Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feng Shui books

Over the last few months, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in the number of internet orders for Feng Shui-related books, particularly from Europe. And not just for basic introductory volumes, either, but manuals on advanced techniques. Here are a few of our popular books on Feng Shui:
  • Feng Shui in Chinese Architecture by Evelyn Lip. Feng shui, literally "wind" and "water", is an ancient Chinese art of placement that was faithfully practised 3000 years ago for the orientation of tombs, palaces, and dwellings. It aims at finding the most harmonious and auspicious siting plans for built structures through careful consideration of the earth's energy flow (qi), the influence of the Five Elements and a complex calculation of time cycles. This book is one of the few that deal with intangible aspects of traditional Chinese architecture and landscape design. It examines the functional qualities as well as the metaphysical aspects of some of the most classical buildings and landscape gardens in China, such as the austere palaces in the Forbidden City, the temple of the Tiantan (Temple of Heaven), the stunning gardens of the Summer Palace, and many more.
  • Xuan Kong Flying Stars Feng Shui by Joey Yap. Many books have been written on the subject of Flying Stars, a Classical Feng Shui sub-system popular amongst Feng Shui practitioners in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. In this first book in the Xuan Kong Feng Shui series, Joey Yap explains Flying Stars in the course of eight chapters. The reader can expect to learn techniques and tips on not just how to interpret a chart, but how to solve problems relating to negative stars. He will also learn how to unlock the potential of the Flying Stars in a property using methods and techniques practised in the field by professional Feng Shui consultants and how this can be done without the use of any symbolic object or without the placement of any 'good luck' cure.
  • The Imperial Guide to Feng Shui & Chinese Astrology: The Only Authentic Translation from the Original Chinese by Thomas Aylward. The Chinese state had adopted the Art of Scheduling and Positioning as Imperial orthodoxy for centuries before the 1911 collapse of imperial China. It was believed that the universe communicated its assessment of the Emperor's performance through astral and terrestrial portents - portents that only masters in the Art of Scheduling and Positioning could interpret. Today, Feng Shui (the art of positioning) and Chinese astrology (the science of auspicious scheduling) have captured the popular imagination, but in the process those classical disciplines have been diluted sometimes beyond recognition. Now an accomplished scholar of Chinese language, literature and philosophy restores them in this first and only authentic translation of the original Chinese treatise on the Art of Scheduling and Positioning. This Imperial Guide reveals the organic connection between Feng Shui and astrology; illuminates the most complex aspects of Feng Shui and astrology theory in accessible language and lucid imagery; introduces essential concepts of Chinese cosmology and explains how they relate to the whole of traditional Chinese thought, and what they mean for the modern world.
  • Essentials of Four Pillars of Destiny by Tan Khoon Yong and Goh Guan Leong. In this foundation course in the study of the Four Pillars of Destiny, the authors explain in individual chapters elementary theories such as Yin and Yang, the Five Elements, the Heavenly Stems, the Earthly Branches, the Ten Deities and others. Each chapter ends with some revision questions. Case studies are provided, as is a general revision paper at the end of the book.
  • Total Feng Shui: Bring Health, Wealth, And Happiness into Your Life by Lillian Too. Feng Shui expert Lillian Too writes yet another illuminating book on this ancient Chinese art. The author shares the secret formulas, empowerment techniques and the use of symbols of protection to improve and enrich your life. The chapters are laid out clearly and simply and illustrated by diagrams so that even the layman can follow the general principles and practical techniques of Feng Shui.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Memories of Wind and Waves

Memories of Wind and Waves: A Self-Portrait of Lakeside Japan by Dr. Junichi Saga gathers the richly detailed stories of thirty-three elderly men and women who spent their lives working on or around Japan's second largest lake, Kasumigaura, located about 40 miles from Tokyo. The stories were compiled by Dr. Saga through personal interviews over a number of years. They tell of the common people's lives - of hardship, of simple joys, of the love of nature, of the fear of nature. Many stories are heart-rending because of the matter-of-fact way in which the storyteller speaks of stoically enduring and overcoming past hardships.

