SINGAPORE (Apr 8): The sun is shining and your pina colada beckons. The sea stretches as far as the eye can see. You’ve left work (and possibly the kids) behind. What better way to spend time on a cruise than with books? Here are our recommendations.

Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan

This is the book that spawned a movie that spawned a thousand memes.  Loosely based on his experiences growing up in Singapore, Kwan’s book is a candy-filled guilty pleasure that will transport you into the lives of the ultra-wealthy of the island state. It tells the story of Rachel Chu, a middle class ABC (American Born Chinese) whose boyfriend, Nick Young, is secretly “Asia’s Prince William” and heir to his family’s fortune. When she goes with Nick to Singapore to attend the wedding of his best friends, she faces off against his hyper-controlling mother and the trappings of the wealthy. At once salacious and entertaining, this is the ultimate holiday escapism.

Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson

When American author and journalist Bryson wanted to move back to his native US after 20 years in England, he decided to take a trip around Great Britain. The result is this hilarious, witty and heart-warming account of his travels and enduring affection for the wet, gloomy British weather and its even gloomier people. The landscape of the UK has certainly changed since this was published in 1995, but this part memoir, part travel journal will cheer you up, especially if the ship buffet has run out of shrimp cocktail and Prosecco.

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

The best books take you to places you have never seen, and perhaps never want to leave. This is one such book.

At first read, it is about a young Andalusian shepherd on a journey to the pyramids of Egypt, after having recurring dreams of finding precious treasure there. At the end of it, however, you will realise it is so much more than that. The Alchemist is about the journey to self-realisation, written in that dream-like quality that only Coelho could. If you are adventuring, we highly recommend you do not leave home without this slim volume.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

This comedy science-fiction series began life in every format other than a book, but it is the book that endures for all who remember Adams’ story of Arthur Dent, the last surviving man following Earth’s demolition to make way for a space highway. He is saved by an alien who writes for an electronic travel guide called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This “trilogy in five books” has been adapted and re-imagined by countless authors since its original 1980s release.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

This book reads like Gaiman’s highly fictionalised autobiography. It is about a man who returns to his hometown for a funeral and remembers the strange events that began 40 years earlier with his neighbour, Lettie Hempstock, and her house that she says has “an ocean in the backyard”. One night, mysterious events lead to an evil presence entering his world, carried inside as a piece of himself and slowly eating his heart away. This bizarre, sometimes frightening, but entirely riveting tale is one to lose yourself in, but just watch out for the ocean at the end of the boat.

This story first appears in the Yachting & Lifestyle Special pull-out with Issue 875 (April 8) of The Edge Singapore.

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