Sunday, 10 May 2009

Book - Mum Or Not, Here Are Some Good Reads For You

With four people jostling for shelve space in a family that’s addicted to book buying, it’s a constant tussle to find room for my motley collection of books – which continues to expand, with the latest addition of age-appropriate books for moi. 

Whether you’re a mum - Yummy Mummy, Soccer Mom or Mummy Dearest (!) - or not, you’re quite likely to find something worth reading among the following motherhood-themed books. At any rate, everybody has a mum, so happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

‘Fast-Food’ Read For Busy Bodies
I really enjoyed reading
Mums: A Celebration of Motherhood, a delightful collection of fiction and memoir from some of Britain’s best-loved writers. It’s great for dipping into now and then, whenever there’s a five-minute interval in between school runs, meal prep, cleanups and other household distractions.

From one-page musings to slightly longer stories (20-odd pages is the maximum length), this lovely celebration of motherhood features stories and personal recollections by well-known figures such as authors Alexander McCall Smith and Joanna Trollope as well as ‘domestic goddess’ Nigella Lawson, interspersed with touching and amusing snippets from famous names like parenting expert Miriam Stoppard and ‘celebrity mum’ Arabella Weir.

My favourite tale in the book is by McCall Smith, whose best-selling series – the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which is set in Botswana -- features the sensible and engaging Precious Ramotswe, the “traditionally built” female sleuth with a nose for detection and a heart of gold. In his story, Mma Ramotswe and her sidekick Mma Makutsi share a contemplative and touching moment as the former tries to recall what little she can about her mother, who died when she was just a baby.

From inspirational mums to magical mums, reluctant mums and mums behaving badly, this treasure trove written for mothers, by mothers, reflects many voices from across the generations and truly is a glorious celebration of motherhood. Brilliant for busy bodies (literally) who want a ‘fast-food’ read that’s quick and satisfying. Plus, proceeds from the book go to children’s charity PiggyBankKids.

Mums: A Celebration of Motherhood
Edited by Sarah Brown and Gil McNeil
S$22.50/Borders (also available at other major bookstores)

One To Cherish, Savour, Re-read And Share
Maya Angelou, one of my all-time favourite authors, writes with such warmth, candour and humility. The power of her words to move, entertain and delight is evident in
Letter to my Daughter -- her first original collection of writing to be published in 10 years -- which is memoir, guidebook, poetry and inspirational wisdom all rolled into one.

In her own inimitable style, she painfully recalls an episode of physical abuse at the hands of a former suitor; extolls honesty and decries vulgarity; not-so-gently chides and laughs at herself for behaving badly (albeit unwittingly) at a dinner party in an unfamiliar cultural setting; and dispenses down-to-earth advice on living well and with meaning.

Poet, writer, performer, educator and civil-rights activist – these are among the many hats that Angelou wears. Here in the book are glimpses of the eventful life that led her to an exalted place in the American literary scene and taught her lessons in kindness and strength of character along the way. Angelou was brought up by her grandmother in segregated Arkansas, went to live her more worldly and less religious mother at the age of thirteen, and grew up to be an awkward, six foot-tall teenager whose first experience of loveless sex paradoxically left her with her greatest gift, a son. Letter To My Daughter is dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her.

This is a book to cherish, savour, reread and share. If you enjoyed it, check out these other works by the same author including her bestselling autobiographies, beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; a cookbook, Hallelujah! The Welcome Table; and five poetry collections, including I Shall Not Be Moved.

Letter to my Daughter
By Maya Angelou
S$46.53 (hardcover) from Kinokuniya (also available at other major bookstores)

Alpha Mums Manage To Have It All

Those of you who love books in the self-improvement/empowerment vein will like this one: Women at the Top: Powerful Leaders Tell Us How to Combine Work and Family, by Diane F. Halpern and Fanny M. Cheung.

Readers learn about the work histories, motivation, leadership styles, mentors and family backgrounds of a diverse group of top-level women. About 60 female leaders of the world’s top organisations – these include the President of Old Navy/Gap, the Chairman of Deloitte & Touche, the Vice-President of IBM operations, a Supreme Court Judge in China and the President of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council – share compelling accounts of their efforts to balance work and family life. The book also touches on strategies for success (eg scaling back, juggling), the need for social support and the importance of cultural context.

Read this for some fresh perspective on successful multi-tasking for the modern, working mum. And for some reassuring reminders of what we already know in our hearts: that women can be good mothers and workers, we shouldn’t be guilty about the decisions we make that are best for our family, we should set goals for family life as we do for work, and we should be clear about our priorities.

Women at the Top: Powerful Leaders Tell Us How to Combine Work and Family
By Diane F. Halpern and Fanny M. Cheung
S$52.88 (hardcover from Kinokuniya (also available at other major bookstores)

-by lk


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