This month, we're paying homage to our adopted home country, Singapore, and its awesome writers with our top selection of SingLit reads.
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the Little Red Dot. We love raising our kids here, finding out all the fun things to do on the weekends, and exploring all 721.5 square kilometres of it! That’s why we thought it was important that this month’s HoneyKids Book Club topic be dedicated to all the Singaporean authors we love. We’ve scoured our personal libraries for our fave SingLit picks, and here they are:
Our fave SingLit reads by Singaporean authors
1. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Set in the largely Sikh area of Southall in London, it’s the perfect clash of Eastern and Western cultures. Lead character Nikki drops out of university, moves out of her conservative home, and takes a job in a pub, all in an attempt to “find herself”. Struggling to make rent, she takes a second job at the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) to teach English to some elderly widows. Prepared to teach creative writing, she realises that some in the group don’t even know how to write their own name in English, let alone write short stories in English. Much to her shock, these sari-clad women start writing erotic stories in Urdu, and with her help translate them into English. Hilarity ensues when some of the elder uncles realise what’s going on…
2. Little Ironies: Stories of Singapore by Catherine Lim
When you’re living in an expat bubble, it’s hard to understand what life’s truly like for the average Singaporean. If you’ve been looking for a book to give you the insight you’ve always wanted, this SingLit is it. Don’t be fooled by the dated cover design: the stories inside show a different side of Singapore. Although they may not be the happiest stories, Lim’s writing draws you in and leaves you wanting more.
3. Annabelle Thong by Imran Hashim
If you’re looking for a light-hearted, easy read to get you through your commute, this is the book for you. Tired of being single, typical Singaporean ex-Catholic school girl Annabelle Thong packs her bags for the city of lights in pursuit of love by way of an International Relations degree at the Sorbonne. But her quest for Mr Right isn’t as straightforward as she’d like it to be. She meets the uber-suave Patrick Dudoigt (who also happens to be one of her professors) who both woos and shocks the bejesus out of her. The longer she stays in Paris, the more she questions her life in Singapore and all that she thought was right. Oh, and she also gets involved in a riot.
4. Ponti by Sharlene Teo
Jumping between present-day Singapore and recent history, Ponti traces the lives of problematic, isolated women navigating the complexities of female relationships – between mothers and daughters and amongst friends. Teo deftly mixes themes from regional mythology and mysticism with modern concerns about image, competition, and female desire. Pairs well with Sandi Tan’s Shirkers, for true Singaporean film buffs.
5. This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn
When you live in the most expensive city in the world, it’s difficult to imagine that there’s a world beyond the sparkling skyscrapers and man-made forests. After reading this book, you’ll see Singapore in a whole new light and then your heart will break into a million pieces. Teo writes with such empathy and goes deep into hard problems nobody would have usually tackled. A thought-provoking must-read for anyone living in Singapore who wants to know more about its society.
6. The Naysayer’s Book Club: 26 Singaporeans You Need to Know by Simon Vincent
Trying to make a difference in society? Read this book and let it inspire you. Vincent interviewed 26 Singaporeans who are all about challenging the status quo. Some of the profiles featured include independent journalist Kirsten Han; Constance Singam, former president of equality group AWARE; and lawyer M. Ravi. We recommend this especially to the youths, who are looking to make Singapore a more progressive nation in the future.
7. The Way of Kueh by Christopher Tan
Do you go kueh-zy over kuehs? Tan, a food writer and cooking instructor, has produced this book that dives deep into the local kueh culture. More than just a collection of recipes, this also discusses the significance of kuehs and interviews various local kueh artisans. Whether you’re a casual kueh lover or a true-blue kueh connoisseur, The Way of Kueh will change how you view – and consume – this local dessert.
8. Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene by Matthew Schneider-Mayerson
Climate change is real folks, and this collection of 12 essays aims to examine Singapore through an ecocultural lens. How does life and culture in this country get deeply entwined with the flourishing non-human lives? A chapter on chilli crab ends up discussing cannibalism. Another chapter parallels Singapore’s petrochemical companies with the Orang Minyak, a known Malay folklore. Dr Schneider-Mayerson describes the book as “written and edited in a spirit of affectionate and constructive criticism,” which is much needed, given our current climate crisis.
9. Collected Plays Two by Alfian Sa’at
We can’t talk about Singlit without featuring Singapore’s enfant terrible, Alfian Sa’at. This anthology compiles three of his well-received plays that touch on LGBTQ+ issues – the campy time-travelling caper Dreamplay; Landmarks; and Happy Endings, an adaptation of a Singaporean coming-of-gay classic. If you’ve never been to any of his productions, we recommend you get cracking on this book.
10. Aunty Lee’s Delights by Ovidia Yu
Singaporeans (well, most of them) are very much into spicy cuisine. So count this SingLit mystery as a spicy sort of cuisine as well! Rosie Lee could’ve been a tai tai (privileged, wealthy woman) after losing her husband. Instead, she decided to build a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee’s Delights (of course). However, she senses something amiss when one of her guests fails to show up at a dinner party. Rosie ends up being involved in the investigation. So much for being a tai tai, eh? If you enjoyed this book, follow up with the other two books in this series.
11. From the Belly of the Cat by Stephanie Ye
Community cats are a common sighting in Singapore, so it makes perfect sense for them to be front and centre in this SingLit collection! Discover the Lion City through the eyes of its cats (and humans) with the fifteen feline fictions. The opening chapter kicks the yarn ball rolling with talking cats! So grab this book, curl up on the sofa with a cat by your side, a cup of warm tea, and enjoy…
12. We Make Spaces Divine by Pooja Nansi
Pooja Nansi is a renowned SingLit tour de force to follow and read. This third collection of poems comes seven years after her previous release. It compiles observations of a city that she loves fiercely but is also unsure of her belonging. She talks about Mustafa Centre and Marine Parade. Racism and sexism are tackled. There are references to music, films, and pop culture too. If you’re questioning whether you take up space, these poems will tell you otherwise.
13. Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam
You may be wondering: what’s a kappa? Hopefully, this fantastical SingLit novel will answer your question (and many others that you may have as you read it). Set between Singapore and Japan, the story follows soulless Kevin, who’s on vacay in Tokyo. While there, he meets Mr Five, an enigmatic kappa that desires human souls. But how does one possess something that has never been seen before?
Know any other SingLit books to recommend to us? Send us a DM!