Jump on the rainbow bandwagon and celebrate Pride Month with our top LGBTQ reads!
Pride Month is just around the corner. And while Pink Dot is going online and our fave LGBTQ watering holes are closed at the moment ‘cos of the circuit breaker, we still can show some rainbow love by watching iconic queer films and reading the best LGBTQ literature. We’ve got bestsellers, new reads and a locally published book, which includes personal stories from the LGBTQ community of Singapore!
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 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 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.
Honeycombers Book Club: May 2020
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
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 travelogue 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 page-turner 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.
Honeycombers Book Club: April 2020
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? Follow the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, as she 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 journalling 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!
Honeycombers Book Club: March 2020
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 novel 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 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!
Honeycombers Book Club: February 2020
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 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.
Honeycombers Book Club: January 2020
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.