Shentonista Recommends — Books for August

One of the rare luxuries of any working life is to be able to find the time to sit down and read for pleasure and without distraction or interruption. The weekends are a perfect time for this, and we hardly need any more reason to rejoice and curl up with a good book. We find it’s important to take time to slow down, fully immerse yourself and invest in a different world, think different thoughts, and see things in a different light, and it seems like the people we speak to on the ground are on the same page. Here are some reading recommendations from our Shentonistas:

The Tommy Koh Reader: Favourite Essays and Lectures by Tommy Koh 

With National Day just around the corner, this book seems like the perfect homage. Professor Tommy Koh is a household name in Singapore, one of the true pioneers of his generation, and this compilation of essays and lectures from his high-flying career serves as a timely reminder of lessons across his experience and history. The first two chapters of this book are heartfelt and personal, with Professor Koh’s tributes and eulogies to and memoirs of immediate family, friends, and former presidents. His writings on his life and career give readers an insight into his personal life, before delving into broader and more intellectual topics like diplomacy, international law, art, culture and heritage, and nature. We find the book to be a good mix of politics and the arts, of academic discussion as well as individual insight.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman 

It’s often a book that starts it all, and American Gods is no different. If you aren’t already watching the TV series, starring Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, and Crispin Glover, among others—or even if you already are—go back to the roots of this Americana epic by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s penchant for and mastery of the fantastical is at full force in this hefty tome, which tells the tale of Shadow Moon, an ex-convict who gets caught in the crossfire of a war between the old gods and the new. Whether you view the story as an allegory of the biblical idols of the modern world, a cautionary tale of what you choose to believe and/or forget, or just an exhilarating ride through Gaiman’s madcap imagination, American Gods is an outlet of escapism from the everyday.

Buddha’s Little Instruction Book by Jack Kornfield 

Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma, and India, and has been teaching meditation worldwide since 1974. In this pocket-sized book, Kornfield compiles verses and quotations from Buddha and his disciples, covering everything from advice on individual awareness, to easy-to-follow meditations for sitting, walking, and eating. While not everyone might ascribe to the religion, these thought-provoking quotes for self-improvement are a great way to start each day, and the book is highly readable for anyone with little time to spare from his/her busy schedule, or, for that matter, has too short an attention span.

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

There is little wonder why Lean In, written by Facebook’s COO and one of Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women In Business, has been and continues to be such a talked-about read. The title itself encapsulates the book: about being assertive, and moving forward, instead of leaning back and letting others take lead. Here, Sandberg makes the case for women in the workplace, redefining the concept of the “designated parent”, and giving advice on how women can take charge of their own careers. While a big chunk of the book is centred around women, this is by no means a ladies-only book—it gives an insight into some of the challenges that women face in their various roles, allowing both men and women to work together in the office and at home to alleviate these challenges.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 

Apocalyptic, dystopian novels are nothing new; the genre has become quite oversaturated of late, particularly in the young adults section. What makes Station Eleven different, then? The premise sounds familiar—a global flu epidemic has wiped out 99% of the human population, and whatever is remaining of humanity is left to fend for themselves—but St John Mandel’s book suggests that this is more about individual survival, rather than the save-the-world, Chosen One themes that plague many other books in the genre. A review by The Guardian sums it up best; that Station Eleven “is not so much about apocalypse as about memory and loss, nostalgia and yearning”—universal sentiments that are relevant to anyone, anywhere.

These books can be found in various bookstores around Singapore, but we’d suggest paying a visit to the nearest National Library branch near you, or gather some friends to do a book swap. You just might discover something you might not have picked up in the first place.

Have a book you’d like to recommend? We’d love to know—leave a comment below, or write in to

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