Our book club compiled 6 wonderful reads from Singapore, but we found 15 additional great reads we think you’ll find just as fascinating. Some from Singaporean authors, others written about Singapore by visitors—all with great reviews across a multitude of genres.
"Starting with charred fried rice and ending with flaky pineapple tarts, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan takes us along on a personal journey that most can only fantasize about—an exploration of family history and culture through a mastery of home-cooked dishes." -Jennifer 8. Lee
After growing up in the most food-obsessed city in the world, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan left home and family at 18 for America—proof of the rebelliousness of daughters born in the Year of the Tiger. But as a thirtysomething fashion writer in New York, she felt the Singaporean dishes that defined her childhood beginning to call her back. Was it too late to learn the secrets of her grandmothers' and aunties' kitchens, as well as the tumultuous family history that had kept them hidden before In her quest to recreate the dishes of her native Singapore by cooking with her family, Tan learned not only cherished recipes but long-buried stories of past generations.
A Tiger in the Kitchen, which includes 10 authentic recipes for Singaporean classics such as pineapple tarts and Teochew braised duck, is the charming, beautifully written story of a Chinese-Singaporean ex-pat who learns to infuse her New York lifestyle with the rich lessons of the Singaporean kitchen, ultimately reconnecting with her family and herself.
"Joyously wild stuff. Highly recommended." —The NY Times
A Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novella
“Yang conjures up a world of magic and machines, wild monsters and sophisticated civilizations, that you'll want to return to again and again.” ―Ars Technica
“A striking story made even more so as it’s written by a Singaporean queer non-binary writer penning a fantasy novella with exquisite world building & queer Asian characters who freely choose their gender once they come of age.”
“Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as infants. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While Mokoya received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What's more, they saw the sickness at the heart of their mother's Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue as a pawn in their mother's twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from Mokoya.”
“Singapore - a trading post where different lives jostle and mix. It is 1927, and three young people are starting to question whether this inbetween island can ever truly be their home. Mei Lan comes from a famous Chinese dynasty but yearns to free herself from its stifling traditions; ten-year-old Howard seethes at the indignities heaped on his fellow Eurasians by the colonial British; Raj, fresh off the boat from India, wants only to work hard and become a successful businessman. As the years pass, and the Second World War sweeps through the east, with the Japanese occupying Singapore, the three are thrown together in unexpected ways, and tested to breaking point.
Richly evocative, A Different Sky paints a scintillating panorama of thirty tumultuous years in Singapore's history through the passions and struggles of characters the reader will find it hard to forget.”
Winner of Best Fiction Title for Singapore Book Awards 2016 & the Singapore Literature Prize for Fiction 2014
Longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2014
Selected by The Business Times as one of the Top 10 English Singapore books from 1965–2015
”Meet an over-the-hill Pop Yé-yé singer with a faulty heart, two conservative middle-aged women holding hands in the Galápagos, and the proprietor of a Laundromat with a penchant for Cantonese songs of heartbreak. Rehash national icons: the truth about racial riot fodder-girl Maria Hertogh living out her days as a chambermaid in Lake Tahoe, a mirage of the Merlion as a ladyboy working Orchard Towers, and a high-stakes fantasy starring the still-suave lead of the 1990s TV hit serial The Unbeatables.
Heartfelt and sexy, the stories of Amanda Lee Koe encompass a skewed world fraught with prestige anxiety, moral relativism, sexual frankness, and the improbable necessity of human connection. Told in strikingly original prose, these are fictions that plough, relentlessly, the possibilities of understanding Singapore and her denizens discursively, off-centre. Ministry of Moral Panic is an extraordinary debut collection and the introduction of a revelatory new voice.”
“On 6 February 1819, Stamford Raffles, William Farquhar, Temenggong Abdul Rahman, and Sultan Hussein signed a treaty that granted the British East India Company the right to establish a trading settlement on the sparsely populated island of Singapore. Forbidden Hill is a meticulously researched and vividly imagined historical narrative that brings to life the stories of the early European, Malay, Chinese and Indian pioneers – the administrators, merchants, policemen, boatmen, coolies, concubines, slaves and secret society soldiers – whose vision and intrigues drive the rapid expansion of the port city in the early decades of the 19th century.
While Raffles and Farquhar clash over the administration of the settlement, the Scottish merchant adventurer Ronnie Simpson and Englishwoman Sarah Hemmings find love and redemption as they battle an American duelist and Illanun pirates. As the ghosts of the rajahs of the ancient city of Singapura fade into the shadows of Forbidden Hill, the new settlers forge their linked destinies in the ‘emporium of the Eastern seas’.”
Selected as one of O Magazine’s “7 Books That Will Transport You to Another World”
“Gretchen Lin, adrift at the age of thirty, leaves her floundering marriage in San Francisco to move back to her childhood home in Singapore and immediately finds herself face-to-face with the twin headaches she’s avoided her entire adult life: her mother’s drinking problem and the machinations of her father’s artisanal soy sauce business.
