Popular’s Reader’s Choice Awards + Review: The Commuting Reader: Here Now There After

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The Commuting Reader is a series of four books of local literature, one in each of Singapore’s four official languages. The books are anthologies of original, creative content; comprising stories, poetry and comics by many of Singapore’s most vibrant and talented literary artists.

All of the works featured in the four books were specially commissioned and the collections feature pieces by the likes of Troy Chin, Neil Humphreys, O Thiam Chin, You Jin, Chia Joo Ming, Isa Kamari, and many more. The books are heavily design-accented, with beautiful cover designs, plentiful illustrations, and even a removable, fully illustrated ‘Literary Landmarks’ map of Singapore.

Uniquely, the books come with an enclosed NETS FlashPay card, inclusive of $5.00 of pre-loaded credit. This allows readers to use the book as a ‘ticket book’ during their daily commute, encouraging the enjoyment of local literature while on the go.

The publication of these books is part of the wider initiative, ‘Buy Local, Read our World’, led by the National Arts Council and the National Book Development Council to promote the appreciation of Singapore literature among the general public, especially the younger generation.

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Popular’s Reader’s Choice Awards are back for yet another year and this year, their selection is incredible. They have a whole line up of local novels specially curated for the awards.

This year, Popular reached out and asked if I would review one of the titles and of course I said yes.

So here’s my review of The Commuting Reader which is from the English (Adult) category. Bear with me if my reviewing skills are not up to par. I haven’t reviewed a single book in ages.

The Commuting Reader

The Commuting reader is an anthology of  short stories, poems and comics all centred around a central theme of traveling. The book challenges our travelling habits and forces us as commuters to face up to the collective habits that we have developed.

The Poems

The collection of poems that peppered the pages of this book were probably my least favourite part of the book. I just felt like I couldn’t connect with the poems and most of them just seemed irrelevant. There were a couple that were nice as poems on their own. However, as a contribution to an anthology with a specific theme, they seemed to miss the mark.

The Prose

My favourite part of this book were the prose pieces. I loved each one but my favourite two were A Heart The Size Of An Armchair and Drunk and Orderly on The MRT.

A Heart The Size Of An Armchair

This is a story about a woman who gets called in to help cut up and preserve the skeleton of a sperm whale which has washed up dead along one of Singapore’s beaches. This is an event that actually happened a couple of years ago so I thought it was pretty cool to see this in the book. I also really loved how the author weaved in transport into the story. You really wouldn’t expect a story about a beached whale to have such strong elements of transport in it but there you go.

Drunk and Orderly on The MRT

This was my absolute favourite because of how the author confronted societal issues. So this story is basically about a drunk man on a train. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you any more but basically the drunk man puts a spotlight on our habits as commuters. As a social media generation. It’s incredible. You just have to read it to see.

The Comics

The comics were very interesting breaks in the story. I particularly enjoyed Herbal Tea. I thought it was really cute and sad. Even though the story felt pointless, it was quite nice to just be in it. White Rat, which was a comic on the war, was also gorgeously done. I was so blown away.

Readers’ Choice Award (RCA)

In an effort to support local talents, POPULAR came up with this campaign to recognize local authors. With three categories to choose from – English (Adult), Chinese and Children – readers of all ages will be able to vote for their favourite title. Voting ends 5 November 2017 and the winners will be announced on 16 December 2017 at BookFest@Singapore 2017.

RCA Voting Link: http://www.bookfestsingapore.com/readerschoice/

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