2016 Book List

This year, I set out to read far more local literature and more non-fiction than I did last year, and did the exact opposite. Once again, like last year, I’ve had the opportunity to devour a broad wealth of writers and works from different backgrounds and translated languages. This year, I’ve also read considerably more female writers *snickers*.

See also: 2015 Book List

Works that I have enjoyed enormously or were affected by greatly are marked with an asterisk (*). In chronological order.

  1. Simulacra & Simulation – Jean Baudrillard*
  2. The Temple of Dawn – Yukio Mishima
  3. Ministry of Moral Panic – Amanda Lee Koe**
  4. Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
  5. The Invisible Manuscript – Alfian Sa’at
  6. Our Thoughts Are Free – Teo Soh Lung & others
  7. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye – Sonny Liew**
  8. Immortality – Milan Kundera
  9. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting – Milan Kundera
  10. The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum
  11. The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins*
  12. Selected Poems – T.S. Eliot*
  13. The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot**
  14. The True Story of Ah Q – Lu Xun
  15. Poems – Philip Larkin**
  16. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  17. Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley
  18. The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels*
  19. The Autumn of the Patriarch – Gabriel Garcia Marquez*
  20. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez*
  21. The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
  22. Breakfast for Champions – Kurt Vonnegut
  23. Children of Hürin – J.R.R. Tolkien*
  24. The Dictator’s Eyebrow – Cyril Wong
  25. The Cossacks – Leo Tolstoy*
  26. Lust, Caution – Eileen Chang
  27. Red Rose, White Rose – Eileen Chang
  28. Radish – Mo Yan
  29. The Tempest – Shakespeare*
  30. Macbeth – Shakespeare*
  31. A Wild Sheep Chase – Haruki Murakami
  32. Pnin – Vladamir Nabokov
  33. A Luxury We Cannot Afford: An Anthology of Singapore Poetry*
  34. Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century – Paul Collier*
  35. One Thousand and One Nights – Gwee Li Sui
  36. The Housekeeper and The Professor – Yoko Ogawa*
  37. The Diving Pool – Yoko Ogawa*
  38. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro*
  39. An Artist of the Floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro
  40. Over to You – Roald Dahl*
  41. Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien**
  42. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien*
  43. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien**
  44. As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner*
  45. Eating Air – Ng Yi-Sheng*
  46. Intersection – Liu Yichang
  47. The Mousetrap – Agatha Christie
  48. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John le Carré*
  49. Contact – Carl Sagan*
  50. Political Order and Political Decay – Francis Fukuyama**
  51. Separation: A History – Christine Chia
  52. Seven Pillars of Wisdom – T.E. Lawrence*
  53. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness – Kenzaburō Ōe*
  54. The Day He Himself Shall Wipe Away My Tears – Kenzaburō Ōe
  55. They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue – Theophilus Kwek*

Some observations:

  • I’ve read over a hundred books in my 1 year 11 months of national service so far. That’s potentially more books than I’ve ever read in my life.
  • I’ve read a lot of Japanese literature both this year and in the last few years and there’s one consistent and inevitable conclusion: Japanese writers are the most fucked up.
  • Amusingly, I was slogging my way through Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation while I was a cadet trainee at command school. Looking back, it is some sort of meta-satire that my SCS notebook contains my scribbled notes of regimentation and warfighting juxtaposed against my notes on Baudrillardian post-structuralism.
  • I took one entire year of intermittent reading and annotating to complete Francis Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay, the second volume of what could possibly be his magnum opus. It’s an absolute tour-de-force and I stand beyond impressed by its ambition and the sheer volume of knowledge I’ve gleamed from its pages.
  • I enjoyed Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being enormously and thus relentlessly read his other works this year in a desperate search of something similar. They all fell depressingly short of the kind of affective effect that Unbearable Lightness marshalled. In much the same respect, I can’t find another collection of local poetry that is as fierce and breathless as Alfian Sa’at’s first publication.
  • I decided to re-read Lord of the Rings after a very very long time. I love Tolkien so much. The sheer beauty and gravity of his written word – it’s like falling in love again. It unfortunate that I couldn’t appreciate it when I was younger. It shall be a tradition for me to read LOTR once a year at the very least. And in retrospect, Peter Jackson did a damn magnificent job of translating Tolkien’s words into cinema.

“My heart has more rooms in it than a whore house”
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

“My mother is a fish”
– William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
– T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!”
– Shakespeare, The Tempest

“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.”
– Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

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