Singapore is known for its nightlife and its vibrant party scenes and you would find it hard to not hear about the wild soirees that one can have at the 1-Altitude bar on a weekend night. For that to happen each weekend can be exhausting and come Monday morning, most of us would be reeling from the alcohol-fuelled fun time. That makes Sunday mornings a perfect time to recover with a light breakfast and a neat book in hand. Thankfully, Singapore is more than just its glistening parties and bright city lights and there are plenty that you can enjoy in Singapore. One of it being its dazzling array of homegrown literature.
The topic of homegrown literature has been regularly discussed in Singapore. Especially in a country that has found her independence some 54 years ago, her citizens are still trying to understand themselves and of their identity. In the process, many have turned to literature as a mode of self-expression. The next step for those blessed with a hand that giveth is to take their manuscripts to publishers in the hopes of sharing their stories. While some might not make the cut, it is thanks to these local publishers that have given these authors a voice and a platform where their stories can be heard, recognised and validated by the world. If you have just moved to Singapore, join arms and jump into the world of SingLit with these book publishers.
Where To Turn To For SingLit?
There is a long list of book publishers in Singapore that is flying the flag high for Singapore literature, or as we call it, SingLit. In particular, these three renowned publishers stand out and are the ones that you absolutely have to know for your dose of SingLit.
The motto of Epigram Books reads as “to hold Singapore in your hands” and it cannot be more accurate. When you pick up a book published by the independent book publisher, you are experiencing the country first-hand, understanding its quirks, intricacies and what makes it Singaporean. One of the most famous releases published by Epigram Books is the graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, which has won the all-famous Eisner Award. To raise the level of SingLit and bring more thought-provoking titles to Singapore, the publisher has also launched the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in the hopes of uncovering the next great Singaporean novel. Each year, the publisher and its illustrious panel of judges vet through hundreds of entries before pulling out five deserving candidates and making the all-final decision on who wins the grand prize. More than just fiction, Epigram Books publishes children’s picture books and non-fiction titles as well so your entire family would not be excluded from the fun! Since Singapore has a long-standing obsession with our food, Epigram Books has also published its own local-centric cookbooks and food guides that would educate your tastebuds.
What Ethos Books aims to do is extremely commendable. Since 1997, they have been giving voice to emerging and engaging writers from diverse backgrounds, building up the growing literary community in Singapore and also expanding the thought of what it means to be Singaporean. By looking at Ethos Books’ stable of works, you would discover something fresh and interesting each time you take a peek. This is in part of their collaborative approach to publishing by always finding new ways of presenting ideas and being open to new ideas. Under its list of works, you can find famous titles like Coastlands by poet Aaron Lee, the play Cooling-Off Day by Alfian Sa’at and Singapore Siu Dai by Felix Cheong.
Math Paper Press
If you have visited BooksActually (the quaint bookstore in the midst of Tiong Bahru), you would discover that it stocks up a bunch of pretty poetry titles by Math Paper Press. If you didn’t already know, Math Paper Press is actually a part of BooksActually, as a small boutique publisher of SingLit. Part of the books’ allure is its covers that have all been tastefully designed. With either a giant circle in the centre of the page (understood to be a nod to Singapore’s nickname as the Little Red Dot) or a motif in the centre that symbolises the book, it is instantly recognisable when you pass by someone reading it on your daily commute. Within it, you will find captivating stories in different forms, from poetry, novellas to even full-length novels. Under Math Paper Press, you can expect to see the works from famed local authors like Cyril Wong, Joshua Ip, Alvin Pang and Alfian Sa’at. As a side note, don’t be surprised if you see automated book vending machines the next time you walk around Singapore. Math Paper Press has recently started planting vending machines at the National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Visitors Centre and the Goodman Arts Centre to provide Singaporeans with an accessible means of getting their dose of SingLit.