To Sir, With Love – E. R. Braithwaite

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E.R. Braithwaite was born 1922 in British Guiana and educated in British Guiana and the United States. He served in the R.A.F. His publications include To Sir with Love (1959); Paid Servant: A Report About Welfare Work in London (1962); A Kind of Home-coming: A Visit to Africa (1963); A Choice of Straws (1965).

The book in one sentence: A man who takes up a teaching post and teaches his students about overcoming racial prejudice.

Who would you recommend it to: Someone who is looking for a good old-fashioned feel-good read.

OK bits: I like the inspirational true story of this book.

Boring bits: The beginning was a bit dull, but it picked up when he started teaching his class.

Random review quote:

“A book that the reader devours quickly, ponders slowly, and forgets not at all… Moving and inspiring” – New York Times

Verdict: I did not realise To Sir, With Love is actually a true story, or a book in the first place! I saw the movie a few months ago and I enjoyed it. The book is as good as the movie, though I could have said the book is better if I read it first before watching the movie. A good read nonetheless! Pretty quick too as it’s a slim book.

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A Nyonya in Texas – Lee Su Kim

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Lee Su Kim is a writer of Straits Chinese parentage. Her father is a fifth generation Baba from Malacca and her mother a Nyonya from Penang. She is currently Associate Professor at the School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia where she teaches Langauge and Culture. She lived in Texas from 1996 to 2000 and obtained her Doctorate in Education during her stay there.

She is the author of seven book including two bestsellers, Malaysian Flavours and Manglish: Malaysian English at its Wackiest. She was a columnist for The Star (a leading English language newspaper in Malaysia), for three years. She is also a corporate trainer for cross-cultural awareness and communication skills.

The book in one sentence: An erudite Malaysian perspective on the American life.

Who would you recommend it to: People who are interested to learn about Malaysia, despite the book focusing on America.

OK bits: I like the author’s personable writing style.

Boring bits: Nothing boring about it to me.

Random review quote:

“A light and insightful page turner that vividly captures the obvious and subtle differences of Asian and American culture. A must read for anyone who is interested in understanding cultural differences – Asians, new immigrants and Americans alike!” – Lili Zheng, International Tax Partner (Deloitte Tax LLP) Deputy Managing Partner (Chinese Services Group, USA)

Verdict: I could relate a lot to this book, being a Chinese who can’t speak Mandarin myself and can only utter broken Cantonese at the best of times. It lends insight about the myth of the American life and the reality of it from a Malaysian perspective. A good read, in short! This is one Malaysian book I would buy (I don’t usually buy books written by local writers, though I’d happily read them).

Related Malaysian book review

Honk! If You’re Malaysian – Lydia Teh

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Lydia Teh is a desperate housewife and writer. She’s desperate for her books to sell well so she can pay for her children to cook and clean while she spends more time writing.

Honk! If You’re Malaysian is her third book. Her first, Congratulations! You Have Won:A Guidebook on How to Maximize Your Chances of Winning Competitions, was published in 2001, while her second, Life’s Like That: Scenes from Malaysian Life, was published in 2004.

You can read her jottings on her weblog at http://www.lydiateh.wordpress.com or email her at tehlydia@yahoo.com. She welcomes comments and feedback.

The book in one sentence: Malaysians and their ‘best’ quirks, told in short essays with a good dose of humour.

Who would you recommend it to: People interested to read about the other side of Malaysians.

OK bits: I did laugh out loud reading some chapters, but I forgot which.

Boring bits: There were some boring bits but I can’t remember which either.

Random review quote:

“What we have here is a delightful treasure trove of Malaysian idiosyncrasies that we can all identify with. ” – Reggie Lee

Verdict: All the raving reviews at the back cover and at the first few pages made me expect too much, so I’m left somewhat underwhelmed after reading it. Is it bad? Not at all, I’m just not as crazy about it as the glowing reviews the book has generally received. I think if the reader wasn’t Malaysian he or she might like it better. It’s an entertaining way to learn about Malaysian culture.

