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READING SPECIAL

Chubby Hubby and wife devour books

Given their day jobs, it comes as no surprise that the married couple behind the popular food blog Chubby Hubby have a huge collection of cookbooks.

More than 1,000, to be exact, arranged by cuisine and mostly sitting on their custom-made, three- storey bookshelf in the living room.

This 6m-high metal bookshelf is a prominent feature in their 3,000 sq ft, four-storey terrace home in Cambridge Road.

Cookbooks are at the bottom six shelves and the upper shelves carry architecture, photography and art books. To access the higher shelves, you need to enter the third-floor bedroom of their five-year-old son, Toby.

Mr Aun Koh, 44, and Ms Tan Su-Lyn, 43, co-founders of the integrated communications agency The Ate Group, have been living there since 2005. Besides Toby, they also have a daughter, Tara, aged one.

Among their many cookbooks, their favourites are two classics: Desserts By Pierre Herme, written by the legendary French pastry chef with American author Dorie Greenspan, and The French Laundry Cookbook, penned by Thomas Keller, chef-proprietor of the acclaimed Napa Valley restaurant, with food writer Michael Ruhlman.

Apart from their shared passion for food, the couple of 15 years have very different tastes in books.

He likes science fiction, Marvel comics and American gothic novels. She favours the classics by authors such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy.

Together, they have more than 3,000 books on other shelves in the house.

The home office and the playroom on the third floor, for example, carry more food literature, popular fiction and travel guides.

Still, they are running out of space to store their collection. Books are starting to pile up in various spots around the living room on the floor and side tables.

Partly as a space-saving measure, the couple read mostly on their iPad or Nexus tablet for "portability and convenience", although they still prefer physical copies of cookbooks and graphic novels.

The couple's reading habits differ. She will work her way through an author's work systemically, such as a recent phase where she read "all the Fitzgerald I could get my hands on", while her husband reads three to four books at a time. Unlike her, he will give up reading a book he does not find interesting.

He says: "Reading is personal satisfaction. I'm not going to read something that I don't like."

Growing up, the voracious readers frequently found themselves exceeding the book-borrowing limit at libraries.

Now, they take their son to the library, though Ms Tan says it is "not as frequent as we'd like to".

She reads to him every night and buys about four to six books a month for her children. Toby has already begun reading to his sister and is writing a story about dinosaurs, his favourite topic.

Ms Tan is reading Elizabeth Moon's fantasy series The Deed Of Paksenarrion, while Mr Koh has on his plate Kevin Wilson's The Family Fang, Kirstin Chen's Soy Sauce For Beginners, Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children and William Alexander's Flirting With French: How A Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, And Nearly Broke My Heart.

Despite their extensive collection, they know exactly which book to save should their house be on fire.

Says Mr Koh: "It would be a photo book of our son during the first year of his life. I haven't got round to printing one for our daughter, but that's in the works."

As for Ms Tan, it would be her "notebook of handwritten family recipes" of dishes the couple grew up eating, created together and that their children love.

She says: "To me, they are what help make our house a home."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Chubby Hubby and wife devour books'. Print Edition | Subscribe