Get this for someone who ... November 27, 2016 11:36

A festive gift guide to help you decide what to give to who this year.

Get this for someone who likes to post photos of buildings on Instagram: Faith in Architecture, edited by Gul Inac

Architectural fanatics will be head over heels for 50 new places to explore and Instagram with Faith in Architecture.

Get this for someone who is always looking for the best buy: Union, edited by Alvin Pang and Ravi Shankar

UNION : 15 Years of Drunken Boat, 50 Years of Writing From Singapore is an impressive tome collecting over 120 of the best writings from Singapore and America (curated from Drunken Boat, an online literary journal). The best of the best, for the one who researches hours on end before they buy anything.

Get this for someone who is Cabinet-material 

For the friend who gets into intense discussions about parliamentary sessions, and always has ideas about how Singapore can be a better place, The Birthday Book, will be a dream-come-true of finding like-minded individuals. 51 others, to be exact.

Also consider: Troublemaker

Get this for someone who is in the process of applying for a BTO: Dream Storeys by Clara Chow

Get ready for more quizzes, questions, and paperwork in the title story of this stunning debut by Clara Chow. A quirky reinvention of Build-To-Order (BTO) as we know it—and check out the bonus: no waiting time needed!

 Get this for someone who needs to get out of their comfort zone

Sometimes, strength is drawn from knowing others have been there and made it through. The twenty-seven stories in Body Boundaries spans three generations of women's experience navigating life and growing into the person they are today.

Also consider: First Fires

Get this for someone who is a philandering scion of a tycoon

Just for laughs, as one of the protagonist is a philandering son of a tycoon. The Inlet is, however, based loosely on the true story of a Chinese lady drowning in Sentosa Cove in 2010.  

Get this for someone who is a cheong-ster

Whether your friend is a nightclub chiong-ster, or an everyday life chiong-ster, we think there'll be something for them in this epic 3-in-1 box set of Singapore humour.

Get this for someone who is an adventure seeker

For that one friend who would be ready to fly to the moon with you anytime, if you said you have the equipment and know-how. this is how you walk on the moon will take them into 25 different realms, and keep them entertained till you find that space machine.

Get this for someone who is always on the go

 For the friend who's always travelling to places, and feels straddled between the universes they've been in. Unhomed and Crossing Universes may be a thin chapbook set, but don't let its thickness (and the endearing bear on the cover) fool you for its heavy works. 

Get this for someone who aims to be a plant

For the nature-lover, or someone who desires to be patient like plants (growing at the same place and at their own pace). Or perhaps, they often wish that they could photosynthesize to make their own food. From Walden to Woodlands affirms the awe for plants and nature.

Get this for someone who needs a carthartic experience

For a friend who could use a metaphor or imagery to identify with things happening in their lives. Separation weaves the divide of Singapore and Malaysia with Christine's personal experience of her parents' divorce.

Also consider: Pulse, Me Migrant

Get this for someone who likes myths

For the friend who's not only excitable about all kinds of mythology, but is a walking encyclopedia of it too. In 3, Krishna Udayasankara—master of mythofiction—reimagines the life of Sang Nila Utama.

Get this for someone who regularly indulges in a dose of "The Good Old Days"

Set in a kampung on the verge of being pushed out to make way for land developments, Cherry Days will bring them back to the joy of climbing trees to pluck fruits, and how things used to cost cents. 

Also consider: My Mother-In-Law's Son, When A Flower Dies

Get this for someone who loves void decks and rooftops

Or if they've stolen pebbles from neighbours' plants when they were growing up. Gone Case is a non-cringing story of growing up, and growing up in the heartlands.

Also consider: Corridor

Get this for someone who likes "magic tricks"

The bonus of Smokescreens and Mirrors? Secrets behind the execution of these "magic tricks".

Also consider: Beyond the Blue Gate

Get this for someone who loves the naked truth

And especially if they are skeptical of the local newspapers. Riot Recollections charts the voices of people present at the Little India Riots to debunk the idea that all migrant workers were part of the mob, or want to incite unrest. 

