Our annual reading challenge is always a highlight for all the staff and customers at The Moon. It’s such a fun activity for readers to do, and the challenge does motivate us to read more and tick off all the checkboxes on the list (I may be a little biased here!). The Moon’s reading challenge is designed purposefully to expose readers to diverse perspectives, and to encourage reading out of one’s usual preferences.

As for my own reading habits, it is quite typical of me to pick up a new read based on what I am feeling and leaning towards at certain points in time. I am definitely not someone who decides on a list of books to read for the year, just to tick off all the prompts in a reading challenge. Based on my random reading whims, I’ve managed to tick off 22 out of the 26 prompts in our reading challenge, and here’s what I’ve read for the last year:

By a female author of colour

  • My Past is A Foreign Country by Zeba Talkhani (5/5, and definitely worth the read! Here’s a meaningful story from Zeba on her journey in re-discovering her religion and identity as an intersectional feminist. This book is filled with insightful perspectives on patriarchy, beauty standards, self esteem, and feminism in general.)

By a Singaporean author

  • PAP vs PAP: The Party's Struggle to Adapt to a Changing Singapore by Cherian George & Donald Low (3/5, a good read for anyone interested in Singapore politics and society. It’s a call for political change from two liberal academics)

By a Southeast Asian author

  • Giving Alms by Khin Chan Myae Maung (3/5, this one is an easy read consisting of 3 short stories exploring the pressing issues and experiences faced by the working class in Myanmar)

A book in translation

  • Almond by Won-Pyung Sohn (4/5, a story about a young Korean boy facing a condition called Alexithymia caused by an underdeveloped amygdalae and the subsequent struggles he will have to experience due to this condition. Definitely a must-read for those who loved Wonder and Curious Incident of The Dog as it has the same elements of a boy developing independence in his life despite being struck by a condition beyond his control)

Graphic Novel

  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew (5/5, such a beautiful and engaging graphic novel about an alternate history in Singapore, with certain similarities and tribute to our actual Singapore history. This is definitely a political book, but it is also a book about the creative spirit and aspirations as a creative in Singapore)

A book of essays

  • Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited by Cherian George (5/5, this is a must-read for all Singaporeans looking to be equipped with the ability to think critically about our politics and making informed voting choices. Cherian George writes with such clarity, intelligence and relatability and I enjoyed this collection of political essays A LOT)

A book of short stories

  • Climate Rebels by Ben Lerwill (4/5, an important book for young readers to read about changing the world. This book consists of short stories of individuals and groups who are fighting for a better world, and the book brings across the message on how every small act of change matters)

By an author you haven't read before

  • The Good University by Raewyn Connell (5/5, an insightful read into what universities are and the pressing issues from these institutions in general. It is an important read to inform how university education can be made more effective)

By a queer author

I did not check off this prompt in 2021, but On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong will be a good read for this prompt! On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read and Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are.

A book set in a country you've never been to

  • Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West by Lauren Redniss (4/5, what an eye-opening read! I have zero knowledge on Oak Flat and the Apache indigenous people before this read, and this book is such a stunning and powerful portrayal of the indigenous experience and their care for the preservation of both the environment and indigenous history)

Under 200 pages

  • The Politics of Public Space by Mark Jacques, Peter Chambers, Tom Andrews, Libby Porter, Claire Martin, Tania Davidge (5/5, a great documentation on the speakers of the RMIT series on public space. It’s a great read to deepen your understanding on public spaces, urban planning and the essence and identity of a contemporary public space)

Over 400 pages

  • Ruin and Rising (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo (5/5! Definitely the best book out of The Shadow and Bone Trilogy. It’s fast paced, exciting and dramatic. Read this if you’re in the mood for fantasy and adventure)

Published in 2021

Did not tick this off in my reading challenge, but Bewilderment by Richard Powers will be a good one for this. Richard Powers latest offering is a profoundly moving and genre defying novel that blends science, fact and fiction in a story. Bewilderment is also shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.

