Singapore Shelf

6 reads for October

NUS science historian John van Wyhe at a cave in Sarawak.
NUS science historian John van Wyhe at a cave in Sarawak.PHOTO: COURTESY OF JOHN VAN WYHE
WANDERLUST By John van Wyhe.
WANDERLUST By John van Wyhe.
DO I MATTER? By Wong Lai Chun.
DO I MATTER? By Wong Lai Chun.
MOST EXCELLENT AND LAMENTABLE By Jason Erik Lundberg.
MOST EXCELLENT AND LAMENTABLE By Jason Erik Lundberg.
KEYS OF ARCHELLOS By Eunice Li-Tan.
KEYS OF ARCHELLOS By Eunice Li-Tan.
MY SUN, MY SUN By Malvina Kang, illustrated by Haw Shing Yee.
MY SUN, MY SUN By Malvina Kang, illustrated by Haw Shing Yee.
#FLUSHABLEFASHION By Jian Yang.
#FLUSHABLEFASHION By Jian Yang.

In this monthly feature, Arts Correspondent Olivia Ho lines up hot-off-the-press Singapore books that readers can dive into

1. NON-FICTION

WANDERLUST

By John van Wyhe

NUS Press/ Paperback/ 316 pages/ $29.96/ Books Kinokuniya, BooksActually and Littered With Books

In the mid-19th century, tourist Ida Pfeiffer was one of the most famous women in the world.

The Austrian circled the globe alone - twice - at a time when it was unheard of for women to travel solo. She pioneered budget travelling and survived storms at seas, malaria, robbers, cannibals and other myriad dangers. But today, few know her legend.

Dr van Wyhe, a National University of Singapore senior lecturer, encountered Pfeiffer while researching naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who visited Singapore around the same time as Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer loved Singapore and visited more than once, going on a hunting trip and staying on Pulau Ubin.

Her travel diaries are not a perfect record - she misspells several local names, such as the Kallang river as "Gallon", but Dr van Wyhe believes they nevertheless provide an important window into what Singapore was like in those days.

"It's a world that has gone. Back then, Singapore was a mixture - a busy metropolis, the busiest harbour in Asia, but not that far away, there was this wild jungle which she loved.

"She was the very beginning of tourism - travel then wasn't really possible because there weren't tours, so she just did it herself."

2 . NON-FICTION

DO I MATTER?

By Wong Lai Chun

Epigram Books/Paperback/192 pages/$16.90 before GST/ Major bookstores

Wong is senior assistant director at the Samaritans of Singapore, a non-profit organisation focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention. In this book, she examines the factors that influence one's self-esteem and how one can build a foundation of resilience.

3. FICTION

MOST EXCELLENT AND LAMENTABLE

By Jason Erik Lundberg

Epigram Books/Paperback/192 pages/$18.90 before GST/ Major bookstores

This collection gathers 14 stories, including The Stargirl And The Potter, in which an unearthly girl with luminescent skin appears in town; and Slowly Slowly Slowly, in which the patients of an eldercare home are transformed into slow-moving animals to extend their lifespan.

4. CHILDREN'S

KEYS OF ARCHELLOS

By Eunice Li-Tan

Armour Publishing/Paperback/328 pages/$15.94 before GST/Books Kinokuniya and Popular

In the third instalment in the Luminous Sword fantasy trilogy, hero Jusvin searches for Archellos Land's nine magical keys and a locket and meets different peoples such as giants and the citizens of the Undersea Sediment.

5. CHILDREN'S

MY SUN, MY SUN

By Malvina Kang, illustrated by Haw Shing Yee

Math Paper Press/Hardcover/24 pages/$22 before GST/ Books Kinokuniya and BooksActually

Kang, founder of studio Hom Yoga, pens mindfulness books for kids. With this book, which is inspired by the sun, child readers can mimic the illustrated yoga poses.

6. ART

#FLUSHABLEFASHION

By Jian Yang

Marshall Cavendish/Hardcover/144 pages/$37.38 before GST/Major bookstores

Jian Yang, the world's top male collector of Barbie dolls, started making dresses for his dolls out of tissue paper while on a business trip in 2017 and posting his creations on Instagram, before flushing them down the toilet. He documents this transient couture, from ball gowns to kimonos to a mermaid tail, in this book.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2019, with the headline '6 reads for October'. Print Edition | Subscribe