Also consider: Living In A Time of Deception, The Invisible Force

Get this for someone who is a rebel at heart

And fights with a fiery passion for the things they believe in, like our Kampung Boy, M Ravi.

Also consider: Priest in Geylang

Get this for someone who has a love/hate relationship with their father

And not just fathers in the biological sense. Godsmacked explores the impact of LKY on the one's childhood and world views. 

Get this for someone who is against the construction of the Cross Island Line

And all MRT/LRT lines which plans to cut across nature reserves and heritage sites. Spaces of the Dead will be an eternal memory of the spaces which existed once before.

Also consider: Remains, World War II @ Bukit Brown, Tigers in the Park

Get this for someone who always complains about Singapore but will never leave it

Because the city's quirks and imperfections make it home after all (even if they deny it). There is No Other City.

Also consider: This Is Not A Safety Barrier

5 books about growing up in Singapore August 09, 2016 11:29

 National Day 2016 Spotlight

Part of the Ethos Books National Day 2016 Spotlight (sale ends 21 Aug) 

When it comes to memory, it's natural to recall the big milestones and indulge in nostalgia: childhood games; the terror of PSLE; the joy of the first job; holding your first newborn... the rest of the details are lost and scattered in the wind of memories blowing by. But look closely at the discreet details of our lived experiences; each one moulds us like the single, gentle stroke of the potter’s finger, turning clay into pottery—the particular neighbourhood you grew up in, your parents' beliefs, the band of friends you hanged out with when you were 17…

Here are 5 titles that tunes the mind to focus on the details of growing up in Singapore:

1. Pulse by Lydia Kwa

Tucked neatly along Joo Chiat Road is an old and boarded up Cosmic Pulse, the only outfit in the area that sold traditional Chinese medicine back in the day. Though it has faded with age, Natalie cannot forget the childhood she spent growing up there among the shelves of herbs, the chanting of her fortune-telling grandmother, and the asthmatic rasp of her Conrad-quoting grandfather. She mustn’t.

We find ourselves drawn into Natalie’s story as she retraces her life in the past in order to understand the death that has assaulted her in the present. Accompanying her, we revisit Singapore through the eyes of someone who has spent almost twenty years beyond its shores, practicing acupuncture far, far away in Canada. Natalie recounts her memories without waxing lyrical about ‘the old times’ in Singapore. Instead, we see how each precious detail of her pastfrom her habit of peeling the skin off her hands to her gawky but heartwarming crush on her classmate Faridahholds a key to answering the mystery at the core of Pulse.

The dark truth that was bound up while she was growing up, must become unbound in order for her to set herself free.

2. Gone Case by Dave Chua

One phrase that often pops up about Dave Chua’s novella is “quietly disturbing”. What does that say about this story of a young boy, living in Singapore’s heartlands, and going to take his PSLE in a year’s time?

Yong is at the top of his class in Primary 5. His best friend compulsively steals stones out of their neighbour’s garden. His grandmother wears angel wings to sing in the choir at church. He wishes he knew why his father had to move out, and why a strange man from China has taken a room down the hall. He fights with his brother when he makes too much noise, and he can’t take his eyes off his best friend’s sister.

Yong is, by all accounts, an average Singaporean boy who is learning to grow up in the 80s, and Gone Case is his unsentimental and unromantic story.

3. No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry

If you cannot learn to love
(yes love) this city
you have no other.

 —Simon Tay, "Singapore Night Song"

No Other City stands at the turn of the millennium, with one eye on Singapore's morphing landscape and another stealing glimpses into deeply personal vignettesbe they on the MRT or in the parents' bedroom. Works of established poets are placed in dialogue with those of students, creating a richness and discernible warmth. Re-reading this anthology 16 years after it has been published is a nostalgia trip, as acts of looking back are compounded, illuminating lost details of city life thengiant trees, IRC, walkmans, Marine Parade beach and playing police and thief. The grandeur and dazzle of urbanity is offset by tiny, intimately felt moments: time spent at a jazz bar, contemplating the skyline, or sitting in an empty cinema. Such poetry will delight in its simplicity, honesty and timelessness, now and always.

