We know, you’re busy.
In this day and age, you barely have enough time for sleep, let alone reading. That’s probably why you’re reading this on your phone on your way to work, your only free moments.
But without reading, you run the risk of falling behind your peers and not understanding why the world works the way it does.
It may be hard to see how things like American tariffs on Chinese exports can influence your life, but it does impact Singapore’s economy, which in turn affects your life. And reading is the key to make the connections that make you go “Oh, I get it now.”
So what’s the secret to keeping up with the times? It’s deceptively simple. You don’t have to read everything that’s out there, just one good book will let you grasp the basics and enable you to keep up when other people are deep in conversation.
You won’t become an expert, but at least you’ll know enough to look like you know what you’re talking about. Because you will know what you’re talking about.
Book 1: Tall Order by Goh Chok Tong
To know where Singapore is going, you need to know where it’s been.
There are lots of books written by and written about our first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. But in a time of transition, when PM Lee Hsien Loong is looking to hand over the reins to his successor, it might be interesting to look at the story of the “first successor”, Goh Chok Tong.
Written by Singapore Literature Prize-winner Peh Shing Huei, the book covers the early years of the life of our Emeritus Senior Minister, from swimming in kampung rivers, working under Dr Goh Keng Swee, and bringing a young Lee Hsien Loong into politics.
While tales of Goh’s tenure as Prime Minister will have to wait for a sequel, it offers an invaluable look at the early years of Singapore politics.
Book 2: On China by Henry Kissinger
No matter your opinion on Dr Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State is one of the most experienced living people in geopolitics today.
In his book, On China, Kissinger covers modern Chinese history from the Taiping Rebellion to Hu Jintao, and relations with America from Nixon to Obama.
As one of the architects of the first successful détente between the two superpowers, Kissinger’s insights are important in a time when rising tensions threaten to undermine the peace and stability of the previous few decades.
Book 3: Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark
But modern China isn’t just about its government, bureaucrats and politicians.
The second biggest economy in the world is the big fish that the little fish swim around, Singapore included.
With businesses finding new opportunities in the growing markets of Shenzhen, Shanghai and Shenyang, the next century will be an Asian one.
And who better to symbolise this journey than one of the world’s richest billionaires, Jack Ma?
Everyone knows the tl;dr version of Ma’s story, from humble beginnings to creating a global commercial empire. But to understand the path he took, Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built is an accessible read that also serves as a snapshot of the transformation of the digital economy.
At under 300 pages, you could sneak this one in a couple of lunch breaks and be wowing colleagues with insights afterwards.
Book 4: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Speaking of superpowers, go back to America’s roots with a book about the 10 dollar founding father without a father.
Now famous as the inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit stage musical Hamilton, the book looks physically daunting at first glance, but the pages fly by.
Chernow writes about Hamilton’s life more like a drama series, focusing on the relationships he forged with people like Angelica “Work, Work” Schuyler, his wife Eliza "Best of Women" Schuyler, George “Here Comes the General” Washington, and his future killer, Aaron Burr (sir).
The Revolutionary War tends to get overlooked in the annals of U.S. history, but to learn more about how the country was born, Alexander Hamilton fits the bill perfectly.
At least, you’ll learn something about not throwing away your shot.
Book 5: The Sound of Memories, Recordings from the Oral History Centre, Singapore.
Our last suggestion for a book isn’t straightforward prose, but distilled from thousands of interviews with Singaporeans -- the collective memory of a people.
The Sound of Memories is a single narrative of the history of our island, woven from the myriad accounts of the lives of Singaporeans going back to 1930, even before there was a modern Singapore.
Reading a first-hand account of someone who was actually there is a next-level approach to history.
The interviewees come from every level of society, from CEOs to cooks. They recount seminal moments in Singapore’s history, like the Japanese Occupation, sporting triumphs, and their own daily lives.
It’s a reminder that the people made Singapore what it is today.
Read and win
If you’re wondering how you can afford all these books, the National Library Board and its libraries are at your service.
All of these titles are available at your nearest library, or you can also download the eBooks and audiobooks via the NLB Mobile app so you can take them on the go.
And if you take part in the National Reading Challenge, simply by registering and reading any book, you stand a chance to win a pair of Singapore Airlines Economy Class tickets to Brisbane, Australia in the lucky draw.
What’s better for a flight than a nice book to read?
How to become an NLB library member
Step 1: Become an NLB library member by signing up with your SingPass.
Step 2: Create a myLibrary ID.
How to take part in the National Reading Challenge
Step 2: Borrow at least one book or an eBook to earn one chance at the lucky draw per week.
Step 3: If you borrow both a book and an eBook, you get two chances. Patrons can only earn a maximum of two chances per week.
The contest lasts until Sept. 8, so start reading!
This sponsored article made the writer glad that he learned how to read.