A poignant passage was by told by Mrs Hama Suzuki (1906-1997), who was married at age 19 to a riverboat captain. Her husband became blind as a result of drinking bad alcohol during the War, and she was left to fend for her whole family and their small farm:
I carried rice to Shinjuku in Tokyo, one sack at a time, twice a day. I'd get up at two-thirty a.m., make rice and miso soup for my husband and kids' breakfast, make lunches for everybody, and get on the four a.m. train, catching snatches of sleep when I could. By the time I got back, it was ten. Then I'd go back with the second sack. When I got home it was three p.m. - time to work in the fields. The moon watched over me while I worked. I'd get in at eleven p.m., and my husband would snap, "Where'd you been all this time? Out with some other man, is that it?" He didn't mean what he was saying, but it was hard on him, being alone all day. Then I'd do the laundry, grab a little sleep, and get up at two. That went on for years.

I always had my health. That and a lot of friends to share my troubles. As long as you're alive, you'll have troubles. I don't mind - I've had my fun too. Now it's all behind me, the children are grown, and my husband and I spend our days together in peace, so all's well that ends well.

What is poignant is not the hardship per se. Many still go through similar hardships, or worse, in many parts of the world. Instead, the poignancy comes from a sense of the inevitability of life and death that one has when reading these recollections by common people, many of whom have since passed away. A person can endure hardship and overcome challenges, eventually achieving a sense of serenity and relative peacefulness, and then ... life ends. There is no ultimate reward, no prize, except perhaps the sense of fulfilment seeing loved ones around. But even that ends one day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Launch: Hike It! Bras Basah & Waterloo

Our latest publication in the Autumn Wonders imprint is Hike It! Bras Basah & Waterloo. It is the first book in the new Hike It! series, which is supported under the National Heritage Board's Heritage Industry Incentive Programme.

Hike It! aims to provide student with a fun yet enriching introduction to the history, people
, food and culture of Singapore. Armed with the books, children can discover the nooks and crannies of streets and back-lanes, and learn about their significance in Singapore’s history and culture.

We felt that a walking guide would be especially useful for children. Many aspects of Singapore’s history and culture cannot be properly appreciated without actually visiting the locations. Conversely, actually visiting older parts of Singapore can provide an intimate and powerful sense of historical events and cultural significance and an appreciation of what day-to-day life was like in the past. Walking tours therefore provide the potential for great educational value, particularly for Singaporean children, many of whom now live in sanitised housing and private estates, with no opportunities for visiting the older parts of Singapore.

The text was written by Chia Po Linn, and is in the form of an explorer’s journal. The writing conveys a sense of intrigue and the excitement of new discovery, and immerses children in the joy of exploration.

The design and illustrations are by the very talented people at OpalWorks, led by Xavier Comas. The finely crafted details in the illustrations will appeal to children’s natural curiosity.

The book will be launched at the Mint Museum of Toys this National Day (Sunday, August 9, 2009) at 1pm.

Admission to this beautiful and nostalgia-inducing museum is free for invited guests for this book launch. So, please email us (info@selectbooks.com.sg) if you'd like to attend. There are limited places so do tell us early.



Monday, July 20, 2009

Asian Cookery Books With A Difference

Here are 5 books on cookery that explore Asian cooking through less-common lens:

  • Classic Asian Salads by Lee Geok Boi. Discover the amazing variety of salads and pickles enjoyed all over Asia in this compendium of more than 200 recipes. From side dishes of pickles to dips to starters and main salad meals, Asian salads are delightfully versatile. Besides the recipes, this book also offers tips and techniques for preparing ingredients for pickling, a comprehensive glossary of ingredients, provides notes on the origins of the dishes and explains how to best enjoy them.
  • Chinese Food Cutting by Cao Nai-Sheng. Food cutting refers to those visual artworks made from various thin-layered food materials using scissors. The results can be used in hotels and restaurants to decorate plates, or to be simply admired as works of art. This volume compiles many examples of the work of Chinese chef Cao Nai-sheng, who has won numerous awards at international culinary art contests.
  • Pairing Wine With Asian Food by Edwin Soon. In Pairing Wine with Asian Food, enologist, wine judge, and wine writer Edwin Soon explores the most important theories of matching wine and Asian cuisine. Discover hundreds of inspired food and wine marriages from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as from Burgher, Eurasian, and Nyonya cuisines. Also featured is a special section on matching wine by occasion, such as an Asian finger food party or barbecue, or by type, such as curries, vegetarian dishes or seafood.
  • The Food of Love: Four Centuries of East-West Cuisine by Wendy Hutton.Food of Love presents more than 100 exciting recipes showcasing Eurasian cuisine throughout Asia. Beyond recipes, the book provides an incisive socio-historical perspective of how the Eurasian communities evolved and how their unique cuisines developed over a period of four centuries.
  • Japanese Foods That Heal: Using Traditional Japanese Ingredients to Promote Health, Longevity & Well-Being by John Belleme & Jan Belleme. This comprehensive and authoritative guide provides information on how to include the healing foods of Japan in everyday meals. Eighteen essential foods from Japan that are still cultivated and prepared using time-honoured methods and recipes are presented. These traditional foods have been proven to cure and prevent degenerative disease and to prevent premature aging. Includes nutritional and medical facts, recipes and tips for creating wholesome and flavourful meals.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Igniting Thought, Unleashing Youth

