House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors and I have two whole stacks of her books to prove it. Which makes it even more difficult to understand why it took me so long to finally start reading this book. It has been sitting at the bottom of my bookshelf for a few years now. I finally made it one of my new year resolutions to finish reading all the books in the “to be read” stack. 

The moment I start reading, I was hooked (that happens everytime I read Jodi Picoult books). Jodi Picoult has a way of talking about delicate subjects in the form of a novel. She explores moral dilemmas that can happen to anyone, including you and me. 

House Rules is talking about Asperger, a high-functioning form of autism. Sure, I have heard about autism but I never knew there is a type of autism called Asperger. This is something entirely new to me and it is fascinating to read about it.

Maybe every one of us has some degree of autism, be it Asperger or something else. I definitely fit into quite a few of the descriptions for Asperger. 

Get House Rules by Jodi Picoult.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I have read about this Japanese cleaning expert called Marie Kondo in a magazine some years ago. It was interesting but I wasn’t really invested because my house is pretty tidy.

I was pretty surprised when I saw Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic Effect of Tidying Up” on The New York Time’s Best Seller list.

Although I consider my room pretty tidy, but I do realize that it gets messy pretty quickly and I have to keep clearing. I decided to read and try the KonMari method which is supposed to lead to lasting results. Apparently, none of her clients have lapsed.

The KonMari method believes in a category-by-category and “spark joy” systems. She gives the reasoning behind them and they are pretty convincing. She also emphasizes on working in this sequence of categories – “clothes first, then books, papers, komono (mischellany), and lastly, mementos”.

I have yet to try the KonMarie method of tidying up. I will let you know if it is really as magical as everyone claims it to be.

Get The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.


Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark

I am sure everyone has heard of Alibaba. I am sure everyone has heard of Ma Yun, or Jack Ma. Everyone knows that Ma Yun was an English teacher who went on to create one of the biggest e-commerce companies ever created. 

But no one knows all the nitty-gritty details of the process. 

Duncan Clark will tell you everything he knows about Ma Yun in this book. Duncan Clark does not know Ma Yun personally, he wrote this book with the information he gathered when he served as an advisor to Alibaba and the various interviews he conducted. 

People who have it in them to do great things show such traits at a young age. You will understand what I mean after reading this book. 

Get Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark.


Becoming by Michelle Obama

I was looking for something different to read so I turned to my trusted source for reading materials – The New York Times Best Sellers.

Although I am not an American, I have read about Obama Barack in the newspapers and he is the first US president I really liked. It feels like he genuinely wanted to make America better and he is very real and warm. The photographs taken by Pete Souza, the Chief Official White House Photographer for Obama, helped to cement that impression. Obama Barack is very devoted to his wife, Michelle Robinson, which in turn made me interested in her as well.

This book really shows me that the way the parents treat their children really affects the children for the rest of their lives. Michelle’s parents lets her make all her own decisions, trusting that she will make the right choice. They listen to her talk about anything and everything, giving advise only when absolutely necessary. They may not be well-off but they try their best to give her everything she needs.

It is interesting, how Obama seemed to slip into her life so effortlessly. It’s interesting to know that a successful lawyer like Michelle Robinson, realized at some point that the work she is doing is not giving her fulfillment, just like nursing is not fulfilling to me anymore.

Reading about how Obama Barack ran for presidency and Michelle’s role in it gives me an understanding of politics I did not have before. It makes politics more personal and less foreign. It made me realize that politics can bring about a lot of positive changes, in the hands of the right people. It also made me realize that the phrase “you have to lose some to win some” is also true of politics. In his running for presidency, Michelle and Obama lost their personal live but they helped millions of Americans. There is always a trade-off.

The part of the book that resonated with me the most the the part where Michelle started thinking about going into the public service. I am a nurse and I am also seriously considering changing to a job where I can make a real difference in the life of many people.

I end off my review with a quote from the epilogue of the book:

“It’s all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.”

Get Becoming by Michelle Obama.


Animal Farm by George Orwell

I read this book for English Literature in secondary school but I couldn’t understand what the author was implying. Plus, we dissected each and every sentence in the book which took the joy out of reading the book.

Now that I have read a great deal of books and understand many more things, I see that the author was trying to say.

The author cleverly portrays Communism using animals in the Animal Farm. The pigs are the “authority” while the rest of the animals are the naive “citizens”. The boar named Neapolitan became leader by secretly rearing the puppies birthed by a dog in the animal farm. He used the grown dogs into scaring all the other animals into sumisssion. The other boar named Snowball was labeled as “traitor”. Everything that went wrong at the Animal Farm was blamed on the “traitor” Snowball. The pigs overthrew the Commandments one by one by secretly adding words that justify their actions. Since none of the animals can read, there were no objections. 

The pigs and dogs did no work yet they eat the best most food, did deals with humans and eventually started to walk on two legs. Their greed are camouflaged by “they are doing it for Animal Farm”. 