Another Malaysian book review

The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch & Jeffrey Zaslow

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Randy Pausch is a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. From 1988 to 1997, he taught at the University of Virginia. He is an award-winning teacher and researcher, and has worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts (EA), and Walt Disney Imagineering, and pioneered the Alice project. He lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.

Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist with for the Wall Street Journal, attended the Last Lecture, and wrote the story that helped fuel worldwide interest in it. He lives in suburban Detroit with his wife, Sherry, and daughters Jordan, Alex, and Eden.

The book in one sentence: Randy Pausch is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and his desire to live his remaining life to the fullest led him to do the Last Lecture about fulfilling childhood dreams, which is also in a way his memoir.

Who would you recommend it to: People who like inspirational reads. Even if you’re not into self-help books like me (though this isn’t really a self-help book), this is a nice read because it’s sort of a memoir of an inspiring man.

OK bits: I pretty much like the whole book.

Boring bits: Nothing boring in particular.

Verdict: This is the current bestseller in Malaysia, and it’s not hard to see why. It is a story of a dying man, but it is full of optimism for life. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to be a better person after reading it. Or at least change the way you see life! A good, quick read.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss

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The book in one sentence: A general overview about punctuation told in a hilarious way – if you’re pro-punctuation, that is.

Who would you recommend it to: Punctuation sticklers! Anyone else would dislike it, at the very least, I think.

OK bits: I learnt the difference between American and British punctuation (who knew there was one?).

Boring bits: It can be a bit dreary at times. Well, punctuation ain’t no gossip magazine material!

Verdict: I like this book because it’s witty and educational. Though it’s not touted as a reference for punctuation, one can learn about the important bits of punctuation. In that sense, it’s not as dry as a grammar book might be then.

ps. Let’s test your punctuation with a quiz based on the book! 🙂

Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

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Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of a short story collection, Pilgrims (a finalist for the Pen/Hemmingway Award), a novel, Stern Men and a book of non fiction, The Last American Man (nominated for the National Book Award and a New York Times Notable Book for 2002). She is a writer-at-large for American GQ where she has received two National Magazine Award nominations for feature writing. Elizabeth Gilbert currently lives between Philadelphia and Brazil.

The book in one sentence: After enduring a painful divorce and largely unfulfilling life, Liz Gilbert embarks on a life-changing year-long journey that takes her to Italy, India and Indonesia for pleasure, devotion and balance.

Who would you recommend it to: Anyone feeling dissatisfied with their lives and considering making a major change in it.

OK bits: I loved reading about Italy best, followed by Indonesia.

Boring bits: India was a bit boring for me.

Random review quote:

“A good read. I can’t get away from it” – Britney Spears, Glamour

Verdict: I was skeptical starting this, because it sounded quite cheesy. It is in a way, but I can see why this book is popular. A good read nonetheless.

Stop Pretending – Sonya Sones

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As a teenager Sonya Sones spent hours pouring her private thoughts and feelings into journals. Her passion for writing, drawing and photography led her to begin making animated films when she was seventeen. She studied filmmaking in college, and went on to teach animation, make films for public television, and edit movies in Hollywood. She lives with her husband and two children in California. Stop Pretending is her first book.

The book in one sentence: Diary of a girl whose sister suffered from a nervous breakdown.

Who would you recommend it to: Umm, relatives of people who had nervous breakdowns? (I’m not trying to be funny, honest.) But also people who enjoy reading free verse.

OK bits: Generally everything.

Boring bits: Well, maybe some things.

Random review quote:

“This is a truthful and moving book. It will gain a devoted readership.” — David Almond

Verdict: Initially, I scorned at the review quote above. I didn’t think it was that great as to garner a ‘devoted readership.’ But when I was done with it, I really liked it. Oh well, it might have to do with the fact that I actually enjoy reading free verse books (I’ve even written one myself for a class project, heh). I’ve read three so far including this; the other two being Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust and Robert Cormier’s Frenchtown Summer. If you enjoy free verse I’d also recommend those.

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