BOOKSACTUALLY (est. 2005) is an independent bookstore specializing in Fiction and Literature. This includes Poetry, Essays, Literary Journals, alongside obscure, critical works and antique/rare editions. We also stock titles from various subjects we like: History, Biography, Current Affairs, Human Sciences, Math/Natural Sciences, Travel Narrative, Food Narrative, Aesthetics, Music and Film. BOOKSACTUALLY also houses the largest collection of Singapore literary publications including some out-of-print titles.
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Independent Bookstore With A Cosy, Unique Vibe
If you’re gift shopping for a literature-junkie, or simply want to spend the afternoon immersed in a world of words, then BooksActually is just the right place for you. They stocks titles from well-known international writers, ranging from Marquez’s works to Burgess’ plays. However, BooksActually’s emphasis is on the local literary scene, selling beautiful paperbacks and hardcovers from Math Paper Press, BooksActually’s small-press publisher, which focuses exclusively on local poets and authors.
The interior of the small shophouse space on Yong Siak Street is softly lit, with cluttered shelves and tables piled high with books. I love the quiet, cosy vibe of BooksActually, which make the place feel like home. They even have a cat that you can play with! If you’ve been searching, without success, for a novel or anthology by a local writer, you should definitely try BooksActually.
Take your time to browse through the glossy titles and to explore this unique space, you’ll be sure to find something that catches your eye.
More than just Books, Actually
Have you ever set foot in an area where time just passes more slowly? A place that seems so utterly charming that simply being in it distracts you from your worries and brings you contentment? Books Actually is one such place for me, possessing the magical quality of transporting you into a different dimension, all the while lulling you into a state of contentment and wonder as you peruse the various items on its shelves.
Books Actually has an excellent collection of books and other old school memorabilia, including Pez containers, marbles, and other antique-y items you will love to have in your house, if only for the sense of nostalgia they invoke. If you make a trip down to Books Actually, do not miss out the (slightly hidden) room at the back, because that's where I normally spend the bulk of my time. It's astonishing how such a small room can contain so many treasures that I never feel like wanting to leave.
Books Actually also supports local artistes, hosting book signings for singers such as Inch Chua, and being a strong supporter of the movie Ilo Ilo. If you're feeling bored and in need of something to do, why not make a trip down and see what you might find? There are other reasons to support the owners of Books Actually, as a few other contributors mention, so do your part for the Singapore Arts scene today!
Escape from the Hustle and Bustle
On a slightly drizzly Monday afternoon, my friends and I met around the vicinity of Tiong Bahru Plaza and took a leisurely stroll to BooksActually.
If I said it was easy to get to, I'd be lying. We had to cross a few roads, stop a few times to get our bearings, and walk through a few blocks, but we eventually got there safe and sound with some help from our phones' built-in GPS. Technology is so advanced nowadays that one need not fear being lost for long, especially in our Little Red Dot.
Stepping into the store was like stepping into another world. In this world, things went at a slower pace and our only worry was which book to pick up next. I find it hard to explain the feeling I get when I pick up a fresh, crisp book. All I know is that it's a good feeling, and everybody should get the chance to experience it.
At BooksActually, you will be spoilt for choice and can easily spend an hour simply going from shelf to shelf browsing all the different books that catch your eye. Furthermore, for every 3 books you purchase, you get 20% off your total bill! This does not apply to magazines but is nevertheless, a good deal.
This independent bookstore also has a section devoted to vintage CDs and objects from the olden days such as typewriters, old brass keys, porcelain wares and black & white photographs. Walking through this section brought me on a trip down memory lane.
A piece of advice I would give new visitors is to bring along more cash. I found myself feeling a little wistful about not being able to purchase a few books I liked due to an empty wallet. And also, wear something pretty! The alleyways around the area are good spots for impromptu photoshoots with your friends.
Preservation of the literary world!
The owner of this shop came to my school to give a talk on venturing into the literary scene in Singapore and he explained how hard it was to manage this shop with long working hours, extremely little sleep each day and few manpower managing the shop both frontline and behind the scenes. With slightly broken english he exclaimed, jokingly or not I'm not too sure, how one should neverrrr consider striving to fight this fight and expect a good pay and a luxurious life.
