Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Winner of the British Book Awards, this stunning debut novel by Gail Honeyman delves deep into loneliness, connections and the power of kindness. The theme of isolation is one that is rarely explored in contemporary culture; as Honeyman puts it, “These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way.” The premise of a solitary heroine is interesting, but Honeyman takes it to the next level, crafting a beautiful character and inviting the readers to know Eleanor intimately through her narrative. I smiled at Eleanor’s hilarious comments as she navigates through common aspects of human life; I shed tears when she is overwhelmed by love and care. I especially want to applaud Honeyman for her portrayal of mental illness, breaking stereotypes and presenting a perfectly layered and flawed character who is a product of her environment. Simply put, this novel has it all – humour skilfully intertwined with heavier material, an emotional roller-coaster and a charming protagonist. A heart-wrenching yet soul-soothing read, it’s the perfect gift for those whom you love and treasure. - Jia Qi Tan
The Woman who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone
Have an inspiring woman in your life? This book would be the perfect gift. The title lady is Elizebeth Smith, half of one of the greatest codebreaking duos in history. With her husband William Friedman, she pioneered the field of modern cryptology during the height of World War I. An expert on Shakespeare, Smith was asked by her employer, who had ties with the government, to apply her language skills to code-breaking. There, she met her husband, and they became some of the most important people of the US National Security Agency. Despite that, their story has never been fully told, until this new biography by Jason Fagone. During World War II, Smith worked on the Enigma machine used by the Germans, cracking multiple versions. At the same time, her husband worked on the Japanese verison of Enigma, Purple. This is the story of America’s cryptography history told through the prism of Smith’s life, and how it shaped modern intelligence. A fascinating and inspiring read.
A Little Tea Book: All the Essentials from Leaf to Cup by Sebastian Beckwith and Caroline Paul
Know someone who loves their tea? A Little Tea Book is an ode to tea, the art of tea-making, and the joys of tea-drinking. Sebastian Beckwith fell in love with tea while working as a guide in Bhutan in the 1980s, and over the years has sought out the finest, most sustainably-grown and ethically harvested teas and brought them to the menus of some of New York’s finest restaurants. He distills his tea wisdom into this very book. It is everything you ever wanted to know about tea – part field guide to choosing, preparing and enjoying tea, part love letter. He touches on the history of tea, as well as exploring some of the common myths of tea. It is beautifully illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton, full of lively, colourful drawings. The book is a lovely work of art that one would keep on the bookshelf for time to come, to be leafed through regularly for a dose of tea-happiness. - Jingjie Cheng
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
There are shelves upon shelves of cookbooks in every bookshop, each surrounding a certain theme or cuisine. This book is different. A former chef at Chez Panisse, Samin Nosrat distills all cooking into four elements – salt, fat, acid and heat. With an understanding of these four elements, one can cook anything from first principles, she believes. Perfect for the aspiring chef in your life, this book starts from the basics, and is written in an approachable way. It is also charmingly illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton (again!). Nosrat has been praised as a teacher, and this is evident in the way she instructs in this book. Her theories are easy to grasp and applicable to a wide variety of dishes. Now, the book has been adapted into a Netflix series of the same name. It is by no means introducing revolutionary new ideas into cooking, but it certainly distills food science into its essentials.