5 Books Every Singaporean Should Read

From housing estates to local kueh to quirky Singaporean behaviour, these books paint the colourful shades of life in Singapore.
Essential SingLit Reads for Singaporeans

It is difficult to pin down what exactly makes us Singaporean, but that’s where the rich catalogue of Singaporean literature (also known as SingLit) comes in.

These books capture the different aspects of life in Singapore – how we live, what we care about and the things we enjoy. If you are looking to better understand this country and its people, SingLit is a good place to start.

Here are five books to get you started: 

Balik Kampung – Various Authors, Edited by Verena Tay

Singapore has 28 districts, each with a unique identity and atmosphere. In this book, authors who have lived in their neighbourhoods for at least 10 years pen a short story capturing the slice of life in these estates. These simple, sometimes nostalgic stories will feel comfortingly familiar even if you have never been to that particular estate.

If your neighbourhood was not portrayed in this book, check out the other five other books in the series featuring neighbourhoods from different parts of the island.

Balik Kampung

Sugarbread – Balli Kaur Jaswal


Set in 1990s Singapore, this book is a thought-provoking tale about family, food and mother-daughter relationships. The main character Pin is a ten-year-old girl who struggles to understand her closed-off mother, other than through her cooking. After her grandmother moves in with the family, old secrets surface and drama unfolds.

This book perfectly captures day-to-day settings in Singapore with familiar scenes like school and the marketplace. It doesn’t shy away from difficult topics such as class, racism and trauma, showing how these issues seep into our daily life.

The Way of Kueh

The Way of Kueh – Christopher Tan

There’s nothing more Singaporean than our love of food – especially local kueh. Unlike most recipe books, The Way of Kueh dives into the cultural significance of kueh for Singapore’s different communities, with input from local kueh artisans. Kueh-making is a detailed and precise process, so the book’s elaborate explanations and practical tips (such as how to fold leaf wrappers) are especially useful.

The way of Kueh

A Mosque In The Jungle – Othman Wok

A mosquie in the jungle

Before entering a career in politics, former Minister for Social Affairs Othman Wok was a journalist who wrote horror fiction in his spare time. This book collects 24 of his best stories, set in the 1950s to 80s. These eerie tales reference familiar local superstitions and beliefs, and are perfect for anyone who’s a fan of classic Asian horror.

Chronicles of a Circuit Breaker – Joseph Chiang

This light, humorous read will take you back to the early days of the pandemic – Singapore style. Through a series of comics, the book explores all the frustrations, hidden blessings and quirks of the Circuit Breaker and working from home. It pokes fun at Singaporean traits and behaviours, often showing what we wish we could do or say – like alighting from a bus early so that we don’t embarrass ourselves by sneezing around other people.

Chronicles of a circuit breaker
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    Oct 28, 2022
    Hidayah Md Sham
    Lei Ng
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