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Grassroots Book Room
Photograph: Grassroots Book Room/Facebook

The best bookstores in Singapore

From classics to graphics, these are the stores every bookworm should visit

By Cam Khalid, Delfina Utomo and Cheryl Sekkappan
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Nothing beats getting your nose stuck in a paperback. These bookstores line their walls and displays with a wide range of print publications including second-hand gems and specialty books and magazines to niche readers. Besides endless shelves of hard copies, these are also the best spots to check out the works of local authors and the literary scene in Singapore. Time to refresh that reading list and get lost in the pages of your new favourite book!

RECOMMENDED: 6 cool indie stores in Singapore and the shops ready for the future of retail in Singapore

ZALL Bookstore
Photograph: Ian Toh Kui Qiang

ZALL Bookstore

Shopping Bookshops Raffles Place

There's a new bookstore in the heart of town, and it's a haven for lovers of Chinese culture, literature and art. Taking over the space in Wheelock Place where the Borders flagship used to be is the ZALL Bookstore. It stocks more than 30,000 Chinese literary works for adults and children across two storeys, and has a café and art gallery to boot.

 

Grassroots Book Room
Photograph: Grassroots Book Room/Facebook

Grassroots Book Room

Shopping Bookshops Outram

Chinese book lovers will have lots to browse at Grassroots Book Room. Started in 1995, this quaint bookstore stocks an impressive range of Chinese language books, spanning modern literature, history, politics, art and more. English speakers, no need to feel alienated – there are also local and international titles in English for your reading pleasure. For something different, check out the selection of beautifully illustrated picture books too. And once a new café moves in to replace the now-closed Katasumi Koohii, you'll have the perfect cosy spot for a lazy afternoon with books, dessert and coffee. 

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Epigram books, bookstore
Photograph: Time Out Singapore

Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop

Shopping Bookshops Raffles Place

Formed in 2011, Epigram Books is Singapore’s largest independent publisher with titles like The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew, Ministry Of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe and State Of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang under its belt. Now, you can find all your favourite local books by Epigram at their first physical store on Maxwell Road. Spend the afternoon browsing over 400 books in the store (90% of the books are by local authors) while you sip on a latte. 

Basheer Graphics Books
Anna Chittenden

Basheer Graphic Books

Shopping Bookshops City Hall

Basheer Graphic Books is no stranger amongst the art types in Bras Basah. A regular haunt for graphic designers and illustrators, the bookstore stocks the best and latest in disciplines that range from graphics and architecture to fashion and animation. There are also regular discounts offered on specialised magazines and publications. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Leave your name, number and the desired title(s), and you’ll be notified once it arrives.

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BooksActually
Photograph: BooksActually

BooksActually

Shopping Bookshops Tiong Bahru

For those who digest the likes of Murakami, Sweeney, Capote, Salinger, and Nabokov, bring your appetites and dollars when you visit BooksActually. Aside from the classic titles, the bookstore also carries narrative and theoretical books in the disciplines of philosophy, political science, history, biography, science, travel, food, art and more. Head to the back of the store for an assortment of desirably retro, non-literary oddities to peruse, including old-school film cameras and typewriters. With its line-up of monthly events, BooksActually is also a great place to check out Singapore's literary scene and get your dose of Singlit.

Littered with Books

Shopping Bookshops Tanjong Pagar

Browsing books promises to be a fun affair in this charming two-storey shophouse-turned-bookshop. The indie bookstore carries titles across all genres that range from specially selected literary, non-fiction, travel narratives and award-winning children's books. Additionally, the books on sale – ranging from bestsellers and literary classics to children's titles – are actually quite affordable or at least cheaper than you'd expect compared to other bookstores.  

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Woods in the Books

Shopping Bookshops Tiong Bahru

If pages full of words bore you, check out this shop that specialises in picture books. Woods in the Books offers a feast of pictorial treasures, including works by award-winning French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé – known simply as Sempé – plus quirky graphic novels, the popular 1980s Malaysian series Lat, pop-up versions of The Little Prince and of course, classic children’s books like Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are.

Books Ahoy!