4. First Fires by Jinat Rehana Begum

Does the ridiculous squeaking of slippers that toddlers prod around the playground in sound familiar to you? What about the cross-stitch puzzles your home economics teacher used to assign to the class? Such insignificant memories are littered throughout First Fires, allowing us to experience a very familiar Singaporean childhood through the characters’ eyes. It becomes hard not to grow with them as they move from fearing the longkang, to lighting cheap paper lanterns in the park, and to protecting each other from their mother’s bamboo cane. First Fires portrays a very real family, where the tiniest pieces of each characters’ story make up the most significant parts of their Singaporean childhood.

5. They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue by Theophilus Kwek

They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue follows Theophilus Kwek when he is transiting from the young innocence where the world blurs by to becoming keenly aware of the people and places he's surrounded by. Theophilus walks to observe the city but the poems suggest more than just a passing observer—something has clicked and changed within the poet with each scene that he chances upon: the quiet family dinner after the passing of a relative, hostility towards foreign workers on a train; the diverse paths of a tourist, a mother and a maid on leave at a Orchard Road crossing ... each poems ends like the quiet contemplation that descends a late-night conversation with a friend at a park bench.

Check out the full National Day 2016 Spotlight Collection here

What to read next if you liked ... August 01, 2016 18:36

Do you read lots, love reading, but don't know what to read next? Want to enjoy a story close to home but don't know where to start? As part of the National Reading Movement (but really for the love of books, yours and ours), the team at Ethos Books has chosen some great titles you may have read, and paired them with titles we think you will enjoy.

These deeply engaging books were chosen for their varying narrative styles and scopes, from the intimate portraits of Alfian Sa'at's Corridor to the sweeping epic myth of Krishna Udayasankar's 3. We believe in these stories and want to share their wonderful worlds with you, even as they bear uncanny, thought-provoking resemblances to ones you may already know.

Do leave any other recommendations or book pairings of your own in the comments! Happy reading!


If you liked Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, you might like…

If you liked Everything I Never Told You by Celest Ng, you should read First Fires by Jinat Rehana Begum

First Fires by Jinat Rehana Begum

From family tensions to jumbled flashbacks, Celeste Ng’s novel Everything I Never Told You and Jinat Rehana Begum’s novel First Fires are similar in more ways than one would first imagine. These two emotionally complex and multigenerational novels tell different stories of silence, alienation, lies and disorientation—giving readers a peek into the life and expectations within a minority family. Shifting between character voices that speak from both past and present, these novels show how a family makes sense of their lives after one of their daughters disappears. Pick them up if you enjoy heartfelt stories about family and culture that grip the reader with its unfolding mystery.


If you liked Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, you might like…

If you liked Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, you should read Blood Collected Stories by Noelle Q de Jesus

Blood: Collected Stories by Noelle Q de Jesus

Thousands of people migrate across the world every year but how easy is it to assimilate into a foreign land which doesn't care for the cultures you've brought along with your suitcase? Jhumpa Lahiri and Noelle Q de Jesus delve deeply into the migratory experience and how the prospects of life in new lands is not always warm like the soft morning light on one's skin. The Interpreter of Maladies and Blood: Collected Stories are also anchored by each writer's realisations to the depths of the human soul—how does a card of kindness play out in a game where everyone plays to win? The careful dealing of characters in each writer's short story leaves you with a hand of mixed cards, enough to make you stop and contemplate this particular combination of life, before you make your next move.


If you liked Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman, you might like…

If you liked Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman, you should read These Foolish Things & Other Stories by Yeo Wei Wei

These Foolish Things & Other Stories by Yeo Wei Wei

Wei Wei's short stories, like Fragile Things, are thick with the clutter (or, if you like, thingliness) of everyday life—song lyrics, food, art, household items—yet charged with the mystery of the fantastic and folkloric. Gaiman's shamanic slipping between worlds is recalled in the imagination and whimsy of this collection, where a mynah sings a Beatles' song, a ghost hides in an umbrella, and a clock tower's watchman reappears at airports. Where Fragile Things parades pop cred, These Foolish Things portrays the messy, charming detail of Singaporean life in a way that will make you smile, not cringe. Delving deep into its characters' memories and private longings, these stories are exact, darkly humorous, and unexpectedly emotive without being over-sentimental.


