Books Actually Singapore: A Guide and My Experience

Although my steady drift towards minimalism has meant that I nearly never buy books anymore, I still thoroughly enjoy browsing in bookshops. Like, don’t even get me started here. I usually go to one with the intention of leaving in say, 10 minutes, and more often than not end up spending 50 minutes to an hour in there.

Just yesterday, I made the trip down to Books Actually, a bookshop specialising in local (Singapore) literature. Tucked in an unassuming corner of Yong Siak street in the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, this bookshop is a great place to get your rainy afternoon bookshop browsing fix.

The front of the shop can be a little difficult to spot for first timers as it is neither flashy nor has the actual name of the shop ie. “Books Actually”, in big print. However, ever since the introduction of their books vending machine, the shopfront has become slightly more visible. If I were to describe the experience of Books Actually in a few words, it’d be: “bookish charm”. With the iconic words from the Marauder’s Map overshadowing “Books Actually” on their glass doors, one would have to be a bit of a geek if he or she were to recognise that it is a bookshop from just those words.


Not so obvious things about Books Actually:

– Apart from books, Books Actually sells a variety of merchandise including tote bags and other knick knacks such as postcards, notebooks and souvenirs.

– The merchandise room: In a tiny, unobtrusive room just to the left of the cashier counter named “GIFT IDEAS”, I found some really cool, random merchandise. There were cat pins (I know lots of people like those things), old matchboxes, lamps, bottles, notebooks, and lots of unexpected, old-school items.image-min-1.pngimage-min-1-2.png

– Vintage books section: near the back of the shop to the left, is a little section of vintage, or just really old books. Although the books I’ve picked up from this aisle tend to be more expensive than average, it’s quite the treat for book lovers, especially if you’re simply a book geek like me and love discovering really old books, whether you’d read them or not. Also a handy resource for collectors, I suppose.

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What I love about this bookshop:

  1. Books Actually really champions local authors (even if mainly from Math Paper Press) and artists. As an aspiring creator myself, I applaud outlets like these which give local, or small, artists platforms to showcase their work. Platforms which aim to raise awareness about local creators’ novels, merchandise, or business. I am always for supporting small businesses and creators.
  2. The books are displayed in a delightful jumble of genres. This is the only place I have ever seen Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time displayed alongside local books.
  3. The book vending machine. Although I’ve only ever purchased books from it once (I am a very fussy reader, I don’t read most books and therefore want to know exactly what I’m getting. Also minimalism, so I don’t like having things around I won’t use or read), I think this is a GREAT WAY to promote local authors. It has the element of mystery which raises people’s curiosity, increasing the chances that they would want to get something from the machine. It therefore gets books that they may not normally pick up, into their hands. Since they have already bought it, there is a higher chance of them reading it, and through this, they may find a new author, book or series they actually like but may never have tried if not for buying it blind. Great endeavour, Books Actually.
  4. The towering piles and shelves of books. I love books.
  5. They sell scented candles now. Or maybe I just didn’t notice them before. I LOVE scented candles.

Why I don’t go more often:

  1. The books are pretty expensive- an average of $16-$22 for a book of poetry and maybe even more for prose. I go there mostly for the experience, and to browse local books.
  2. It’s kinda out-of-the-way to get to.

Conclusion: The books are pretty pricey for my budget, but I still go there at least once a year, whenever I happen to be in the area. The ambience is great, both for leisurely book browsing or to window shop cute, weird knick knacks. Lastly, if  you want to go to a physical store to check out a wide range of local authors, this is the place to be.

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