Popular atrium sale at United Square

I bought the 20 books shown above and listed below for S$2 each at a sale hosted by the United Square branch of the Singapore bookstore chain Popular. Two Singapore dollars is a tough price to beat, even for used books in the US! These books were new but remaindered or noticeably shopworn in some cases.

I think the one I was most excited about finding was China in Ten Words, which was on my Amazon wishlist. If I’d bought it new on Amazon, it would have cost what ten of these books cost me.

Windhaven by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
I already have an old mass-market paperback but I wanted a trade paperback version.

Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham
I wanted a trade paperback version to replace the bulky hardcover I already have.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I wanted this 50th anniversary edition for the cover. I have lots of different editions with different covers.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
I have already read it, but I didn’t own a copy.

Literary Singapore by The Literary Arts Team of the National Arts Council
As a member of the Singapore Writers’ Group, I wanted to learn more about other Singapore Writers.

Things That Suck by Jason Kaplan
So funny!

10,000 Extraordinary and Puzzling Words by Robert H. Hill
When I saw the word ‘coelacanth’ on the back cover, I had to have it.

We Love Toa Payoh by Urban Sketchers Singapore
I’ve admired these sketchbooks for a while but been unwilling to fork over the full price.

H Plus by Edward de Bono
As stated previously, this guy is a master of the short-but-expensive book, so I grab cheap copies when I can.

China in Ten Words by Yu Hua
I have wanted to read this for a while!

Stylized by Mark Garvey
This is a book about that much praised and maligned touchstone of writing manuals, Elements of Style by Strunk and White.

Tiger Babies Strike Back by Kim Wong Keltner
This book is an answer to Tiger Mother Amy Chua.

A Good Talk by Daniel Menaker
This is a book on an intriguing pop-psychology self-improvement topic.

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
I have one of their other books.

The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham
This is another strengths-based management book.

The Truth about You by Marcus Buckingham
This is another strengths-based management book.

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn by John C. Maxwell
Learning from mistakes is perhaps not just the best way to learn; maybe it’s really the only way to learn.

Bright Side Up by Amy Spencer
Positive psychology strikes again.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
I have his other books.

Bounce by Matthew Syed
This is an attractive green hardcover about competition, success, the importance of practice, or the myth of talent. Or something. Could be a rehash of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers but with even less science.

Six Frames by Edward de Bono

Reading Six Frames feels like reading a set of notecards. There’s a bit of text on each page, and the bits of text are arranged into chapters of related observations, but overall the content is choppy and sparse (see photos below). Since there are few pages and not much text per page, the book feels more like an essay than a book.

More below on what it’s about and photos of how sparse the text is, as well as when and why I read it.

Continue reading Six Frames by Edward de Bono

Born Liars by Ian Leslie

Some books about lying and deception say “lying is generally bad and sometimes very bad, so lie as little as possible,” and I find myself agreeing. Others, like Born Liars, say “lying is ubiquitous, natural, and inevitable, so there’s no need to feel either guilty about your lies or surprised when others lie,” and once again I find myself agreeing.

Surely I’m not just a fickle pushover? Let’s just say I’m approaching the topic of lying via the Hegelian dialectical method: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Some lies are harmful and should be avoided, while other lies should be considered normal or even healthy, and it’s important to know what strategy to use in various contexts. Ta-da!

For many facts and ideas that stood out as well as information on when and why I read the book, see below.

Continue reading Born Liars by Ian Leslie

Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu

In Chinese Whispers, a Brit with a British/Chinese family background tackles seven commonly believed myths about China:

  • China has an ancient and fixed culture.
  • The Chinese are irredeemably racist.
  • The Chinese don’t want freedom.
  • China has the world’s finest education system.
  • The Chinese live to work.
  • The Chinese have re-invented capitalism.
  • China will rule the world.

Unlike many Western authors who write about China, Ben Chu doesn’t think China necessarily poses an alarming threat to the West. Even if his conclusions turn out to be wrong or based on incomplete data, it’s healthy for someone to be out there countering the fears that spring purely from ignorance. The mob always says, “We don’t like what we don’t understand; in fact it scares us,” not just in Beauty and the Beast. This book can help us understand.

See below for what stood out and when and why I read the book.

