Singapore Shelf: IN THE MOOD FOR NATIONAL DAY

10 reads for August

Parsetree-Forestfire by Hamid Roslan
Parsetree-Forestfire by Hamid Roslan
The Armenians of Singapore: A Short History by Nadia H. Wright
The Armenians of Singapore: A Short History by Nadia H. Wright
Hard at Work: Life in Singapore Today by Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen
Hard at Work: Life in Singapore Today by Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen
The Sound of Memories by Cheong Suk-Wai
The Sound of Memories by Cheong Suk-Wai
50 Best Kept Secrets Of The Istana by Irene Hoe, Sharon Cheah and Wong Sher Maine, illustrated by Quek Hong Shin, Tiffany Lovage and Sokkuan Tye
50 Best Kept Secrets Of The Istana by Irene Hoe, Sharon Cheah and Wong Sher Maine, illustrated by Quek Hong Shin, Tiffany Lovage and Sokkuan Tye
The Loving and The Dead by Catherine Lim
The Loving and The Dead by Catherine Lim
Collected Plays Three by Alfian Sa'at
Collected Plays Three by Alfian Sa'at
Wet Market to Table by Pamelia Chia
Wet Market to Table by Pamelia Chia
Get Curious! by National Museum of Singapore
Get Curious! by National Museum of Singapore
Kopi Thiam by James Suresh and Adam Lee
Kopi Thiam by James Suresh and Adam Lee

In the month of National Day, Arts Correspondent Olivia Ho checks out these 10 new titles on Singaporean identity and local life - perfect for reading over long weekends

1 POETRY

PARSETREE-FORESTFIRE

By Hamid Roslan

Ethos Books/ Paperback/ 100 pages/ $18/Books Kinokuniya, Grassroots Book Room, Wardah Books and Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop

This is a bilingual book of poetry, but not conventionally so.

Poems in Singlish and poems in English occupy opposing sides of the book, but whether they are translations of one another is questionable.

"...now I speak up," writes Hamid on one side, even as he trails off into "doublespeak" on the other page.

Intriguingly subversive and often laugh-out-loud funny, these verses pick apart language and examine its many strains, from colonial legacy to balance of power.

2 NON-FICTION

THE ARMENIANS OF SINGAPORE: A SHORT HISTORY

By Nadia H. Wright

Entrepot Publishing/ Hardcover/ 144 pages/$29.90/Books Kinokuniya, Times and the Armenian Church (by appointment only)

Melbourne-based historian Wright takes a thorough look at Singapore's small but significant Armenian community and its contributions, which include icons such as Raffles Hotel, The Straits Times newspaper and Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid.

3 NON-FICTION

HARD AT WORK: LIFE IN SINGAPORE TODAY

By Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen

Ridge Books/ Paperback/416 pages/$38 before GST/Major bookstores from Aug 22

National University of Singapore assistant professor Sasges and photographer Ng record the interior lives of more than 50 Singapore workers, with a foreword from sociologist Teo You Yenn, author of the best-selling This Is What Inequality Looks Like.

The book gives voice to those you might pass every day but not notice - MRT station usher, cleaner and "ice cream uncle" - and to those in jobs you might not even know existed, such as academic ghostwriter, temple flower seller and Thai disco singer.

4 NON-FICTION

THE SOUND OF MEMORIES

By Cheong Suk-Wai

World Scientific/ Hardback/ 244 pages/ $49.22/Major bookstores

This insight into Singapore's history is distilled from close to 5,000 interviews that the National Archives of Singapore's Oral History Centre has collected since 1979.

From tycoons to tailors, chief executive officers to cooks, from everyday school life to living through the Japanese Occupation, these stories run the gamut from funny to bittersweet.

5 NON-FICTION

50 BEST KEPT SECRETS OF THE ISTANA

By Irene Hoe, Sharon Cheah and Wong Sher Maine, illustrated by Quek Hong Shin, Tiffany Lovage and Sokkuan Tye

The Istana/Paperback/80 pages a volume/$15 a volume before GST/ Major bookstores

In each of the three volumes of this series, readers can find 50 little-known facts about the Istana, the official residence of the Republic's President.

Learn about the Istana's history as a nutmeg plantation, who Singapore's first female full-time aide-de-camp was and how curious passers-by used to wander into the estate to check out the furniture.

6 FICTION

THE LOVING AND THE DEAD

By Catherine Lim

Marshall Cavendish/ Paperback/ 144 pages/$18.68 before GST/ Major bookstores

Lim, the grande dame of Singapore fiction, revisits her childhood fascination with ghost stories in these 18 supernatural tales.

In them, a young couple dies in a tragic trishaw accident, followed by the uncanny appearance of a newborn baby; an elderly maidservant refuses to be parted from her bed; and a journalist investigates the strange incidents around the death of a secondary school student.

7 PLAYS

COLLECTED PLAYS THREE

By Alfian Sa'at

Ethos Books/ Paperback/ 100 pages/ $26.75/ Books Kinokuniya, Grassroots Book Room, Wardah Books, BooksActually and Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop

The third volume of the Collected Plays series gathers four plays by Alfian on race and the Malay identity in Singapore, written and staged in Malay and translated into English for the first time.

These range from Nadirah, in which a young Muslim woman is shocked to find out her mother wants to marry a Christian; to Geng Rebut Cabinet (GRC), set in an alternate reality where the Malays are the majority race in Singapore and a political party, preparing for election, is concerned its minority Chinese candidate might be going rogue.

8 COOKING

WET MARKET TO TABLE

By Pamelia Chia

Epigram Books/ Paperback/ 294 pages/ $48.04/ Major bookstores

Chia, a food scientist-turned-chef who has worked at local restaurants Lollapalooza and Candlenut, takes novices through 25 uncommon ingredients you can find at the wet market - among them celtuce, fingerroot and tatsoi - and presents more than 80 recipes you can use them in.

Fancy an upside-down chrysanthemum lotus root cake or swordfish and soursop kueh pie tee?

Interspersed among the foodie tips are profiles of the stallholders Chia has formed relationships with, from fishmongers to medicinal herb vendors.

9 CHILDREN'S

GET CURIOUS!

By National Museum of Singapore

National Museum of Singapore/ Paperback/116 pages/$24.90/ Major bookstores

The museum launches its first official interactive family guide, with activities based on 40 artefacts over four galleries to get children exploring - from inspecting the fragment of the Singapore Stone in the Singapore History Gallery to looking for World War II heroine Elizabeth Choy's pink blouse, which she wore for 200 days while imprisoned by the Japanese.

10 COMICS

KOPI THIAM

By James Suresh and Adam Lee

Training Plus International/ Paperback/ 94 pages/$17.12/Books Kinokuniya, Times and Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop

More than 20 years after Suresh and Lee's popular comic strips ran in The New Paper and Malaysia's The Star, they are collected in this volume.

The comic follows the Thiams, who run a heartland coffee shop, but must compete with the growing number of modern cafes and Starbucks outlets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2019, with the headline '10 reads for August'. Print Edition | Subscribe