Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mother Teresa - An Authorised Biography by Kathryn Spink

When someone asked me what I would like for a birthday present, this book was one of the first to pop into mind. I had heard a friend briefly mentioning that she was returning a biography of Mother Teresa to the library a couple months back and that was quickly forgotten, or so I assumed. In recent weeks, I was hanging out with a group of friends and someone mentioned about the poverty of Mother Teresa, how it is contrary to the prosperity gospel so talked about today, that piqued my interest and I thought I'd like to find out more about it if I ever had the chance to. And so, I promptly asked for this book after checking with my first friend which version it was that she read (there are quite a few books written about Mother Teresa).

I must say this book is really inspirational! Even though we share different callings, Mother Teresa's beliefs spurred me to deepen my faith and trust in an invisible God. I think what I gained most was her telling people to "create something beautiful for God" and her informing another that "I can do what you can't do, and you can do what I can't do." Such simple truths, yet so meaningful at the same time.

The book chronicles her life from birth till death and the details of everything in between is compiled into chapters according to various theme, sometimes chronologically. The writing is smooth yet detailed, and makes for easy reading. We learn how she was born into a family of three children where her father died unfortunately when she was 8. Yet, her mother continued to serve the poor in her neighbourhood, and this left a deep impression on the young girl Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu who would later take her religious vows, adopting the name to Mother Teresa.

We learn about how she travelled first to Ireland to learn English before settling in Calcutta where she was to teach for 20 years. On a train ride one day, she received "a call within a call" to serve the "poorest of the poor". That's when everything began. After much trouble, she managed to found her order, the Missionaries of Charity, and began her work among the most destitute in Calcutta.

I think what most amazes me is how God provides and provided for her and her order. It grew so much in 50 years that it can only be God's hand at work and no one else. It intrigued me that out of the 4 vows they had to take, "poverty" was one of them, the others being "chastity", "obedience", and "to give wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor". Mother Teresa believed that poverty not just in spirit, but materially, would enable them to effectively serve the poor.

It is truly a humbling experience to read about her life and I would encourage everyone to grab a copy of the book not only to satisfy your curiosity about who Mother Teresa was, but to learn to live a life filled with meaning and purpose.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

From the belly of the cat edited by Stephanie Ye


I bought this book months ago in March when I wandered into Books Actually for the very first time. They say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I threw caution to the wind and bought this book on impulse. 

I was not let down. This was such a compelling collection of short stories that I finished the entire volume in a single night. 

This is an anthology where the common thread running through all the stories are, as you would probably have guessed from the cover, something to do with cats. 

I enjoyed the stories where there was a touch of magical realism, the one that can be classified as Singaporean Sci Fi, the mellow ones set in the HDB heartland and more. This anthology is a rather rojak mix of stories from a diverse range of authors, some "established, award-winning authors", others "students for whom this is their first published work" as the Preface says. 

I reckon that this would make a purr-fect gift to cat-lovers who love to read. And even if you aren't partial to furry felines, it still makes for an entertaining evening of stories mostly set here in sunny Singapore. 

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The New IQ by Tracy Alloway and Ross Alloway


I was first drawn to this book at Popular Bookstore because of the nature of my work. As an Educational Therapist I work with children with dyslexia who have poor working memory. Naturally, when I saw a book that claims to be able to improve one's working memory, I was instantly drawn to it. 

The reader is first introduced to what working memory is and how it is vital in different areas of life such as in school. The authors threw in a couple of working memory exercises to allow one to test his/her working memory. These proved to be a rather interesting activities. I realized that mine isn't too great. Ah well. 

For a topic as complex as working memory, the authors have done a fine job of making things very simple for the layman to understand. I liked the part where the writers dealt with how working memory makes us happier. That was a surprise. 

They have done some solid research and the 13 pages of citations at the end is testament to that fact. 

I would recommend this book to the layman who is interested to find out more about working memory and learn what steps one can take to improve it. 

Hard Choices by Donald Low and Sudhir Vadaketh


I spotted this on my Facebook feed courtesy of an acquaintance or two who'd bought it. When Books Actually had a 20% sale, the now familiar cover prompted me to pick it up. After browsing through it, my interest was piqued and I was drawn in, hook, line and sinker. 

