WEEK 20 - Scales & Archers: Five (5) Books I’ve Been Reading Lately

Week 20 and that means we’re almost done with May. Seeing how my listicle posts tend to focus on Top 5s, and since May is coming to an end, here are the five books I’ve been reading lately. 

Week 20 and that means we’re almost done with May. For this week, I thought to look at a list that I haven’t asked myself for the year. Given how busy life has been, I would be fortunate to finish reading a book within a month. And that’s with intention and depth. 

Seeing how my listicle posts tend to focus on Top 5s, and since the fifth month of the year is coming to an end, here are the five books I’ve been reading lately:

After the Inquiry

“-too many people are susceptible to astrological thinking, liable to read imaginary constellations into any scattershots of dots.” (Jolene Tan, p. 16) 

After ‘Band Eight’ and ‘18 Walls’, this thriller came as a welcome title into my to-read pile. Charting the narration of high level bureaucrat Teck, as he investigates a delicate situation with the local authorities, this book is a great example of an unreliable narrator, with moments that are relatable. Warning - feelings of disappointed (though unsurprising) may erupt the more you get through the book.  My longer, more recent review of this book can be found on my Instagram

‘After the Inquiry’ was written by Jolene Tan and published by Ethos Books. 

Welcome to Night Vale Episode Volumes

“And if you have ever wondered what being a freelance artist is truly like - always remember that the sweetest gig is the next one.” (THE BUYING OF LOT 37, p. 30)

If you’ve heard of the fiction podcast ‘Welcome to Night Vale’, their scripts for the first four years of broadcast, together with scripts from their live shows, messages from the different people who have worked on this podcast, and forewords have been published into four individual volumes. Admittedly, I have loads to catch up with this series, but these volumes bring back the mood of this little desert town, where every conspiracy theory is true. 

But what keeps me going back to the volumes, however, are the snippets that happen in between each episode’s scripts. These spaces are where the writers, producers, and even guest voices of the ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ podcast come in and speak about their experiences working with creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, or the inspiration behind certain episodes. 

One particular note I appreciated was Jeffrey’s narration of his journey of having Night Vale as a side gig, to quitting his job and going into Night Vale full-time. While I would admit to have a personal interest in knowing how he did so, the real, raw stories that come through makes the whole experience more relatable and encouraging - that a production that started as a storytelling experiment that was just so true and authentic to the creators could blossom.

The Welcome to Night Vale episode volumes were compiled by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and published by Harper Perennial. 

Beauty Queens of Bishan

“‘Yes, my client win. And when she win, you can come begging ME for MY secrets and I will never tell YOU.’

April stood up too, ignoring the other six sets of clutching hands. ‘If your client can win, I can close my shop already.’

‘On,’ said Gurpreet swiftly.” (p. 212) 

I bought this book on a whim and got sucked in a lot quicker than I expected. While the auntie talk and neighbourhood drama within this book is something many of us might have too much of in our daily lives, the hilarity between the two rival beauty parlours in the middle of Singapore’s heartlands is too engaging to just look away. 

Imagine the conversations you experience between kopitiam uncles and neighbourhood aunties, then throw in a national beauty competition with entrants who are looking to embrace themselves for who they are a lot more. For the bookworm and the kaypohs, this light-hearted read still teaches us the value of loving yourself, and that beauty is still relative.

Beauty Queens of Bishan was written by Akshita Nanda and published by Penguin Random House Asia. 

What have you been reading / listening (audiobooks)? Share them in the comments - would love to see what stories speak to you!

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The White Book

“... stories of resilience and strength, of finding solidarity in community, stories about recovery and relapse, and how that can look different for everyone.” (p. 5) 

I got this book from an introductory event from a mindset / creative entrepreneur mastermind I joined earlier in the year and it felt like a gift from the universe. With stories from psychiatrists, counsellors, the healers, and the healing, The White Book is a platform for individuals going through their healing journey on the mental health front. 

At the same time, these stories bring out the commonality of mental health issues, making the topic a lot more human, a lot more relatable. Going through the various perspectives brought about here, one can be encouraged and inspired by another’s journey. Hopefully, many will alsol better understand the importance of a healthy mental state, and the building of circumstances to better support the mind and soul of humanity as a whole.  

The White Book was edited by Xiangyun Lim, and self-published with the support of various individuals and organisations. 

Utopia for Realists

“... the drawbacks of a ‘scarcity mentality’ are greater than the benefits. Scarcity narrows your focus to your immediate lack, to the meeting that’s starting in five minutes or the bills that need to be paid tomorrow. ‘Scarcity consumes you,’ Shafir explains. ‘You’re less able to focus on other things that are also important to you.’” (p. 57) 

This is a book that bears re-reading. 

When I was 11, I somehow understood that the way of the world was going to be one of constant fatigue and waiting for the next public holiday / weekend. Life was going to be a cycle of being as productive as your body would allow, and then some more, before trying to keep your surroundings together before collapsing into bed, waiting for the alarm to wake you up again when you’re needed but not ready or rested. 

‘We don’t have a choice - that’s the way life is,’ - we’re often told. 

While I’m not promising that this book is THE solution, it’s good to see working alternatives and the evidence behind them, especially after decades of people going, ‘This is the best way because there’s no other better alternative’. Physical, systemic changes aside, the mindset shifts you can take away from this book would be useful in more ways than one. For example, shifting from the mindset of scarcity to one of abundance already provides a bright light of hope moving forward. 

Utopia for Realists was written by Rutger Bregman, and published by Bloomsbury. 

And that’s it from me. See you all next week! 

Do you have a book you’d like to recommend or talk about? Share them in the comments!

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