Looking for a little reading inspo? From bestsellers to local reads, here's a long list of books we loved in 2020!
No thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, we spent most of the time at home and we must admit, books (and binge-worthy shows) really helped us get through it. Whether you’re looking to kill time or planning to take on a reading challenge, we hope this big fat list of books we loved in 2020 will inspire you.
Books we loved in December 2020: Christmas classics
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
Meet the Birch family. For the first time in a very long time, all the family members are spending Christmas together under one roof. To make things more complicated, daughter Olivia returns from treating an epidemic overseas and is under strict quarantine regulation for a week. With nowhere to hide, can the Birchs keep it together over the holidays?
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss
The holiday season is ruthless for singles, so seek comfort in 34-year-old Kate Turner’s predicament. Living in the sleepy town of Blexford, England, Kate’s love life is a dull flame. But that soon changes when her best friend signs her up with a dating agency: Twelve Dates of Christmas. Join Kate as she meets 12 different men in the hopes that this Christmas won’t be another cold, lonely one. Don’t worry, it’s a holiday novel so a happy ending is guaranteed.
Christmas in London by Anita Hughes
Ahh, doesn’t the title sound magical? While we miss the magical winter wonderland in London’s Hyde Park, you still can travel vicariously through the pages of this holiday novel. Baker Louisa Graham snags an opportunity to travel to London for a special Christmas Eve TV dinner special. And with romance and lots of festive food thrown in the plot, we’re surprised it hasn’t gotten the Hallmark treatment yet.
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
Looking to gift a book to your bookworm friend? Taking a cue from The Twelve Days of Christmas song, this anthology features 12 stories that revolve around the holiday season. Written by the likes of Jenny Han (who gave us To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before), David Levithan (known for his fictional LGBTQ works like Boy Meets Boys and Wide Awake) and Rainbow Rowell (who remembers Eleanor & Park?), get ready to curl up and get lost in the magical world of YA.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Balancing between fantasy and reality, Eowyn Ivey tells the story of a childless couple in 1920s Alaska. The real magic begins on the evening of the first snowfall when they build a snowman – well, technically a snow girl. The next day, snow girl is gone but they spot an actual girl in the wilderness. Is it a Christmas miracle? Let’s just say you’re in for a rollercoaster of emotions.
A Gift to Remember by Melissa Hill
Meet hopeless romantic Darcy Archer. She believes the right man will sweep her off her feet. Well, that soon comes to fruition (sort of) on the day before Christmas when she crashes into a man on her bike. Darcy wants to make up for putting him in the hospital, so she tries to piece things together to get his memory back. This book gives you everything from humour to romance to a super adorable husky.
The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop by Caroline Roberts
What’s Christmas without glorious desserts? Set in a quaint seaside town, the story follows cake shop owner Emma. She’s busy whipping up sweet delights (think cinnamon hot chocolates and reindeer lollipops) for the holiday season. But the grinch of a landlord threatens to rain on her parade by hiking up the rent. Will she be able to come up with a backup plan while trying to nurse a heartbreak? As cliche as it sounds, we can’t resist this scrumptious story.
Books we loved in November 2020: Books that were made into movies
The Witches by Roald Dahl
If you’ve not heard of Roald Dahl, we are seriously judging. His cult classic The Witches is conjured up once again with a remake of the 1990 film, starring Hollywood heavyweights like Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer. The story follows a young boy who is turned into a mouse when he disrupts a secret meeting of witches. Go on a witch hunt with him as he tries to reunite with his grandma while trying to seek revenge against the horrific child-hating witches. It might be a children’s book, but Roald Dahl reimagines witches to have claws, square feet, blue spit and huge nostrils to sniff out innocent kids.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Before novels like The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns, there was Looking for Alaska. Now an eight-part series, this coming-of-age novel is narrated by the protagonist, Miles Halter. The pages will take you on a whirlwind adventure leading up to an unfortunate event involving the titular character. John Green adds a stark contrast to the trite high school setting by injecting layers of complexity to the characters. It’s got grief, hope, friendship, love and the fragility of life… just be prepared to be misty-eyed.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
The show made waves, receiving numerous praises and award nominations – and with good reason. Based on the novel of the same name, the plot follows the lives of Marianne and Connell over the course of five years, from the time they were secondary school students to undergraduates. On the surface, it might seem like a love story but there’s no apparent plot. Instead, Sally Rooney keeps you glued to the pages by giving you a cross-examination of the characters’ in-between moments – almost voyeuristic, we must say.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Ok, we were pretty stoked when we heard Indian author Aravind Adiga’s debut novel The White Tiger was going to get the movie treatment by Netflix. Equal parts funny and dark, the book tells the life story of self-made entrepreneur Balram Halwai through his letters to the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao. As he climbs his way up the social ladder, from a humble taxi driver to owning his own business, you will get a glimpse of India’s underbelly of poverty, corruption and caste discrimination.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
If you love the series adaptation of Big Little Lies, you will appreciate some of the subtle differences in the book. For starters, the book takes place in Australia instead of Monterey, California. Drenched in dark humour, Liane Moriarty brillantly takes the suburban noir route to tackle heavy subjects like domestic abuse, bullying and infidelity. For the uninitiated, think of it as Desperate Housewives on steroids. And yes, we highly recommend you read the book before watching the show.
