Be uncomfortable. Question everything.

One of the earliest events in the news calendar that the Ethos team always takes note of is the annual Budget speech. It was only after I joined the team about three years ago that I started paying attention to it myself. I began to wonder why certain decisions are made and others, ignored, and started thinking more about how we can–and must–relate to one another. To find connections in a time when it’s so easy to be detached. 

With that in mind, we’ve curated a collection of recommended reads ahead of the Budget speech. We’ve also handpicked a few book pairings below if you’re not sure where to start. Whether you’re an activist or just someone who cares, we hope that these books will connect you to new ideas and ways of seeing. As a bonus, we’ll be taking 10% off your purchase of any 2 books or more from the Budget collection!

  1. For the activist

This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn x Living with Myths in Singapore edited by Loh Kah Seng, Thum Ping Tjin and Jack Meng-Tat Chia

What stories are we told about Singapore’s progress and nation-building? Who tells them, and why? What stories have been left out? These are the questions Living with Myths in Singapore grapples with by deconstructing Singapore’s national narratives, and the power structures that perpetuate them. Delving deeper into the myth of economic success, This is What Inequality Looks Like is a bestselling collection of essays about poverty and socio-economic inequality in Singapore. More than simple critiques of the Singapore Story, both reads invite us to consider the reality that lies beneath the veneer of wealth and prosperity, to consider what—and who—has been marginalised in the pursuit of progress. Be uncomfortable, question everything.


  1. For the people who care and are cared for

Loss Adjustment by Linda Collins x A Place For Us by Cassandra Chiu

In Loss Adjustment, a mother reveals the struggles of loss & grieving after her daughter's death to suicide. Heart-rending and utterly necessary, this book confronts the pain and messiness of being alive and what it means to continue loving and caring for somebody even after they leave the mortal realm. In similar frankness, A Place For Us offers an illuminating perspective of a person living with visual impairment. From pursuing an education, navigating motherhood, to building a career as a psychotherapist, we are reminded again and again that disability is neither strange nor distant. And while there are often no easy answers to grief or discrimination, one of our readers said: “one of the best things we can do is to listen to those who have suffered in the most painful ways because the society they exist in is simply unliveable for them.”


  1. For the freshies and first-timers

Singapore, Incomplete by Cherian George x Living with Myths in Singapore edited by Loh Kah Seng, Thum Ping Tjin and Jack Meng-Tat Chia

 “What you know, you can’t explain, but you feel it. You felt it your entire life. There’s something’s wrong with the world. You don’t know what, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”—Morpheus

As described by a reader, these two reads are “the proverbial red pill for any Singaporean who wishes to wake up from the Matrix.” Living With Myths in Singapore will be your 101 to truly see the bigger forces driving the stories we tell ourselves and the choices made in response. Singapore, Incomplete is the advanced manual on how and what to think about in order to survive & protect this new-found freedom.


  1. For those who want to listen

Malay Sketches by Alfian Sa’at x Growing Up Perempuan edited by Filzah Sumartono and Margaret Thomas

“They illuminate a life that once was, and now, inevitably, with ‘progress’, what is. But ultimately they speak of dignity, quiet and undiminished.”—Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, columnist, activist, author of 'In Liberal Doses' on Malay Sketches

Malay Sketches’ flash fictions read as a record of the life of the Malay community in Singapore whereas Growing Up Perempuan chronicles the stories of women in the Muslim communitythe demands and pressures they face in their daily lives. The intersection of the two makes for a profound set of anecdotes giving solidity to the image of a minority in Singapore. If you would like to dip your toes into understanding issues of race and gender, this bundle could shed some light on the defining facets to this intersection of identity.


  1. For those who care about their community

The Art of Advocacy in Singapore edited by Constance Singam & Margaret Thomas x They Told Us to Move: Dakota—Cassia edited by Ng Kok Hoe & the Cassia Resettlement Team

“In this book, you will find many inspiring stories of the struggle, of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. People driven by passion, by belief in their cause, by a deep desire to see justice and equity for all…”—Constance Singam, The Art of Advocacy in Singapore

If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of advocacy across all aspects of Singapore society (think: heritage, media, the environment etc), The Art of Advocacy is a handbook by seasoned voices from the ground. Filled with insights into institutional challenges and personal motivations, these essays embody a collective love for society. This love for community is echoed in They Told Us to Move, which offers a focused lens on the relocation of Dakota Crescent’s elderly. Through resident interviews, volunteer reflections and critical essays from academics, the book is about the importance of doing community and advocacy, and the importance of questioning what kind of society we want to be.

Shop the Budget 2020 collection here.