A few weeks ago, I attended BookJio, a monthly book club organised by my friend Hilda to gather book lovers to discuss books related to social issues in Singapore.
Besides getting to visit the new Library @ Harbourfront, which has some of the most stunning views offered by any library in Singapore, it was also great to get to know Hilda better.
With her friends, Amelia, Zhong Han, Afzal and Amos, Hilda is part of a wave of youths who care and are passionate about effecting positive social change, in whatever way they can contribute.
They are all involved in OpenJio, a telegram channel that curates events related to social issues and been active in mobilising other youths to care.
For this month’s book club, we discussed Anthea’s book, published almost a year ago now (time flies!), 50 Shades of Love – which is part memoir, part life coaching, part nature and fully human.
Growing up, I’ve always felt an affinity for books.
As a child, the fantasy stories of Enid Blyton, mystery solving adventures of Nancy Drew and the magical world of Harry Potter kept me occupied for many weekend afternoons.
Later as a young adult, the wisdom of writers like Dr Viktor Frankl, David Brooks and Matthieu Ricard expanded my understanding of the richness of our human experience here on Earth.
Books let us travel without ever moving our feet, they allow us to live a thousand lives and in the words of Alberto Manguel:
So in our weekly email, I asked the good folks on our mailing list:
What book(s) moved you in 2019 and why?
For me, it’d be two:
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, which taught me that rest and work are not opposite but two points on the same line.
That we can only do good work with good rest and vice versa.
Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays In Resolving Conflict by Donna Hicks, which taught me to choose to see a person’s inherent worth as separate from their actions.
That dignity is a person’s birthright and it doesn’t have to be earned. All beings have value and are worthy of our care and attention.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive more responses than I expected, so I thought of writing this article to share all the wonderful book recommendations that came from the Good Souls on our mailing list.
Here they are, with a corresponding link to the book on Goodreads if you’d like to learn more. Perhaps you might find some new book recommendations for 2020!
Let’s start with Hilda, who inspired the email and this article itself! 5 books deeply moved her in 2019 and they seem to all explore the deeper aspects of what makes us human, with a good mix of local and overseas authors.
- With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix
- The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
- They Told Us To Move: Dakota—Cassia by Ng Kok Hoe and The Cassia Resettlement Team (Rocky Howe, Lim Jingzhou, Sammie Ng)
- 50 Shades of Love by Anthea Ong
- This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn
Avalyn, my former colleague has always been interested in the mindful moment and recently became a new mom to her first born son, En Zhe, a handsome and energetic 1 year old baby! Parenting can be frustrating and chaotic but Avalyn intentionally decided to be a more mindful mom with En Zhe.
The book that moved her in 2019 was The Montessori Toddler: A Parent’s Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being by Simone Davies
She shared that the book reminded her to stay grounded, present and be her child’s guide by facilitating and using the environment at home and outdoors. And to go slowly! Sometimes we really rush through days thinking of all the things we want to do, but forget to ‘be’.
Alyssa, who’s one of our Good Scribes and writes so beautifully shared about A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros, John Howe, Clifford Harper.
She had chanced upon this book (which was first written in French and then translated into English) and found the words and ideas to be so beautiful, humbling, innocent and critical at the same time. It really caught her by surprise.
And she shared a quote that deeply moved her from the book, which really piques my curiosity to read it too:
Yi Feng, a passionate youth mental health advocate shared about The Birthday Book Junior: Stories We Must Tell by Julie Chiang and Cherie Tseng. It’s a book compiling stories by children between 5 to 18 years old.
Presented in its raw voice, the essays and drawings of our children reminded Yi Feng of the wisdom children possess and gave a sobering reminder of how we can shape Singapore’s future.
The stories featured by 13 year old Xavier on his experiences of bullying, 16 year old Deb about her lived experiences with depression and 14 year old Carolina on her journey living with an eating disorder reminded him how our youths have resilience and the ability to overcome huge adversities.
Pem, who had a year of self-awareness, reflection and inner clarity, shared the books that encouraged him to show up with courage and compassion, understand the emotions he felt and discover what he is called to do:
Stanley, a friend of A Good Space who has supported us from the start, and generously shared his expertise in organisational design when we were charting the vision for A Good Space in June this year had his interest captured by Yuval Noah Harari this year.
He read both Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow and found his discussions on the trends of the world and threats and challenges that technology mounts to what makes us human to be both enlightening yet also troubling.
On a related note, he also picked up Deep Human: Practical Superskills for a Future of Success by Gregory and Crystal Lim-Lange which he felt to be a light, easy and accessible read that open the doors to five key human superskills we should all build up (especially in light of the future that Harari describes).
He’s also concurrently reading They Told Us To Move: Dakota—Cassia by Ng Kok Hoe and The Cassia Resettlement Team (Rocky Howe, Lim Jingzhou, Sammie Ng) that Hilda suggested earlier too.
Amelia, one of the founders of the OpenJio platform mentioned earlier, shared her favourite book at the moment: High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way by Brendon Burchard.
An easy read, she loves how he starts each chapter with a story that offers insightful perspectives and has a lot of tools that we can use for reflection and self-improvement.
Yee Hui, a frequent attendee of many events here in A Good Space, shared about The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism by Joel Solomon on how capitalism is evolving into a force that can restore the planet, transform the global economy, and bring justice to people.
Which books recommended by our Good Souls resonated with you the most?
What book(s) moved you in 2019?
Share them with me below. I’d love to hear them!