I have deep respect for him and what he does; managing this shop on his own (he looks pretty young to be honest, probably still in his twenties or early thirties) and doing his part to preserve what he can of the literary world. This shop doesn't sell modern bestsellers like twillight and 50shades of grey. He mentioned how he takes great pride in sifting out books of literary value and worth and selling them to his customers and the two books I received during the talk are both simplistic yet vintage-looking, beauties to own! (:
This shop is a must visit! Not just for what it is able to provide for you but the history behind its establishment (:
For the love of paper and books
I came across Books Actually when I was exploring Ann Siang Hill with my best friend. At that time, Books Actually was located in a scenic, old shophouse there, with various other interesting shops which sold childrens' books or clothes.
Books Actually stocks books of almost all genres, from history to my favourite, literature. They had the most extensive collection of literature books I had ever seen, at a cheaper price compared to commercialized bookstores such as Kinokuniya. Such quality books, with some out-of-print items are placed alongside each other on wooden bookshelves, for the bookworm to enjoy. Books aside, they sold postcards, notebooks and other quaint and interesting items from Birds & Co. and Math Paper Press, which could be bought as gifts or personal use. Decorated with antique typewriters lining the stairs as well as old metal toys and photo frames with a retro look, this bookstore appealed to me greatly. The owners were friendly and sociable too. (:
I definitely recommend a trip to Books Actually. Who knows, you may find a really old novel which captivates you, or a cute but quaint gift which appeals to your writers' sense. Now that the store is located in Tiong Bahru, it is even more easily accessible too.
Fight the good fight with them
I always enjoyed visiting Books Actually, but after watching their documentary, my respect for them grew ten-told. Why I find myself going out of the way to ask my friends to patronize their store is because I commend how the owners have stepped up to fight the good fight, bringing local works out to the public, and giving them a chance. They run this business not for the profit, but for the people, and I think we should support this.
Putting their good work aside, the shop itself is a lovely place to patronize. A small little bookstore tucked away in a little corner at Tiong Bahru filled not only with books, but little knick-knacks you can buy. There are a few just as quaint shops around them, and it is definitely a place I would recommend you to go out of the way for.
Books Actually is an indie bookstore that wholeheartedly supports local authors, and stocks many titles by various Singaporean writers, most of them largely unknown. I love this bookstore for their quirkiness and unique selections; you can find a wide range of books that you most probably will never have even heard of before, but these are quality books that are well worth reading.
They also sell vintage items like old jars and postcards, and I love some of the notebooks that they sell. These notebooks usually have interesting designs and some are even handmade!
Sadly, they moved out of their space at Cineleisure, so you might have travel quite a bit to visit their main store at Yong Siak Street. However, it will be a trip you won't regret, especially for literature buffs like me.
Heaven for the aspiring poet
Books Actually is a wonderful place for the literally inclined, not for me actually. But you did have to respect the majestic air about the place of being in the presence of thousands of priceless literary wonders done by numerous literary talents the world has ever known.
While my friend probed around looking at classics, my untrained eye happened to land on Macbeth by Shakespeare, which kept me happily occupied for the rest of my time in the bookstore.
Lesson learnt? Don't be deterred by the bookstore having literature as its specialty, Books Actually is actually a place for everyone. Do give it a visit, you may realise you'll end up spending a gem of an evening there.
The kind of shop I wish I owned
I visited Books Actually a while back with a friend that recommended me to the place. She said that I would love the place, and I absolutely did.
The store is located in Tiong Bahru, and the street is not the usual hustle and bustle like how it is in town. Books Actually surprised me with the huge range of poetry and prose they offer - from classics to Poetry editions by local poets and writers. They also sold Epigram Books, and offered the series of plays done by playwrights from Singapore. They sold all sorts of vintage trinkets and on display were typewriters, accessories and even animal masks. The whole place made me swoon in delight. It's rare to see a store sell nearly everything that was on display, and their concept really struck me as clever and strong. I love visiting it, even if I do not have a book in mind to get. I always manage to find something to fall in love with. It's amazing.
I'm a sucker for quality bookstores, be it large franchises such as Times or indie bookstores such as Books Actually. Some of my favourite and most cherished possessions were actually found here. When I was a kid, I had this gamebook series called Final Fantasy (yes I know I was a geek), and unfortunately, it was misplaced in the years to come.
Fast forward ten years, I was just browsing through the shelves of Books Actually, when I spied a familiar back page (all the books in the series had a similar back cover), and to my delight, it was another Final Fantasy book! Yes, I could have gotten a new one (edition 2) from Popular, but what I found was a relic (edition 1).
Truly a wonderful experience.