We live in strange times with the pandemic, isolation and too many broken people. In the past year alone, racial hate crimes headline the newspapers. I loved this book – it was a gift from a dear friend Nalis after I gave birth as the narrative so powerfully captures a son’s relationship with his Mother and Grandmother, Vietnamese immigrants to America.
This autobiographical book is an excellent read; relevant, timely and very moving. I highly recommend everyone reads it.
The recent shootings and assaults on Asian Americans hits very close to home and I have many dear friends like myself whose multi-generational trauma include grandparents who have survived the war, escaped the terror and pain in their Motherland to become immigrants in another country, seeking and building a new life, while trudging through the muddy waters of forging and finding a new identity.
The book is many things – it’s a deep and complex love letter to the author’s mother, about growing up in a foreign country, finding his place and language as an Asian immigrant and being gay – the odds all stacked against him as a minority. And it pained me reading about his experiences being bullied, mocked and excluded.
It’s heavy, emotive but also hopeful told with very graceful prose. I hope that one day the world can be truly inclusive and kind and everyone accepted regardless of colour, circumstances, gender or sexual preferences.
It made me think about how the responsibility begins with parenting – on raising an open, kind and inclusive person and it is my hope that I can raise my son to be a good person.
Everyone’s travel plans got canned thanks to Coronavirus, but it’s nice to a different side of every city with people exploring their own backyards… well for now, until another lockdown and curfews of sorts take place again. I’ve been enjoying my friend’s feeds on exploring different parts of Hong Kong neighbourhoods.
If you’re a HK resident and fancy seeing the city through a different lens, I highly recommend Jason Wordie’s history tours, I’ve been on a couple myself and he caters to people who live in HK, not tourists. Another fun tour is with Daisann of Little Adventures Hong Kong (Disclaimer: I’ve worked with Daisann on the walking food tours sharing my own personal favourites in my neighbourhood). She’s running special tours for HK expats to discover the islands and HK street food, showing you a different side of Hong Kong.
As far as Japanese authors go, it’s not familiar territory for me. Apart from being a fan and having read most of Haruki Murakami’s books and having picked up a few other books by Japanese authors in the bookstore, I didn’t know Natsuo Kirino was a brilliant author famous for her thrilling novels until I picked up “Out” and passed it to a friend who was familiar with her works. This book is sinister, thrilling and dives deep into the dark psyche of a group of demure Japanese women who all work in the same food factory.
It’s a page turner with revelations at every turn. I highly recommend it as a summer poolside read if you’re lucky enough to get out to busk in the fresh air with Covid regulations.
This was a gift from my brilliant friend Nalis a couple of years ago while I had lots of free time during chemo cancer treatment back in Singapore. I highly recommend reading it, timely with the Black Lives Movement gaining momentum across the world. It examines everything from sense of self/place/immigration and being a woman of colour in America.
My Swiss German friend sent this to me, the first of a four part series. It’s one of her favourite books. I was lucky enough to have situational context as I read this book last spring in Naples, where the story was set. It’s a beautiful story on friendship and growing up through the lens of the protagonist Elena and Lila, her childhood friend.
You’ll find many stories in one and so many protagonists connected to their multi-generational histories, all magically woven together across time and geographical spaces bound by the subject of trees. There’s darkness, joy, identity and the relationship and dynamics with trees and nature.
I picked this up at the airport for some light reading and never previously heard of the author. But I got so many comments about his crime thrillers that friends love from this same author. I had just finished binge watching ‘The Blacklist” on Netflix and dived into this. It’s a great plot and suspenseful, but I still prefer Lisa Garner’s series that I discovered randomly at the library and binged read most of her collection.
This book is a powerful resource on how to derive more meaning and joy from our environment – an exercise in mindfulness. Designer Lee worked with IDEO and has a brilliant Ted Talk, here, she dives into the simple things from colour, spaces and how design makes a complete difference to how we feel. She reminds us that joy is all around and free, if we’d just take the time to give everything a careful look.
It’s good to know that polka dots, circles, sparkles, sprinkles, confetti, colours, googly eyes and all the things that spark joy for children connect to our inner children.
I’ve decided to condense my reading into lists instead of individual posts. Partly because I’m so far behind updating the blog regularly. One of the reasons why I love going to the library is that it holds me accountable to finish my books in a slated time. I have many books I’ve bought on my bookshelf and I haven’t got to them yet. And some already have their pages turning yellow from the Hong Kong humidity.
