Singapore’s an ideal place to stock up on fresh English-language reading material. You will find bookstores in the shopping malls, but true bookworms will want to support these independent bookstores specialising in quirky reads and works by local authors.
Singapore’s hands-down best independent bookstore is Books Actually in the hip Tiong Bahru neighbourhood. Opened in 2005, this is the place to go for obscure titles, collector’s editions or anything written by a Singaporean – they have the largest collection of local literature, including poetry, essays, short stories and magazines. Best yet is the on-going promotion where you get a 20 percent discount if you purchase three or more books.
Just a few doors down from Books Actually is picture book specialist Woods in the Books. Their shelves are stocked with anything illustrated ranging from childhood favourites like Where the Wild Things Are to graphic novels like the Optic Nerve series by Adrian Tomine. With beautiful murals adorning the walls and a homey atmosphere it’s a great place to browse, though it’s hard to resist picking up one of the Singapore picture books as a souvenir.
Set in a restored shophouse in the trendy Ann Siang Hill area, Littered with Books is another paradise for bookworms. Its two floors are filled with every genre from classics to mystery novels to children’s lit, and they have an excellent selection of contemporary Singaporean fiction by authors like Catherine Lim. Check their Facebook page for upcoming literary events like book readings and launches.
By my count the Bras Basah Complex is home to a range of bookstores. Most sell a mix of new and used books, but my top pick for used fiction is Evernew Bookstore on the ground level (shop #01-07) where you can get 2 books for S$5. With prices that low you’d assume they’re crap books no one wants, but I’ve found everything from Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Bryson to Shakespeare in the ‘bargain bin’ and always in very good condition.
The Bras Basah bookstores also sell used children’s books, magazines, textbooks, art books, graphic novels, and travel guides. My most recent find was a used but current edition of Lonely Planet Japan for just S$19.90 – the full price was S$55!
If you need a break from the book shelves the Bras Basah Complex also has stationery stores, jewellery shops, hair salons, money changers, and a small cheap food court. It’s a five-minute walk from City Hall, Bugis, or Bras Basah SMRT stations.
Books Actually: 9 Yong Siak Street, T: 6222 9195, www.booksactually.com
Bras Basah Complex: 231 Bain Street www.bras-basah-complex.com.sg
Littered with Books: 20 Duxton Road, T: 6220 6824 http://www.litteredwithbooks.com/
Woods in the Books: 3 Yong Siak Street, T: 6222 9980, www.woodsinthebooks.sg
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 21st April, 2015.