The Singapore Writers Festival is looming around the corner and it’s going to be bigger and better than before! Although that’s no surprise given the spike in interest regarding all things Singaporean – from reminiscing about our childhood snacks and games to our growing appreciation of local films, it’s no wonder that at the front line is local literature.
Yet how many of you will confess to being a lover of local literature? You know, the type who always carries around a book of poetry from Math Paper Press just because it looks really #aesthetic?
Either way, local literature is something to sit up and take notice of because, and I can vouch for this, it’s going to be huge! The Straits Times held a discussion on the Great Singaporean Novel and a local book made it all the way to the New York Times Bestseller list this year! What’s more, now an online store, LocalBooks.sg seeks to bring local literature to the masses the same way Book Depository has made it easier for book lovers to be continually glued to new books. LocalBooks.sg houses every Singaporean book and promises to be a one stop website for all your local books.
Not only do they offer book recommendations, their four categories of Book, Look, Hood and Goods make LocalBooks.sg a place to cultivate a community of local book lovers as well.
Confused? Here’s a quick guide:
Book: All books are listed here including themed recommendations!
Look: An easy way to find a book (of gift) you previously didn’t know you would actually need!
Just input a person type into the first blank and a characteristic into the second, and voila, you will now have ten books suitable for your boss who loves cats.
Hood: A haven for book lovers, this section features articles and discussions about books, especially local ones! Basically, if you love reading, this is the place to go.
Bookworms talking about books? You got it!
Goods: Other than books, LocalBooks.sg carries book-related merchandise such as notebooks, with a local twist!
We managed to get in touch with the creators of LocalBooks.sg, Callie and Julie, to hear more about the website, and to find out about their love for books and passion to spread the word (of local literature).
What do you hope to achieve with LocalBooks.sg?
We hope to get more people to read [and buy] local books. One of the things that we were so sad to admit is that most Singaporeans don’t grow up with books from home. What’s worse? People actually think local books would be ‘boring’ without even trying one!
But that is so not true. Our publishing scene is flourishing and we can guarantee that while not all books may be great, there are some really amazing stories out there, which anyone from Singapore would relate to. For example, I read Crazy Rich Asians *Roll Eyes* last weekend, and thought ‘God, why did I bother watching a whole season of Gossip Girl when I could have just read this earlier.
Who was LocalBooks.sg created for?
For everyone associated with Singapore. Whether [a] Singaporean living in Singapore, [an] overseas Singaporean, [the] permanent residents [and] expats who grew up [and are working] in Singapore, or even [a] tourist who’d chanced upon our airport during transit – we want them to remember at least one book from Singapore that’s touched their heart. And trust us, there are some great stories to be heard.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that LocalBooks.sg faces?
Data! There’s more than 10,000 books on our database and many of them have incomplete information. Although we love these books, it’s a challenge facing them every morning. *Sob*
But really, it’s mostly the misconception that local books aren’t good enough. Surprisingly, we hear this most often from people who have not read a single local book. But many of our titles have been long- and short-listed for international awards, made it to top bestsellers list[s] on New York Times and Amazon – some authors have been picked up by established overseas publishers. For instance, Balli Kaur Jaswal, the author of Sugarbread and Inheritance will be publishing a new book in UK next year with HarperCollins!
You feature events, have regular articles and interview in a section called Hood. How do you decide what content to put up or which event to feature?
For Articles, we start with things that are relevant with current events or the time of the year. So it can be things like A Complete Guide to Singaporean Ghost Stories for the month of October, or Books to Impress a Date for the month of February. For events, we list all literary events that involve a local book, such as Singaporean Literature Club, Book Launches, Reading Groups and Story Telling Exercise.
What’s the coolest thing about LocalBooks?
Our mood-based reading lists @LOOK!
Now, we totally understand that people can get lost the minute they step into a bookstore. We’ve experienced it ourselves – that strange feeling of everything looking so tempting and intimidating at the same time. So we offer mood-based reading lists to help our visitors, such as Books for a lazy weekend, Books to read when you need ideas, Books to read when you want to get away.
Still can’t find the one you like? Then just ask us on our real time chatting app and Callie and I will be so happy to help you.
What’s your favourite local book?
We absolutely love The River’s Song by Suchen Christine Lim – this is an excellent novel for a first-time local reader. If you’re a seasoned local reader, try Sugarbread by Bali Kaur Jaswal – it’s impossible to put down.
If you had the chance to introduce the LocalBooks.sg website to anyone in this world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Okay, assuming that I can introduce it to one person only… I will choose Joseph Prince, who I chanced upon a minute ago from my Google search. He is obviously the Singaporean with [the] most Facebook followers at 3.56mil, almost 500k more than the next runner up Tila Tequila and trumps JJ Lin! (Want to be nosy? Find more here)
But Callie says Ong Teng Cheong because he’s her favourite president.
Local literature is on the rise and LocalBooks.sg seems to be one of the best places to be if you want to be part of this. More than that, the books aren’t just for book lovers, they’re for every Singaporean. They hold a part of Singapore and of us as people. So check out LocalBooks.sg and you may find that it feels a little like coming home.