BooksActually – Singapore

I ardently believe that if I were to possess a superpower, then it is that of being able to find bookstores in any city I ever go to.

It was in the same way that my friend and I tracked down BooksActually while we were vacationing in Singapore; tucked in the cozy lane of 9, Yong Siak, between art galleries and quaint cafes, BooksActually oozes quirkiness.

This quirkiness takes a step back until you enter the store because before anything else, a book vending machine filled with similarly packed books, what we in the book world call the book blind date catches all your attention. I only wish I could bring it back with me to my city.

Once you do make it into the store, anyone in love with books would feel an instant belonging, the place is filled with books – in every nook and cranny. Reality takes a step back in this land, like it is every reader’s ardent desire. 

I do not know how long I spent amidst books, cats and rows of bookshelves peppered with poetry and quotes. But it brought to me an assurance of an innate belief of learning a culture through the writing of the region. The books I bought have only furthered that belief in the weeks I’ve been back – I find in them stories mine and others, telling me how different our experiences are but how similar we all are. 

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.

— James Baldwin

We read to know we’re not alone

— William Nicholson

What I find unique about BooksActually is that they have a publishing outfit of their own, known as, Math Paper Press. Math Paper Press has a wide range of writers, anthologies, and contemporary writers in their ranks. It struck me that it was producing successive, present content in both poem and prose – which brought to them unique writers and unique styles.

Their copyright slug, goes so far in being honest and witty, that it says – “So. Yes. Except for quotation of short lines for the purpose of criticism and review, no part of this may be reproduced… without prior permission in writing from the author, through Math Paper Press. Because. Yes. Authors need to eat too, besides coming up for air from time to time. Plus, there is no such thing as a free meal in the world. Get with the program”.

BooksActually also has a trinkets/gift shop in the back, where I found their sleepy cats and beautiful typography; a snapshot of the art and writing culture of Singapore. I picked up 3 books here – Afterimage by Werner Kho, The Desire For Elsewhere by Agnes Chew and My Lot Is A Sky, an anthology of poetry by Asian women. I’m steadily reading through, willing to hold on to the experience a bit longer, but will post my thoughts on these books in the upcoming days.

I can’t say this enough, even if you can’t visit them in person, do take out the time to check them out online – BooksActually. It’ll be an adventure of its own kind.