(Down in the) Dumpster Books

I’m coming at you with some book reviews. Thought that it might be a good segue from the last post, before plunging into frivolous beauty talk.

I’ve always put off reading because I claimed that I had no time before. Hence, when I am presented with all the time in world, I don’t really have that excuse anymore. I kicked my ass into reading mode, because it is the one thing I do for fun that doesn’t feel like a waste of time and is enriching.

When I was younger, reading was a form of escapism. The lesser the association to real life, the better. Now, as an adult, I tend to appreciate books that are more “slice of life”. I tend to choose books that are borderline depressing because it’s a great way to commiserate, without dumping your negativity on someone else. Most people would turn to self-help books, or something light-hearted and motivational when they are dealing with any crises. Those books tend to have the opposite effect on me.

So, if you are going through a tough time and are looking to commiserate, wallow in self-pity for a bit, let me suggest three books to help you on your journey.






Start things off with…


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


Cannonball straight into the deep end of the pool with this one. Although it claims to be fictional, I can’t help but think that the author’s first novel is very much autobiographical. The narrative follows Esther Greenwood, a prize winning college student being invited for an amazing opportunity in New York. The future seems so bright, doors are opening left and right. Throughout the book, you are in her mind as she spirals from the top and descends into mental illness.

The pace is slow and laborious, so it’s for those days where you feel like wallowing all day. What strikes me most is the imagery she uses. It describes Esther’s feelings so aptly. Feeling as if she is trapped in a glass bell jar, watching the world go by. Sounds and sights are muted but outwardly, she seems so normal. The slow detachment and how each experience is dulled down. Plath makes powerful images that are unnervingly accurate.

The ending wasn’t satisfying to me. Although I have been told that I am very hard to please when it comes to endings. But this one is melancholic and open-ended, as these sort of books are.

We move on to a more thought-provoking title.








Veronika Decides to Die by Paolo Coehlo


Don’t be fooled by the depressing title. It isn’t a tearjerker as one would expect. This book is made for people who want to commiserate and slowly reel themselves out of that rut. It’s a pretty short and digestible novel. The story follows a depressed woman named Veronika, who at the start of the story decides to commit suicide. However, she fails and finds herself in a mental institution. Turns out she didn’t REALLY fail because the doctor tells her that she has one week to live as the doctors couldn’t get to her in time.

You think, “So what?” right? Just a few more days won’t make a difference. But then Veronica starts making connections with the people in the institution. They were people who truly understood her. All of a sudden, that shift in perspective is very powerful. The idea that life is mere banality that stretches on to uncertainty makes death seem like something you just want to get over. However, knowing exactly when the end will come fills each day with a sense of purpose. Knowing how short her time left was and the fact that people thought of her as mad anyways, Veronica felt liberation as she lived each day like she has nothing to lose.

And she really didn’t.

The book became a lot more uplifting than I expected it to be. Which is both good and bad. As much as there were poignant moments in the book. I kinda felt as if I was tricked into reading a very well-disguised self-help book of some sort. Hence, why I would recommend it for people looking for ways out of negativity.






Finally there’s…

I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak.


God, this book is amazing. It’s an incredibly deep and thoughtful book for a young adult novel. You kind of have to suspend reality for a moment when reading this one because the fact that Ed Kennedy was somehow “chosen” to be a messenger and how he somehow accepts his tasks willingly seems unlikely in real life. Basically, Ed is an underage taxi driver, completely average guy, trying to make ends meet. Until one day, he was instantly turned into a hero when he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That was when the first Ace was delivered to him and he became a “messenger”.

This book is simple but incredibly well written. Ed meets a diverse variety of characters while he executes his tasks as a messenger and you see each and every character’s struggle. This book puts your own misery into perspective. There is a need to realise that everyone is struggling in some way or another. Though it is unhealthy to compare, it is good to be aware and realise that you are not alone.

Ed is a lovable protagonist, just in the fact that he is SO ordinary. Which is precisely his charm. You relate with him and realize that small acts make a hero too.




There you go, 3 books for when you are feeling depressed. I always felt that its good to acknowledge your feelings and really simmer in them. Sometimes, you don’t feel like talking to people about your problems.

