Singapore Shelf

9 reads for June

Need new books to pass the time while waiting for the next phase of Singapore's Covid-19 recovery to roll around? In this monthly feature, The Straits Times lines up a set of free e-books, as well as three hot-off-the-press home-grown books for readers to dive into

Local publisher Ethos has released a bundle of six e-books that can be downloaded for free.
Local publisher Ethos has released a bundle of six e-books that can be downloaded for free.PHOTOS: ETHOS BOOKS
In the lyric essays of Desmond Kon's Found Texts Of The AAI Anon, Circa 3119, illustrated by the object photography (above) of Karen Kon, an artificial intelligence of a philosophical bent reflects on Singapore civilisation over a millennium.
In the lyric essays of Desmond Kon's Found Texts Of The AAI Anon, Circa 3119, illustrated by the object photography (above) of Karen Kon, an artificial intelligence of a philosophical bent reflects on Singapore civilisation over a millennium.

Free e-books from Ethos

FICTION

FARQUHAR

By Joshua Ip

FOUND TEXTS OF THE AAI ANON, CIRCA 3119

By Desmond Kon

SOME SAY, A TAPIR

By Alfian Sa'at, Christine Chia and Yong Shu Hoong

THE BONNIE, BONNIE BANKS OF SINGAPURA

By Colin Goh

WHY OUR GREAT LEADER WAS NOT SO GREAT AND NOT MUCH OF A LEADER

By Neil Humphreys

2719

By Gwee Li Sui

All from Ethos Books/E-books/25 to 65 pages/Free from Ethos Books

Given that all the bookstores in Singapore remain shut until further notice, getting new reads seems an increasingly tall order.

With that in mind, local publisher Ethos has released a bundle of six e-books that can be downloaded for free from its website.

These books reimagine Singapore's past and present, from Some Say, A Tapir, a poetic triptych on Sang Nila Utama's arrival on the island of Temasek in 1299, to farflung futures in Gwee Li Sui's 2719, in which the Srivijayan prince's descendants take to space and colonise a new planet.

Ethos publisher Ng Kah Gay says that it decided to release the e-books for free during the circuit breaker period to give readers "words and art and the capacity to re-vision and reimagine the landscape of our past, present and future".

They will continue to be available after the circuit breaker ends. He adds: "In this period of time, it is invigorating for Ethos to be able to partner (these writers) to provide flights of fancy, gifts to inspire the generous and imaginative beings within ourselves."

In the eight lyric essays of Desmond Kon's Found Texts, illustrated by the object photography of Karen Kon, an artificial intelligence of a philosophical bent reflects on Singapore civilisation over a millennium.

Poet Christine Chia, 41, gives a voice to Sang Nila's mother-in-law, the Bentan queen Wan Sri Benian, in If You Cannot Marry For Love, Marry For Silver, a set of poems from Some Say, A Tapir.

"I feel female historical figures are especially under-represented and the snippet I read about her life in a translated version of Sejarah Melayu (the Malay Annals) was fascinating," she says.

"I wanted to flesh out the wily survivor who not only survived the purported invasion by Sang Nila Utama, but also converted him into a son-in-law."

Coincidentally, half the books deal with the friction between colonial leaders Sir Stamford Raffles and Major-General William Farquhar, from Colin Goh's satirical children's rhyme to a blistering takedown by Neil Humphreys (who ironically played Raffles in Goh's 2002 movie Talking Cock).

"Great minds think alike," says Joshua Ip, 38, whose book of verse, Farquhar, is based on a work-inprogress musical he is co-writing.

It aims to give Singapore's first British Resident the Hamilton treatment, after Lin-Manuel Miranda's smash Broadway hit about American founding father Alexander Hamilton.


CHILDREN'S

ELIZABETH CHOY: HER STORY


PHOTO: ASIAPAC BOOKS

By Danny Jalil, illustrated by Zaki Ragman

Asiapac Books/Paperback/ 132 pages/$15.90 before GST/ Pre-order from Asiapac Books

World War II heroine Elizabeth Choy gets the graphic novel treatment from the team behind Lieutenant Adnan And The Last Regiment, a 2018 comic about Adnan Saidi, who fought the Japanese in the Battle of Bukit Chandu.

On Nov 15, 1943, Choy was invited by the Japanese to visit her husband in their prison.

Her "visit" turned into nearly 200 days of captivity, starvation and torture at the hands of the Japanese secret police, but she never confessed to being a British sympathiser.

Elizabeth Choy: Her Story, which will be printed and published later this month after the circuit breaker is lifted, is a tribute to Choy's wartime bravery, as well as her later contributions, such as being the only woman member in the Legislative Council in 1951.

NON-FICTION

BUTTON: THE HOKKIEN THERAPY DOG


PHOTO: EPIGRAM BOOKS

By Fiona Foo

Epigram Books/Paperback/ 128 pages/ $18.90 before GST/ Epigram Books online

This heartwarming tale by Foo, the founder of animal welfare group Hope Dog Rescue, features Button, a miniature schnauzer who, when the group found her, was so ill that she needed emergency surgery to save her life.

Button would go on to learn to understand Hokkien and be trained as a therapy dog, visiting hospice patients and bringing joy to many in their final days.

CHILDREN'S

I WONDER


PHOTO: LYNN WONG

By Lynn Wong, illustrated by Eugene Tse and RaeAnne Tse

E-book/24 pages/Free from I Wonder site

Wong, an early childhood educator, along with her husband and nine-year-old daughter, put together this hopeful picture book about life during the circuit breaker through a child's eyes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2020, with the headline '9 reads for June'. Subscribe