This book really shifted my paradigm. Before reading, I was a rather ardent supporter of the PAP and its policies as they seemed rather well thought out and logical. I would cringe at the character assassinations made against them during elections and was pretty turned off my the strong language used against them partly due to the fact that the arguments against them weren't that strong to begin with. This book changed all that. 

Hard Choices comprises a series of essays that are well thought out and refreshing to read. They provide a clear and viable alternative to the policies we currently have. These run the whole gamut from population, social security, housing, meritocracy and more. 

To give a glimpse into the gem of a book, let me share some of what I've learnt. It turns out that we have an option beyond incessant population growth. The main reason for the rapid rise in numbers has been due to the government allowing large numbers of foreign labour into the country to ensure economic growth. This has hampered productivity as employers can find cheaper labour instead of cheaper methods of increasing output. In addition, it depresses wages of Singaporeans because the same employer would rather cheaper foreign labour than an equally qualified Singaporean. What the author proposes would be to halt the continued import of foreign labour which would result. For the rest of the argument, please do purchase the book. ;)

I would encourage every self-respecting Singaporean to read this. Haha, though I am probably hoping in vain seeing that most of my countrymen stare into screens instead of books on the commute. But this is a book that presents well reasoned arguments against current government policies. Perhaps even Members of Parliaments (MP), cabinet ministers and even the Prime Minister of our beloved country should read this, just for exposure's sake.

And if you're still not convinced of how awesome the book is, here is a short excerpt of one out of the five "Economic Myths of the Great Population Debate" as Chapter 3 is titled.

Myth #1: GDP growth, no matter how it is achieved, is an unambiguously good thing

There seems to be an implicit and unspoken assumption that Singapore must continue to grow at a certain rate, and that if the growth does not come from labour productivity increases, then it must come from labour force increases. This is poor economic reasoning. GDP growth per se does not improve individual well-being; it only does if it is driven by productivity improvements that raise workers' wages.

If labour productivity is not increasing, it means that whatever GDP growth we "achieve" comes from brute force (i.e., injection of more labour inputs). Not only does this not increase society's well-being, it actually reduces it. If the 3 per cent GDP growth that the government aims for is attained by a 3 per cent labour force increase, Singaporeans are no better off in per capita terms. Meanwhile, they have to contend with negative externalities such as more congestion and competition for public goods, depressed wages, inflation and higher asset prices, and dilution of national identity.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Imaginary Friends - 26 fables for the kid in us by Melanie Lee


I'm on the Books Actually mailing list and when I saw the ad for the book launch for this book, I knew that I had to go take a look.It didn't hurt that Melanie (the author) put up photos of the food and drink she prepared and posted it on her Facebook page created specially for the launch. 

This book started out as an ebook and was on the Top 5 on the kobo charts and the lovely people at MPH have now made it into a print edition to reach more people.The illustrations took a bit of getting used to but within 5 stories, I started appreciating the style. 

The stories, on the other hand, were brilliant and I took to them like a duck to water. I love the alliteration, how the stories were titled,

"A is for Annie the Ambitious Apple"
"B is for Bertie the Bored Butterfly"
"C is for Chucky the Clever Calico Cat"

All the way till...

"Y is for Yogi the Yodelling Yak" and finally
"Z is for Zelda the Zealous Zither"

The author mentioned that it started out as a month-long project in April where you write something everyday based on a letter of the alphabet. "Being busy people, short term projects were great," Melanie declared at the book launch. I know of no truer words.

Anyway, this book is so awesome if you're into short reads and a hint of dark humour. Please be warned, despite its colourful cover, IT IS NOT FOR KIDS. Haha. 

So, to whet your appetite, here is an excerpt of my absolute favourite piece:

Olivia the Overachieving Octopus has just laid 100,000 eggs at her lair and was writing a to-do list to prepare for the arrival of her offspring. After using her ink to write out a list of 64 things to do (her target was always to do eight things with each of her eight arms each day), she hitched a ride from Sammy the Speedy Sailfish to the Golden Palace, her workplace where she was a personal assistant to King Neptune.

It was a job that she loved - the pace was challenging and she loved meeting so many different creatures from the sea. Most importantly, this job gave her a sense of satisfaction. She was a pioneer in her own right by doing this meaningful work, forging a path for other female sea creatures to follow.