Books are the best in those situations because not only do they provide escapism, they also provide commiseration without actual social interaction. The ones I mentioned are profound and wise, like an old friend that has been through a lot. They give you new perspectives and even a little push to get out of that rut.

Book Fair was LIT.

As a book lover, I was super excited when I heard about the Singapore Art Book Fair happening at the Singapore Art Science Museum. It is basically a place for smaller publishing companies and independent artists to showcase and offer their work to the masses. What intrigued me was that I will be able to see books and other works that are not as mass produced as the books that we see in Kinokuniya or Popular.


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In a nutshell, this book fair is a huge gathering of hipsters and the art committee and Singapore. Both are obviously not mutually exclusive.

I decided to go on opening night. My thought process was that I will be able to see the entire range of what all the booths had to offer and certain exclusive books  or one-of-a-kind items won’t be gone.



Bad idea.


What was I even thinking? Looking back I wanted to shoot myself in the face for thinking this was a good idea. The opening night was incredibly packed. My assumption was that this fair will be held outdoors and there will be ample space to browse from booth to booth. Unfortunately the fair was indoors, on the 4th floor of the art science museum. And it was a tiny floor indeed. With the number of people that turned up, there was barely space to move, let alone to view the booth tables. Towards the end of the night, the Art Science Theatre had to call in security to do some crowd control. Rather elderly men and women clad in fluorescent orange shirts and gloves were manning the entrance like the door bitches to an exclusive club.

People who left the space to go out had a difficult time coming back into the building. My friend, Josh, was stuck outside because people were denied entry at about 9pm. Honestly, the space was a major concern.

I found myself pushed and shoved a lot. Also, I realised that the art committee in Singapore is very small. Everyone kind of knew everyone else. I found it tough to talk to the people mending the booth because they were mostly talking amongst themselves and catching up with each other. I felt like I was constantly interrupting them when I was inquiring about prices of certain zines or books. But that is expected on opening night as these booths probably invited a bunch of their friends to come and support them.




So in hind sight, I should’ve waited till the days after the opening night to visit the fair. Hence, I would suggest that the next time you go for the actual Singapore Art Book Fair (which I believe is a yearly event) and skip the opening night.

Despite the crammed experience, I thought that the booths were all interesting. Local publishing company, ‘Books Actually‘ was particularly popular with hoards of youths gathering around their booth, grabbing for their poetry novels on the table. Some are frequent customers looking for specific writers, which I thought is so amazing for the local art scene. Local youths looking for poetry by fellow locals fills my heart with joy.

The Singapore Art Book Fair also featured artists and writers from all over the world; Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Australia. Besides books, they were selling merchandise like badges, iron-on patches, pottery, accessories and art work. Thus,  can see why the place was crawling with hipsters. I should’ve dressed to blend in with the crowd more.




Another booth that was swarmed with people was ‘Magpie‘. Magpie is a local magazine distribution company that sells indie magazines from all over the world. Here, you won’t find Vogue or Men’s Health. She has a large collection of visually captivating magazines such as ‘B’ (a Korean magazine that dedicates each issue on the history of a Brand) and ‘Cereal’ (an independent travel and lifestyle magazine that gives Kinfolk a run for its money in terms of minimalist designs). All the magazines are slightly over priced, in my honest opinion. Most of them make for great coffee table books as they are so pleasing to the eye. However, lots of them feature more photos than actual articles to read.

Nevertheless, if you are a fan of design, the magazines are to die for! I, myself, bought one. An issue of ‘B’ magazine on Nars cosmetics, figures. It was $28, which is pretty steep for a magazine. But it was an ‘in-the-moment’ type of decision. Also there are good quality souvenir tote bags for $18 a pop. A perfect addition to a hipster wardrobe.



Overall, it was a good experience. Lots of interesting works to look at and if you are a sucker for aesthetic, you will feel like buying everything in sight. I wished that the location was a bit more open and that there were interesting stories I could extract from the vendors, but due to how popular the fair is, it’s pretty hard to have good one on one conversations. Still, I am happy to see that the arts scene in Singapore is buzzing with youth and excitement.

It truly gives me hope.