SINGAPORE - Need new books to pass the time while waiting for the next phase of Singapore's Covid-19 recovery to roll round? In this monthly feature, The Straits Times lines up a set of free e-books, as well as three other hot-off-the-press home-grown books for readers to dive into.
ETHOS FREE E-BOOKS
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
By Gwee Li Sui
Ethos Books/ E-books/ 25-65 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 their website.
These books reimagine Singapores 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 far-flung 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 they 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 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-in-progress 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.
ELIZABETH CHOY: HER STORY
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.
BUTTON: THE HOKKIEN THERAPY DOG
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.
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.