6 SingLit Books Every Student Should Read

Did you know National Library Board solely dedicates a section to Singapore Literature? From Memoirs and Non-Fiction to Fiction, Poetry and many more, Singapore’s literary landscape has drastically grown over the past few years.

If you are new to Singapore Literature (SingLit), fret not! Here are six SingLit titles that can boost your reading journey:

1) Inheritance by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Inheritance was written by Balli Kaur Jaswal and published in 2013. It is a fictional prose set in the 1970s to the 1990s, during Singapore’s changing political, social and cultural landscape. Balli Kaur Jaswal wrote of the country’s coming-of-age story through a traditional Punjabi family.

Told through the Sikh diaspora community in Singapore, the novel centres on constructing an individual’s identity. Inheritance highlights the conflicts and struggles to form a Singaporean identity during the country’s rapid development. Highlighting Singaporean’s struggle to balance their country’s expectations with their own, Inheritance engages with readers on questions of family legacies and questions about one’s sense of belonging. Ultimately, Inheritance raises the question of what makes a Singaporean identity.

2) Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe

Ministry of Moral Panic, written by Amanda Lee Koe, was published in 2013. It was hailed as the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize for Fiction winner. Ministry of Moral Panic acts as a social commentary on modern Singapore told through a collection of short stories. Positioned in an off-centred fictional world, moral lessons are taught to readers after each story. The short stories touch on familial tensions, surviving in contemporary society, and anxiety about forming human connections, which are issues Singaporeans face at one point. In addition, Amanda Lee Koe dives into the nostalgic memories of Singaporeans to create stories about the intimacy of sexual relationships, interpersonal connections and the question of morality. If you are looking for a quirky yet engaging Singlit title to read, Ministry of Moral Panic could be the one for you.

3) Lion City by Ng Yi-Sheng

Lion City by Ng Yi Sheng was published in 2018. This contemporary sci-fi book lies within strange tales of the Lion City. Dive into the world of myths, magical realism and all things eccentric. It is the place where a man discovers that all the animals in the Zoo are robots! Is there a terminal in Changi Airport dedicated to the Gods? A prince falls in love with a crocodile! A concubine lost in time? The island of Singapore disappears! Encapsulated in the form of short stories, award-winning poet and playwright Ng Yi Sheng invites readers to view Singapore in a revolutionary and mysterious way.

4) This is What Inequality Looks Like by You Yenn Teo

Curated as a series of essays, this book is an ethnography of inequality that addresses questions raised. The essays are to be read individually but arranged in a way to be of totality and in sequence. This collection aims to give readers an insight into low-income individuals in Singapore. Hence it portrays the connection between our experiences and the structural conditions of inequality. You Yenn Teo urges readers to reflect on the narrative and discourses we involve ourselves in, particularly about inequality and poverty. Essential for readers of all fields aspiring to be more critical when reading narratives about the working class of Singapore.

5) It Never Rains on National Day by Jeremy Tiang

Being a debut collection published in 2016, It Never Rains on National Day was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2016. Connecting the stories of Singaporeans living abroad into a unified narrative to share how they celebrate and identify with Singapore’s National Day in their unique ways. Readers craving nostalgia and wanting to rediscover their connection to Singapore should pick this up!

6) Kopi, Puffs & Dreams by Pallavi Gopinath Aney

Kopi, Puffs & Dreams is a fictional tale about two young men from Palakkad, Puthu and Krishnan, who met aboard a ship bound for Malaya and instantly connected. Over the next two decades, they opened a restaurant in Singapore selling curry puffs and kopi. However, a dark secret looms over Krishnan that threatens to destroy the success of his restaurant. Will the mystery be revealed carelessly? You are in for a treat if you love unexpected twists and turns in a book!

Undying passion and interest for Singapore Literature?

If Singapore Literature sounds right up your alley, consider pursuing taking English Literature as a major or even a minor! After completing the required modules in Year 1, you can choose modules such as South Asian Literature and Singapore literature and Culture. In NUS, for example, this is an introductory module or the GCE ‘A’ Level Literature qualification/equivalent as well as a Level 2000 English Lit module. For NTU, you will need to take the HL1001 Introduction to the Study of Literature module, before you can take the HL1005 Introduction to Singapore Literature module.

Do check out the various university course pages to learn more about their English Lit offerings!

Hope you find the book suggestions helpful, and feel free to leave any questions down below! Have a great time reading!


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