King Neptune seemed to be very quiet today, which was rare as he was just a typical old man who liked to tell stories. She presented him with the home-made seaweed pie she'd baked the night before, but even that didn't seem to warm him up. Finally, after much pacing up and down, King Neptune told Olivia that he had to fire her.

"My daughter - she's getting so restless, always going up on land to flirt with those two-legged men. I have to give her something to do and I thought it'd be good if she had an internship at the Palace Administration and be my PA for the next year or so..." King Neptune trailed off when he saw Olivia's face darken. Even though he was immortal, getting sprayed with octopus ink was never fun.

Find out what happened to Olivia when you get the book! (I can identify because I do the work of 8 at work. Haha.)

I loved this book because it was so short and snappy. It helped that the stories aren't linked so you don't have to read it in any particular order, but I did of course, what with the engineer training that I had - everything must go in order. In addition, I thought the "Moral of the story" bit that Melanie put at the end of each story was hilarious! She commented that it was for her to have a quick conclusion for each story. It certainly did that and more. I found myself laughing at every "Moral" because she was so witty! Some of them were so unexpected. So I finished this book in 3 days. It was my bedtime storybook, the last thing I read before I slept each night and I slept soundly each night.

You can order the book here or go get a copy yourself from the bookstores. :)

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What gives us our names by Alvin Pang


This book is so awesome! I was at Books Actually and after Cyril Wong's this was the second book I laid eyes on. Alvin Pang had earlier tweeted that week that it was his bestseller of the year or something to that effect so I took it and flipped through it to get a feel of it. 

When I did that, I simply had to get it. It reads like Pilgrim's Progress but is diametrically different because instead of one long story, this chapbook is broken up into easy to read short vignettes on Success' ascent into, well, success, on the crippling fear that Anxiety possesses and the dejection of Failure. Loved it!

It helped that I spotted Alvin Pang at Books Actually where I was book shopping and the gentleman kindly agreed to autograph my book. Another reason to get it. Yay! I am a sucker for autographed books, having at least a half dozen of them at home, half of them by local authors - Felix Cheong, Theresa Tan, and Mahita Vas to name a few. 

I think absolutely everyone should go get a copy of this gem of a book. 

Not convinced? Here's an excerpt:

Failure had a lonely childhood. At school, Failure was a good student who learnt much and in fact had lots to share. He kept asking questions on subjects that were not in the textbook, and trying things that were not part of the lesson. His teachers thought he was a troublemaker. Most of the other students shunned him. He began to acquire a reputation for being odd, as well as ugly, and began keeping to himself. 

Later on, at work, Failure tried to make himself useful. He involved himself in as many things as possible. He attempted to spearhead new projects, trying out new ideas that no one in the organization had thought of before, but soon found that there were few others who were willing to chip in. Before long, he was burnt out with running around. When things went wrong, fingers were pointed at him, even though he was often the first to discover the problem in the first place. Eventually, he lost his job. 

It was while he was setting up his own business that he met Humility. She was a teacher in the school he once attended, helping students with difficulties, and wanted a non-conventional role model to inspire them. His name and student record had caught her eye, and she wrote him a beautiful letter inviting him to speak to some of her students. Failure was more than surprised, but quickly agreed. He spent many months with Humility and her students. With Humility's help, he found at last a willing audience for the lessons his experiences had taught him. Within the year, they were married. 

That was some years ago, before his business took off. He had many false starts, but Humility was always with him, and many of their former students became staunch supporters of his work, and themselves went on to break new ground in their fields. When asked, they always cited Failure's lessons those many years ago as being the most important element behind their successes. I hear they're now thinking of starting up a foundation in his name. 

As for Failure and Humility, they had two children who look nothing like their parents, but who share their deep strength of spirit. I'm sure you've heard of them, and they're much sought after nowadays. They're known as Experience and Wisdom. Ask them and they will tell you the story of your life. 

You can also get the book as you click here to go to the Books Actually webstore!

Sing a song of mankind by Anne Lee Tzu Pheng


So I borrowed 8 books from the library three weeks ago and this was the most accessible out of the lot. I suppose that that had to do with the fact that Lee used nursery rhymes and made them that much darker, as if they already weren't. I absolutely loved it! 

