Sunday, 11 October 2020

Why you should support these independent bookstores around the world

Multi-hyphenate Jemimah Wei is no stranger to the written word. The writer, travel host, lifestyle blogger, film producer and National Arts Council scholar based in Singapore and New York has been actively pursuing her passion in the literary arts. Among many accomplishments, Wei holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction and was recently named a 2020 Felipe De Alba Fellow at Columbia University.

Her work has appeared in various publications, such as SmokeLong Quarterly, X-R-A-Y Literary magazine, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and the Math Paper Press anthology “From the Belly of the Cat”. She is currently a columnist for No Contact magazine, hosting an online documentary series The Public Investigator and working on a novel as well as several television projects.

We ask the wordsmith to share some a selection of her favourite indie bookshops around the world that are capable of inviting quiet solitude, propelling thrilling discoveries and encouraging imagination while you enjoy the pleasures of the printed word on a page.

Libreria London
The cosy Libreria in Hanbury Street. Photo:

1. Libreria, London

Libreria is one of my favourite bookstores in the world, period. I was first introduced to it by Taiwanese-born, London-based Malaysian author Tash Aw who frequents the store and endorses their impeccable curation of titles. Stepping into Libreria is like entering a mythical, book-lover’s land – no cell phones are allowed and no cups of coffee with your read, they want you to focus on literature and literature alone. They are also a crucial part of the London literary community, hosting weekly literacy classes for migrants before the lockdown and championing diverse writers through their public event. They’ve been significantly impacted by the pandemic, especially since they were adamant about continuing to pay their employees a living wage though their revenues were wiped, so I want to take this chance to amplify their #SaveLibreria campaign.

Jemimah Wei Books Are Magic New York
Wei with her copy of Real Life at Books Are Magic. Photo credit: Jemimah Wei

2. Books Are Magic, New York

Books Are Magic had been on my bucket list ever since before I moved to New York, and for good reason. They’re an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, run by the indomitable Emma Straub, an American novelist whom I heard speak at a New School Publishing Conference and just loved. You can really tell when someone lives and breathes literature, and the outpouring of love for Books Are Magic during the pandemic really highlighted what a supportive community of readers and writers they’ve built. I can’t wait for the day we can all safely gather in-store again, for yet another one of their much beloved author readings that they were so well known for.

Jemimah Wei
Wei at Books Actually with one of their resident cats. Photo: Jemimah Wei

3. Books Actually, Singapore

I couldn’t leave Books Actually off this list! They’re a real cornerstone in the local literary scene in Singapore, and their publishing arm, Math Paper Press, was where my first ever short story was published – in the literary anthology, From the Belly of the Cat, curated by Stephanie Ye. Known for their cosy and quaint atmosphere, they recently shuttered their iconic Yong Siak Street store and pivoted to being a fully online outfit, adapting their business model for the Covid-19 age, but promise to re-open for pop up literary events and readings once it is safe to do so. Gotta love an innovative, forward looking book business.

Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.

To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit For updates and travel advisories, please visit Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website. 

SEE ALSO: These are the books you should read from local publishers before the Singapore Writers Festival

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