Shopping Bookshops Orchard

Books Ahoy! at Forum the Shopping Mall is the brainchild of Shannon Ong and Mark Foo – the same folks behind Tiong Bahru’s Woods in the Books, an independent bookstore that specialises in picture books. Just like its sister outlet, Books Ahoy! has its eyes trained on reading materials for children, with a thoughtfully curated collection of classics, new releases, graphic novels, as well as niche titles that are hard to come by in Singapore. Aside from the usual classics by Roald Dahl and Hergé, the store also carries books with a local flavour – think Samsui Girl, Wayang Girl, Gasing Boy and Coolie Boys from local publisher, The History Workroom. With books lovingly displayed like artworks on shelves and walls, Books Ahoy! mirrors a mini-museum of children’s literature more than anything else. 

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The French Bookshop

Shopping Bookshops Tiong Bahru

Whether you're a dedicated Francophile or have a liking for the language of love, get stuck in the books at The French Bookstore. As its name suggests, this specialty store carries French books – pre-loved and hot off the press – in a variety of genres for both adults and children. The cosy Tiong Bahru bookstore also offers stationery, vintage wares and art.

Kinokuniya
Photograph: Kinokuniya

Kinokuniya

Shopping Bookshops Orchard

With so many titles across so many genres and languages, this Japanese book giant’s computerised book search stations are a blessing. Located in a massive space, Kinokuniya's extensive collection of graphic novels, magazines, guides, fiction and non-fiction titles will have you browsing for hours. It also offers stationery and other knick-knacks to go along with your purchase. 

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Times

Shopping Bookshops Orchard

Stock up your shelves with newly released paperbacks, the New York Times bestsellers and the latest issue of your favourite magazine. Titles include fiction, non-fiction, lifestyle and children's books, but don't expect to find many specialist ones here. However, do keep your eyes peeled for exciting activities such as author appearances, book signings and workshops. With multiple stores around Singapore, find the nearest one on its website.  

For online book shopping

GOHD Books
Photograph: GOHD Books

GOHD Books

You won't quite find the next hot Young Adult bestseller here because GOHD Books is a bookstore of rare and collectable books. Think leather-bound biographies, fairy tale tomes, books on natural history and folklore, and translated classics like Don Quixote and Ramayana that remain in almost perfect condition. Equally notable are works on observations of the world, whether an 1886 study on the gypsies of India or a written documentation of Borneo natives from 1927. 

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BooksActually
Photograph: BooksActually

BooksActually

The physical store may be closed but BooksActually lives on – online. For those who digest the likes of Murakami, Sweeney, Capote, Salinger, and Nabokov, bring your appetites and dollars when you visit BooksActually. Aside from the classic titles, the bookstore also carries narrative and theoretical books in the disciplines of philosophy, political science, history, biography, science, travel, food, art and more. BooksActually is also a great place to check out Singapore's literary scene and get your dose of Singlit.

Shop online

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Ethos Books
Photograph: Ethos Books

Ethos Books

Championing emerging and exciting writers from diverse backgrounds, Ethos Books is an independent local publisher of literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Catch up on your local literature with the catalogue here – and get it delivered to your home. You can even purchase digital books (for selected titles) if you're a Kindle user.

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Person holding books
Photograph: Unsplash

Thryft

Thryft was started by students from the National University of Singapore and is a second-hand online bookstore where you can trade in old books for credits to purchase other books on its marketplace. There is a wide range of books in the store and you can find textbooks, local literature, Murakami and also graphic novels. Prices are cheaper because the books are used so don't expect them to be in pristine condition.

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Allscript
Photograph: Allscript

Allscript

Books not really your thing but you love poring over magazines for hours? Order your favourite magazines like Monocle, The New Yorker, Vogue, National Geographic and Kinfolk from Allscript. There is free shipping for all magazines so load up that (online) shopping basket.

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books
Photograph: Freddie Marriage

OpenTrolley

OpenTrolley is a Singapore-based online bookstore with over 15 million titles stocked. Shop all kinds of books from bestselling thrillers to hardcover design books. The store even has tarot cards if you're keen on picking up something new these days.

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More specialty stores

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