By Ana Ow
There’s much to be said for local talent in writing; some in this list have quietly produced award-winning work while one has become a national cause cèlébre (although his identity as a truly local author is also up for debate). Here is Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore’s pick of five books that – for various reasons – grabbed attention this year.
Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
A month before the movie’s August release, Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians crossed a milestone when it charted 50 consecutive weeks on The Straits Times Bestseller list for fiction – the first time for a Singapore-born author since the list’s inception in 2000. While the movie version met with mixed reviews, with many criticising the unrealistic portrayal of Singapore and lack of racial representation, the book – and its sequels China Rich Girlfriend (2015) and Rich People Problems (2017) – maintain their hold on Singapore readers.
Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story – Peh Shing Huei
The biography of Singapore’s second Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong tells the story of a man deemed to have “neither the connections nor the cunning to rise to the top”, but succeeded through a combination of “strength, wit and a political nous”. Penned by former Straits Times journalist Peh Shing Huei, sales passed the 23,000-copy mark less than six weeks after hitting the shelves. More than $2 million was raised at its charity launch in November.
State of Emergency – Jeremy Tiang
Following in the footsteps of Sonny Liew who wrote the award-winning The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, Jeremy Tiang’s book is a revisionist account of Singapore’s history. Like Liew’s graphic novel, State of Emergency won the Singapore Literature Prize and got its National Arts Council publishing grant revoked. The book was also shortlisted for Singapore Book Awards 2018 for Best Fiction Title and was a finalist for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016.
Princess Incognito: A Royal Pain in the Class – Neil Humphreys
Journalist and author Neil Humphreys celebrated his 20-odd years living in Singapore with the release of his 20th book, the first of a pre-teen series called Princess Incognito. Telling the story of Sabrina, a Princess who goes undercover in a working-class town, the series is heavily influenced by Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker trilogy and Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾, the author said, and delves into issues such as bullying, poverty and loneliness.
Ponti – Sharlene Teo
Named after the female ghoul from Malay legend, the book is a coming-of-age tale of two girls, Szu and Circe. Author Sharlene Teo received the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers’ Award of £10,000 for her manuscript even before publication, beating 884 other entries. English novelist Ian McEwan, who handed over the award for the unfinished manuscript, called it “a remarkable first novel in the making”.
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