8 local books to check out for National Day
Chronicles Of A Circuit Breaker
By Joseph Chiang
Years from now, Chiang’s slim comic book will be a fixture on the shelves of Singaporeans, taken out now and then as a reminder of the strange times we’re living in now. In approximately six dozen comic strips, Chiang captures many aspects of our Covid-19 existence, from the mask-wearing and toilet roll-hoarding, to the fist bumping and stay-at-home fatigue.
The Orchid Folios
By Mok Zining
Mok’s hybrid collection of poetry and prose centres on the orchid, not least because Singapore’s national flower is an orchid known as Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim (formerly Vanda Miss Joaquim). Here, the hybridised orchid becomes a symbol of different things, such as Singapore’s manicured ideas of multiculturalism that sometimes misunderstands the rich, complex and challenging realities of living with cultural differences.
We Make Spaces Divine
By Pooja Nansi
Speaking of multiculturalism, few books tackle it with the power and panache of this one. Nansi’s family emigrated from India to Singapore, and Nansi is today the festival director of the Singapore Writers Festival. Her book looks at all ways the city gratifies and grates on her, a Singapore citizen incessantly asked where she is from even though she has given much to this country.
A Mosque In The Jungle: Classic Ghost Stories
By Othman Wok
Edited by Ng Yi-Sheng
Othman wasn’t just a PAP politician – he also published horror stories in the 1950s that were immensely popular then. A horror fan may not find his stories scary today, but they are perfect time capsules of Singapore’s past, filled with buried treasures of insights into what society was like then. Standout stories include Visitor From The Coffin and The Guardian.
Sweet Time & Other Stories
By Weng Pixin
Cartoonist Weng has created a strange and delicate picture book that doesn’t look like anything any Singaporean might have published before. It’s composed of several comic strips that depict love, relationships, heartbreak and loneliness – but each strip is formatted differently and comes to a subtly different conclusion. It’s a perfect gift for a sensitive soul.
By Neil Humphreys
Humphreys has long staked a claim as Singapore’s best pulp writer. Marina Bay Sins (2015) and Rich Kill Poor Kill (2016) were crime fiction bestsellers that introduced the character of Detective Inspector Stanley Low, a hard boiled cop with serious authority issues. The latest instalment Bloody Foreigners has Low visiting London to give a criminology lecture – only to be sucked into an investigation of the murder of a Singaporean student there.
After The Inquiry
By Jolene Tan
Tan writes the kind of novels that cut through all the polite assumptions of Singapore to lay bare its social, political and economic fault lines. Her debut novel A Certain Exposure made The Business Times‘ list of best books in 2014. Her new novel After The Inquiry is even better: It effectively satirises the country’s bureaucracy in its telling of a public service investigation into the death of a police sergeant.
Letter To My Father/Letter To My Mother
Edited by Felix Cheong
After the success of Letter To My Daughter and Letter To My Son in 2020, in which various Singapore personalities were invited to write letters to their children to articulate things they couldn’t say in person, editor Felix Cheong turned the tables and invited other well-known figures to write letters to their parents, some of whom have passed on. There are many touching entries by writers the likes of theatre director Alvin Tan, former politician Irene Ng and playwright Faith Ng.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.