Bookends

General practitioner and sometime musician Tan Su-Ming Jean is celebrating her 50th birthday with a concert.
General practitioner and sometime musician Tan Su-Ming Jean is celebrating her 50th birthday with a concert.PHOTO: RUSSEL WONG

General practitioner and sometime musician Tan Su-Ming Jean turned 50 in February. She is celebrating making it to life's halfway mark with a concert at the Esplanade on Wednesday evening, which is aptly titled Halfway There.

The mother of a 14-year-old girl will perform covers of songs. One of them is Shake It Off by American pop star Taylor Swift, which was requested by her daughter. She will joinher mother on stage for that song.

Tickets at $25 are available from Sistic.

What are you reading now?

I completed When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, last weekend. The author, a 36-year-old neurosurgeon, discovered he had lung cancer when he was 34 and wrote about how he faced his diagnosis, both as a patient and a doctor.

It got harder and harder to read as I approached the end, knowing that the writer had already died.

General practitioner and sometime musician Tan Su-Ming Jean is celebrating her 50th birthday with a concert.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016, Vintage Publishing, $25.95)

I am rereading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was given to me by my friend Buzzi, who is also the pianist and musical arranger for my concert. We have collaborated on at least seven occasions.

She gave me this book to encourage me because I was having self-doubt about my talents as a musician and whether I could pull off the concert.

General practitioner and sometime musician Tan Su-Ming Jean is celebrating her 50th birthday with a concert.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (2015, Riverhead Books

Gilbert's perspective and pragmatic advice about the creative process helped me get out of my "singer's block".

What books would you save from a burning house?


General practitioner and sometime musician Tan Su-Ming Jean is celebrating her 50th birthday with a concert.


The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein (1976, Harpercollins Children's Books, $31.03)



The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein is a picture book that could be read by a child or an adult. It is simply illustrated.

A good friend gave it to me in 1995. I treasure it because she inscribed it. I took away different things from it at different points in my life.

I would also save my poetry playlist, a notebook filled with poetry that another good friend selected for me.

The poets featured include Seamus Heaney, William Wordsworth, Veronica Schoffstall, CP Cavafy, Alice Oswald, Mary Oliver, Deryn Rees-Jones and Stewart Henderson.

I think it was made for me in 2009. It's a special gift.

• When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016, Vintage Publishing, $25.95), Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (2015, Riverhead Books, $29.91), The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein (1976, Harpercollins Children's Books, $31.03) are available at Books Kinokuniya.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'Bookends'. Print Edition | Subscribe