Brief Book Reviews: January 2016

The Gate
by Natsume Soseki

A cloud of ennui shadows a couple as they go through the tedium of day-to-day living during Japan’s Meiji Era (1868 – 1916).  Sosuke and his wife Oyone accept the struggles of their tragic life, but maintain a Stoic outlook and are sustained by their love for each other. Some readers will think this a slow moving book, dour and filled with silent shuffling and brief glances, but as they say, ‘still water runs deep’. There is a lot feeling below the surface – regret, longing and loneliness.

Best for: Overcast days; introverts; Stoics; people who don’t mind open endings

Overall rating:
Substance (5/5), Entertainment (2.5/5), Delivery (5/5)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
by Haruki Murakami

A reflective memoir on running with references to writing by the contemporary Japanese author, the book consists of a number of short essays written around the time Murakami trains for the New York City Marathon. It begins in 2005 in Hawaii and follows the author’s thoughts about what running means to him, its physicality and how it challenges him mentally and emotionally. Not just for runners, but anyone trying to achieve something.

Best for: Goal-oriented people; you need motivation; you’re trying to accomplish something; easy weekend reading

Overall rating: 4/5
Substance (4/5), Entertainment (4/5), Delivery (4/5)

On Wings of Joy: The Story of Ballet from the 16th Century to Today
by Trudy Garfunkel

An easy stroll through the history of ballet, starting from its origins in the 16th century to the development of a distinctly American style of dance. A good overall primer written in a narrative style that is very easy to flip through. Don’t expect any deep insights as the content is primarily a reportage of historical facts.

Best for: Ballet enthusiasts
Overall rating: 3/5
Substance (3/5), Entertainment (3/5), Delivery (3/5)

Letters to a Young Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke
This is the second time I am reading this. The first time I was in university and found myself a lot more engaged with the text, but assume that the intensity of my feelings were more because at that age I was looking for mentorship, which the letters do provide. Still, Rilke pens some invaluable reminders about what it means to be committed to living a more reflective life.

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Best for: Finding your way.
Overall rating: 3.6/5
Substance (5/5), Entertainment (3/5), Delivery (3/5)


A communications strategist and award-winning PR consultant who just happens to also be a photographer and published author. A Penang-born Kiwi living in Singapore. Always looking for the next big thing.

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