Today, it’s difficult to go through a day without reading about political stressors, social rights injustices, humanitarian crises, and of course – the pandemic. Whatever your stance may be, the following books highlight various perspectives of important discourses, in an easily digestible manner so we’re not lost after the first page.
Here are just a handful of our favourites, and remember to put that water to a boil for the perfect afternoon me-time with your favourite tea.
Share your favourites with us, and we’d be happy to include it in this list!
Author: Franz Kafka
Josef K., a dignified bank officer, wakes up on the morning of his thirtieth birthday to find himself arrested for no reasonable cause. Through the use of seductive storytelling, Kafka leads K. into an endless maze of dead-ends as he struggles to reach out to the invisible yet ever-present authority for a chance of closure.
Why read it:
Admittedly, ‘The Trial; is an incredibly bleak book where the readers become the sole witnesses of K.’s plight. However, through Kafka’s bizarre yet disturbingly real world, we are given a chance to contemplate the blurred line between justice and injustice, good and evil within our social context. This is not an easy read, but it is one that will compel you to question the dangers of living under the eyes of totalitarianism, especially in today’s state of surveillance in an increasingly digital world.
The Lonely City
Author: Olivia Laing
Liang’s emotive depth and literary talents are exhibited in this honest confrontation with loneliness. The novel is a moving manifestation of Liang’s contemplation on lost love and the experience of living alone in a whole new environment void of familiarity and company. A pensive walk through the art history of New-York based artists – from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks to Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules – who struggled with the same feeling of being adrift from society, we follow Liang in her journey of lost and found as she picks up revelations on the human condition.
Why read it:
“loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed, but simply that one is alive.”
Reading ‘The Lonely City’ is a delightfully intimate affair that confers personal experience without compromising the reality of a broader landscape of society. With its lyrical collage of memoir, travel writing, philosophical musings, social speculations, and biography, we are shown the universal permanence of urban loneliness in all of its broken beauty.
The private vision of community afforded through Liang’s words serves as a lens on our world today, where we live most of our lives behind our phone and computer screens and deal with incessant social judgments online. Through her understanding of solitude, you might learn to find connections with other isolated people through compassion and empathy.
So You Want to Talk About Race
Author: Ijeoma Oluo
Through her perspective “as a black woman in a white supremacist country”, Oluo offers access into the uneven racial landscape of America and addresses the longstanding issues concerning privilege and structural injustice with sharp and dauntless honesty. Questions like “What if I talk about race wrong?”, “Why am I always being told to check my privilege” and “What are microaggressions?” are fielded in the respectively titled chapters with depth, clarity, and hope for a more equal future for all.
There couldn’t be a more appropriate time for everyone to try to understand the intricacies and difficulties of racial minorities, and this is the perfect book to start. Broad academic concepts and complex definitions are written in digestible points with a voice that speaks with reason and sincerity, giving readers the suitable tools to dismantle racism — with affirmative action and constructive dialogue.
Emily of Emerald Hill
Author: Stella Kon
A play that traces the vestige of Old Singapore through the eyes of Emily Gan, ‘Emily of Emerald Hill’ is a fascinating soliloquy of the Peranakan protagonist, and you are the friend privy to her life story and drawers of her mind. Through a myriad of languages and cultures, a host of distinctive characters, and dazzling sequences, readers follow Emily’s winding trajectory — from a wide-eyed young Nyonya bride of fourteen who came to be a powerful matriarch to a weary old soul who has seen it all.
Why read it:
One of the few works that explore the female consciousness against the backdrop of traditional Southeast-Asian culture, Kon tenderly dissects hierarchical strata in society, and expectations of women in the household, which makes it easy for female readers to resonate with. Emily’s interactions with the invisible characters in her life serve as signposts of change in the social landscape and cultural practices of Singapore, taking us on a journey through time. Timeless in its message and beautifully written, ‘Emily of Emerald Hill’ is an enjoyable classic that should be read (and reread) by every Singaporean who would like to pick up insights on the trials and tribulations of womanhood.
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