Ministers share what they read ahead of first National Reading Day on July 30

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, a self-described bookworm.
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, a self-described bookworm.PHOTO: YAACOB IBRAHIM / FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Ahead of the country's first National Reading Day on Saturday (July 30), several ministers have shared their book lists to ignite Singaporeans' love for reading.

A post on the Ministry of Communications and Information website noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had recently finished poring through three books about the Middle East.

Two of them - My Promised Land: The Triumph And Tragedy Of Israel by Ari Shavit and A Rage For Order by Robert Worth - detail upheavals in the conflict-ridden region through personal stories, while another - Operation Thunderbolt by Saul David - describes the Israeli Special Forces' raid of a hijacked Air France flight in 1976.

"I enjoy reading, but read less than I would like for pleasure. It is partly finding time, and also the effort of focusing on something not work related," PM Lee said in the short write-up on the site.

Following his recent holiday in Japan, PM Lee started on Shogun: The Life Of Tokugawa Ieyasu by A L Sadler, a biography of the warlord who unified Japan.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said that reading was a hobby passed on from his siblings growing up.

He said: "My eldest brother was brilliant in school and brought home books as prizes. I would read them all!"

Mr Yaacob, a self-described bookworm, recently finished The Forty Rules Of Love by Eli Shafak, a visionary novel about the workings of love.

As his children will be soon be studying abroad, his book list also includes In Defense Of A Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria, which looks at the United States' liberal arts education system.

 

The National Reading Movement was launched earlier this year by the National Library Board to nurture the love of reading.

Among the slew of events in the build-up to National Reading Day are pop-up reading activities and a week-long Read For Books drive, where one book will be donated to beneficiaries for every 10 people who spend 15 minutes reading.

Mr Yaacob said: "Many of us lead very fast-paced lives. Which is why I find it all the more important to set aside time to slow down and pick up a good read for the quiet comfort it brings."

Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said that he always makes time for reading, and exercise, despite his busy schedule. He recommended Grit by Angela Duckworth, a book arguing that to succeed, a combination of passion and persistence is key.

To keep up with world affairs, Mr Khaw also read The Syrian Jihad: Al Qaeda, The Islamic State And The Evolution Of An Insurgency by Charles R. Lister and City Of Thorns: Nine Lives In The World's Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin believes that reading contributes to lifelong learning. He reads a variety of books, from graphic novels to military history accounts, although leadership and management books are his favourite.

Books he recommended include Leadership And Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

He said: "I spent a lot of time reading when I was young. I don't think I was prolific nor very cheem (Hokkien for 'deep') in that I don't have lots of deep profound titles to bandy around."

Meanwhile, fantasy novels are a hit with Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

He said: "Back in my days, our school libraries were not as well-stocked as they are today…Today, however, I see a whole load of fantasy series."

A fan of the Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K Le Guin, Mr Masagos urged youngsters to read more as "books ignite imagination and are far more rewarding than game consoles".

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, on the other hand, seeks out translated books written by non-English authors.

He said: "One of my favourite past-times growing up was to go to the old Marine Parade Public Library every weekend to borrow my full quota of books."

A recent read was Frog by Nobel Prize-winning Chinese novelist Mo Yan, which Mr Wong felt captured the "many of the nuances of the original Mandarin text".

Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary said he has a habit of reading something - "that isn't work" - before going to bed.

Preferring the e-book format, he described the writing in Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel as "superb". The sci-fi novel is set in the United States after a devastating flu pandemic has wiped out most of humanity.

Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat, a father of four, read The Odd One Out by Britta Teckentrup to his youngest daughter during the June school holidays.

He said: "We want to encourage our children to enjoy reading to broaden their imagination and perspectives, beyond obtaining academic knowledge."