Next Time You're in ... Singapore

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Books Actually

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Kindle and iPad lovers beware: e-readers may seem less palatable after a visit to this old-fashioned literary shrine tucked away in Singapore's Chinatown. Books Actually,, is a three-level sanctuary for those who revel in cracking the spine of an actual book, as opposed to a virtual one, and shudder at the thought of a sterile chain-store shopping experience. Located on Club Street, the bookshop cum publishing house cum stationery company is part of a strip of independently owned stores and cafés that have taken over restored early 20th century shophouses. The big brands don't live in this corner of the Lion City's vast consumer landscape, but Hemingway and Nietzsche call it home.

Vintage decor, from old typewriters lining the staircase to still dusty antique cameras perched atop bookshelves, set the tone for an idiosyncratic selection of titles made by owners Kenny Leck and Karen Wai. This is the place to find such arcana as Troy Chin's graphic novel The Resident Tourist and The Space of City Trees by Singaporean poet Arthur Yap. Math Paper Press, Books Actually's imprint, also publishes limited-edition works by lesser-known, primarily local, authors. It recently came out with Ceriph, a Singaporean literary journal, and plans to launch a new collection of verse by poet Cyril Wong called Animal Season.

In addition to the bric-a-brac and books covering the walls, shelves are punctuated by quirky postcards issued under the brand name Birds & Co., Leck and Wai's stationery venture. The offshoot produces delicately crafted paper products, custom-printed cards and engraved pencils. So if you're feeling inspired by your visit, you can pick up one of those hand-stitched journals, take hold of a pencil inscribed with George Orwell or some other hallowed name and start making a book of your own.

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