We’re living in the era of box-set binge, but the good news is many of us still find time to enjoy books. According to Singapore’s National Library Board (NLB), loans of physical books and eBooks borrowed at public libraries, NLB’s websites and mobile app reached about 39.5 million last year, compared with about 30.9 million in 2017.
It’s inspiring to know that people of Singapore do have a reading appetite. Personally, I do keep a reading list and it’s ever-growing. Spring cleaning is not one of my favourite things to do with dozens of books at home when I aspire to build a library as big as the one seen in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast or even something closer to what the late Karl Lagerfeld has. Whenever I travel abroad, a trip to the local bookstore is a must-do. Here are my picks for the books to read when you have no clue what you want to read.
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living
I hope everybody invests in a copy of this. In times of uncertainty (and impending fears of a global pandemic) perhaps, the best way to stay grounded and keep calm is to pick up a book and consult timeless wisdom on living a better life. I have been reading a passage from this book each day (more or less) all year long. You don’t have to study it religiously, or rather, approach it with an open mind and find yourself with greater mental clarity and effectiveness each day.
The Daily Stoic offers 366 days of Stoic insights, featuring all-new translations from Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the playwright Seneca, or slave-turned-philosopher Epictetus, as well as lesser-known luminaries like Zeno, Cleanthes, and Musonius Rufus. Every day of the year, you’ll find one of their pithy, powerful quotations, as well as historical anecdotes, provocative commentary, and a helpful glossary of Greek terms.
Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World
If your idea of fun is to learn something new, then I recommend Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World. A non-fiction book about four of the world’s central bankers attempted to rebuild the global economy following World War I but instead contributed to the economic collapse that led to the Great Depression. The author Mr Ahamed profiles the central bankers from England, Germany, France, and the United States and examines their collective fear of inflation, their interest in the gold standard, and their failed plans to stabilise the international economy. While a majority of us wouldn’t have known what the Great Depression was all about, this book makes it accessible and enjoyable, and it is still relevant when we look at the current global fiscal crisis which might resemble those of the past.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
This book is a fount of inspiration for anyone with creative urges and dreams. Ever wondered how artists try to create and avoid creating their work? Here you’ll discover the work habits of artists like Andy Warhol, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy and Ernest Hemingway. There are over 150 artists including writers, poets, playwrights, painters, scientists, composers you’ll meet here. The diversity is a welcoming affirmation that – whoever you are and however you create – there’s a place for you at the table. There are early birds and night owls, the rigorous and the peculiar. Overall, the book makes one thing abundantly clear: There’s no singular way to create good work, but all greats have their way and some of those ways are spectacularly weird.
A Gentleman in Moscow
My favourite. This book is charming and ‘unputdownable’, especially when you want to be transported to another time and place. I’ve revisited this book on many occasions. It’s brimming with charm, wit and philosophy, and makes you curious to learn more about the society during the Soviet era. This historical novel takes place in 1917 Moscow featuring the protagonist, Count Alexander Rostov who has been charged with acts of sedition against the Bolsheviks. He was then sentenced to perpetual house arrest in Hotel Metropol. A drastic life-changing event for a nobleman who has never worked a day in his life. He literally went from living in his luxury quarters to a dark, tiny room in the hotel’s attic. But guess what, he might be the luckiest prisoner in Russia.
One in A Million
When you’re in the mood for a properly funny and witty romantic comedy read, then this could well be up your street. One in A Million by Lindsey Kelk promise to leave a big smile on your face and even laugh out loud. It’s not a boy meets girl and then insta-love kind of storyline. The heroine struggles to get her digital business off the ground and to keep her friends employed, at the same time, she accepted a challenge to turn someone insta-famous within thirty days. A light-hearted page-turner set in our times, with all its digital marketing and Instagram reference.
The Disappearing Spoon
Back when I was a student, I dreaded Chemistry especially the lab experiment. Why so? I was terrified of the bunsen burner and mostly because I was not very tall, I needed to stand on a stool to carried out the experiment. Despite my lack of passion for Chemistry, I managed to pass with flying colours by the end of my secondary school years.
I encountered an interesting book about Chemistry few years ago while I was working on a science exhibition. The Disappearing Spoon is unlike your typical, sleep-inducing science journal. This book about the greatest scientific tool: The Periodic Table, is filled with stories of adventure, greed, betrayal and obsession. You’ll perceive the elements on the table in a different light by the end of the book.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Yes, another historical fiction but this time, it reads more like an epistolary. Here, we follow a rising author in search for her next story which led her to Guernsey Island, one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel near the French coast. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set in Post-World War II inspired by true events which have happened during the German Occupation in Guernsey Island. The historical novel has also been made into a movie which premiered in 2018.
“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.