A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell
In the vein of Gone Girl (another bestseller book made into a movie), A Simple Favour is much campier while still retaining all the elements of the former. You get murder, incest, and betrayal – Darcey Bell really went all out in her debut novel. A seemingly innocent friendship between two women soon takes a turn for the worse when Emily asks for a simple favour from Stephanie. Anticipate a zany adventure with Stephanie as she tries to crack the mystery while still running her ridiculous mummy blog.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
While we patiently wait for the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, take a deep dive into the novel. Though the plot is more or less the same, you’ll get a more nuanced understanding of the protagonist as Margaret Atwood explores the psyche of Offred through the use of interior monologue. True fans can continue with the sequel, The Testaments, which sees a first person narration by the notorious Aunt Lydia.
Books we loved in October 2020: Halloween reads
My Sister, The Serial Killer By Oyinkan Braithwaite
This might be Nigerian-British novelist Oyinkan Braithwaite’s first work, but it has already received praise. Drenched in dark humour and wit, it’s about two sisters, one of whom has a penchant for murdering her boyfriends. The plot starts with the elder sister, Korede, cleaning up a messy crime scene left by her younger and prettier sister, Ayoola. While Korede is the reliable sibling we all wish we had, their sisterhood is put to the test when Ayoola lays eyes on Korede’s crush. Expect lots and lots of blood and a shiny knife in this bestseller book.
The Outsider by Stephen King
It’s only fitting that Stephen King makes it onto our list of Halloween reads. This horror maestro needs no introduction. One of our fave books of his (there are many!) has to be the chilling mystery of The Outsider. Right off the bat, the body of an 11-year-old is found and all evidence points to little league coach Terry Maitland. But here’s the plot twist – there’s also solid proof that Maitland was out of town when the crime took place. What can we say? Leave it to King to keep us on the edge of our seats.
True Singapore Ghost Stories by Russell Lee
When we’re in the mood for local horror tales, we turn to Russell Lee’s True Singapore Ghost Stories series. With more than 20 books released over the course of 30 years, you can easily spend hours reading tales on Asian myths and legends like the iconic pontianak (female vampire), Hungry Ghost Festival and personal scary stories from Singaporeans.
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Get ready to be unsettled. In the vein of the movie Get Out comes a story about Sydney Green, whose neighbourhood is seeing rapid change – from new condos to people moving out. On the surface, it might seem like nothing out of the ordinary. But with the help of a new neighbour, they soon realise there’s something far more sinister at play. This suspense novel brilliantly weaves in relevant themes like racism, social justice and gentrification.
None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney
If you’re a fan of the movie Silence of the Lambs, you’re gonna love this one. Meet teen serial killer survivors Emma Lewis and Travis Bell. They are tasked by the FBI to suss out insights for cold cases by interviewing convicted juvenile killers. Sounds creepy, right? Well, it gets worse when they meet sociopath Simon Gutmunsson who helps them crack a murder mystery. Just like Hannibal Lecter took a liking to Clarice Starling in the aforementioned movie, Simon has his own agenda working with Emma.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Originally written in Korean, this story is, well, about a vegetarian. While people who ditched meat have reaped health rewards, Yeong-hye’s plant-based journey is a little peculiar, to say the least. What started out as a bizarre nightmare that convinced her to abstain from meat soon turns into a grim reality where she grapples with her sanity. This bestseller book is one to read if you’re looking to explore the dark spaces of the human psyche.
The Haunting of Ashburn House by Darcy Coates
This book tells the tale of the eerie Ashburn House whose owner, Edith, has recently passed. After nearly half a century, the house welcomes its only living heir, Adrienne. Riddled with classic tropes like cryptic messages on the walls, spooky family portraits and a dark backstory, this novel will sate our thirst for haunted house tales while we eagerly wait for Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor.
