Singapore is not a city I readily associate with literature but there are a surprising amount of books to read, places to visit and activities for book lovers to enjoy in Singapore.
With a few days to explore Singapore I made it my mission to see all of the ‘book sights’ and pick up some local fiction to help me understand a bit more about this tiny country. If you’re a book lover with a layover or visited Singapore a few times and want to see something different to all the mainstream sights in Singapore then you’re in luck, here is your perfect guide to all things books in Singapore!
Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
This is probably the most well-known book about Singapore right now although most people will only know the movie. This is actually a trilogy and follows the story of Rachel, a professor in New York who is invited to spend the summer with her boyfriend’s family in Singapore. What she doesn’t realise is that her boyfriend, Nick, is heir to one of the largest family fortunes in Singapore and his family and friends are really crazy rich Asians. It’s a light-hearted and easy read which mentions a lot of places around Singapore making it a fun read before or during your visit.
Ponti – Sharlene Teo
This novel is told from the perspective of three women living in Singapore modern day Singapore. It’s the story of a mother, her daughter and her daughter’s friend and the events that intertwine their lives. The writing style has been likened to Zadie Smith who I really like so I’m looking forward to reading this. I’ll update with a full review when I’m finished.
Soy Sauce For Beginners – Kirsten Chen
Also one I discovered in the large ‘local authors’ section in one of Singapore’s many bookshops. It’s the story of a young woman who leaves her life in San Francisco to return to her childhood home of Singapore. While reconnecting with her family she becomes involved in the conflict surrounding the family soy sauce business and must decide whether to head back to the States or stay and help her family.
Best Bookshops in Singapore
The main language of Singapore is English making it very easy to find English books. While most of these shops will have other language sections the majority are English language books. Expect to pay about $20 SGD for a book in Singapore or head to the second hand stores in Bras Basah Complex to try and bag a bargain.
Basheer Graphic Books
On the top floor of Bras Basah Complex is this hidden gem of a bookshop selling a whole range of non-fiction books. The store is divided into subjects and has the most amazing variety of books on art, design, architecture, cooking, travel and much more. It also sells notebooks, local guides and gifts. Give yourself at least an hour to browse through this treasure trove and find a great coffee table book or new project.
Kinokuniya Orchard Road
This one requires a bit of time. The largest bookshop in Singapore has a simply ginormous range of books in every genre as well as magazines, gifts and stationery. It has a great section of local authors as well as an extensive collection of books in other languages. If you’re looking for a particular book chances are they have it but you may need to ask for help to locate it in the maze of millions of books!
Littered with Books
This is a beautiful independent bookstore and is two floors. The first floor has a fiction section and a great kids and young adults area. There are cute little labels, decoration and staff recommendations on all the shelves. The upstairs is gorgeously decorated and has a real cosy bookish feel. It has travel, cooking, biography and other non-fiction sections as well as some books on sale.
Minimalistic but well worth a browse this shop specialises in local books. The bookstore has its own publishing house and stocks a range of their own books including a huge variety of local authors. They also have amazing photography and local history books. The bookshop is located in Tiong Bahru right next to some great brunch spots so make a morning of it and grab a book to read with your coffee and brunch.
Woods in the Books
This is one of the best kids’ books shops I’ve ever been in. It’s a warm and welcoming space with all kinds of interesting books, gifts, cards and art. Although it’s targeted at young readers even adults will find something of interest and can spend a while browsing the amazing range of books. It’s right next door to Books Actually so they are easy to combine in one outing.
This beautiful little bookshop puts an emphasis on female authors and women of colour when selecting books to line their shelves. It has a great selection of fiction, non-fiction and kids books and you’ll be sure to find something new and interesting. If you’ve found a good book you can take your purchase straight to the inhouse café to enjoy with a coffee and cake.
Other book experiences in Singapore
The Book Café
This aptly named café is a great place to cosy on down with a book or grab something delicious to eat. They have a table seating section and a couch area surrounded by bookshelves with all kinds of novels, non-fiction and magazines.
Library at Orchard
This library is architecturally stunning and truly in keeping with Singapore vibes. No antique wooden bookshelves here. The place is completely white with touchscreens in the walls and bookshelves that make waves along the floor. There’s a very futuristic library which still celebrates the good old fashioned book. We thought this would be a bit of an attraction but the place is silent and filled with locals all with their nose in a book. It’s located in a busy shopping mall on Orchard Road and you may have to ask for directions to find it.
Book Vending Machine
For a fun, novelty experience, leave your book shopping up to chance. Head to the book vending machine outside of the Books Actually Bookshop and take a gamble. All the books are wrapped in paper and have a random stamp and no other hint as to what might be inside. My friend had a go and got a book of short stories by local authors published by the publishing house at the bookshop, well worth the $20!