Surrounded by family, Gretchen struggles with the tension between personal ambition and filial duty, but still finds time to explore a new romance with the son of a client, an attractive man of few words. When an old American friend comes to town, the two of them are pulled into the controversy surrounding Gretchen’s cousin, the only male grandchild and the heir apparent to Lin’s Soy Sauce. In the midst of increasing pressure from her father to remain permanently in Singapore—and pressure from her mother to do just the opposite—Gretchen must decide whether she will return to her marriage and her graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory, or sacrifice everything and join her family’s crusade to spread artisanal soy sauce to the world.
Soy Sauce for Beginners reveals the triumphs and sacrifices that shape one woman’s search for a place to call home, and the unexpected art and tradition behind the brewing of a much-used but unsung condiment. The result is a foodie love story that will give readers a hearty appreciation for family loyalty and fresh starts.”
“In 1911, German novelist Hesse, his famous works still before him, undertook a three-month-long journey to Singapore, as recounted in the luminous journal entries and poems collected here and translated into English for the first time.
In evocative prose, Hesse describes the stillness of a ‘hot dark-blue night’ aboard ship in the Suez Canal, the only sound ‘the soft rolling of a railroad train from Cairo that appeared atop the long, desolate bank’; the ‘thick, horrid smell of coconut oil’ that permeates Malaysian villages; and the spell cast on him and other travelers by the ‘tangled, green eternity’ of a jungle. Elsewhere, Hesse marvels at how well the ‘pleasantly weathered’ buildings match their environment, predicting they will outlast the ‘guilt-laden existence’ of newer European-built dwellings.
Hesse brings his unique eye to scenes such as adventures in a rickshaw, watching foreign theater performances, exploring strange floating cities on stilts, and luxuriating in the simple beauty of the lush natural landscape. Even in the doldrums of travel, he records his experience with faithful humor, wit, and sharp observation, offering a broad vision of travel in the early 1900s.
‘I knew but few of the trees and animals that I saw around me by name, I was unable to read the inscriptions, and could exchange only a few words with the children, but nowhere in foreign lands have I felt so little like a foreigner and so completely enfolded by the self-existing naturalness of life’s clear river as I did here.’”
Longlisted for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015
“One of Singapore’s first queer science fiction novels! Featuring polished prose and a stunning feat of world-building.”
“The future of all the known universes hinges on a boy-soldier and his tenuous connection with a merlion (a creature with a lion's head and the body of a fish).
In an alternate 1947 filled with mystical creatures, Singapuran boy-soldier Naufal Jazair is bonded to the merlion Bahana and enlisted in a war against an aggressive neighbour.
Meanwhile, in a dystopian Singapore in 2047, SAF officer Titus Ang is tasked with entering Naufal’s universe and retrieving a merlion to save the future of Singapore from the Concordance, a hive intelligence that is close to consuming what remains of humanity.”
A 2017 Eisner Award Winner for Best Writer/Artist, Best US Edition of Asian International Material, and Best Publication Design
Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize
2016: A NY Times bestseller, an Economist Book of the Year, an NPR Graphic Novel Pick, a Washington Post Best Graphic Novel, a New York Post, a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a South China Morning Post, Top 10 Asian books, an A.V. Club Best Comics, a Comic Books Resources Top 100 Comics, & a Mental Floss Most Interesting Graphic Novel
”Meet Charlie Chan Hock Chye.
Now in his early 70s, Chan has been making comics in his native Singapore since 1954, when he was a boy of 16. As he looks back on his career over five decades, we see his stories unfold before us in a dazzling array of art styles and forms, their development mirroring the evolution in the political and social landscape of his homeland and of the comic book medium itself.
With The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, Sonny Liew has drawn together a myriad of genres to create a thoroughly ingenious and engaging work, where the line between truth and construct may sometimes be blurred, but where the story told is always enthralling, bringing us on a uniquely moving, funny, and thought-provoking journey through the life of an artist and the history of a nation.”
Winner of Singapore Literature Prize 2018, Fiction
Shortlisted for Singapore Book Awards 2018, Best Fiction Title
Finalist for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2016
“Siew Li leaves her husband and children in Tiong Bahru to fight for freedom in the jungles of Malaya. Decades later, a Malaysian journalist returns to her homeland to uncover the truth of a massacre committed during the Emergency. And in Singapore, Siew Li's niece Stella finds herself accused of being a Marxist conspirator.
Jeremy Tiang's debut novel dives into the tumultuous days of leftist movements and political detentions in Singapore and Malaysia. It follows an extended family from the 1940s to the present day as they navigate the choppy political currents of the region. What happens when the things that divide us also bind us together?”
“Japanese POW camp Changi, Singapore: hell on earth for the soldiers contained within its barbed wire walls. Officers and enlisted men, all prisoners together, yet the old hierarchies and rivalries survive.
An American corporal, known as the King, has used his personality and wiles to facilitate trading with guards and locals to get needed food, supplies, even information into the camp. The imprisoned upper-class officers have never had to do things for themselves, and now they are reduced to wearing rags while the King’s clean shirt, gained through guts and moxie, seems like luxury in comparison. In the camp, everything has its price and everything is for sale. But trading is illegal—and the King has made a formidable enemy. Robin Grey, the provost marshal, hates the King and all he represents. Grey, though he grew up modestly, fervently believes in the British class system: everyone should know their place, and he knows the King’s place is at the bottom.The King does have a friend in Peter Marlowe, who, though wary of the King and himself a product of the British system, finds himself drawn to the charismatic man who just might be the only one who can save them from both the inhumanity of the prison camp but also from themselves.
Powerful and engrossing, King Rat artfully weaves the author’s own World War II prison camp experiences into a compelling narrative of survival amidst the grim realities of war and what men can do when pushed to the edge. A taut masterwork of World War II historical fiction by bestselling author James Clavell.”
Note: This is the first-published, but chronologically-fourth book of the Asian Saga. The books can be read in any order as they are only loosely connected to one another…all marvelous on their own or together as a set.
“Adi loves his life in the kampung: climbing the ancient banyan tree, watching ten-cent movies with his friends, fetching worms for the village bomoh (shaman). The residents of Kampung Pak Buyung may not have many material goods, but their simple lives are happy. However, looming on the horizon are political upheaval, race riots, gang wars and the Konfrontasi (a conflict started by Indonesia under the leadership of President Sukarno, who opposed the formation of the Federation of Malaysia consisting of Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak, and North Borneo).
Mohamed Latiff Mohamed, three-time winner of the Singapore Literature Prize, brilliantly dramatises the period of uncertainty and change in the years leading up to Singapore’s merger with Malaya. Seen through the unique perspective of the young Malay boy Adi, this fundamental period in Singaporean history is brought to life with masterful empathy. In the tradition of Ben Okri’s The Famished Road and Anita Desai’s The Village By the Sea, Confrontation is an incredible evocation of village life and of the consequences that come from political alignment and re-alignment.”
“The dark side of the Lion City is explored in a thrilling anthology that gives plenty of new and unfamiliar voices a chance to shine -San Francisco Book Review
”The island city-state of Singapore harbors unique customs and traditions largely unknown to the West. A booming economy and embrace of conformity overshadow its gambling dens, red-light districts, and a collective passion for ghostly and gory tales.
Now, in Singapore Noir, some of its best contemporary authors delve into its seedy side, including three winners of the Singapore Literature Prize: Simon Tay (writing as Donald Tee Quee Ho), Colin Cheong, and Suchen Christine Lim, whose contribution was named a finalist for the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award for Best P.I. Short Story. 11 more tales showcase the talents of Colin Goh, Philip Jeyaretnam, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Monica Bhide, S.J. Rozan, Lawrence Osborne, Ovidia Yu, Damon Chua, Johann S. Lee, Dave Chua, and Nury Vittachi.”
“Singapore, with its great wealth and great poverty existing amid ethnic, linguistic, and cultural tensions, offers fertile ground for bleak fiction . . . Tan has assembled a strong lineup of Singapore natives and knowledgeable visitors for this volume exploring the dark side of a fascinating country.” —Publishers Weekly
An all-in-one collection of Neil Humphrey’s Best-selling trilogy: Notes from an even Smaller Island, Scribbles from the Same Island and Final Notes from a Great Island.
“Neil Humphreys rejected a London stockbroker's lucrative offer to train as a floor trader and decided to travel the world instead. He ended up in Singapore and settled in Toa Payoh. By 2001, he was one of the country's best-selling authors. His first book, Notes from an even Smaller Island, became an immediate best-seller and traveled across Southeast Asia, Australia and Britain. The book appeared on the Singapore best-seller list for over four years. BBC World said it was ‘a warts and all view of the city-state and celebrates many of the things most often criticised’. In 2003, his second book, Scribbles from the Same Island, a compilation of his popular humour columns in Weekend Today, was launched in Singapore and Malaysia, and also became an immediate best-seller. In 2006, Final Notes from a Great Island completed the trilogy. The book went straight to No.1 and decided to stay there for a few months.
Having run out of ways to squeeze island into a book title, Humphreys moved to Geelong, Australia. He now writes for several magazines and newspapers in Singapore and Australia and spends his weekends happily looking for echidnas and platypuses. But he still really misses 'roti prata'.”
“Weakened by hunger, thirst, and ill-treatment, author Charles McCormac, then a World War Two prisoner-of-war in Japanese-occupied Singapore, knew that if he did not escape he would die.
With 16 others, he broke out of Pasir Panjang camp and began an epic two-thousand-mile escape from the island of Singapore, through the jungles of Indonesia to Australia. With no compass and no map, and only the goodwill of villagers and their own wits to rely on, the British and Australian POWs’ escape took a staggering five months and only two out of the original 17 men survived.
You’ll Die in Singapore is Charles McCormac’s compelling true account of one of the most horrifying and amazing escapes in World War Two. It is a story of courage, endurance and compassion, and makes for a very gripping read.”