I've read this book thrice and am getting more out of it each time round. I thought the illustrations weren't too shabby either. One of my favourite pieces is this:


Go ahead and borrow a book from your nearest NLB branch. Or if you wanna copy, I spied with my little eye a couple available at our lovely Books Actually. 

Cheerios. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fill these hearts by Christopher West


This is by far one of the best books I've read about God and Sex. When you put these two words together, they make for a pretty volatile topic. With good reason. Christians are either prudish or prudish when it comes to this beautiful wonder God has created.

Well, using three different diets, the starvation diet, the fast food diet and the banquet, the author explains how the first represses and almost kills, the second indulges but doesn't satisfy and that the last is what God has planned for us.

Throughout the book, the author emphasizes that we need to aim our desire according to God's design so we can safely arrive at our eternal destiny: bliss and ecstasy in union with God and one another forever. And so he divides his book into three parts, namely, 

Part 1: Desire
Part 2: Design
Part 3: Destiny

What I felt was most relevant was the last couple of chapters. After the lengthy introduction of how we cannot suppress our desire and longing and the subsequent part of explaining how we are designed, the author ends with four great chapters:

Chapter 11: Chastity is a promise of immortality
Chapter 12: Freeing freedom
Chapter 13: Loving love
Chapter 14: To infinity and beyond

I loved the pop culture references and watched the YouTube video links. I felt they were really good anecdotes and metaphors on the topic at hand. In addition, the last few chapters explained clearly to me why we need to cherish our bodies and why chastity, a feared word in many circles, is essential to our sanity.

Promiscuity will ultimately never satisfy. We'd just want more and more and more.

God satisfies. Period.

Haha. It's tough to summarise how great this book is, one has to read it for himself or herself.

I would recommend EVERYONE out there to read this book. It's so awesome!
I thanked my aunt from New York for buying this great book for me once I finished it. She is so awesome. :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sonnets from the Singlish by Joshua Ip


I saw this book in a Books Actually documentary and knew I had to get it. I write sonnets you see, and as a Singaporean, to have someone write sonnets that incorporate the language of the nation, bingo!

So I made my way to the abovementioned bookstore and promptly bought the book. 

It was rather disappointing. I mean, the poetry was alright, but rather depressing. I look to literature to inspire and to enchant. This just made me sad about the state of my country. As accurate a reflection as it was, it didn't suggest ways it could improve. Ah well, perhaps it's just me and my idealism. 

Still, it's heartening to know that I'm not alone in writing sonnets. 

Pick up this book only if you like sonnets and if you like Singlish and wonder what combining the two might look like. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Philosopher's Madness by Lishan Chan


I first chanced across this book when my father encouraged me to read it. My mom has schizophernia you see. But I didn't have the time. When was finally free, my dad had already returned the book to his friend. 

After chatting with my psychiatrist (I've got bipolar) and after hearing him saying that she was a good and outspoken mental health advocate, I decided to get the book. 

It was pretty tough. All the Popular branches didn't stock the title. In the end I went to Books Actually and they were sold out! But they ordered a copy for me that I finished in two days. 

I can relate to the book as a person who has experienced discrimination as a person who has been diagnosed and she portrays this very clearly. In addition, as a philosopher, she asks pertinent questions on whether the disease is a mental or physical problem. 

She has been a writer since her secondary school days and she includes extracts of the descent into madness. It's really interesting how complex her thoughts were already in Raffles Girls' School. It's no wonder she got into the London School of Economics to do Philosophy. 

I'd encourage anyone who has a friend or loved one who is mentally ill to read it to understand them better. Also, I'd recommend that every person who is diagnosed or is about to be diagnosed to read it. She helps one understand the tremendous difficulty of how one accepts one's diagnosis. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Singapore Siu Dai by Felix Cheong


This is such an AWESOME read! I bought this book yesterday just before the author did a reading at Toast Box. I arrived at the branch in Esplanade Mall, expecting to find someone selling it, but I was too early. However, I caught sight of a giant Toast Box poster saying that if I spent $11.80 at that outlet, I'd get a complimentary copy! 

Excited, I asked the cashier just to double check that that was for real. Unfortunately, he had not been briefed, and neither had his other colleagues. Fortunately, the agent or representative from the publisher was there to clear things up. The deal was on. 

