Book Stack: 10 reads to wrap up August

Chariot Of The Sun: An Informal History Of A Siamese Family by Shane Bunnag and What We Owe The Future: A Million-Year View by William MacAskill. PHOTOS: RIVER BOOKS, ONEWORLD PUBLICATIONS

SINGAPORE - In this monthly feature, The Sunday Times picks out 10 books from around the world that have just hit shelves.

1. Chariot Of The Sun: An Informal History Of A Siamese Family by Shane Bunnag


Non-fiction/River Books/Hardcover/296 pages/$48.15/Buy here

This is an effort at remembering a family history that is closely connected to national history, except it is not clear why readers should care about the parts that are non-national in scope, which are overly indulgent in detail.

Shane Bunnag, born in Cambridge, England, is a photographer and film-maker of Thai and Irish descent. He traces the story of his family, the Bunnags, who settled in Thailand from Persia in the early 17th century and climbed to the apex of Thai political power.


2. What We Owe The Future: A Million-Year View by William MacAskill


Non-fiction/Oneworld Publications/Paperback/ 400 pages/$33.01/Buy here

Oxford philosopher MacAskill makes a case for "longtermism" - the view that "positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time".

"If humanity," he writes, "survives to even a fraction of its potential life span, then, strange as it may seem, we are the ancients: we live at the very beginning of history, in the most distant past. What we do now will affect untold numbers of future people. We need to act wisely."

3. The Complete Guide To Memory: The Science Of Strengthening Your Mind by Richard Restak


Non-fiction/Skyhorse Publishing/Hardcover/216 pages/$42.14/Buy here

American neurologist Restak begins with an overview of how our understanding of memory has evolved. The ancients, for instance, saw memory as a tool for creative thinking and had techniques to perfect it.

Restak goes on to address the different types of memory that exist, the perils of memory, and "accessory aids" to improve memory - siestas being one of them.

4. Far Out: Encounters With Extremists by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson


Non-fiction/Granta Books/Hardcover/304 pages/ $39.35/Buy here

This book contains the stories of eight people who were drawn to radical beliefs. Among them are a young man who became the face of white nationalism in America during the era of former president Donald Trump, a teenager who left Britain to fight in Syria, and an Australian from Antifa - a far-left anti-fascism movement.

We listen to these stories not to judge, absolve or feel sorry for them, McDonald-Gibson writes.

"We listen because they are our stories too, and reflect the temptation we all have right now to fight the many injustices and inequalities around us by shouting louder, by getting angrier, by blaming others for everything that is wrong in the world."

5. Influence Empire: The Story Of Tencent And China's Tech Ambition by Lulu Yilun Chen


Non-fiction/Hodder & Stoughton/Paperback/320 pages/$32.95/Buy here

In 2017, Chinese tech giant Tencent overtook Facebook to become the fifth-largest company in the world.

Business reporter Chen examines key chapters in the company's history - from its origins in the late 1990s to "battles" involving tech companies such as Meituan and Alibaba.

Chen writes: "Little known to people beyond the tech community, Tencent's sphere of influence extends far beyond its home turf. It reaches the screens of hundreds of millions of global gamers via titles like Fortnite and moviegoers via Hollywood blockbusters like Men In Black: International and Venom.

"Backing some of the most popular global goods and services, including Tesla, Reddit, Snapchat and Spotify, it's the puppet master that merges the functions of WhatsApp, PayPal, Facebook, Uber, Deliveroo, Yahoo, TikTok into one super-app known as WeChat."

6. Dead-End Memories: Stories by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Asa Yoneda


Fiction/Counterpoint Press/Hardcover/240 pages/$44.85/Buy here

The celebrated Japanese author has written stories about women recovering from infidelity, sexual assault and other events.

This collection was first published in Japanese in 2003.

7. Haven by Emma Donoghue


Fiction/Little, Brown and Company/ Hardcover/272 pages/$48.30/Buy here

The best-selling author of Room (2010) is back with a tale of adventure, survival and spirituality set in seventh-century Ireland.

A priest by the name of Artt - accompanied by two monks - sets sail to a remote island inhabited by thousands of birds.

Donoghue, who is Irish-Canadian, was partly inspired by the real-life island of Skellig Michael, a jagged crag off the coast of County Kerry in south-west Ireland.

8. The Long Knives by Irvine Welsh


Fiction/Vintage Publishing/Paperback/384 pages/$28.99/Buy here

Edinburgh detective Ray Lennox investigates the truth behind the attack of Ritchie Gulliver MP, who has been castrated and left bleeding in an empty warehouse.

This book follows Welsh's 2008 novel Crime and is the second instalment in a trilogy.

9. The Art Of Prophecy: The War Arts Saga, Book One by Wesley Chu


Fiction/Random House/Paperback/528 pages/$29.12/Buy here

This epic fantasy features a prophesied hero, Jian, who turns out to be a spoilt brat. Enter the great war artist Taishi, who takes it upon herself to train the hero so he can face his destiny.

United States-based Chu, the author of The Lives Of Tao (2013), is also a martial artist.

10. The Pachinko Parlour by Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins


Fiction/Daunt Books/Paperback/124 pages/$19.41/Buy here

A Swiss-Korean graduate spends a summer in Tokyo visiting her Korean immigrant grandparents, who own a pachinko parlour.

Dusapin's exquisite exploration of identity and belonging was first published in French in 2018. She is also the author of Winter In Sokcho, which won last year's National Book Award for Translated Literature.

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