BooksActually


[View in HD here.]

This is 2011 right,’ I thought to myself.

I hope I didn’t get it wrong, because the ques­tion had been whirring in my mind from the moment I stepped into the shop. Fum­bling with the door han­dle, I was hes­i­tant to enter as the shop was emp­ty. After all it was only 11am; open­ing time. Push­ing ahead despite my ini­tial reluc­tance, I final­ly pulled open the glass door, and was greet­ed by the melod­ic ring of the door­bell (that was a nice feel­ing). Soon, I was mes­mer­ized by the numer­ous old good­ies before me, famil­iar objects from my not-so-dis­tant child­hood. I took anoth­er step and was offi­cial­ly won over by the invit­ing ambi­ence; warm light­ing and the soft indie music play­ing in the back­ground. It felt as though I had been trans­port­ed to a place where time slowed down just for me to enjoy the moment.

Have I men­tioned that this is an entry in our Win­dow series? The above is not an excerpt from a dream, but a real place. Specif­i­cal­ly, BooksActually’s new home in Yong Siak Street, nes­tled in one of the Redis­cov­er crew’s favourite places, Tiong Bahru.

BooksActually

BooksActually

BooksActually

For those who don’t already know this place, Book­s­Ac­tu­al­ly (est. 2005) is an inde­pen­dent book­store unlike the ones you find in every oth­er neigh­bor­hood in our coun­try (some say that it is actu­al­ly quite “pop­u­lar”). Book­s­Ac­tu­al­ly is dif­fer­ent because it sells books which appeal more to lit­er­a­ture and book lovers (or some say, con­nois­seurs), which explains why much of their offer­ings won’t be found in your usu­al book­stores. Sup­port­ive of the local writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty, they car­ry many small pub­li­ca­tions by local authors and con­trib­u­tors includ­ing a decep­tive­ly seri­ous look­ing book titled ‘Singlish’ (which is, unsur­pris­ing­ly, a dic­tio­nary of our very own lan­guage). Apart from books, Book­s­Ac­tu­al­ly also sells hand stitched note­books, sta­tionery and nos­tal­gic items.

BooksActually

BooksActually

BooksActually

IMG_7230

BooksActually

 

I’m a suck­er for things of the past and this is prob­a­bly the rea­son why I fell in love with this place so quick­ly. Remem­ber the coun­try flag erasers we used to play with (and col­lect with a vengeance) when we were in pri­ma­ry school? How about type­writ­ers that are now con­sid­ered cum­ber­some and obso­lete as com­pared to our com­put­er key­boards? And those vin­tage film cam­eras (anoth­er weak­ness of mine), oh my, the list goes on. There are so many things to explore in the shop and I felt like an excit­ed kid all over again, get­ting itchy fin­gers and dying to touch every­thing I see.

BooksActually

BooksActually

BooksActually
(Own­ers Karen Wai, Ken­ny Leck, and one of their love­ly cats.)

The cosy shop, nes­tled in an equal­ly lazy and qui­et neigh­bour­hood, brings out in one the desire to spend the after­noon there, sip­ping cof­fee and enjoy­ing the books. Alas, Book­s­Ac­tu­al­ly serves no cof­fee. BUT direct­ly oppo­site them is Forty Hands, a chic and and equal­ly invit­ing cafe where you can enjoy a cup­pa after your excur­sion to Book­s­Ac­tu­al­ly.

BooksActually’s arrival in the ‘hood is anoth­er sign­post that one of the old­est estates in Sin­ga­pore is increas­ing­ly mor­ph­ing into an eclec­tic mix of the old and new.

Our recent adven­tures to Tiong Bahru showed up a col­or­ful mix of peo­ple. Much of the old and famil­iar is still there, but the neigh­bour­hood has also become a pop­u­lar hous­ing choice among for­eign­ers and young locals look­ing to recap­ture a slice of the rus­tic Sin­ga­pore­an life. It’s hard to resist the charm of a grace­ful­ly aging estate, espe­cial­ly one with such a poignant place in our his­to­ry.

Do pay Book­s­Ac­tu­al­ly a well deserved vis­it, and enjoy the quaint­ness of this pre-war estate while you’re at it. 🙂

More pic­tures on our Flickr album here.

Book­s­Ac­tu­al­ly
No. 9 Yong Siak Street (Tiong Bahru)
Sin­ga­pore 168645


Text by Jere­my Tan. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Lizzy Lee. Video edit­ed by Song Lim.


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