Read! Fest 2023: Book recs from Josephine Teo and Elmie Nekmat July 21, 2023 There is a lot to be said — and written — about the pleasure of sitting back and spending a good time with a good book. Really, reading for fun is one way to detach from the busyness of life and find solitude between each turn of a page. Also, life soon gets bigger when people start reading. Books open up new ways of seeing the world. They show readers that while people may be different all around, this diversity is often strength and that no matter their stories are set — whether forward to the furthest regions of space or in a fantastic past land involving dragons — empathy for the human condition is possible. The National Library Board’s (NLB) Read! Fest 2023 (on now until July 30) works in this spirit of inclusivity. Here, in a Petir.sg exclusive, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo (whose Ministry in charge of the NLB) and Sengkang Central Branch Chair Elmie Nekmat (who is also on the NLB’s Digital Services and Experiences Committee) are recommending two books for the festival: Rachel Heng’s Singapore epic The Great Reclamation and William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. Josephine Teo: The Great Reclamation is a magical epic Source: Rachel Heng, Josephine Teo / Facebook The Great Reclamation by Rachel Heng is about the people and communities swept up in the winds of change as they blew across Singapore from the 1940s to the 1980s. An epic unfolds through the eyes of Ah Boon, and the story traces the trials and tribulations of his family and neighbours in their fishing village as they experience colonialism, war, Japanese occupation, merger, separation and becoming citizens of a fledgling nation. In their darkest hour, they discover a cluster of magical islands in bountiful waters that bring a short-lived prosperity. When his love interest Siok Mei becomes secretly embroiled in student activism, Ah Boon is faced with the conundrum of divergent loyalties. History, fantasy and aching love are masterfully woven together into a rich tapestry that transcends time. This was an enjoyable vacation read and fulfilled a promise to myself to keep fiction in my diet! Elmie Nekmat: Neuromancer defined cyberpunk Source: Elmie Nekmat / Facebook Neuromancer by William Gibson is a science fiction novel which defined the cyberpunk genre in the 90s. It also gave us the first clear conception of the term ‘cyberspace,’ which was impressive considering that the book was published when computers were hardly available and that access to a digital network was practically non-existent in people’s lives and work. The story revolves around Henry Dorsett Case. He was a former “console cowboy” – a hacker who earns a living by completing jobs whilst being cognitively and neurologically plugged into the “matrix.” Along with his ex Linda Lee, the “razorgirl” Molly and the psychopathic Peter Riviera, Case embarks on a quest through matrix cities like Istanbul, Zion, and Fireside, to name a few. As we accompany Chase and his friends on their journey, we witness his determination, adaptability, and courage to find hope amidst chaos and uncertainty. I’ve read Neuromancer multiple times. Each reading makes me question how new technologies are inextricably intertwined into our lives. It does also remind me of this: That in a world where technology and its consequences can be overwhelming, human ingenuity and hope will remain resilient when people work hand-in-hand. Read! Fest 2023 is on now Pick up a copy of either The Great Reclamation or Neuromancer then. Or find in the well-stocked NLB catalogue and at Read! Fest 2023 locations themselves many more books to discover and love. Author talks, panel discussions and hands-on workshops are on too. Just sign up here. As organisers note, Read! Fest 2023 is “guided by the individual living in a rapidly changing world as well as by a society where marginal concerns are taking centrestage.” In other words, it is just right for these times where readers can share with like-minded people their thoughts on how life should be. So come down to Read! Fest. Or use the NLB Mobile app. Stake your claim with us for a brighter, better and more inclusive world.