Continue reading Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu

No One Understands You and What to Do about It by Heidi Grant Halvorson

The book No One Understands You and What to Do about It should be called Why No One Understands You and What to Do about It. The title sounds off balance because the first half is a clause and the second half is a noun phrase. Or perhaps the title should be something that doesn’t sound as self-obsessed or self-pitying, because the book is not so much a self-help book as it is a collection of fascinating psychological insights presented in a way that is both entertaining and informative.

When and Why I Read No One Understands You and What to Do about It

Reading First, Break All the Rules might make you think that people are so unique that we’re all somehow fundamentally unknowable. But apparently there are ways to mitigate this feeling of isolation.

Genre: non-fiction (management, psychology, self-improvement)
Date started / date finished:  18-Dec-16 to 20-Dec-16
Length: 191 pages
ISBN: 9781625274120 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2015
Amazon link: No One Understands You and What to Do about It

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Dreamland paints a gripping, believable picture of someone whose choices trap her (and the reader) in a world of hurt. This protagonist doesn’t save herself; she can’t.

When and Why I Read Dreamland

At some point I read or someone told me that Sarah Dessen was an especially articulate writer of contemporary teen fiction, so I started reading her books. Also, I liked the collage covers of the earlier editions. Dreamland is darker than the others.

Genre: fiction (YA)
Date started / date finished:  15-Dec-16 to 16-Dec-16
Length: 250 pages
ISBN: 9780142401750 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2000
Amazon link: Dreamland

Junior Page book sale at Novena

I bought these four books at Velocity in the hallway, where Junior Page had set up a bunch of tables offering discounted books for both children and adults.

When the price is “3 for $20 (or 1 for $10)”, buying four books is not optimal. Nevertheless, I wanted these four books, and only these four books.

Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu
I know a lot more about China than I used to, but in a lot of ways it’s still a black box. This book (which when I first saw it I thought was a novel) is devoted to busting some common myths that circulate in the way that the message does in the game of ‘telephone’—or, as the game is sometimes known, ‘Chinese whispers’.

No One Understands You and What to Do about It by Heidi Grant Halvorson
Reading First, Break All the Rules might make you think that people are so unique that we’re all somehow fundamentally unknowable. But according to this book, there are ways to mitigate this feeling of isolation.

Six Frames by Edward de Bono
I read and loved Six Thinking Hats. This is another of the many, many “creative thinking” books by a true master of the short-but-expensive book, Edward de Bono.

Born Liars by Ian Leslie
I was worried I’d already bought and read this book because it looked familiar. That was just because it has been on my wishlist, however. Glad to have bumped into it at a good price!

First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

Just another one of the thousands of management advice books, all clamoring to tell you the seven steps to success or some such? Maybe, but First, Break All the Rules speaks to me.

It’s a paean to individuals and their differences—or rather, their talents, a talent being defined as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” The book happens to be talking about individuals as employees, but the psychological insight applies equally outside of work.

The key insight—people are different—sounds obvious, but these authors have data (not cherry-picked anecdotes) to back up their conclusions. Furthermore, their advice is actionable. Moreover, Gallup’s strengths-based management agenda, born in the 90s, is still alive and kicking in 2016.

Read it or regret it!

See below for photos from the book, which, interestingly, before it belonged to me, belonged to an Arabic speaker… and, which judging by the flight ticket stub, was taken to Jeddah, Saudia Arabia! Take that, BookCrossing. Betcha this book has been on the Hajj.

Continue reading First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

Ruth Chew books from Japan

Below are photos of the three Ruth Chew books translated into Japanese and published in Japan in 2016, which I just ordered by mail from Amazon.jp.

The Amazon Japan website is easy to use (there’s a button to switch the site to English), and you can check out with USD, but now I keep getting emails (marketing emails, presumably) from Amazon in Japanese!

See below for more photos of these exotic books.

Continue reading Ruth Chew books from Japan

The Taken by Alice Clark-Platts

Because it’s 448 pages, maybe you think The Taken is a long book. Didn’t feel that way! It was unputdownable. This, from someone who doesn’t usually read murder mysteries.

This is Alice’s second book about DI Erica Martin. The first was Bitter Fruits.

Set in Durham, the books both feel very British in terms of punctuation, spelling, phrasing, and brand and place names… plus there’s lots of tea and biscuits. Makes me want to go drink a cuppa.

When and Why I Read It

I’m a member of the writing group the author founded, the Singapore Writers’ Group.

Genre: fiction (mystery / thriller)
Date started / date finished:  07-Dec-16 to 09-Dec-16
Length: 448 pages
ISBN: 9780718181109 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2016
Amazon link: The Taken