Perfect for when some peace and quiet is on the agenda
Perfect for when some peace and quiet is on the agenda
- By Aileen Liang
- | Dec 13, 2019
It’s stifling hot outside, the crowds seem to be everywhere, and you just can’t seem to hear your own thoughts. If you feel like you’ve got a pocket of free time while out and about, and am seeking for a slice of quiet, let it be one with a good book in hand; overpriced coffee and hipster glasses optional. Here’re 16 local bookstores to get your dose of literary enjoyment.
Basheer Graphic Books
Book lover or not, BooksActually is the quintessential Singapore independent bookstore, thanks to its resident cats (Pico, Lemon and Cake), its obscure location in Tiong Bahru, and its in-house publishing arm Math Paper Press, which offers exposure to promising local writers. Specialising in fiction and literature, take your pick from titles old and new—be it Math Paper Press’s freshly-printed new releases, obscure out-of-print titles, or even antique editions for ardent collectors. If you’re not a big on fiction and are still enticed by its cosy storefront and wooden shelves wall-to-wall, you can still peruse the curated titles in categories from human sciences to food narrative. If reading’s not enough and you want to display your nerd pride loud and proud, look for the little backroom stocked with quaint trinkets; pick up a Birds & Co handstitched notebook, or a cute little MeowsActually tote bag to carry your book loot in. Or, you know, shop online and get it all delivered to you.
Who said reading had to be an activity for the lonesome? This cosy little nook for an afternoon of reading gathers other book-lovers alike, regularly hosting book launches and readings from writers local and abroad, that Kenny, the owner, plugs constantly on Facebook. Go grab your hipster reading glasses, and read to teleport to Yong Siak Road and beyond. 9 Yong Siak St.
Bookfair goers and aspiring writers alike would recognise this name, as Anthony Koh Waugh’s independent bookshop and book fair concept. With a well-rounded selection of local and international offerings, from literary luminaries like Leo Tolstoy and Margaret Atwood, to local legends like Haresh Sharma, you’ll be picking up the finest reads as rotationally hand-picked by the owner. What you’ll find different about Booktique, however, is its dedication to the craft of writing—as inspired by Anthony’s own career experience as a freelance writer, Booktique carries titles specifically for struggling writers, actively propping up more than 30 self-published authors today. If you’re a struggling creative yourself, expect to feel very welcome here; and who knows, you may just pick up a title that will finally break through that writers’ block. Though the bookstore no longer operates any physical stores, be sure to watch out for its pop-ups—and catch them before it’s too late!
It’s in the name itself; if you’re a quirky catlady (we all are at heart) with a taste for literary and philosophical thought, you’ll feel right at home here. We mean that literally, once you step into its cosy interiors and enter into a world filled with sweet little trinkets sure to evoke nostalgia and memories from times long gone. Slip your pens into these Wheniwasfour Multi-Purpose Pouches and pledge your love to chilli crab, set your necessary mug of hot tea down on a beautiful Tile Coaster, and pick up the Fashionary Fashionpedia for a classy coffee-table centerpiece. You won’t be able to resist the allure of the pretty book covers shelved here, nor the assortment of locally-designed knick-knacks, so let your hands and mind roam free. If you’d much rather shop from the comfort of your bed, their store is online too; though you’d want to personally say hi to their adorable feline furries, Zoo-zoo and Chestnut. Two outlets, #02-25 Bras Basah Complex, 231 Bain St. or 448 Joo Chiat Rd.
City Book Room
Gohd Books. Credit: Lifestyle Asia
Fancy yourself a highbrow intellectual? Gohd Books is your place to be, its shelves stocked with antiquarian and rare books, leather-bound and pages well-aged. Gently page through books like Da Vinci's Codex Madrid (a super rare book of his inventions), trace your finger along the ornate gold gilt on the spines of George Eliot’s Romola, and train your eye on rare Japanese reproduction prints. Surrounded by masterpieces probably older than your grandparents. Step into this time capsule for an instant blast to the past. #01-37 Burlington Square, 175 Bencoolen St.