Published before you were born

Did not tick off this prompt in my reading challenge, but I do want to read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott for this prompt. Little Women explores timeless themes such as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

A book about changing the world

  • Split by Ben Tippet (5/5, a book that challenges some assumptions you may have about class, and its relationship to other parts of society like race, the welfare state and the environment)

A book about changing yourself

  • How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division by Elif Shafak (4/5. Elif Shafak touches on big issues and delivers in a simple, bite sized way. She reminds us to widen our perspective and continue to seek and welcome diversity. She also highlights the importance of understanding our anger, frustration and anxiety, while bearing in mind the importance of communication and taking action)

A book you judged by its cover

  • If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (3/5. A novel set in Seoul, Korea, and it is a story about four young women making their way in a world defined by impossibly high standards of beauty. Frances Cha writes of the harsh cultural norms and expectations that women are expected to adhere to, the misogyny and sexism, the heavy emphasis on consumerism, and the bleak pressures of the economic environment common in Korean womanhood)

A book you suspect you won't enjoy

  • Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Desai Kiran (5/5. Didn’t expect to enjoy this but it’s a 5 stars for its humour, absurd storyline with eccentric characters. A great book that gives you a glimpse of the Punjabi life and the close knitted familial ties common in an Indian family)

An author's debut

  • The Naysayer's Book Club by Simon Vincent (5/5. A refreshing read from 26 “naysayers” in Singapore who reject the comfortable to stick to their true cause of advocating for a fairer and more equal Singapore. One of my favourite parts of the book is how some of these contributors have shared their favourite reads. Truly insightful to read each of these 26 interviews)

With the word "moon" in the title

Did not tick off this prompt in my reading challenge, but you can read Moon and Sun by by Jalal al-Din Rumi and Zara Houshmand. This book is anauthentic new translation of Rumi's poems of ecstatic love and spiritual longing in a bilingual English/Persian edition.

A well-known book you never got around to reading

  • Severance by Ling Ma (4/5. A post-apocalyptic anti-capitalist office satire that explores the themes that resonate with millennials)

A book that's been adapted into a movie/TV show (bonus: watch the adaptation!)

  • Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo (5/5. I enjoyed this fantasy series so much and have no choice but to give it a 5/5 for the first and last book of this trilogy.)

Bought at The Moon

  • The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (4/5. A surreal and provocative dystopian fiction about the power of memory and the trauma of loss.)

Borrowed from a friend (or our 3rd floor bookshelf!)

  • How to Sell: Recipes for Retail by John Hoerner (4/5. Borrowed this from our Founder, Sarah and it contained nuggets of wisdom for retail and sales. Definitely a good read for people working in the retail industry!)

Bonus: A Moon Classic

  • The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis #1 - #4) by Marjane Satrapi (5/5. Definitely one of my favourite graphic novels so far. I wrote a more extensive review over here.)

Bonus: recommendation from a Moon staff

  • Kim JiYoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam Joo (5/5. The book led to a fierce debate about sexism in Korea, and it is a highly relevant book to not just women living in Korea, but also for all women living in systemic misogyny in different parts of the world)

Other books I’ve read in 2021:

  • Doggie Language: A Dog Lover's Guide to Understanding Your Best Friend by Lili Chin
  • Girl by Edna O’Brien
  • Siege and Storm (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo
  • Don’t Be Evil: The Case Against Big Tech by Rana Foroohar
  • Can We Save the Planet?: A Primer for the 21st Century by Alice Bell
  • First, They Erased Our Name: a Rohingya Speaks by Habiburahman
  • The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
  • Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
  • You People by Nikita Lalwani

There’s just way too many great books and I can only wish for a time bending machine that allows me to read more than just 31 books a year. If you’re a busy person getting caught up with endless commitments in life and can only pick 1 book to read, I would recommend My Past is A Foreign Country by Zeba Talkhani that is also part of our Moon Classics collection.

It’s a short 208 page read but it packs a punch - a story filled with resilience, inspiration and enlightenment that will definitely be worth your time.

It may already be April, but looking back on the many reads from 2021 motivates me to pick up more books in 2022. All the best for your very own reading challenge!

x Jasmin (Commerce Manager @ The Moon)