Model Essay
by The English Mastery Team

It is said that 'Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.' We hope you haven't stopped reading to feed your curious mind so that it gets the nourishment it needs. If you want some recommendations, we have are five book recommendations pitched at Upper Secondary and Lower Secondary levels that you can explore if you are looking for inspiration!

1) 3,096 Days by Natascha Kampusch (Upper Secondary)

This is a novel that strikes at your heart. It is about the true story of Natascha Kampusch, the author herself, who was kidnapped at the tender age of ten and spent a total of eight years in captivity. The story follows her time in captivity and her eventual escape from her kidnapper. It is a detailed and gruelling account of her isolation from the rest of the world, who thought her dead, and the style of writing is vivid with rich imagery. Above all else, it is an inspiring account of how a kidnap victim managed to emerge victorious against the mental and physical battles with her captor, and how she remained resilient despite the odds against her. The book contains fairly advanced levels of vocabulary and expressions, which makes it the perfect read not only for getting to know her side of the story, but also to improve your English at the same time.

NLB Overdrive: (limited copies available for borrow)
Book Depository:

2) Completely Unexpected Tales by Roald Dahl (Upper Secondary)

If you think Roald Dahl only wrote children’s books, think again. This is an anthology of some of Roald Dahl’s best adult writings, from an ingenious method of covering up a murder to an exceptionally eerie stay at a Bed-and-Breakfast. Each story is very rich in its description, characterisation, and development of tension, which makes this anthology an absolute wonder to read.

The devil is in the details: do pay close attention to the descriptions used, as well as the mannerisms, dialogue, and nuances of the characters in order to truly appreciate Dahl’s writings. More important, each story features a twisted ending for those who particularly enjoy plot twists. Beware, however, that Dahl’s writing here is rather dark and macabre in its own way, and is more befitting for those looking for a challenging read.

NLB Overdrive: (limited copies available for borrow)

3) What Gives Us Our Names by Alvin Pang (Upper and Lower Secondary)

This is not a novel, but rather, a literary exposition by local writer Alvin Pang about personified human sentiments, traits, and values, such as beauty, patience, and purpose. Each trait is artfully personified and takes on a human character within a span of 2-3 pages, making it a short yet beautiful literary work that perfectly captures the nuances behind such traits.

The descriptions of the ‘characters’ are simple and elegant, and fit each personality trait exceedingly well. The narration in the book can be thought of not only literally, but also figuratively. Students who enjoy literature will definitely find this book to be most gratifying. Here is one excerpt from the book as an example:

“Purpose is a clearer thinker than anyone I know. She is also the least forgiving of mistakes, but the most compassionate to those who make them… Because she looks quite youthful and is small in stature, Purpose sometimes gets lost in the background at meetings or mass gatherings.”

Books Actually Online:

4) The Teenage Textbook and The Teenage Workbook by Adrian Tan (Lower Secondary)

This two-part, coming-of-age novel is a delight from yet another local writer Adrian Tan. Originally published in the 1980s, this hilariously captivating book was a bestseller during its time amongst teenagers and even adults, and is (fortunately!) still in print today.

The storyline revolves around an exceedingly average girl, Lee Mui Ee, and her friends, at the beginning of their Junior College and love lives, which makes it interesting and relevant for many teenagers even till this day.

What is not exceedingly average, however, are the puns, jokes, and sarcasm in every chapter which leave you wishing that you didn’t reach the last page of the book. The sense of humour of the author is truly unrivalled in Singapore’s literature scene. Otherwise, the language of the book is easy to read, and the plot is easy to follow. It will no doubt be a highly enjoyable and relatable read for teenagers such as yourself!


5) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Lower Secondary)

Arguably the best mystery novel written by the Guinness World Record’s best-selling fiction writer of all time, And Then There Were None begins its story seemingly innocuously by introducing the characters one by one before their arrival at an isolated mansion on an island far off the coast of civilisation. Things turn awry quickly when they realise that there is an extremely well-concealed killer amongst their midst.

What heightens the tension rapidly is the sinister nursery rhyme used to foreshadow the next person’s death and is repeated at crucial parts of the novel as a consistent reminder of the impending death that looms over everyone’s heads. This suspense gives the novel a chilling, eerie effect that transcends its pages and grips its readers. Tensions continue to run extremely high with each passing chapter, and readers will be left at the edges of their seats by the end, with a plot twist that few will have seen coming at all. The novel was so well-received that there is also a BBC One live action mini-series of the book!

NLB Overdrive:
Book Depository:
BBC One Mini-series:

Website links to purchase or borrow the books have been provided for your reference, so do check them out to enrich your time during the holidays by picking up some new reads. Happy holidays, and happy reading!

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