This book is hilarious and makes for a quick summer read. You can probably finish it in one or two sittings. It’s hilarious. Having dated a medical student and there for him through the gruelling five years of medical school, it brought back lots of memories of the bizarre, hilarious, health warming, gut wrenching sort of stories. Medicine is about people and often times it’s made so clinical and void of human emotions.
I loved this book – so much compassion, love and forgiveness. And the narrative is so human – how his holiness is just like us, greed for roast meats in his younger days, being a naughty child, playing pranks and navigating the world of uncertainty like how we all would, no super human airs.
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year in 2019. I took a while trying to digest all the interesting nuggets. Many of my psychologist friends recommend this book, as with friends who have been through their lifetime of trauma, chronic pain, and illnesses. It’s super fascinating with the research they’ve conducted, in-depth look at the hippocampus, physical and psychological abuse; patients from war veterans to survivors of traumatic accidentals and prolong child/sexual abuse. Highly recommend this book if you’re interested in the human psyche and coping with the thing called Life.
This is God sent. A comprehensive high-level breakdown of places, architecture style, motifs, injected with historical and cultural details over the centuries. Gives one a serious case of wanderlust. So many places to go, so many things to see.
I haven’t read his first two best sellers Homosapiens and Homo Deus, but this one is a concise and practical read with much to contemplate on what the future will look like – with tech, AI, privacy, machines vs men, religion, power, ego and identity. Highly recommend it.
It’s been a while since I last read a Murakami book, this collection of shorts is brilliant. My favourite story is the shorts story on Scheherazade. Absolutely spellbound by this collection. Yes, the solitary male protagonist still exists in most of the narratives, the existential loneliness, solitude, with an equal measure of plot twists and surprises.
I picked this up at the airport. Curious about the cover. It’s a short and entertaining read and a glimpse into Japanese culture and life – and the judgement women have to put up with if middle-aged and unmarried.
I found this memoir really refreshing. As far as autobiographies go, Educated by Tara Westover is a brilliant read. It’s thoughtful, charming and just fascinating to know that the author didn’t go to school until she was 17 and till then only read two books: the Bible and the Book of Mormons.
The narrative is fluid and objective – none of the matyr, victimhood. It was very much a tell it as it is and then this happened and this and that and while I’m horrified reading about all the incidences and torture (physically, psychologically and emotionally) she had to endure, there’s this fire in the narrative, that resilience that is full of positivity and can-do.
Well, I suppose she never knew it any other way. I am sure her sheer intelligence is due to good genes, given that several of the 7 siblings have Phds and moved on into the real world, abandoning the survivalist Mormons lifestyle they were raised on.
I read this book in a sitting. And highly recommend it. What struck a cord in me was what she said in an interview:
“You can still love and miss someone and not have them in your life.”
This one is for all the estranged children whose deranged parents were unintentionally cruel while raising them because they don’t know any better.
This book is full of treasure nuggets on how to live a better life – a handbook for living truly sums it up. You might want to take your time to digest everything in here and reflect.
I always thought the Dalai Lama was invincible and so zen that he was spared the sufferings of human emotions. And his recollection of the death of his brother or how a completely objective and innocent comment that was taken in the wrong context by an older monk who took his own life to be reborn as a younger monk to attain a different level of practice.
But mostly, he expounds self love. Self worthiness and how he couldn’t completely understand how anyone couldn’t begin by loving oneself.
It was interesting to get the Western psychotheraputic way of looking at theories of inflated self confidence and disturbances in people’s self image. They link it back to upbringing – the idea of nurture vs nature. “They describe how people develop their concepts of who they are by incorporating explicit and implicit messages about themselves from their parents and how distortions can occur when early interactions with their caregivers are neither healthy nor nurturing.”
“The Dalai Lama focuses on pulling out the arrow, rather than spending time wondering who shot it. instead of wondering why people have low self-esteem or inflated self-confidence, he presents a method of directly combating these negative states of mind.”
What a positive way to deal with things – not the blame game, or (I am so guilty of this) so busy caught up in investigating the why and how instead of addressing the immediate feelings/problems at hand.
Life is a work in progress. I hope to get better at living a more meaningful and purposeful life.
I finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz in a few hours in one sitting. It’s based on a true love story of harrowing times during the Holocaust, the story of Lale Sokolov retold by New Zealand author Heather Morris.
I wasn’t looking for factual accuracy when I read this, because it’s anecdotal, personal and inevitably filled with embellishments when we recollect moments in our lives. It’s a story of love, hope, resilience of the human spirit more than documenting the brutality and terror of war.
This book has added so much more value to my life. Diving into the life of trees and learning about the greater ecosystem and nature. Given that this year’s global wellness trend has “forest bathing” and nature-related activities trending, this book is a brilliant read befitting this time and place.
We’ve taken nature for granted for far too long as we continue to kill the planet with mass consumption and the convenience of more plastics, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben is a brilliant read to gain a different perspective.
I grew up in a city, and while tropical Singapore is so beautiful with its abundant greenery, I didn’t have a chance to know forests until I was an adult. And this year I was lucky enough to walk in a couple of forests in Switzerland and Sweden. The first time I saw snow, I was 19.
Needless to say the coniferous trees of pines and birches and what not were things we learnt about in geography textbooks, and seeing the majestic forests in the winter for the first time was breathtaking.
I highly recommend this book for anyone – it’s an important read to understand the life around us that we often take for granted. The book is heavy on trees of different climates and skim on tropical trees. I’d love to know more about the Banyan trees that are hundreds of years old with their eerily hanging roots always found in ruins and ancient sites – think temples and of course Angkor Watt in Siem Reap. (there’s the famous image that graces the cover of the Cambodia Rough Guides or Lonely Planet)
This was a quick and fabulous read. The idea of trying to establish a new life as an immigrant or refugee in a new country is not lost on me given that my grandparents were immigrants to Singapore in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and as a 2nd generation Singaporean, my life has been really easy without the rife and hardships some of my peers faced growing up in America or Europe and could never really fit in.
With the fired up Asian representation movement that the film Crazy Rich Asians open doors to, it has shed light on so many untold stories. While I can’t relate to any of the discrimination at all – growing up in a predominantly Chinese populated Singapore in a privileged middle class family, some of the stories that my peers lived through growing up are heartbreaking.
I finished Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires a couple of months ago on Korean immigrant life in the US and loved it. Jenny Zhang has a different take growing up between China and the US in an immigrant family, of abysmal crowded conditions and the racism and taunting she has to deal with as a child.
Sour Heart is a quick and short read, filled with childhood innocence, teenage angst, lofty ambitions, and the struggles of finding her place in this world, time and space. I’d highly recommend it.
The last book I read by Haddon was The Curious Incident of The Dog over a decade ago and I recently went to the theatre to watch the play – which gave it more dimension. It’s also because most of my friends have children these days and some of them with special needs, it was refreshing to dive deep into the spectrum of autism and better understand it on so many levels.
A spot of bother was a long read, and I found it a little exhaustive getting through the complex dysfunctional relationship in the family. The book’s title takes its name from a little incident of a lonely fallible aging Dad who thinks he’s dying of skin cancer and decides to slice the eczema part of his belly off with a scissors.
In between the plot that moves along pretty slowly explores parental-child relationships, coming to terms with their gay son, and repeated failed marriage of their daughter.
Amidst the hysterics and madness that is very real and plausible in any family, there’s also infidelity to add to the subplot. I suppose I expected more of A Spot of Bother, but I managed to get through it nonetheless.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. The book peers into the psyche and dynamics of a Korean immigrant family and growing up first-generation American with pedantic values and the psychology of poverty and lack, with the horrors of war not far behind their parents who immigrated to America.
As a second-generation Singaporean, my grandparents from China/Java made it to Singapore to build a life here, my grandmothers survived the Japanese Occupation in 1945 and the effects of the second world war – the suffering and baggage continue through generations. They say suffering is handed down 7 generations before it can be eradicated – if at all.
Growing up in predominantly Chinese society and the first world comforts, I know little about how it feels about not fitting in as a migrant and the racism towards minorities and the extra desire to succeed against all odds, however, those Asian values in the book still rings true to my childhood experiences.
The anxiety, the fear of being not enough, the mentality of lack, poverty and hardship and the constant struggle against guilt and filial piety. Free Food for Millionaires’ protagonist brings out all the feels in me. I am angry, sad, disappointed and anxious all at once, following her through her journey of young adulthood and navigating the world.