I love reading and writing. When you don’t have a math brain or an inkling for science, you sort of need to stick with what you know, and reading is what I know. It turns out when you are someone like me, studying eventually becomes synonymous with hoarding books, so to this day, I have an absurd number of books that I hold near and dear to my heart like a coin collector would their many coins. If I have somewhat lost you on what is beginning to seem like an ode to books, have no fear because I am mostly here to say books are an important styling tool that can show off your interests and personality (or, even if you don’t style with them and just let them be in their natural habitat, books are such an important part of a home or an office). Take it from someone who will immediately scan a bookshelf in any home or office, I enter to see what the owner is into, books can say a lot about a person and their style.
So today, I am not going to try and recruit you to participate in a worldwide book club (although that would be fun) but instead will recommend to you a bookcafe that I really really love right now. I liked it so much when I visited that I thought I’d blog about it. What happens when cafe owners and book publishers come together? Singapore’s largest independent publisher, Epigram Books and Huggs Coffee collaborated to create a novel opportunity to read, drink coffee and try local bites, all in a comfortable sunlit space right at the URA Centre (45 Maxwell Road) with the books on display written by Singaporean authors, published locally or all about Singapore. I hope this place can encourage more people to pick up a book to read while chilling and café-hopping.
It has always been my dream to have full-wall bookshelves at home. I think displaying these books in a home can become a source of comfort. I think by looking at them can be reminded of the stories within. I like to see the wear of their spines indicating a vigorous read. I like reading them once and then reading them again.
The place has a relaxed atmosphere that really warms the soul. I went on a rainy day, and it's rather hard to find a cafe that encourages you to pick up a book and read, rather than to use your phone for once. The place doubles as a bookshop and cafe, but the catch is that every book there is either by a local author, features one, or is about Singapore. They offer browsing copies of every product, so you can dedicate an hour or two to sit down, enjoy a warm cuppa and forget about your daily worries. You can even buy any book — they allow cashless payments for book purchases — that caught your fancy on the spot.
The bookshop will not only stock books by Epigram, but those from other Singapore publishers, along with URA books and literature, so you'd be surprised to know you've just spent an hour on a local author's novel.
As I sat down to enjoy my cup of caffeine from Huggs Coffee, the most eye-catching and alluring part of this place is the full wall height bookshelf. Their slogan “Hold Singapore In Your Hands” supports the notion of picking up a book alongside a cup of local-styled coffee.
The aesthetically-presented bookshelf was easy to spot from a distance, especially when the walls are made of glass with ample natural sunlight shining through.
I was very impressed by the unique display of the books in the bookshop. I've never seen any other bookshop quite like this where you can clearly see all the book cover designs and really appreciate the aesthetic of the store. The bookstore seller was also very helpful, able to recommend many different titles aimed different readers and genres. It is so heartwarming to see a local publisher taking an initiative to support local authors by providing a space for their voice to be heard and their talent to be appreciated.
I think that independent real-world bookshops are essential beacons of joy and imagination and culture in our country, and also create a more dynamic, meritocratic and inherently human book world, away from the supermarkets and soulless online algorithms. Just as a town without a bookshop isn’t truly a town, a world without independent, informed, passionate booksellers and bookshops would be a flatter, emptier, sadder world.
Independent booksellers are going through incredibly challenging times. I just want every single bricks-and-mortar bookshop that exists now to still be here this time next year. Authors need bookshops as much as bookshops need authors. I encourage all of you to drop by at the Epigram-Huggs Coffee Bookstore to read and sip coffee together !