There was only one problem, there was nothing that cost $11.80 or even close to that at Toast Box. Having just had lunch, I only wanted a cup of iced tea, which costs only $2. I was $9.80 short. But being the enterprising Singaporean that I am, I asked the guy next in line if we could combine receipts. He agreed, rather amused. I decided to order a set of Nasi Lemak + Iced Barley that cost $6 to make up for the difference. What a great deal! A book, a meal and a reading all for the price of $6! I ended up taking away the rice. 

Now enough about me, on to the book. 

As I sat down to read it, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that each short story really lived up to its name. They were all a page or two in length, the longest was probably three pages. When I later chatted with the author, he explained that he wanted it to be an easy read where the average commuter could finish it on the commute either on the bus or train. Brilliant idea that. 

I went through it pretty quickly before the reading began, covering about a third of the book in that time. I quickly found my favorite story. It was the one titled " A Day at Toast Box" and I'll take a chance to post the excerpt here, hoping the author wouldn't mind. 

Of course, you have to be Singaporean, or at least someone familiar with the coffee shop lingo to appreciate this piece. It is ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS! I loved it and so did all my friends whom I shared this with over Whatsapp and Facebook. (Whoops, hope I didn't infringe on any copyright laws there.)

I enjoyed the pieces on the schoolboy named Rex with his kiasu parents, the series on SDU, Singapore's official matchmaking agency and Captain Obvious too. They all brought a smile to my face. 

I must add however, that the book does not lend itself to book readings very kindly. I found that the puns were all funnier on paper than during the reading. During the reading at Esplanade's Toast Box yesterday, I was the only one laughing when they finished telling the stories, probably because I was the only customer that had a copy of the book and could understand the humour behind it. But that is probably just me. You tell me.

All in all, I think the tie up with Toast Box is a pretty clever idea. Better book readings at easily accessible locations like kopitiams than at places like Books Actually (a place I've wanted to visit for the longest time but have never found time to.) 

The book ends on a slightly darker note and made me ponder on the cost of the rapid development in this little island of ours. I loved the part where Gini was an adviser to the Prime Minister. I must say the Felix did a pretty good job at ending on a sombre note to balance things out a little. It helps the average citizen reflect on how healthy progress is for the nation. 

All in all, this is a BRILLIANT book. I would recommend all Singaporeans to grab a copy today. For $13.90, it gives you more entertainment than the latest blockbuster in theaters and you can even share it with your friends and laugh over the jokes together. I did. At on the very same day, I met at least 5 other people and showed them "A Day at Toast Box" which had all of them in stitches. That was excluding those I shared with on social media. Haha. The power of technology these days. 

I truly enjoyed the book, thank you Felix, we definitely needed this. I eagerly await the arrival of "Singapore Ka Dai"!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


This marks a breakthrough for me. Third ebook I read using my iPhone. Though I must say that I read half of it using a kobo mini my friend lent me - that speeded up the process quite a bit and I'm thankful for it. 

My dear friend Theresa, who is an author herself, recommended the book to me late last year. After downloading the kobo app recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was available for free and eagerly downloaded it. 

Oscar Wilde does not disappoint. This is one remarkably witty book full of paradoxical, thought provoking statements. I loved it! It really made me ponder on the assumptions we take for granted even in this day and age. 

Well, the story opens with two friend, Lord Henry and his painter friend Basil who were discussing one of the latter's muse, Dorian Gray. A chapter later, we meet the protagonist whom the book is named after and realizes that he is a beauty unlike any other. Basil paints a portrait of Dorian as Lord Henry entertains Dorian by going on in a fascinating monologue. And to cut the long story short, after a vigorous argument of sorts, Dorian wishes that he would never grow old and that the painting would. The story then revolves mainly around him. He gets his wish granted with terrible consequences. 

The book makes for good reading and moves on at a sprightly pace except for one chapter in the middle that I felt was rather long winded. I suppose there must have been some hidden meaning that was lost to me but will probably be also lost to the average reader as well. Nonetheless, the rest of the book more than makes up for this minor flaw. 

I loved the ending too! Very apt!

Everyone should read this gem!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dissident Voices by Clement Mesenas


I saw a review on this book on The Straits Times last week and when I saw David Marshall's name on it, I knew I had to get it (I'm working on a book about Singapore's forefathers). So I bought it just before lunch at Clementi Mall's Popular Bookstore. 

