By Stacey Rodrigues
The year saw a chapter come to a close for mainstay bookstores like Popular in Thomson Plaza and Kinokuniya in Liang Court, which have already shut, and MPH, which will close its last two stores over the next two months. Still, smaller, specialised bookstores continue to rush in to fill the literary gap. As Singapore gears up for National Reading Day this month, we’ve rounded up the newest and coolest independent bookstores where you can get your word fix.
1. The Moon
37 Mosque Street, www.themoon.com.sg
Tucked away in historic Chinatown, The Moon is one of the newest kids on the indie block, driving the importance of diversity and inclusivity through its books, featured artwork, and even the people who work there. Pakistan-born founder Sarah Naeem curates books with a strong female narrative, and spotlights writers and artists of colour. Make your purchase and then embrace your inner hipster at The Moon’s café for a cuppa, some cake and avocado toast. The Moon’s cosy event space is home to a monthly Queer Women’s Book Club, craft workshops, and meditation sessions.
2. Books Ahoy!
#02-03 Forum the Shopping Mall, www.woodsinthebooks.sg/books-ahoy
If you relished sitting in the aisles of a bookstore as a child, thumbing through the pages of the latest in your favourite book series, then you will definitely want to bring the kids to Books Ahoy! From the people behind Woods in the Books, the picture book store in Tiong Bahru is a haven for young readers, with its mix of fiction and non-fiction picture and chapter books. Here, they will not only be able to find Roald Dahl and attend a Tintin-themed party, but also immerse themselves in local books like the Asian Scientist Junior series.
3. Grassroots Book Room
25 Bukit Pasoh Road, www.facebook.com/grassrootsbookroom/
You might be forgiven for missing this unassuming bookstore in the middle of Bukit Pasoh Road. Since 1995, Grassroots has been a treasure trove of Chinese literature, history and philosophy. Its founders felt it was important to preserve a Chinese bookshop amid the growth of English-focused mega-bookstores. Grassroots opened at its current location in 2014, with a café - Katasumi Koohii - that serves hand-drip coffee and cakes.
4. GOHD Books
#01-37 Burlington Square, www.gohd.com.sg
If a gilt leather-bound edition of George Eliot’s Romola, or a first edition Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead excites you, then GOHD Books is a must. Even if you're not much of a reader, the bookstore is definitely an avid collector’s dream come true. While it does sell its books online, there’s nothing like the experience of browsing these titles at the shop. GOHD is open from Friday to Sunday, from 1.30pm to 7pm.
5. Basheer Graphic Books
#04-19 Bras Basah Complex, www.basheergraphic.com
Serious creatives and design enthusiast are already familiar with Basheer Graphics Books. Basheer specialises in design-related books and magazines, from architecture and typography to product and fashion design. On its New Arrivals list you will even find Men in Black Films: The Visual Companion to the Films (June 2019).
9 Yong Siak Street, www.booksactuallyshop.com
You could call BooksActually owner Kenny Leck the godfather of Singapore’s indie bookstore scene. While BooksActually may not have been the first indie bookstore in the city state, it is among the best known. Besides its collection of rare fiction and literature, BooksActually is home to the largest collection of Singapore literature. It also publishes and distributes the work of local writers like Melissa de Silva and Ng Yi-Sheng through its publishing arm, Math Paper Press.