George Orwell is an excellent writer who ingeniously shows how Communism really works through the animals on Animal Farm. 

Get Animal Farm by George Orwell


Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I first read this book when it was published in 2006. I lent the book to my colleague and she never returned it (but she insisted that she has returned it to me). I wanted to reread this book so I got the Kindle version. 

Since then, “Eat, Love, Pray” created a worldwide phenomenon and it has apparently helped millions of women all over the world. Many women have since embarked on their own ELP trip.

I totally get why this book is so successful. Many of the things that the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, experiences resonates with readers all over the world. Every year, thousands if not millions of couple divorce, and many of those women have probably experienced some of that hopelessness that Elizabeth Gilbert experienced. 

For me, the part that resonates with me the most is the part where we (Elizabeth Gilbert and me) realization about mortality. She realized it when she was 9 years old turning 10, I realized it much later at 29 years old turning 30. I think it has something to do with the transition from the 20s to the 30s that shocked me how fast time passes. Wait, maybe I had it much younger. Since young, my life motto has always been “experience as much of life as possible” or something to that effect, I must have had this mortality realization for me to have this life motto? Anyway, from then on, I kept thinking of how fast each day, each week, each month, each year passes and how I have wasted each day. I can’t do much about weekdays when I have to spend the majority of my time working, but I have major issues with weekends where I can distribute time as I like. I end almost every Sunday with the regret and feeling that I wasted yet another Sunday, no matter how much I have done that day. 

According to this book “according to the mystics, this search for divine bliss is the entire purpose of the a human life”. In that case, should I also go to India for a retreat? I would definitely like to do that some day, but right now I think what I need to do the most is to swim/cycle as the doctor advises and get my back pain and knee pain sorted out. I also need to restart praying to God and ask God what I should be working as because I am not happy at my current workplace. According to this book (and I believe this wholeheartedly), I don’t have to be a Christian to pray, you can pick your religion (for those of us who are previleged not to be born into a family with strict religious ties).  

Most of all, I think the message that “Eat, Love, Pray” is trying to tell me (and anyone who read this book) is: no matter what you have been try, you can always rebuild your life back. What a comforting thing to know. 

Get Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.


Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

It has been many years since the last Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film adaptation has been aired, which marks the end of the Harry Potter and I am still having “Harry Potter Withdrawal Symptoms”. 

I was really happy to see “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child” but I wasn’t too sure about it being in manuscript form. I took a chance and bought the Kindle ebook. 

To tell you the truth, it is quite a letdown. It’s almost like an anti-climax to the whole Harry Potter trilogy. Harry Potter’s son Albus Severus wants to prove himself so he bring his new-found friend, Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpious Malfoy, on a journey through time. In the end, they did thaw Delphi’s plan and stopped her, but it still feels unnecessary. 

If the original Harry Potter cast really performs the play according to the manuscript, I probably will buy a ticket to watch it, but I am going to put it aside and re-read the Harry Potter books to console myself. 
Get Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling.


Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain’s death from suicide on 8th June caused quite a stir and many people are talking about it on Facebook.

I have seen Anthony Bourdain on television a few times but I am not really interested in celebrities. 

Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential caught my attention when it first came out in 2000 and I was very interested in reading it but I never quite got around to that. Someone on Facebook wrote something about this book and I remembered that it is actually written by Anthony Bourdain. I promptly bought the ebook on Amazon and I finished it in less than a week. 

Besides television shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Masterchef and romanticised versions shown in Korean dramas, I have never stepped into a kitchen and seen what really happen behind those doors. Kitchen Confidential gives me a look into the real kitchen, where foul language, sex and drugs are a large part of it. It is a crazy world in there where they have their own lingo, where blistered hands filled with hideous constellations and angry red welts are a sign of pride. 

This book is part autobiography and part non-fiction, starting off with Anthony Bourdain describing how and why he got into the restaurant business and became a chef to showing how the restaurant business is really run and why many of them fail.

It is a hugely entertaining read. Anythony Bourdain is hugely entertaining with a wicked sense of humour. Just when you think you know it, he proves you wrong all over again.

Get Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.


Complete Notes from Singapore The Omnibus Edition by Neil Humphreys

After reading all three books, I have declared myself a Neil Humphreys fan. He talks about topics which I have always thought to myself but never had the guts to say out. I am humbled that an ang moh who stays 10 years in Singapore knows more about Singapore than me who have stayed in Singapore for more than 20 years. I applaud Neil Humphreys for his keen sense of observation and humor, turning peculiar residents of Toa Payoh into endearing characters. 

I was sad that he was leaving Singapore but I know that he returned in 2012 and have since produced two more books, Return to a Sexy Island: Notes from New Singapore and Saving a Sexier Island: Notes from Old Singapore. Till then, I am going to look for that Sembawang Hot Spring. 

Get Complete Notes from Singapore The Omnibus Edition by Neil Humphreys.