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Looking for a good read? We share our thoughts on a few new releases


Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Amy Chua

Bloomsbury | 237 pages

How to raise children is an enduring issue for debate across and within cultures. Battle Hymn is an easy and quick read, but when it was released, this personal account of the author’s stringent Chinese parenting style in comparison with the more easygoing Western approach unleashed a storm of discussion.

In some parts, it seemed to me a cathartic outpouring of years of pent-up tension, unrelieved by the “yoga classes and glass of wine” that the author snidely accuses more relaxed Western parents of resorting to.

I find it hard to imagine where the author found the energy to hold down a full-time job at Yale and yet put so much time into raising such clever, musically talented daughters. It’s true, though, that reading the book made me think about my own parenting style. But the book begs the question: how do we value the experience of childhood, and being a child?



It’s Great to be a Girl!

Cindy Lim

Doodlegood Books | 36 pages

From Kinokuniya and all Times Bookstores

Just in time for Christmas, here’s Singaporean Cindy Lim’s heart-warming, life-affirming book for any young girl, complemented with charming illustrations by the author, her husband and her children.

In this authentically presented conversation between a mother and her daughter, the mother explains to her daughter why she is special — why girls are special. Qualities commonly attributed to girls or women, such as perceptiveness and intuition, are explained simply to the daughter; her mother tells her how these gifts can work for good.

In the author’s words, it’s “a timeless message of appreciation for who we are — girls or boys, men or women”. It’s also a lovingly crafted work that is full of interesting thoughts and some positively challenging vocabulary.





Little Stranger

Sarah Waters

Virago | 499 pages

I’m not good at horror – it keeps me awake at night; and if I’d known that Little Stranger was a scary book before buying it, I would have given it a miss. But I found it surprisingly good, though I did have to sleep with the light on once or twice.

Set in post-war 1950s England, the tale centres around a crumbling and decaying manor house whose hereditary owners struggle valiantly to maintain their home in the face of mounting debts and a forever-changed world. But an evil and tragic ghost is lurking in Hundreds Hall.

Told in the measured tones of one Dr Faraday, a local working class lad made good – his mother was a nursery maid at the Hall some 30 years earlier – the story subtly explores the British class system, while slowly but surely building chilling suspense.

I especially liked the author’s attention to historical detail, including the slang of the time. But it will be a while before I go upstairs in the dark alone.



Coffee Trails

Toby Smith

The Messenger Group | 208 pages

The coffee obsession of author Toby Smith simply overflows from this beautiful, hard cover book: a coffee-table book that is actually about coffee. Whether or not you’ve heard of this 30-something Australian who has turned his passion into a thriving coffee empire encompassing nine cafés, you’ll enjoy this journey through 11 of the world’s top coffee-producing countries.

Part travelogue and diary, it is full of the history, facts and figures about coffee and coffee production. Presented with stunning photographs, it is written in an easy and informative style. Once you’ve read it, head to Toby’s Estate, the café he has opened here recently at Robertson’s Quay. And savour an espresso knowing the full story behind the brew.