Time Out’s Best Books
Stuck on what to read? Let us help you out! The Time Out Hong Kong team picks its favourite tomes, old and new, to help you get through the autumn months, bookworm-style…
Sex and Sunsets by Tim Sandlin
After seeing this book in a secondhand store and shoving it into the pile of random rubbish I was buying at the time, I never expected it to be quite such a memorable read. Sandlin’s offbeat style wouldn’t appeal to everyone but his dry humour and the bizarre opening internal monologue of the main character – Wyoming dishwasher Kelly Palamino – were enough to make me read on. Kelly is not necessarily the most likable character. He hears voices in water (his Water Pik quotes Ezra Pound and his toilet tells him to eat fish) and he also has an ex-wife who claims they were never married, yet his skewed perception of the world is entertaining. When he spots the woman of his dreams booting a football outside a church, the fact that it is her wedding day doesn’t strike Kelly as an obstacle to pursuance – and this completely bizarre tale unfolds from there. amazon.com, $104
The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons
It's hard to imagine, considering that he now spends his days interviewing everyone from Barack Obama to Lena Dunham, that Bill Simmons was once a mere sports blogger. But ranting about sports on his personal blog was exactly what got the self-proclaimed ‘sports guy’ his huge fanbase. Of course, being one of the first bloggers around – he was doing this in the late 90s on AOL – and having a genuine passion and knowledge of sports didn’t hurt. Simmons’ 2009 tome, The Book of Basketball, captures what made his columns such a joy to read. It’s full of pop culture references, off-the-wall observations and analogies, and geek-like rankings of NBA players and teams. The opening chapter, in which Simmons recalls how attending a Boston Celtics game shaped his childhood and his relationship with his father, is the heart and soul of not just this book, but every sports fan alive. paddyfield.com, $144.
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Anyone who’s ever had sisters will be able to understand and empathise with the irreplaceable bond and soul connection the Andreas sisters (aka the Weird Sisters) share. Rosalind ‘Rose’, Bianca ‘Bean’ and Cordelia ‘Cordy’ Andreas, named by their Shakespearean professor father after classic heroines from the Bard’s plays, are each at various crossroads in their lives when they all move home to tend to their mother, who is suffering from cancer. Brown fleshes her characters out as flawlessly flawed modern women facing very real questions of love, career, life and how we’re brought up, making us who we are today. paddyfield.com, $128.
One of my guilty pleasures in life is to escape from reality and immerse myself in an imaginary tale full of imaginary friends. I guess I never grew up after all! David Eddings’ Belgariad series spans over an elaborate 13 books. However, don’t be intimidated by the sheer volume – reading them is a breeze. Unlike most fantasy stories that take on a melodramatic (epic) tone, Eddings writes in a down-to-earth style of a raggedy bard narrating a captivating tale that spans seven millenniums. Set in a medieval world, the tale revolves around a family of sorcerers who have fought to ward off evil since the dawn of time, culminating in one epic battle between the Chosen One and a fallen God. Eddings’ genius lies in the fact that the tale has many cliffhangers. You can’t help but keep turning the pages. After all, who doesn't want to find out if what happens next is as you predicted or a big reveal? paddyfield.com, $102 each.
Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook by Adam Frampton, Jonathan D Solomon and Clara Wong
“Hong Kong is a city without ground. This is true both physically (built on steep slopes, the city has no ground plane) and culturally (there is no concept of ground).” Don’t expect to find your way through the streets with this book – Cities Without Ground essentially maps everything but. Designed by a team of architects, the book explores this idea through rigorous mappings of the 3D infrastructures of footbridges, shopping malls, skyscrapers and the spaces which flow through and around. Check out this little guide to find areas of particularly bad odours, colder air temperatures, smoking spots and other interesting Hong Kong culture titbits that has risen in relation to certain areas of our urban structures, all captured in this groundbreaking (get it?) guidebook. Available at Page One, $197.
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
I always come back to this one when I’m feeling particularly uninspired. Written by a boxing ring reporter, this novel, first published in 1989, follows a freak circus family created by design and not by chance (let’s just say the parents guzzle a truckload of illegal substances to create their little freaklings). Loosely based on the Jonestown cult and massacre, the novel is a tense and absorbing read coloured with a brilliant otherworldly language that is so often missing in contemporary fiction today. Also, the narrator is a bald albino hunchback – and she’s not even the strangest character in there (always fun to play spot the megalomaniac). A university friend recommended it a few years back and it took a while for me to track it down, but it was – and still is – well worth the effort. paddyfield.com, $128.