By Emily Oberton
When you’re working on your gift list this holiday season, add the gift that can be opened again and again and again – a book! And not just any book, but one from the vast collection of Singaporean literature. The Lion City boasts a thriving community of local authors, publishers and bookstores, which churns out an amazing collection of books, offering something for everyone.
A trip to a local bookstore will help you find a gift for even your hardest-to-shop-for friends and family members. Readers of all ages will enjoy mysteries, sci-fi thrillers, coming-of-age tales and other fictional stories that are set in Singapore. Or, for those wanting to take a deeper dive into Singapore’s history and culture, there are a multitude of engaging non-fiction books available.
Most bookstores around town, such as Books Kinokuniya, Littered with Books and Popular Bookstore, offer both Singapore and non-Singapore titles, while the Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop sells only Singapore literature. Online shopping is always an option, but local bookstore clerks are an invaluable resource in helping customers find the perfect book.
Books for Adults
Singaporean adult fiction abounds, but some fan favorites include Impractical Uses of Cake, by Yeoh Jo-Ann, which was the winner of the 2018 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, about the learning of love and sacrifice over a reunited pair’s shared fondness for cake; family mystery thriller, The Trailing Spouse, by Jo Furniss; and humorous voyage of self-discovery, Let’s Give it Up for Gimme Lao, by Sebastian Sim. The winner of the 2019 Singapore Book Awards Best Literary Work, Lion City, by Ng Yi-Sheng, is a collection of short stories that include elements of myth, magic and science fiction.
If you’re shopping for someone who enjoys learning about the people who live and work in Singapore, they are sure to enjoy Hard at Work: Life in Singapore, by Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen. This non-fiction book explores the jobs of more than 50 Singaporeans, such as a police officer, tattoo artist, tennis coach and more.
Other popular non-fiction titles include the memoir Homeless: The Untold Story of a Mother’s Struggle in Crazy Rich Singapore, by Liyana Dhamirah, and The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a biography by Sonny Liew about Singaporean comic artist Charlie Chan Hock Chye.
Many children enjoy reading books that are set in the area where they live, and it can help them make connections between the story and life, which can support the building of reading skills. Beginning readers are sure to love Ruth Wan-Lau’s Timmy and Tammy books, which take children on Singapore-based adventures on the MRT, the Night Safari, Changi Airport and China Town, to name a few. Popular Singaporean book series for elementary-aged children include kid detective series Sherlock Sam, by A.J. Low, time-traveling adventurers Danger Dan and Gadget Girl, by Lesley-Anne and Monica Lim, and horror fiction series Mr. Midnight, by James Lee. Teens who enjoy dystopian young adult (YA) novels will likely enjoy the Run Hide Seek sci-fi thriller trilogy, by Singaporean author Gabby Tye, who was only 14 years old when her books were published.
On the non-fiction bookshelves in the children’s section, you’ll find popular titles like The Little Singapore Book, by Sim Ee Waun and Joyceline See Tully, which offers a colorful, simplified history of Singapore for young readers. The Understanding Singaporeans series by Edmund Wee is also in high demand because the books answer frequently asked questions about various races and cultures in Singapore.
Lit Gift Tips
Personalize your hand-picked lit gift by adding a handwritten message on the inside book cover, explaining why the book is meaningful to you, or why it is perfect for them. If you’re the crafty type, personalize your gift even more by making an origami bookmark to accompany your gift. There are numerous examples of bookmarks on YouTube, and it’s a fun way for kids to contribute to the gift.