking for something new or to add to your growing library, here are our thoughts on a selection of great books to read this month.
Lonely Planet’s Where to Go When
Lonely Planet | 304 pages
I’ve been fortunate to travel far and wide during the seven years I’ve lived here in Singapore, and am often asked for travel suggestions, tips and advice. It’s easy enough to answer most questions, but the one I’m never prepared for is, “When is a good time to visit?”
It’s a tough one, because many countries (Vietnam, for example) have climates that vary widely from north to south, and high and low tourist seasons that I’m unfamiliar with. Next time, though, I’ll mention this encyclopaedic book by the creative bunch at Lonely Planet because, in the words of the authors, “Where to go when?” is the most important question in travel.
Packed with 360 travel suggestions and beautiful photography, it’s laid out in a reader-friendly format explaining the absolute best times to visit each destination, and why. Whether it’s related to a natural phenomenon or a cultural event, or even because it’s less crowded or cheaper, they’ve nailed it.
Chapters are ordered by month and each follows the same format, starting with a flow chart based on travel interests such as adventure, culture, personal growth or food. The layout is fun, informative and clever, and features a handy temperature guide that helps you figure out where it’s hot and where it’s freezing. Next is a four-quadrant matrix, which charts destinations based on their value for money and family- friendliness.
In addition to in-depth destination information, it offers handy tips. For example, White House tours are free but foreign nationals must submit an application request to their embassy months in advance. Rocking up on the day and hoping for the best is not an option!
And what are the recommendations for May? Lonely Planet suggests Montenegro (for rivers, seas and slopes), Samoa (for drier, cheaper days in a Pacific paradise), Southern Namibia (the best time to tackle the Fish River Canyon), Cornwall (to beat the crowds at Britain’s best beaches) and Cuba (for hip action). What are you waiting for?
– Katie Roberts
What are you reading?
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Yuval Noah Harari
Dolores Picot, Italian
How far have you got? Almost done.
What’s it about? Humanity’s future and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.
What do you think of it so far? This is Harari’s second book after his New York Times bestseller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. The first 200 pages feel a bit repetitive, but the last 200 are original and provocative, providing food for thought on the future of humanity.
Would you recommend it? Yes, definitely, but only after you have read Sapiens.
The Light Between Oceans
Georgina Halabi, British
Genre? It’s not easy to define – a novel that’s somewhere between a tragedy and drama.
How did you get hold of it? It was a book club recommendation – I downloaded it onto my Kindle.
How far have you got? Finished.
What’s it about? The story is told from the perspective of various narrators, most notably Tom, a World War I veteran who takes up a position as lighthouse-keeper on a remote island off the Australian coast, with his young wife Isabel. After trying but failing to have a child, they find a baby washed ashore and decide to raise her as their own. The devastating consequences impact not only them, but also the lives of their families and the townsfolk they left behind.
While the book is an easy read, it’s compelling, and it invites you to look more deeply into its key themes: morality, truth, self-delusion and the allocation of blame. It looks at how people often do the wrong things for the right reasons, and how these actions (like the lighthouse metaphor) can refract, magnify and project far beyond the individual, affecting everyone around them.
Throughout the book, the indifference of the ruggedly beautiful landscape and the stars that “have been around since before there were people” relay the perspective that, no matter how stormy our lives, we are but flecks in the ocean of time.
Would you recommend it? The novel is beautifully written and stays with you after you’ve put it down. It got a thumbs-up from our book club, for anyone who likes a good, girly read with a bit of substance. For those who like Michael Fassbender, they say the movie is good, too.
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