Books we loved in September 2020: Best books about food
The Way of Kueh by Christopher Tan
With Singapore being a melting pot of cultures, cooking instructor Christopher Tan takes a deep dive into the sugary world of Singaporean desserts. The book features insightful essays on the history of kueh and its regional connections among the Malay, Chinese, Peranakan and Eurasian communities in Singapore. The pages also include 98 kueh recipes, from steamed and fried goodies to leaf-wrapped and layered creations, imploring you to try making these traditional desserts in your kitchen.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Foodies (and almost everyone else) need no introduction to the rockstar chef that is Anthony Bourdain. In his bestselling memoir, the late Bourdain shows you the gruelling life of a chef, recounts his battle with his inner demons and dishes out tricks restaurants employ on unassuming diners. His impact on the culinary world will always live on, but we particularly remember him as the guy who loves our Tian Tian Hainanese chicken rice at Maxwell.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
No acid reflux here! The kind of heartburn Nora Ephron refers to is the one where you find out your husband is cheating on you. This semi-autobiographical novel is about a pregnant cookbook writer, Rachel, who deals with heartbreak through food. For true-blue gourmet lovers, you’ll be happy to know that recipes of the dishes mentioned in the book are included. We’re talking about key lime pie, bacon hash and more! Leave it to Ephron, who gave us iconic rom-coms like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, to deliver a bestseller book filled with humour and wit after going through a messy divorce.
The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
The moment David Lebovitz set foot in Paris, it was love at first sight. Can you blame him? So, with two decades of experience under his belt as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he set out to live the sweet Parisian life. Just like any new city you move to, it takes time to grow accustomed to the people, the culture and the quirks. But that didn’t deter him. In this memoir, he details his hunt for the best steak frites, cheese, lemon-glazed madeleine, baguette and hot chocolate in the city. Think of it as your little black book of places to hit up when you’re in the City of Lights! Meanwhile, there are over 50 recipes in the book to keep you busy in the kitchen. Mocha creme fraiche cake, anyone?
Artichoke: Stories and Recipes from Singapore’s Most Rebellious Kitchen by Bjorn Shen
A fan of Artichoke? Then you need to get your hands on this memoir and cookbook by one of the boldest chefs in the local culinary landscape, Bjorn Shen. Straight from the Artichoke kitchen, these pages are crammed with Middle Eastern-influenced recipes alongside stories on kitchen mishaps, insane customer complaints and behind-the-scenes shenanigans.
Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
In his second bestseller, comedian Jim Gaffigan dishes on all his favourite food. Nope, we’re not talking about haute cuisine. More like Burger King. KFC. Mexican food. Auntie Anne’s. Bacon. The list goes on and on, but that doesn’t stop him from poking fun at superfoods like kale and coconut water. Just be prepared for belly-aching laughs.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
Before you don an apron and start to sharpen your knife in the kitchen, it helps to cover the basics of cooking. According to prominent food writer Samin Nosrat, there are four cornerstones to good cooking: Salt, fat, acid and heat. She makes the learning process enjoyable with watercolour illustrations that are a visual feast. After you’re done, tune into the Netflix series of the same name to whet your appetite.
There you have it: Our favourite bestseller books on food that’ll keep you full all month. Read on for our top picks from past editions!
Books we loved in August 2020: National Day selections
Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene by Matthew Schneider-Mayerson
A first of its kind, this anthology features a collection of essays on climate change and how that affects our Lion City. Take the titular chapter, for example. It shows how our national dish, the ubiquitous chilli crab, is deeply entangled with the environmental and cultural landscape of Singapore. There’s also a chapter on the well-loved otters that scurry around the busy CBD. Looks like we’re more than a concrete jungle after all!
Corridor: 12 Short Stories by Alfian Sa’at
All of the central characters have one thing in common – they’re HDB-dwellers seeking happiness in a society that values success. Alfian Sa’at captures the zeitgeist of 90s Singapore through a kaleidoscope of stories. Although they may not be the happiest of tales, the use of familiar Singlish and relatable Singaporean tropes will draw you in.
They Told Us To Move: Dakota—Cassia by Ng Kok Hoe and The Cassia Resettlement Team (Rocky Howe, Lim Jingzhou, Sammie Ng)
While we go ooh and ahh at Singapore’s ever-changing landscape, we rarely think about what was demolished for that change to occur. As you turn the pages, you’ll learn the story of Dakota Crescent, which was once home to low-income households before it got swallowed by way of redevelopment. Read interviews from residents who relocated to Cassia Crescent, reflections from volunteers who helped with the resettlement, and academic essays covering topics like urban planning, ageing and architectural heritage.
17A Keong Saik Road by Charmaine Leung
The Keong Saik we know now, a hotspot for cool bars and restaurants, is a far cry from what it used to be. It was actually a well-known red-light district. Charmaine Leung shares her personal story growing up on the eponymous street in the 1970s as the daughter of a brothel operator. Through her words, you’ll learn the untold history of this hip ‘hood.