The chapter on David Marshall was devoured fairly quickly. There wasn't much that was new to me, having read both his biographies by Chan Heng Chee and Kevin Tan. But I suppose it was a rather good summary of his life for someone who's reading about him for the very first time. 

I then continued with the chapter on Catherine Lim, followed by Lim Chin Siong, Ong Eng Guan because I was more familiar with their names and was interested to find out more. I was not disappointed. It was a pretty good read. However, I'd noted by now that the author admires all these figures rather ardently which made me wonder how unbiased it was. But hey, with a title like that, what was I suppose to expect?

The book was then read in the proper order, and I skipped the chapters I'd already read of the four above mentioned personalities. It was an eye-opener. So much of Operation Coldstore and Operation Spectrum executed by the Government has been lost to textbook history until now. For all censorship and eye for detail the ISA (Internal Security Act) that I discovered in the process of reading, I was surprised this book even got published. And I'm pretty impressed too. 

Turns out that most of the dissidents have been jailed for their words or deeds by ISA. If they haven't been, they've been threatened. Brave souls these people are. What's most inspiring is the lack of hatred and animosity some of them possess even after such trial. Wow.

This is an excellent read for every Singaporean as an introduction to 10 Singapore's dissident voices. Their stories can be quite heart-rending. 

Unfortunately, as is the case with such books, the author seems intent to point out all the faults of the People's Action Party (PAP) and neglects to mention all the good work done. I thought it might be good to round up the book evaluating the pros and cons of the ISA but the author nudges the reader to form his own conclusions that the ISA should be done away with after all the hurt and heartbreak it has caused. 

Still, I'd recommend this book to anyone, just note that it is slightly biased. Then again, who isn't?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ by Various Authors


I was reading a blog post by someone who linked to this free ebook which you can get if you click here.

With such an intriguing title, I could not help but dive straight into it. Now, for those who know me, I'm not a big fan of ebooks, perhaps because I don't own a Kindle, but possibly because I like the heft of a good book and the joy of turning the pages. Yet, this is the second complete ebook on my iPhone I've finished after Rachel Held Evans' 'A Year of Biblical Womanhood'. 

Well, this is a collection of essays written by various ones, and as such, it's a book of uneven quality. I shall gush about the titles I like and rant about those I disagree with to be fair, so bear with me. 

John Piper starts by declaring two main points: that sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully and that knowing God in Christ more fully is a means to guarding and guiding our sexuality. It was pretty deep. 

The chapters I loved were Chapter 6: Sex and the Single Man and Chapter 8: Sex and the Single Woman. I suppose this is so because of the relevance to me. These are wonderfully written chapters that instructs single people how to live most fully for God. 

Marriage is not the ultimate aim, Carolyn McCulley, author of the latter chapter advised - the glory of God is. The chapter for men said that one should not do to a single woman what he would not do to a married woman. Brilliant advice I reckon. The chapter was written by four different men who provided different and Christ-like perspectives on what sex meant to the single man. 

On a different note, the chapter that I had issues with was Chapter 5: Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church. 

I disagree not with the fact that homosexual marriage is indeed a challenge to the church and that the conversation should be filled with love instead of judgement. It was this line that caused revulsion to rise within me: "There can be no question that the Bible comprehensively and candidly identified homosexual acts - and even homosexual desire - as sin." 

How can desire be a sin? It is but a temptation isn't it? Isn't it stated in Hebrews 4:5 that "we do not have a High Priest who cannot symphatize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin". If Jesus was sinless and even He was tempted, how can the authors categorically state that desire is a sin? 

Can you imagine how someone who experiences same-sex attraction must feels when he or she reads this? 

Rant aside, I think that if you skip this chapter, the rest of the book is pretty good and provides a sound argument for Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

the Rabbit & the Elephant by Tony & Felicity Dale, George Barna


I was browsing online on Amazon when I chanced upon this title. Now I'd heard much about George Barna and was intrigued when I read the synopsis of this book on the website. That, the many good reviews, and the fact that I was keen to know how to enable church growth made me plonk down my money on Book Depository for it. 

I finally received it a couple of days ago after a reasonable wait and had already forgotten why I bought the book in the first place. But the lovely Chinese New Year holiday break meant that I could finish this lovely gem in two days. It's quite an eye-opener I must say. 

