Three artsy bookstores to take it all, literally

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Artsy folk looking to explore book culture beyond browse-worthy shelves don’t lack for options in this city. Tania De Rozario buries her nose in three spaces offering more than just bestsellers

First published on 2 Jun 2011. Updated on 13 Jun 2011.

Birds & Co.

Sister store of local favourite BooksActually, Birds & Co. is the stationery-sourcing and -producing arm responsible for the illustrated postcards and limited-edition notebooks that we’re always drooling over in the original store. With shelves created from shallow wooden boxes and products arranged with mathematical precision, the store is a feast for the eyes. Less densely packed than BooksActually, this one mixes handmade stationery, vintage glasses produced before Singapore’s independence and a beautiful selection of books that includes Vintage Singapore, a pictorial diary of the development of visual culture in Singapore – the pages are filled with old-school fashions and movie memorabilia. And if you think you might want to channel your favourite author while writing your own masterpiece, look out for their hand-bound notebooks, whose typewritten covers reproduce quotes from literary classics. #03-05A Cineleisure Orchard, 8 Grange Rd (6733 1170, www.booksactually.com/birdsandco). Orchard. Daily noon-10pm.

Cat Socrates

idden in Bras Basah Complex amid hordes of artists shopping for art materials, Cat Socrates sells everything from local music and art, to stationery, toys and – of course – books. You can grab a coffee and get lost in your latest read, or just bask in wonder at how the owners managed to fit so much stuff into one modest space. Co-owner Brett Zhang, who named the store for her 11-year-old puss, finds it hard to recommend a single product: ‘We try our best to collect beautiful things,’ she says by way of summing up their store’s ideology. We particularly enjoy their collection of little robots set among precious mechanical tin toys such as trains, planes and bicycle-riding elephants. Good reads unique to Cat Socrates include the Chinese-language publication little thing magazine, which is full of great interviews with independent designers, crafters, artists and stylists. #03-39B Bras Basah Complex, 231 Bain St (6333 0870, www.home.catsocrates.com.sg). City Hall or Bugis. Mon-Sat noon- 8pm; Sun & public holidays 1-7pm.

The Pigeonhole

With its red floors and eclectic furniture, The Pigeonhole serves up coffee, booze, books and art in an inviting atmosphere, set up by its founders, Rayner Lim and Ave Chan. Catch up on reading or plug in the laptop by day, but come nighttime this Duxton Road bolthole transforms into a lively social scene, hosting events like open-mic sessions and pecha kucha (slide-show presentation) lineups. Chan, a former litigation lawyer, recommends their collection of rare, vintage or first-edition books, all of which have been hand-carried or imported from countries such as India, the UK and the US.

The reading material is as eclectic as the furniture, with subject matter ranging from botany to law, and even theoretical takes on the role of pornography in culture. A particular favourite of Chan’s is Tsars, Mandarins & Commissars, published in 1964 and written by Harry Schwartz, a Moscow correspondent for The New York Times. These guys also get our support for tie-ups with NGOs such as the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Animals. 52 & 53 Duxton Rd (9627 2586, www.the-pigeonhole.tumblr.com). Chinatown. Tue-Thu 10am-11pm; Fri 10am-1am; Sat 11.30am-1am; Sun 11.30am-11pm.

By Tania De Rozario
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