Ponti by Sharlene Teo
Jumping between present-day Singapore and recent history, Ponti traces the lives of women navigating the complexities of female relationships – between mothers and daughters and amongst friends. Sharlene Teo deftly mixes themes from regional mythology and mysticism with modern concerns about image, competition and desire.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Before it was a blockbuster hit, it was a bestseller. And for the uninitiated (who are you?), think of it as Gossip Girl with a local twist. Author Kevin Kwan highlights the wonders of Singapore with an OTT premise. Chinese-American economics professor Rachel Chu tags along with her boyfriend Nicholas Young to his home in Singapore for the very first time. But there’s one (not so) tiny catch. She’s totally unaware that Nicholas’ family is part of the high society in Singapore. Dive into the world of the ultra rich with private planes, massive mansions, cunning relatives and, most importantly, mouth-watering descriptions of local food.
It Never Rains on National Day by Jeremy Tiang
Singaporeans living here and abroad – that’s what this short story collection echoes throughout its pages. Jeremy Tian intertwines these characters who are scattered all over the world in his chapters and presents us with introspective questions like, “What makes us Singaporeans?” and “What does it mean to be a Singaporean?”. We have to say, the themes are laced with melancholia as the characters struggle with their longing for the city’s sunny shores.
Books we loved in July 2020: Inspiring memoirs
In Order To Live: A North Korean’s Journey To Freedom by Yeonmi Park
What did we worry about when we were 13 years old? As stressful as our teenage years were, Yeonmi Park was dealt with a whole different set of cards. Born in totalitarian North Korea, her childhood was filled with days of starvation and turmoil. This harrowing story chronicles her challenges faced while making an escape from her hometown to China, where she was caught in a sex trafficking ring.
Educated by Tara Westover
Born in a survivalist Mormon family in the remote Buck Peak mountain of Idaho, Tara’s upbringing was unconventional. She did not attend school, her parents did not believe in modern medicine and her family was always preparing for the apocalypse. However, as she grew up, she took matters into her own hands. With a self-taught background of basic grammar and maths, she took a college admission test and landed a scholarship to Brigham Young University. This bestselling book showcases Tara’s determination when the odds were stacked against her, and how she struggled to reconcile with her abusive family.
Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi
Way before Portia de Rossi became Ellen DeGeneres’ wife, she was a breakout star in the 90s, acting in hit shows like Ally McBeal. But did you know that, at the height of her career, she was still in the closet? Not to mention, waging war on a vicious eating disorder? In this poignant memoir, she revisits her past and takes you on a cathartic journey as she claws her way out of a self-loathing hole.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Published posthumously, this bestseller book details the journey of 36-year-old neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi battling stage four metastatic lung cancer. Just like that, the trajectory of his life takes a 180-degree turn overnight. Read on to understand the fragility of life and how he makes the most out of a dire situation.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
As the saying by Nelson Mandela goes, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it”. Malala is the personification of that quote. The youngest Nobel Prize winner and one of the most influential people in the world according to Time magazine, her memoir charts her activist work for female education in Pakistan. At the tender age of 15, her efforts were nearly put to a stop when she was shot in the head by the Taliban. She’s certainly an inspiration to everyone – this bestseller book will likely reignite the fire within you.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
One of the most prominent women in the world, Michelle Obama needs no introduction. (Yes, she was the former First Lady of the United States and the first African-American to hold that title.) She invites you on her journey spanning from childhood to law career days to her time spent in the White House. It’s part introspective and part inspiring, and everyone should add this bestseller book to their must-read list.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
The Sierra Leone author takes you back to his child soldier days in the 90s when his motherland was ravaged by civil war. At an age where one should be carefree and happy, the 13-year-old was navigating a minefield of drugs, guns and violence. In this heart-wrenching memoir, he recounts the harsh treatments of converting children to combatants before UNICEF rescued him. One thing we can take away from this? The human spirit is a hard thing to kill.
The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Edith Eger
No matter how dark your life seems, if you look hard enough, you’re sure to find a ray of hope. At least that’s how it was for 16-year-old Edith Eger when she was separated from her family and brought to Auschwitz. After surviving hell on earth, she did not let her past consume her as she found a path in psychology, helping other patients recover from their traumatic wounds. This bestseller book is a gentle reminder of resilience, a quality we all share.
Books we loved in June 2020: LGBTQ picks
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
If you’re looking for a light romance novel, this is a delight. Meet Katie Daniels, a hotshot lawyer in NYC, who just got dumped by Paul Michael, aka her fiance. Things take a turn when she meets Cassidy Price, a masculine lesbian, and starts to discover her sexuality. The book explores the journey of queer female romance through these two characters.
