Book celebrates - and critiques - Singapore

50 Things To Love About Singapore, a collection of 50 keenly observed essays about the nation, was launched yesterday evening at the Singapore Writers Festival.

The book contains essays by some of The Straits Times' most authoritative reporters on a wide range of subjects which are uniquely Singaporean, such as native wildlife, the grand dame of nightclubs, Zouk, and the certificate of entitlement system controlling the number of vehicles on the road.

The book is published by Straits Times Press, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings, to mark the nation's golden jubilee and The Straits Times' 170th anniversary next year.

The event, held at the Festival Pavilion on Singapore Management University's campus green, was attended by editor of the collection and senior writer Susan Long, Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez, as well as several writers who contributed to the book.

At the event, Ms Long spoke of how she and the writers put the collection together.

"We wanted the book to be authoritative, but accessible, so we tried to write as unofficiously as possible. We tried to be funny and witty where possible, and on occasion, we succeeded," she said, noting that various organisations have pre-ordered almost 2,000 copies of the book.

Mr Fernandez recalled how Ms Long first sold the idea of the book to him as a love story.

"She said, 'Don't worry, it won't be fawning, or cloying. It is the kind of love you have with parents, family or friends, the kind of love that lets you say things straight to their face, share in their joys and pains, and tells you when you have succeeded, but also when you made a hash of things.'

"Trying to strike that note of celebration and critique is quite difficult, but I thought if anybody could pull it off, it was Susan."

Senior correspondent Radha Basu and senior economics correspondent Fiona Chan, who both contributed multiple essays to the book, also fielded questions by Ms Long on the challenges faced in writing the essays.

Lawyer Vijai Parwani, who is in his 40s, bought a copy of the book for himself.

He said: "I like the writers, and I like their style of writing. I have seen their names in the papers, people like Rohit (Brijnath, senior writer) and Marc (Lim, sports editor). But what I have read from them is always in a news style, and I wanted to see what they have to say about Singapore from a more personal perspective."

  • The book is available at all leading bookstores at $25. To order, e-mail or call 6319-8347 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm.