If you follow me on Twitter, you will know I have become a huge fan of BooksActually, an eclectic and inviting independent bookshop. Old typewriters line the staircase. Vintage cameras perch on bookshelves. Here and there: antique maps, vintage glasses, tea cutlery, coin albums.
And the books! The store houses a thoughtfully curated collection, handpicked by owners Kenny Leck and Karen Wai. I’ve already spent countless hours browsing the shelves in this restored, three-story shophouse*. While I’ve come across copies of my personal favorites—Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth—I’ve also been introduced to a number of contemporary Singaporean writers, including Suchen Christine Lim and Cyril Wong.
And that’s really why I love this place. It has heart. Leck and Wai are committed to preserving and promoting Singapore’s literary arts. They host events with all sorts of interesting writers and artists; sell copies of Singa, a now-defunct literary magazine that showcased local literature; and publish limited-edition works by Singaporean writers under their own imprint, Math Paper Press. Most recently, the press released the first issue of Ceriph, a quarterly literary journal committed to providing space for “experimental or up-and-coming writers… [and collecting] new works of prose, poetry, social commentary, photography, and visual art.”
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BooksActually also hand-stitches notebooks under the brand Birds & Co. I am a paper nut and you can frequently find me at BooksActually’s sister store longingly fingering the spines of their hand-bound notebooks or rifling through baskets of hand-printed bookplates and postcards.
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Do check out BooksActually’s Flickr stream and tell me that you don’t agree:
[*UPDATE: BooksActually has relocated to 9 Yong Siak Street in historic housing estate, Tiong Bahru. Their new space is large, airy, and just as beautiful.]