Igniting Thought, Unleashing Youth is a co-publication by Select Publishing and Young AMP, the youth wing of the Association of Muslim Professionals. It is a collection of essays by young Malay/Muslims on the state of various aspects of the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore.

The book will be officially launched on 15 August 2009. The book launch will be held at the Pod in the National Library, commencing at 10am.

From the backcover:

Despite enormous socio-economic progress in the Malay/Muslim community, there are deep uncertainties confronting Malay/Muslim youths: a growing sense of Islamic identity, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region and the widening racial income gap among others. What do Malay/Muslim youths think about
the issues confronting them and their roles in the community? This collection of essays by young Malay/Muslims provides a refreshing, if somewhat provocative, alternative to views that currently permeate the local Malay/Muslim community.

The sometimes self-critical, yet always constructive, reflections sample the psyche and thought processes of young members of a minority group in a heterogeneous society. They straddle ideas on the effects of Islamic extremism and radicalism; the implications and utility of the Internet; the impact of the environment on Islamic thought and practices; the current state of Muslim women activism; the critical need for inter-racial interaction; the urgency to emphasise education and scientific understanding; and the future role of Malay/Muslim youth activism in Singapore. Crucially, the essays ask how young Malay/Muslims should develop a religious and cultural identity alongside a Singaporean urban identity.

For community leaders and institutions, it offers insights into the aspirations of young Malay/Muslims and their efforts to contribute to society. For non-Muslim or non-Malay readers, it offers implications and applications beyond the Malay/Muslim group.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review of That's How It Goes in South China Morning Post

That's How It Goes was reviewed by the South China Morning Post on May 31, 2009. Unfortunately, the review does not appear to be easily accessible on the internet. So, the review in its entirety is attached here:

Born in 1921 to a long-established Singapore Eurasian family, F.A.C. “Jock” Oehlers lived through many of the island state’s pre- and postindependence landmark events. His memoir, That’s How It Goes: Autobiography of a Singapore Eurasian, adds an extra layer of richness to its diverse social and cultural mosaic.

A post-war graduate of Singapore’s King Edward VII College of Medicine, Oehlers enjoyed a distinguished career as an oral surgeon and medical academic. He and his wife Ursula retired in the late 1980s to Perth, Australia. Much like Hong Kong’s Eurasian population, whose evolution, role in the colonial hierarchy and eventual dispersal they closely parallel, Singapore’s once-prominent “white but not quite” community has mostly vanished from contemporary life in the city state.

Communal differences from the past in Singapore have been celebrated in recent years as an essential component of what makes the place unique and gives it an advantage over its more culturally homogeneous neighbours. This trend contrasts sharply with Hong Kong in the past decade, where the movement towards Chinese cultural and linguistic chauvinism has advanced almost without comment.

Oehlers’ extended family lived in a sizeable bungalow named Oehlers Lodge, set in extensive grounds at Tanah Merah on the northeast coast of Singapore and the pre-war pattern of life there is lovingly described. The book is rich with fascinating personal details; vignettes of everyday life are richly documented. Eurasian food customs, in particular an Asian influenced method of using western-style meat and vegetable left-overs, have recently enjoyed a renaissance in specialist Singapore restaurants.