Grassroots Book Room
Open since 1995, the Grassroots Book Room has provided cosy respite for local book nerds for close to 25 years now. The previous occupants of the site at North Bridge Center have since shifted to the first floor of a shophouse, furnished with old-timey leather chairs and eclectic knick knacks to further amp up the nostalgia factor. OG fans of the bookstore would be pleased to know it still religiously stocks books on Chinese and foreign history, Chinese modern literature and Chinese philosophy, but they’ve also added picture books and food-writing books into their rotation. They’ve even got Western and Japanese translation literature, and unapologetically local titles if you’re ready for some genuine cross-cultural immersion. Though its tall book shelves and quaint interiors are conducive for nerding alone, watch out for their themed exhibitions every one to two months, that will pique your intellectual curiosity and makes for a lovely afternoon activity. 25 Bukit Pasoh Rd.
A riveting read coupled with an aromatic cuppa is one of life's simplest, yet greatest, pleasures. And at the Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop, a collob opening by the cafe chain and the local book publisher, you'll find exactly that. Only Singapore books are found here, with over 400 titles stocked at any one time. Plus, you won't only get Epigram titles here, but also those from other local publishing houses, which is generous of them to say the least. For brews, local kopi is available, in addition to the more regular cafe fare. You can even have a proper lunch here if you wish. You might even find a local author or artist occupying one of the seats during opening hours. Feel free to just walk up and have a chat. 45 Maxwell Rd.
Littered With Books
Along the stretch of whimsical-looking shophouses on Beach Road sits this pretty hideout, whose pastel interiors and curved alcoves would make any aesthetic-loving hipster swoon. Beyond the rustic-looking stone arches lies a 25-seater reading room, vibrant book covers adorning the walls and cosy reading spaces aplenty. A bright and airy space, complete with potted plants and cacti, it’s the best place to go for some creative inspiration as you browse through a curated selection of lifestyle picks by experts in the industry. For a dose of extra warmth, grab a cup of tea from the adjoining tea room by A.Muse Projects, and let your imagination steep as your tea leaves do. 267 Beach Rd.
Direct your "intellectual" friend who uses words like postmodern in everyday conversation to this e-bookstore. While Select Books is known to be more of a publisher and distributor, you can get lots of nerdy, weighty books about Southeast Asian history and culture here. For those among us who possess the dexterity to delve into higher academic rigour, take your pick from a vast array of Asian titles, local and regional.
The rich historical background of Chinatown lends extra character to this truly quirky bookstore-cafe space along Mosque Street, one where the smell of coffee and the hanging potted plants bring immediate relief to a cluttered mind. Here, you can discover obscure titles flying below the mainstream radar, featured books that spotlight artists and writers of colour, and strong female narratives and voices. If their colourful artistic covers are not a strong enough indication, the folks at The Moon embrace the value of diversity and multiculturalism. You’ll really feel like you’re suspended in another world once you pad upstairs, where you can get comfortable in a sun-lit corner near the arched windows; get lost in the literary universe. Who knows, if you keep an open mind and heart, you just might make a friend or two while lounging on the cushions, and continue the illuminating conversation downstairs over cups of coffee. 37 Mosque St.
Woods In The Books
Just down the street from BooksActually, Woods In the Books nestles a whimsical escape from reality for both kids and the young at heart. Step right through the turquoise door, and enter on into a world of saturated colours and vivid dreamscapes, sure to pique your little one’s imagination. Prepare to be enchanted by the curated selection of picture books, or pick up hard-to-find reads like Mao and Me, a hard-hitting tome about political upheaval during the cultural revolution, and an illustrated interpretation of Persian classic The Conference of the Birds. An afternoon here is a visual treat for all, but adventures are for those who let their imagination run wild in the literary wilderness. 3 Yong Siak St.