The analogy given by the authors forms the basis of this book. If you put a male and a female elephant in a room, feed them well, after 3 years, you might expect to get a baby elephant. However, put a pair of rabbits in that same room, in that same amount of time, you'd expect millions of rabbits to come hopping out! Similarly, megachurches are hard to replicate but small, they call it 'simple' churches can multiply rapidly. 

Coming from a megachurch myself, that was rather worrying. But hey, I wanted to find out how to bring Christ into the whole world, so let's leave no stone unturned shall we? 

Initially, I thought these simple churches were akin to a cell group. But they are much, much more than that. Cell groups often tend to be a replica of the main service, having a praise and worship segment in the beginning, followed by preaching and ending of with a time of giving. 

These simple churches on the other hand, can be as basic as a couple of friends coming together for a meal and sharing Christ. Or a couple of housewives having a discussion on Jesus and how they've been hurt by the church. Or a bunch of pre-believing businessmen studying a book written by the wisest man, the book of Proverbs, with the authors. Turning church on its head. 

The book teaches one how to start a simple church and provides many helpful tips to boot. I loved the chapters titled 'The Master's Voice and 'Luke 10 Principles' which talk about hearing from God and praying for workers for the harvest respectively. 

After reading this book, I feel so inspired to start a simple church on my own. But after some prayer, I realized now is not yet the time. However, if you have already felt led to do so, this book will prove to be an invaluable resource to you. 

I pray that every Christian hungry to see the Kingdom of God come would get a copy of this book to know how to better reach out to others. Even if one doesn't start a house church at the end of it, the lessons learnt can be translated into other aspects of our lives as well. For example, I am now better equipped to share my testimony of how God's changed me to my colleagues at work and to my friends and family as well. 

Enjoy. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Always Enough by Rolland & Heidi Baker


It's not often that a book captures your imagination. So it was with great delight that this book did exactly that. More than just a recount of their missionary exploits, Rolland and Heidi Baker made me realise how great God is and inspired me to rest in the love of God like never before.

I picked up this book at The Ink Room, my church's bookstore after receiving my January pay cheque. This book lover, yours truly, had her eye on this book a week before when she saw the new titles they stocked. 

After service and lunch with my cell group, I settled at a dirty coffeeshop in Bugis and started on the book as I waited (for my guitar class to begin). It was so good that I finished 3 whole chapters in one sitting.

Within a week, I'd completed the book of 10 chapters. This book reminds me of Reinhard Bonnke's autobiography, "A Life of Fire" except that the page count is only a fraction of that tomb. The authors brings us along their initial missionary journeys in Hong Kong and England and related how they cared for the poorest in those cities. Salvation of these people seemed to be a natural progression after the neglected and abandoned finally found love and food in these Christians. 

They then moved on to Mozambique and what a trip it was! They set up an orphanage that grew rapidly in the poorest and most devastated country in the world. Mozambique has the highest numbers of people with limbs missing due to the millions of landmines in the country left behind after years of war. And the Bakers cared for them all. 

They showed me how God always provides. Once, when they were evicted by the authorities and ran out of food, a meal for four supplied by a woman multiplied to feed the dozens of mouths they had after a simple prayer. Sounds familiar?

The pastors they trained up in Bible School performed miracles like the raising of the dead and in their crusades, many blind and deaf were healed. This is so encouraging! God still works today. 

In the midst of the revival, disaster struck. Floods destroyed all the work they'd done and caused an already poor nation to feel even more hopeless. They worked tirelessly and even in this disaster, churches multiplied when the people realised their need for God.

But more than these stories, I felt what really impacted me was in Chapter 9, titled, 'All Fruitfulness Flows from Intimacy'. How true that is. So many want power and anointing and work so hard for God when all they have to do is to rest in the love of God. There must be a balance of some sort. This is also a reminder and a confirmation to me after a friend wrote to me that I needed to rest in God. To rest in what He has already done for me.

Overall, this is a brilliant book that I'd encourage all Christians to read, especially aspiring missionaries. I do also feel after reading this book that we all need to fulfill our calling. Rolland and Heidi Baker were called to be missionaries and they've done it really well. For those of us in the marketplace, let us be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and be fruitful in this ministry we are placed in, reflecting God's glory wherever we go.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza's by Cyril Wong


What a haunting novel this is. I'm still thinking about it as I'm on board this train to Somerset, long after I've left Queenstown Library. 