Other wealthy Eurasians lived in neighbouring districts, such as Katong. For their community and its Hong Kong counterpart, life in the former British colonies differed little: elite education, sports and pastimes were similar and club memberships, alumni associations and community “in groups” clearly played an important role, for Oehlers and many contemporaries.

The Oehlers lived for much of the war in a remote settlement established by the Japanese for the Eurasian community in Bahau, in what was then neighbouring Malaya. Oehlers’ book offers personal observations of the “Bahau Catholic Colony” experience. The often-traumatic loyalty choices that leading Eurasian community figures made at the time have been well documented. The difference here between Hong Kong and Singapore is stark: in Singapore, some public discussion of wartime collaboration has been attempted in recent years. In Hong Kong, where the issue was swept under the rug after the war, this topic still hovers above and within certain prominent local families.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Independent children's book publishers wanted

I've mentioned in previous posts our interest in building up the children's books part of the business - from publishing to distribution to retail.

On the publishing front, we've started the Autumn Wonders imprint. The first book in the imprint, Water Buffalo's Reward, was published early this year. This was the first book in the Asian Values series, and the second and third books are scheduled for publication later this year and early next year respectively.

Another series that we will be starting is the Hike It! series. This is a series of walking guides for children. The first book, Hike It! Bras Basah & Waterloo, will be launched in the first week of August.

On the retail front, we have built up a good collection of children's books with Asian themes at Select Books. Our related company, Summer Fields, has also built up a reputation for selling quality children's books.

On the distribution front, we've started to represent a few publishers with children's books. But this is an area that we want to continue to build on. We are actively seeking independent book publishers with children's titles that require a distributor in Singapore. We believe that we will be able to achieve better market visibility and efficiencies if we can achieve a critical mass of titles. As an independent publisher ourselves, we understand the needs and constraints of other independent publishers. So, we're eager to work out arrangements that will work for both parties. Contact us to meet up. At the minimum, we can have a good chat about a shared passion - children's books!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Books on Buddhism

Today, for some reason, I felt that I ought to have a posts listing some good recent books on Buddhism. So, here they are. In addition, there are some good websites that provide introductions to Buddhism, of which I have linked three: Introduction to Buddhism, buddhaweb.org, and Fundamental Buddhism.

  • Treasures of the Sakya Lineage: Teachings from the Masters by Migmar Tseten. Treasures of the Sakya Lineage is a rich collection of teachings by both contemporary and ancient Sakya masters, showing a thousand years of lineage continuity. It provides an overview of the history, view, key lineage figures, and crucial teachings of the oldest continuously operating institution among the four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. The Sakya School has long been known for its balanced approach to study and practice. The writings of Sakya scholars have been deeply influential in every school of Tibetan Buddhism and they continue to be now. A great resource for students and practitioners of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, this volume contains teachings from great Sakya scholars and meditation masters, including: H. H. Sakya Trizin, Khenpo Appey, Sakya Pandita, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen, Chogye Trinchen, Choegyal Phagpa, Migmar Tseten.
  • The Dhammapada: Verses on the Way by Glenn Wallis. The nature of the self, the value of relationships, the importance of moment-to-moment awareness, the destructiveness of anger, the suffering that attends attachment, the certainty of death - no other spiritual text speaks to these issues of human consciousness more clearly and profoundly than does the Dhammapada. The 423 verses here - given fresh significance in Glenn Wallis's brilliant translation - offer us a distillation of core Buddhist teachings. Also included is Wallis' Guide to Reading the Text - a chapter-by-chapter explication that greatly enhances our understanding. Scholars, lovers of great inspirational literature, and seekers of enlightenment alike will find this new edition of the Dhammapada to be both illuminating and enriching.
  • The Buddha in Life and Art by Nigel Cameron. No memorial throughout history has towered higher than the many monuments to Buddha spread across Asia. With the aid of fascinating colour photographs, this book showcases Buddhist heritage sites and Buddhist art.
  • The Emergence of Buddhism by Jacob Kinnard. This book for college students presents the history of one of the world's most ancient religions. Topical essays explore the origins of Buddhism, the social and philosophical context in which it was born, Buddha himself, his followers, the main Buddhist precepts, and the spread of the religion.