If you liked Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other fantasy novels, you might like…

If you liked Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other fantasy novels, you should read 3 by Krishna Udayasankar

3 by Krishna Udayasankar

Don’t venture into 3 by Krishna Udayasankar looking for the same beats and characters. 3 puts a refreshing, mythohistoric spin on an important, but rarely retold story. Instead of focusing on demigods and magical beings, 3 is a gripping, coming-of-age tale about prince Sang Nila Utama. Set against the vivid, historical background of the Srivijaya empire in the 13th century, 3’s political intrigue and sea adventures sweep us into another world and time, where the people lived and dreamed differently. Its spirit of epic adventure breathes new life into the events that happened right in Singapore’s backyard, centuries ago.


If you liked Corridor by Alfian Sa’at, you might like…

If you like reading Corridor by Alfian Sa’at, you should read Moth Stories by Leonora Liow

Moth Stories by Leonora Liow

How much can we know about a person when we have a glimpse of them behind closed doors? Corridor by Alfian Sa’at has been a long-time local favourite for our readers as the author explores the interiority of multiple characters in an undeniably familiar Singaporean landscape. These short stories ask us to come closer and have a listen to the voices dwelling within our HDB corridors.

In a similar but separate strand, Moth Stories by Leonora Liow distinguishes itself with its haunting stories and how it makes us feel like intruders, crossing paths with characters who have so much to hide. An old man’s muted bitterness, a mother who is unwilling to let go of her son—we catch them in their most vulnerable states as we ghost through each narrative. Leonora guides us into the individual worlds of a varied cast, whose shocking decisions and fates make us squirm with discomfort, yet yearn for more. 




The Ethos of Ethos September 17, 2015 16:58

Letter from Mr Fong Hoe Fang on the 18th birthday of Ethos Books.

Letter from Mr Fong Hoe Fang on the 18th birthday of Ethos Books.

Ethos 18th Birthday September 08, 2015 18:11

Dear friends,

Ethos Books was conceived in 1997 to give a platform to aspiring and unknown Singapore writers. We were specifically inspired by the works of 2 young writers in their early twenties who had come to us, each with his own collection of poems, which they felt established publishers would decline.

At that time, poetry, writing and even literature had been worn down by the incessant waves of “tangible outcomes” in our education system. I felt that we would be just trying to hold back the waves over which we had no control. But the energy and enthusiasm of the young writers were strangely rejuvenating, and more important I could imagine the fun we would have, trying to push back the waves.

And then, a new community sprouted. More and more writers came forth, feeding on goodwill and good literature and good writing.

Today, these 2 fine young men, together with a whole host of others, are among the most highly regarded writers in Singapore. Today, we have a thriving community of Singapore poets and writers, booksellers and small independent publishers. And I am pleased to say that at one of our recent events “5 Under 25”, even more young writers have surfaced to join hands with those before them.

In the same way, Ethos Books itself has seen a new, a young and a vibrant group of colleagues populate its ranks. New ideas, new ways of doing things, new relationships. Whether they are full-time or just passing through, they have made this journey even more meaningful for Ethos. I invite everyone here to continue with us on the new adventures that lie ahead.

The sea will always be there. And with it, the waves. Sometimes we want a destination against the flow. We swim against it. We stand and with hands and bodies push forth. Then tired, we sometimes have no choice but let the waves carry us back. Then rested, we stand and push the waves again.

But always, we must have fun. Always, we must remember our final destination.


With best wishes and gratefulness to the Singapore literature community

Hoe Fang, Ethos Books

(For more pictures, visit our 18th Anniversary album on Facebook!)