What meant to be a session where I'd resolved to analyse the contents of Melanie Chew's "Leaders of Singapore" turned out to be a miserable failure when I realized that the National Library Board had removed the book and put it in the Used Book Repository and the only way I'd have access to it was to head to Bras Basah to Lee Kong Chian's Reference Library. 

So I picked up this novel, disappointed that the library didn't stock Cyril Wong's poetry and merely intended to flip through it cursorily to find out what his writing style was. I ended up turning the pages compulsively, finishing it promptly within an hour and a half. 

I've read nothing quite like it honestly. Set in Singapore in 1999, it's a tale narrated by Mrs De Souza on her last day of teaching. Instead of conducting her usual English lesson, she instead rambles on about life, occasionally answering her students' questions. Now that caught my attention, being one who teaches English to dyslexic students and one who encourages them to think critically about life. 

But more than that, it is a story where she reflects on a student from many years past, a boy called Amir, who decided to come out to Mrs De Souza one day. He tragically ends up committing suicide and she wonders if she had played a part in his death. If you want to know, right at the very end of the book, the reader finds out in a suicide letter that she certainly did because in a bout of good intent, she outed him to his father. 

So many thoughts were going through my mind as I read this novel. Was this the author's experience in coming out? Being outed by others? Did the author also have a mom that hated life after getting married and resenting the fact that her opportunities were sacrificed for her children? Is this how it feels like to lose a spouse, to think about him/her all the time?

I think what's most haunting about it was the fact that one's actions might have such irreversible effects. And of course the moral of the tale could probably be surmised into this: "Don't out another person." Though to do so is probably a simplistic summary of a book filled with layers of thought and emotion. 

Every Singaporean should read this. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton


I was at Tiong Bahru Plaza's Popular Bookstore just last Thursday to get some stationery for school when I chanced upon this book. If it were sentient, from the moment I held it, it would have probably felt that it had found a home. 

The twitter addict that I am coupled with the dormant entrepreneur within simply yearned to know the story of how this billion dollar company came to be. That, and the fact that I'd just finished 'The Accidental Billionaire' not too long ago made me curious to find out how the competitor of Facebook became such a force to be reckoned with.  

It's a fantastic read! The author's done interviews with all four co-founders of the company, the board members and many others to come up with this book. As a result, there was a short introduction of the various protagonists in the beginning followed by the chapters grouped by the various critical character as each point of the story unfolded. And so the Twitter story first introduces us to @Ev, @Noah, @Jack and @Biz and continued with the story with chapters titled #Noah followed by #Jack, #Ev and concluded with #Dick. I absolutely loved this layout!

This is a tale of how friendships are forged and destroyed in the cruel world of business. It is sobering to see how the person with the largest percentage in company stocks is able to oust others out of the company he has built. But what I also learnt was that as important as cultivating relationships are, leading a company well is also crucial to not getting booted out by the board. 

This is a pretty well written book, with the story moving along at a crisp pace and the setting laid out clearly. If the events happened the way they were narrated in the story, I suppose the author wouldn't have had to dramatize too much. 

I love how the book incorporated the icons tweeters are familiar with, @ and #, into the chapter titles. It adds to the overall experience. 

Well, I'd recommend this book to any twitter user who's interested in how the company came to be. Also, this is a good book for anyone interested in tech startups or in setting up one.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


I got this book at the tail end of last year after my friend Theresa recommended me to read it after a disastrous first attempt at a draft chapter for a book project I'm working on. So I promptly headed to Kinokuniya and purchased it. 

And I must say, The Book Thief is a great book! Death is the narrator and he is a pretty compelling one at that. I never read a book quite like that before. 

The story is about the experiences of a girl named Liesel who is placed in a foster home just before World War 2 erupted in Germany. Liesel is the protagonist and she is the book thief the book is named after. She begins by picking up a book at her little brother's burial (rather innocently) and develops a strong love for reading even though her foster father struggled to teach her to do so. I could identify with the character as I love books too!

It's a rather long but easy read, and the 550 pages passed by rather quickly in three days. Also, I understand that the book's been made into a movie and I can't wait to see it!

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves a good novel. I'm assuming that's almost everyone.