I Will Survive by Leow Yangfa
Ever wondered what it’s like to be part of the LGBTQ community in the Lion City? This anthology features 21 real-life stories and touches on topics such as family rejection, same-sex relationships, transgender experiences, discrimination and more.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
The bestseller book that inspired the film Love, Simon is a coming-of-age story. It tells the tale of Simon Spier, a closeted high school student, whose secret email conversations with a particular boy who goes by the pseudonym Blue, lands in the wrong hands. Well, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know how it goes. And if not, no spoilers! Trust us, this is a wholesome read that will warm your heart.
Sissy by Jacob Tobia
Go on a sexual identity quest with Jacob Tobia in this honest and bold memoir. From being unable to identify with traditional sexual identity labels to being called ‘sissy’ when growing up, Tobia shares with us what it’s like to be non-binary in a gender-binary world.
Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski
Set against the backdrop of Poland in the 1980s when communism was waning, this historic fiction novel sucks you into a sad yet passionate love affair between Ludwik and Janusz. The former is a dreamer while the latter is a realist, and they soon realise there is no place for their love in a Catholic socialist country. It might be Jedrowski’s debut novel but we are already looking forward to his future works.
Lie with me by Philippe Besson
Translated by actress Molly Ringwald, this French novel is about two teenage boys, Philippe and Thomas, wrapped in a heady love affair in the 1980s with no prospects of a future together. Fast forward to the present, when Philippe is an established writer. He bumps into a young man called Lucas who has an uncanny resemblance to Thomas. Well, it turns out that Lucas happens to be Thomas’ son. Oh, and here’s something to think about: People have speculated whether this is a work of fiction or a memoir since the author shares a lot of similarities with the protagonist.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
You know the typical heteronormative trope: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and finally, boy gets girl. Well, David Levithan changes things up by focusing on two male protagonists – Noah and Paul. Since it’s set in the dizzying world of high school, you also get a lot of teen angst, friendship drama and dramatic love dilemmas.
Call Me by Your Name and Find Me by André Aciman
How can we not add this bestseller book to our list when its movie made such waves in 2017? For the uninitiated (who are you?), it’s time to fall in love with André Aciman’s prose of Elio and Oliver’s tempestuous affair during summer in Northern Italy. In the sequel, Find Me, the plot jumps 10 years ahead with Elio becoming a piano teacher and Oliver working as a college professor. Will they ever reconnect and rekindle their slow-burn love? Only one way to find out.
Books we loved in May 2020: Travel novels
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
In this bestseller book, the author takes you on a wild ride with his tale of a heroin addict, escaping from prison in Australia and making a run for it to India. With a change of name and a fake passport, he will explore the bustling streets of Mumbai, go on risky adventures with the mafia and even get a taste of Bollywood. Rumour has it that the story is based on real events – what do we think? Hey, we’re just looking to get lost in a book.
The Meaning of Rice: and Other Tales from the Belly of Japan by Michael Booth
We’re not sure when we’ll be able to head to the Land of the Rising Sun to tuck into stellar Japanese fare but for now, this bestseller book by journalist Michael Booth will have to do. Going on a gastronomical journey across the different prefectures, including Okinawa, Shiga and Hokkaido, Booth explores the rich culture and heritage of Japan. From savouring fresh uni in Uchiura Bay to learning the art of sushi making to interviewing food heroes, you will be making a to-do list for your next trip!
Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
Get your fill of adventure with Kate Harris’ memoir as she and her childhood pal, Mel Yule, travel the storied Silk Road. While the duo cover the usual locales like Istanbul, Tibet and Uzbekistan, Harris adds a personal touch with vivid writing, humour and anecdotes of the people they meet along the way. Awaken your inner Marco Polo with this one, and you might just explore these borders in your lifetime.
The Beach by Alex Garland
Adapted into a film in 2000, this bestseller book is about a British backpacker, Richard in Bangkok wanting a slice of adventure. After meeting a peculiar Scottish guy, he goes on the hunt for a hidden beach untouched by humans in the Gulf of Thailand. Sounds like utopia, right? Well, let’s just say all that glitters isn’t gold… Oh, on a side note, the movie version stars a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah
Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Morocco as travel writer Tahir Shah retells his story of uprooting his family from gloomy London to summery Casablanca, which happens to be his childhood vacation spot. Grappling to adapt to the new city where it is filled with African folklore and Islamic rituals, he finds himself trying to refurbish a mansion that is haunted by a jinn. Apart from the chilly plot, Shah pens down the in-between moments of the enigmatic city.
In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Take a trip Down Under vicariously through Bill Bryson’s account. Covering the past and present of the continent he travels to cities like Sydney, traipses the bush and goes off the beaten track in The Outback. Bryson injects equal parts of humour, facts and personal travel anecdotes, making it a ripper of a read.
Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search for Something to Believe In by Anjali Kumar
We’re all in need of some soul searching in far-flung places after this pandemic is over. Take the cue from this memoir by hotshot lawyer Anjali Kumar as she finds the meaning of life. Her spiritual quest starts when she finds out that she is pregnant. Not one to dwell in conventional religion, she ventures into the Amazon Jungle to meet shamans, attends the Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada and heads to Brazil to meet an infamous healer.
Books we loved in April 2020: Feel-good books
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
We’re pretty sure everyone has seen this movie and fallen in love with Julia Roberts – but did you know it’s actually based on a true story? In this bestseller book, the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, traverses the globe on a journey of self-love after an awful divorce. She shows us how to find the beauty in everyday life – something we all need at the moment.
Puddin’ by Julie Murphy
No, this is not based on the insane villain team Suicide Squad. It is about two unlikely characters that become friends. Meet Millie Michalchuk, who has spent most of her childhood in fat camp, and Callie Reyes, your typical pretty girl who is in the running for captain of a dance team. Read on to find out how their paths cross and support one another. If you’re a sucker for wholesome sisterhood stories, this is it.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
A poignant memoir journaling the author’s 1,100-mile solo hike through the Pacific Crest Trail in the US, this book bares all: Grief, loss, vulnerability and introspection. Cheryl Strayed’s beautiful prose describes her journey and what she feels and thinks in a way that will make you feel like you’re walking right alongside her. If you’re in need of a cathartic read, this is the book for you.
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Written by authors Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, this one-night romance story starts with Nick, a straight guy in a queer rock band, asking Norah, the daughter of a popular music producer, to be his pretend-girlfriend to avoid his ex. Join them as they go on a whirlwind adventure around New York City to find their favourite band’s secret performances and Norah’s drunken bestie. Yes, if you were wondering, this was made into a film, which pushed Kat Dennings and Michael Cera to stardom.
If It Were Up To Mrs Dada by Carissa Foo
Author Carissa Foo sheds light on the older generation of Singapore in this introspective novel, which is written in the style of Mrs Dalloway. As Elderflower Home, (an old folks’ home) is getting ready to celebrate National Day, it also happens to be resident Cheryl Dada’s birthday. She starts her day by wanting to get some flowers but ends up going down memory lane as she reminisces the people of her past. Blending stream-of-consciousness monologue with a local POV, this is a relatable read.
Annabelle Thong by Imran Hashim
If you’re looking for a light-hearted, easy read, this is the book for you. Tired of the single life, ex-Catholic school girl Annabelle Thong packs her bags and leaves the Lion City to find love in Paris by enrolling herself in Sorbonne University. But her quest for Mr Right isn’t as straightforward as she’d like it to be. She meets the uber-suave Patrick Dudoigt – he also happens to be one of her professors – who both woos and shocks the bejesus out of her. The longer she stays in Paris, the more she questions her life in Singapore and all that she thought was right.
This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender
Ahh, the title is a dead giveaway, innit? Here’s the situation: Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in love after his ex-girlfriend cheated on him and his mother struggled with the loss of his dad. That soon changes after he catches up with his childhood friend, Oliver James Hernández. Nathan has to come to terms with his suppressed feelings for Oliver and learns that it’s okay to be vulnerable. This is sure to give you the warm fuzzies!
Books we loved in March 2020: SingLit titles
How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee
Set in Singapore, this novel by Jing-Jing Lee weaves in two distinct periods gracefully. It chronicles 17-year-old Wang Di’s harrowing struggles during the Japanese occupation in 1942, before fast forwarding to 2000, when she makes an unexpected confession on her deathbed, which is overheard by her grandson. Get a peek into our nation’s war crimes in this historical fiction tale.
Homeless by Liyana Dhamirah
There’s more to Singapore than just “Crazy Rich Asians”. Revealing the dark underbelly of Singapore, Liyana sheds light on the homeless people in the country through her memoir. She retells her story, from the time she was an ambitious student to being pregnant and living in a tent in Sembawang Park, where she chanced upon a community of people who were in the same boat as her. Go on this journey with her as she courageously navigates through a different side of Singapore that’s typically invisible.
This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn
Look past the city’s glitzy skyline and majestic skyscrapers, and you will see the lesser known part of Singapore. The author writes poignantly and goes deep into hard problems that aren’t usually tackled: Poverty and inequality in the Lion City. It’s a thought-provoking must-read for anyone living in Singapore who wants to know more about its society.
The Lights That Find Us by Anittha Thanabalan
One of the finalists for the 2018 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, this bestseller book is about an Indian girl who hates Deepavali. Trust us though, she’s not the grinch. Shreya just messed things up with her older brother which caused some tension in the family. However, things take a turn for the better when she is visited by three celestial beings who decide to help her out. In the vein of A Christmas Carol, she travels back in time and into the future to see things in a different light… and that’s when she realises the importance of family.
