Book stack: 10 reads to wrap up October

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (left) and Ducks: Two Years In The Oil Sands by Kate Beaton. PHOTOS: LITTLE, BROWN, JONATHAN CAPE

SINGAPORE – Memoirs, magic, Murakami. Here are 10 new books to add to this month’s reading pile.

1. Novelist As A Vocation by Haruki Murakami


Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen
Non-fiction/Harvill Secker/Hardcover/210 pages/$37.45/Books Kinokuniya

If you are a huge fan of Haruki Murakami, author of novels such as Norwegian Wood (1987) and Kafka On The Shore (2002), this book of 11 essays about his thoughts on writing and his life as a novelist could prove fascinating.

But if you are thinking of picking up this book mainly to glean inspiration and writing tips, this book offers slim pickings.

Murakami’s advice to aspiring writers is largely generic: read widely; make it a habit to observe deeply the people and events around you; put words down daily.


2. Getting Lost by Annie Ernaux


Translated by Alison L. Strayer
Memoir/Fitzcarraldo Editions/Paperback/224 pages/$23.15/Book Depository or National Library Board

Curious about French writer Annie Ernaux, the woman who won the 2022 Nobel Prize in literature?

You could do worse than pick up Getting Lost, the diary of her secret affair with a younger Russian diplomat. It begins in 1989, when Ernaux is nearly 50, divorced and a mother of two grown sons.

Ernaux, 82, has been well-known in France since the 1970s, but gained global attention only around the time her memoir, The Years, was nominated for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize. She is known for writing novels inspired by her own experiences of class and gender.

Getting Lost was first published in French in 2001.

3. The Last Chairlift by John Irving


Fiction/Simon & Schuster/Hardcover/912 pages/$39.95/Books Kinokuniya

The acclaimed American author of The Cider House Rules (1985) and The World According To Garp (1978) is back with his first novel in seven years.

In 1940s Aspen, Colorado, skier Rachel Brewster takes part in the National Downhill and Slalom Championships. She does not win anything, but ends up pregnant. Decades later, her son Adam returns to the hotel where he was conceived and confronts the ghosts of the past.

4. Ducks: Two Years In The Oil Sands by Kate Beaton


Memoir/Jonathan Cape/Hardcover/436 pages/$54.57/Books Kinokuniya

This graphic memoir tells the story of a Canadian artist who takes up a job at the oil sands to pay off her student debt. Oil sands are natural deposits which contain bitumen, a highly viscous form of petroleum.

Against the stunning backdrop of Alberta’s natural beauty – forest, wildlife, the Northern Lights – uglier realities such as machines, loneliness and sexual assault rear their heads.

Cartoonist Kate Beaton is the creator of Hark! A Vagrant, a popular webcomic which ran from 2007 to 2018.

5. Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng


Fiction/Little, Brown/Paperback/352 pages/$29.95/Books Kinokuniya or National Library Board

The author of Little Fires Everywhere (2017) has written a new novel about a boy in America searching for his mother.

Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives with his father, a former linguistics professor who now shelves books in a university library. Bird’s mother, who left the family when he was nine, was a Chinese-American poet whose books were removed from the libraries for being “unpatriotic”.

Bird does not know what happened to his mother. When he receives a cryptic letter, he goes on a journey to find her.

6. The Big Bang Of Numbers: How To Build The Universe Using Only Maths by Manil Suri


Non-fiction/Bloomsbury/Paperback/384 pages/$31.47/Books Kinokuniya or National Library Board

Novelist and maths professor Manil Suri argues that mathematics is less about calculation and more about ideas.

“Ideas that engage and intrigue us as humans, that help us understand the universe. Ideas about the perfection of numbers, the nature of space and geometry, the spontaneous formation of patterns, the origins of randomness and infinity.

“The neat thing is that such ideas can be enjoyed without needing any special mathematical knowledge or being a computation whiz,” adds Suri, who teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in the United States.

This mathematical origin story takes readers on a journey from numbers, geometry and algebra to physics and infinity.

7. The Girl Who Taught Herself To Fly by Kwan Kew Lai


Memoir/Vine Leaves Press/Paperback/270 pages/$32.21/Books Kinokuniya

This is a coming-of-age story of a girl growing up in post-World War II Penang.

Born to a poor Chinese family of two boys and 10 girls, Kwan Kew Lai becomes the first child in the family to go to university after she wins a scholarship to the prestigious Wellesley College in the United States.

Lai, a trained doctor specialising in infectious diseases, left academia in 2005 to volunteer her medical services around the world.

8. Pearl (Penang Chronicles, Vol. II) by Rose Gan


Fiction/Monsoon Books/Paperback/466 pages/$19.80/Books Kinokuniya

Pearl is the second volume in a series of historical novels exploring the backstory of the British settlement of Penang.

Set in the 18th century, it follows Martinha Rozells, partner of Francis Light, the British captain who established Penang (the “Pearl of the Orient”) as a British settlement in 1786. The narrative takes readers from Siam to the court of Kedah, salons of Calcutta and the titular isle.

9. The Winners by Fredrik Backman


Translated by Neil Smith
Fiction/Simon & Schuster/Paperback/688 pages/$32.95/Books Kinokuniya or National Library Board

This novel shines a light on the residents of a hockey-obsessed town. The events take place over a fortnight, two years after a rape scandal rocked the community.

The Winners is the last book in Swedish author Fredrik Backman’s Beartown trilogy, which began with Beartown (translated into English in 2017) and Us Against You (2018).

Backman is the best-selling author of A Man Called Ove (2014).

10. The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake


Fiction/Tor/Paperback/432 pages/$32.95/Books Kinokuniya

Fans of the dark academia genre – a literary subculture associated with higher education, the ancient arts and classic literature – may enjoy this fantasy thriller about a secret society of magicians.

The Atlas Paradox is the sequel to the viral sensation The Atlas Six (2020). It explores questions of ethics and follows the society’s latest initiates as their alliances are tested.

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