4 Singapore bookstores to lose yourself in
In this age of Facebook, YouTube, blogs and tweets, sometimes all we need (and want) is to slow down and thumb real paper instead of scrolling a screen. That's why we love these Singapore bookstores -- they're quirky, quiet, artsy and for the serious minded only. Ahem, read on.
What started out as a serious hobby for owners Kenny Leck and Karen Wai turned into a business, and a booming one at that. BooksActually is an independent bookshop specializing in fictional literature, some of which is hard to find. We spotted a collection of rare Lemony Snicket first editions hiding in one corner, while Capote was rubbing shoulders with Nabokov elsewhere. The place has a simple, quaint and bookish charm like ye olde English bookstore -- you never feel like leaving and there's always something new to poke and flip through.
There's also an impressive collection of notebooks and journals to inspire some writing, as well as quirky items like lomo cameras and old typewriters. The entrepreneurial pair also publishes books under their own imprint, Math Paper Press, and hand-stitches notebooks under the brand Birds & Co. Look out for Cake the cat, who lives in the store. And no, the kitty's not for sale.
No. 5 Ann Siang Road, Singapore
tel +65 6221 1170
2. Polymath & Crust
Kenny and Karen did so well with BooksActually that they followed up with a sister act -- Polymath & Crust. Unlike the flights of fancy that BooksActually inspires, this one is firmly grounded in non-fiction titles, with an excellent collection of travel fiction (both in and beyond Asia), biographies and books on natural science and history and so on. The pair have a passion for books relating to narrative and theoretical studies in disciplines including philosophy, psychology, anthropology, political science, history, biography, mathematics, science, travel, food, art, photography and film.
The store also stocks a very decent collection of Gryphon teas (their favorite brand, which they imported), and there is an exhibition gallery in the attic for small displays on conceptual art. Like BooksActually, there's other non-book related stuff for sale, including a map collection (no surprise, since Kenny's obsessed with them) and semi-scientific items like mathematical rulers, compasses and fine stationery.
No. 86 Club Street, Singapore
tel +65 6222 9195
3. 25 Degrees Celsius
It seems that the Chinatown area is a magnet for literary types to gather. A short walk away from Books Actually and Polymath & Crust is 25 Degrees Celsius (or just 25°C), a bookstore dedicated to all things cookery. This is the ideal place to get recipes or cooking advice, by virtue of the assortment of cookbooks which are classified by region such as Chinese, Japanese, French and Thai. You can also hang out in the café for a drink or two with your favorite read as they serve up a decent assortment of finger foods and drinks.
The name itself is a study in cooking -- it draws reference to the precision in temperature control in the art of cookery, (which by the way without this the very look and taste of gourmet cuisine can never be perfected). So the importance of temperature is stressed many a time in numerous cookbooks, which in food-obsessed Singapore, this aim for perfection is quite apt.
25 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore
tel +65 6327 8389
4. Casual Poet
Casual Poet is less of a hush-shush bookstore and more of a laidback little coffee shop and store on the third floor of an old shophouse in Chinatown. Books are obviously a major draw, but the store also stocks knick-knacks, indie magazines, albums, stationery and notebooks. The brainchild of Rebecca and Venessa Toh, who visualized it as a multifunctional cultural label and studio, the store has since attracted "artists, designers, writers, actors, filmmakers, photographers, musicians, travellers and many others who hope to escape the heat & chaos of this occasionally heartbreaking city," according to their website.
A distinct characteristic of Casual Poet is their bilingual approach (they have many Mandarin albums and magazines from Hong Kong), an approach which most concept bookstores do not have. In addition, the store also holds ad-hoc exhibitions from time to time.
273B New Bridge Road, Singapore
tel +65 6221 5022