Harris Bin Potter And The Stoned Philosopher by Suffian Hakim
Harry Potter purists might want to look away. Suffian’s novel is a hilarious take on the magical franchise. Injecting local cultural references to the plot, the story follows the titular character, an orphan who loves to play void deck soccer and has the uncanny ability to talk to boxes and parcels aka “parceltongue”. He joins the Hog-Tak-Halal-What School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (this is approved by the Ministry of Education, by the way), and goes on a mission to save the magical folks in Singapore from losing their powers. And there’s even a chapter titled nine and three-quarters!
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Firstly, we’re super proud that this book was chosen by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. Now let’s dissect the plot. Written by a Singaporean author, this bestseller book is set in Southall, London, where there’s a strong Sikh community. Protagonist Nikki goes against her family and drops out of university, taking a job at a pub in an attempt to “find herself”. Struggling to make rent, she takes a second job at the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) to teach English to elderly widows. She has her work cut out for her as some of the ladiesdon’t even know how to write their own names in English. Here comes the hilarious part: These sari-clad women start writing erotic stories in Urdu, and with her help, they translate it into English. All this is set to the backdrop of the very strict Sikh Community Association. Just be prepared for belly-aching laughs!
The HDB Murders by Daren Goh
Daren explores the murder mystery genre by introducing a familiar trope: HDB flats. Minister Chew is trying to figure out why there’s a sudden rise in people jumping off flats to their death. But when he gets closer to solving the case, he discovers something sinister. Without giving too much away, this is an imaginative yet violent take on government conspiracy. A page-turner, for sure!
Books we loved in February 2020: Romance reads
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Meet care companion Louisa Clarke and wheelchair-bound Will Traynor. The latter is more of a glass-half-empty guy while the former is a quirky, lovely ray of sunshine. In the beginning, Will works Louisa to the bone with his tiresome antics but this unlikely of a pair slowly start to develop feelings for each other. Very romantic, right? Well, you’re wrong. If you’re a softie, this book will leave you weeping throughout the night. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
If you’re a huge fan of the movie, savour the romance word by word this time ‘round. Relive your teenage years with 16-year-old Lara Jean as she finds out all her secret love letters have been mailed out to her crushes, both past and present. Trust us, as scary as it sounds, this is not a horror story. And once you’re done, follow up with P.S. I Still Love You, then Always and Forever, Lara Jean, while you wait for the second instalment to arrive on Netflix.
What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Looking for something light and fun? This LGBTQ romance novel should be on your list of must-reads. Written by two authors, one of whom is behind Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which the film Love Simon was based on, this tale chronicles two guys, Arthur and Ben, meeting at the most random of places: a New York City post office. Ben is there to post back his ex’s stuff when he runs into Broadway-obsessed Arthur, who happens to be spending his summer in the city interning at his mum’s law firm. Before they can even get to know each other, they’re separated by a flash mob – it’s New York after all. Will they find each other? Will Ben get over his ex? Well, there’s only one way to find out.
Singapore Love Stories by Verena Tay
If love in the Big Apple doesn’t really resonate with you, this anthology features 17 fictional love stories written by Singapore-based writers and edited by Verena Tay. It showcases the different kinds of love: Familial, unrequited, lust and more. This literary delight also reflects Singapore’s diversity, from a migrant worker wooing three women to a girl seeking relationship advice from quotes provided by an ATM machine to a woman torn between marrying her much-older boyfriend and conforming to her family norms.
50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James
Making waves in 2015 on the silver screen, the infamous bestselling erotic trilogy still lingers in mainstream consciousness for reasons we will never know. The story, as you all know by now, follows a college graduate who falls for enigmatic business tycoon Christian Grey. Veering away from the typical romance tropes, the novel straps you in as the protagonists explore the dark world of BDSM. For this read, we recommend a room full of lighted candles with a glass of wine in hand, so you can either dive deep into it or have a good time giggling at any cringe-worthy moments.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
There’s a reason why this novel made it to Reese Witherspoon’s book club – it has all the makings of a rom-com. It’s love at first sight for Laurie when she bumps into the man of her life at a bus stop on a cold winter day in London. But fast forward a year later, and she meets him as her best friend’s boyfriend. Dramaaa, we tell you. While we’re hoping this will make it to the big screen, in the meantime, feel free to fall in love with Laurie’s Bridget Jones-like personality.
One Day by David Nicholls
Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, you’ll love this tearjerker. Chronicling two decades in the lives of the main characters, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, from the time they first met during graduation to navigating adulthood in their twenties and thirties, this story is heartwarming and, without giving too much away, heartbreaking. Just make sure you’ve got a box of tissues to keep you company and a tub of your favourite ice cream for good measure.
