Bookish Adventures in Singapore, part 3: Books Actually
by George Ivanoff - April 24th, 2012
During our holiday in Singapore, my family and I stayed with friends in their condominium. Very nice experience! I think I could get used to condo living. The building was situated in the suburb of Tiong Bahru. Apparently, Tiong Bahru is one of Singapore’s “oldest and hippest” suburbs (according to CNN), and is particularly known for its specialty stores. I had no idea about this while we were staying there, but it certainly explains the little designer furniture store and the shop specialising in macaroons (that’s right… an entire store full of macaroons… of all different colours and sizes) that I happened to pass one day. It also explains Books Actually.
Tucked away in one of the many quiet side streets, Books Actually is, as the name suggests, a bookstore. Now, given that Literary Clutter is hosted on the website of a bookstore (the awesome, one-and-only, Boomerang Books), I don’t normally blog about other bookshops (they are the feeelthy competition, after all). But given that this shop is in Singapore, and the fact that it is more than a bookstore, I figured that I’d break the rules and write about it (as I did about the Tintin store in my last post).
Books Actually contains predominantly English language books and seems rather popular with expat residents. It has a lovely atmosphere, an eclectic range of books and other bits and pieces, and seems to have a constant stream of customers, despite its out-of-the-way location. The new books, as with books generally in Singapore, are a few dollars more than what you would expect to pay for them in Australia. The second hand books are a different kettle of fish, with prices climbing rather high. I was amazed to see battered old copies of The Hardy Boys, the sort you can pick up in an Aussie op shop for fifty cents, priced at upwards of $15 each. But, I guess, it’s all a matter of supply and demand.
As well as books, this shop had an odd assortment of other things, including three shelves dedicated to vintage Pez dispensers for $12 each…
Most inexplicable of all, were the eight bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne nestled in amongst some boxes, suitcases and paintings towards the back of the shop. There were no price tags on these, so I’m not sure if they were actually for sale or simply waiting to be drunk by the staff after the shop closed for the day. I’m a bit of a Champagne fan, so I had to snap a photo…
As well as being a bookstore, Books Actually is also a small press publisher, and this is what I found most interesting. Under its Math Paper Press imprint, it publishes books, chapbooks and literary journals, featuring local writers. And under its Birds & Co. brand it produces a range of very beautiful stationary.
I spent a happy forty minutes or so browsing through Books Actually — its brightly lit, air-conditioned rooms a haven in Singapore’s constant humidity. I didn’t see the point of buying books that I could get back home, but I did buy one of the journals and one of the chapbooks published by Math Paper Press so that I could get a small taste of the local literature. (I’ll review them in a future post.)
To find out more about Books Actually, Math Paper Press and Birds & Co., check out their website.
And so, dear readers, we come to the end of my bookish adventures in Singapore. Thanks for joining me. Next time we’ll be returning to my usual mix of insightful reviews, hard-hitting interviews, controversial opinions and razor-sharp wit.
Catch ya later, George
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