As things wind down towards the end of the year, there's that little bit of breathing space and time to yourself (after all the Christmas shopping, that is). Whether a good read to invest the mind in or story to carry along for the vacation, here's a reading list of five under each fiction and non-fiction category from this year.
Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker
It is human to err, more so when numbers are involved. What most don’t know is that those mistakes can be funny. Probably because it is written by a former math teacher who is also a comedian, common erroneous assumptions are exposed in a casual, humorous narration that you wished you had in your arithmetic lessons back in school. Understand the relevance of math in the real world, plus, see if you can spot the three mathematical mistakes Parker leaves in his book to drive his point home.
Figuring by Maria Popova
The founder and curator of eclectic website Brainpickings traverses centuries to explore the life and times of key historical figures such as Emily Dickinson and Rachel Carson. Its context feels biographical, but Popova wants to encourage big thinkers to go with their gut and follow the footsteps of such dignitaries to reap rewards by taking the leap of faith. There’s still room for more influencers to change society through meaningful work after all.
Lost in a Good Game By Pete Etchells
Is it true that the negative impact of video game play outweighs the positive? Backed by data and science, psychologist Etchells challenged the unfavourable perception and biases of gaming and justified its formative benefits. Of course, he acknowledged and highlighted the unhealthy consequences too. While it’s not ideal to escape reality and problems through games, clocking tolerable screen time can provide a temporary relief when life gets harsh.
Talking to Strangers By Malcolm Gladwell
First impressions aren’t always accurate and one’s pride and ego often hinder the process of getting acquainted with the unfamiliar. In Gladwell’s pursuit for fair judgement, he looked into infamous cases such as Bernie Madoff and the Ponzi scheme, only to discover that an individual’s belief can mar the truth. Following that, stereotypes and blatant interpretations surfaced too. So, don’t ever think you know someone 100 percent as wariness is always present. The bottom line? Approach strangers with caution and humility.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world by Cal Newport
Most urbanites may feel antsy without a smartphone. Sure, staying connected to people is essential in modern times but can you use it out of necessity instead of habit? Newport acknowledges the necessity of digital life while keeping online cravings in check. Each log-in has to be intentional in order to add value to our lives. Otherwise, act on the book’s suggestions and pull out the plug if the recreational usage goes out of hand.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
When the door is shut, will a window open? For Offred, it spells uncertainty. This highly anticipated sequel to acclaimed dystopian bestseller The Handmaid’s Tale picks up the activities in the Republic of Gilead 15 years after Offred’s disappearance. To triumph the system is to know the system well. As a result, Atwood addresses and answers burning questions through the voices of three other female Gilead citizens. Will they be spared from tragedy instead?
The Plotters by Un-su Kim
Highly compared with Tarantino's style, this novel is one for fans of gritty Korean gang films. Schemes of triad leaders and those who carry out the dirty work are drawn out in a noir thriller telling of what happens when anti-hero and assassin Reseng finds a homemade bomb in his toilet bowl. It reads like a fable and takes the first few chapters to fully immerse into its version of the underworld, but when you delve in you begin to uncover who the ones pulling the strings really are.
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
If you find the name familiar, it's because the science fiction author's short story "The Story of Your Life" was the basis for the Academy Award-nominated movie Arrival. His second collection of stories likens to Black Mirror without a dark slant, but with equally provoking revelations and deeply sympathetic characters. Elegant and fascinating, the unique tales transports you to the future and the philosophical questions it entails.
You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian
Remember the viral short story, Cat Person? Its author is back with a collection of short stories that examines complex human feelings such as pain, pleasure and power. From a conniving couple who intimidate their victim into performing an abominable act to a birthday wish gone awry, the graphic and perverse actions of each central figure will draw out hidden emotions in yourself.
The Minorities by Suffian Hakim
Assuming living together means integration, civility among biracial residents in HDB estates is ensured, right? Trust mortality to screw life up as an unnamed Malay inventor residing in Yishun painstakingly yearns for his father’s spiritual presence after his death. To cope with his grief, the protagonist approaches three of his best friends—all disparate individuals of various ethnicities with their own dilemmas—in creating the Soundloft, a contraption that morphs dreams into music. What follows is the haunting of a formidable metaphysical entity and a slamming showdown that exhibits Hakim’s definitive humour.