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Of course, this classic masterpiece makes the list. With popular titles like A Walk To Remember, Dear John and Safe Haven under his belt (who said men can’t be romantic?), Nicholas Sparks sure knows how to pull at our heartstrings with his passionate yet heart-wrenching plots. Set in 1940s South Carolina, it’s about two people from different worlds falling in love with each other: Mill worker Noah Calhoun and rich girl Allie Hamilton. To make things more complicated, Noah heads off to serve the military in World War II and Allie is on the road to getting hitched. If, by some miracle, you’ve not seen the movie, read the book first – it’ll be worth it.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
What happens when British monarchy and American oligarchy meet? Well, it might not be love at first sight for America’s First Son, Alex, and the royal prince of Wales, Henry, but an unlikely chemistry ensues when they have to put their rivalry aside and make amends for the public to strengthen US-British relations. Escape reality with this tongue-in-cheek novel as Casey McQuiston weaves in politics and romance effortlessly with funny dialogues and an enemies-to-lovers trope.
Lion Boy and Drummer Girl by Pauline Loh
Longlisted for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016, this romp of a novel reimagines a time when lion dance is in vogue and the band Lion Boys are revered pop legends with groupies following their tails. But that doesn’t stop one of the lion boys, Ricky Ang, from taking an interest in drummer girl Ong Ying Ying. Set in a familiar setting, the novel touches on young love, the traditions of lion dance and Singapore’s rich culture.
Books we loved in January 2020: Bestseller picks
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
There’s a reason why Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, picked up the rights to this heartwarming novel. As the title suggests, the protagonist Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine… apart from the fact that her way of life is a little different – you might even say odd. Author Gail Honeyman manages to draw you in by making life’s mundane to-do lists interesting, throwing out detailed observations for something as ordinary as Eleanor’s visit to a nail salon and supermarket, for example. She may be socially awkward, but she’s certainly won us over. If you’re trying to get back on the reading bandwagon, start with this one. By the end of the book, you’ll be wishing you could meet Eleanor for an afternoon chat over a cup of tea.
The Tattooist Of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Set during the Holocaust, this story is told through the eyes of Lale Sokolov, the titular tattooist of Auschwitz, whose role during the war is to ink his fellow prisoners. You’ll be transported back in time to experience Lale’s tribulations, from witnessing the horrors of the concentration camp to his journey of falling in love with his would-be wife, Gita, when he tattooed a number on her arm. Though we’re not fully convinced about the accuracy of the events that transpired, this tearjerker of a novel should be on everyone’s must-read list.
Suicide Club by Rachel Heng
Written by Singaporean novelist Rachel Heng, the story’s plot is set in a dystopian future of New York, where a select group of people get the opportunity to live forever in a seemingly perfect world. Known as “Lifers”, this group of individuals bypass death with the help of medical technology – their radical lifestyle consists of cutting out sugar and meat from their diet. But not everyone wants to live an almost-immortal life, as our protagonist finds out when she happens to come across a secret society called the Suicide Club. Despite its futuristic storyline, the book deals with themes that will always be relevant: Regret, family, life and death.
Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq
This novel is about a depressed middle-aged man in France. Florent-Claude Labrouste hates his career, his girlfriend and the fact that he has to take a pill to boost his serotonin levels. If you’re the type who can sit through a discussion on agricultural politics and paragraphs studded with a bevy of French words, you’ll see author Michel Houellebecq bring life to a rather jaded protagonist through compelling interior monologue.
Brief Answers To The Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
Humorously written by the late Stephen Hawking, this book is a showcase of how his brilliant mind manages to scratch the surface of life’s biggest mysteries. Topics like time travel, black holes and the future of artificial intelligence are delved into without the subject matter being too complex. Whether you agree or not, the key takeaway here would be that science is necessary to move forward for a better future.
The Gatekeeper by Nuraliah Norasid
A popular hit in the local literary scene, this novel has garnered numerous accolades, including Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2016 and Singapore Book Awards 2018 for Best Fiction. Nuraliah Norasid reimagines the classic story of Medusa in a familiar setting with protagonist Ria, a young medusa. Accidentally turning an entire village to stone, she escapes with her sister and stumbles upon an underground settlement populated by people like her and strikes up a key friendship decades later.
Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam
If you’re a fan of Haruki Murakami’s work, then you’ll enjoy Daryl Qilin Yam’s debut novel to bits. Set betwixt Singapore and Japan, it chronicles the life of Kevin, who believes he lacks a soul, and his encounter with Mr Five, a mysterious kappa (aka river demon). Throughout the course of the book, you’ll notice how Daryl manages to seamlessly weave stories of other characters into the plot, which inadvertently contributes to the main narrative.
There you have it; all the best books we loved in 2020!