50 faces of S’pore bookworms

Jun 30, 2016 11.00AM |
by Vishnu Preyei
WHEN was the last time you picked up a literary book? The answer for more than half of those residing in Singapore would probably be “I can’t remember”, as results from a survey conducted by the National Arts Council (NAC) last year suggest.
Out of the 1,015 Singaporeans and permanent residents that were surveyed, only 44 per cent had read at least one literary book in the past 12 months and even fewer, 32 per cent, had bought at least one literary book in the past year.
Singapore’s reading rate is far behind that of our Western counterparts, as 75 per cent of British adults had finished reading a book for pleasure and 76 per cent of Americans had finished at least one book over the course of the same year.
Efforts to improve the reading habits of adults in Singapore are underway with the launch of the two-month National Reading Movement and plans to start a library-themed MRT. Other measures include the new Read@Work programme, doubling of the number of Mother Tongue language reading clubs, and plans to improve the collections of books in Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
So how often do people read and what do they read? We took to the streets to find out :

Ms Yew Hui Qin, 21, student

“I am reading Attachment by Rainbow Rowell. I got to know this book through a friend’s recommendation. I bought this book because I ran out of books to read. I usually read romance books.”

Mr Tay Poh Leong, 36, sales & marketing executive

“I am reading a book called Chiang Mai by Guo Yun, as I am going to Chiang Mai. I bought this book because it is a good compilation of food, snacks, resorts, and activities one can do in Chiang Mai. I usually read philosophy, cook books, and designing books. I read an average of one to two books a month.”


Jessica Lim, 15, student

“I am reading City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. I started watching this TV show called Shadowhunters, which is a series based on this book. I like to read non-fiction books with mystery and horror themes. I read about five books per month. I feel that it is good to not use my phone all the time and instead, relax and unwind through reading.”

Mr Oscar Feng, 19, student

“I am reading One Punch Man by Yusuke Murata. I read it online sometimes too. I bought the book today because when I read the book, I get into the depth of the drawings, and I get the originality of it. I usually read novels and short stories, and adventure books. I read about one book per month.”

Ms Stella Poh, 64, part-time casual worker

“I am reading Negotiating Success by Jim Hornickel. I am reading this because I am still working, hence I need to learn how to negotiate with people, and know when to accept and reject. I usually read self-improvement books and watch videos of exercise online. I read an average of one book per month.”


Mr Lexton Poon, 19, NSF

“I am reading the [Time] Magazine – Next Generation Leaders, the June 13 issue. I am reading this because I find current affairs interesting and I like reading it for leisure. I usually read thriller, action and history books. I read approximately one book every few days.”


Ms Sabrina Chua Xin Yee, 18, Student.

“I’m reading Refresh Man, a novelisation of a Taiwanese drama. I usually read novelisations of dramas. I read a book once every two weeks.”

Ms Carol Tan, 34, call centre officer.

“I’m reading Romantic Princess, a drama novelisation. I usually like to read novelisations of a Taiwanese drama. I read a book a week.”

Samantha Ting, 13, Student.

“I am reading The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper, and some other local literature. I like to read fantasy novels, and I read about one to two books per month.”

Ms Vijam Ponmoli, 64, housewife.

“I’ve borrowed a Tamil book, and some English books for my grandchildren. I like to read novels and culture books, and I read one book every two to three days.”


Ms Koh Sin Ni, 32, Executive.

“I am reading Books, Cooks, and Crooks by Lucy Arlington. I like reading mystery stories, and I read every day during transport time.”

Ms Carol Lee, 20, student.

“I’m reading a Chinese translation of a philosophy book, Existentialism is a Humanism, by Jean-Paul Sarte. I like to read non-fiction, and I read every day.”

Mr Muhammad Suhail, 24, student.

“I’m reading Traditionalism and the Ascendancy of the Malay Ruling Class in Colonial Malaya by Donna J. Amoroso. I like to read historical non-fiction, and I read about two books a month.”


Ms Tong Xiao Xin, 22, student.

“I’m reading The Girl in the Green Sweater by Krystyna Chiger with Daniel Paisner. I usually like to read non-fiction history books. I am currently busy with school, so I only read when I’m free.”

Ms Siti Nor Adriana, 38, supervisor.

“I am borrowing books for my son, who is 12 this year. He likes reading mystery books, and he reads every day.”

Ms Ho Lai Yoong, 51, administrative assistant.

“I am reading Dead Between the Lines by Denis Swanson, a mystery book. I usually read mystery and handcraft books. I read every day.”

Ms Loh Yee Leng, 36, accountant.

“I’m borrowing We Love to Sing Along by Caroline Jayne Church for my kid, who is two years old. For me, I prefer to read fiction books, such as thrillers. I usually read one book every two months.”


Mr Cedric Seow, 35, compliance executive.

“I’m reading a Chinese translation of a book on the Panama Papers by Bastian Obermayer for work. I usually like to read business books, and I read on a daily basis.”


Ms Hor Mun Yee, 47, audit manager.

“I’m reading a Chinese mystery novel, Yuyu Sharenyouxi, by Ye Bing. I usually read fiction in both English and Chinese, and I read on alternate days.”

Ms Ng Sheng Chun, 21, student.

“I’m reading The Truth About Trust, by David DeSteno, which is a psychology book. I usually like to read Japanese literature. I read about one book a week.”

Ms Ailyn Kwang, 20, student.

“I’m reading The End of Forever by Lurlene McDaniel. I usually read romance novels. I read once every two weeks.”

Ms Niyati Pingali, 23, advertising AE.

“I’m reading three books now. One of them is Time stops at Shamili. I usually read fiction; mystery, historical fiction or magical realism. I read almost every day [and I] try for at least two books a month.”


Ms Chan Mei Yi, 52, housewife.

“I’m reading Juliet’s Nurse, it’s a fiction novel. I usually read mystery. I read every day and can finish 15 books in a month.”

Ms Divya Muthiah, 20, student.

“I’m reading The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I usually read romantic comedies. I don’t read before exams but I usually read around four to five books per month during the holidays.”

Ms Priya D/O Porcheliyan, 23, compliance officer.

“I’m reading Fancy Pants by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I usually read fiction; romance and fantasy. I read every day and can finish 20 books a month.”

Ms Alicia Wang, 23, fresh graduate.

“I’m reading At Risk by Patricia Cornwell. I like mystery and adventure type of books. Now it’s my holidays so I read more. Last month I finished about two books.”


Mr George Koshy, 48, senior executive.

“I’m reading this non-fiction book called magical journey. I read mostly non-fiction; self-improvement, sports and politics. I just try to read when I have time and I try to finish at least one book a month.”

Mr Adam Ang, 25, student.

“I’m reading The Burmese Days by Josh Orwell. I read mostly fiction and I like pop fiction, so like Hunger Games. I read one book a month.”

Ms Vanessa Tan, 27, primary school teacher.

“I’m reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I read a variety of books. The last book I read was The Girl on the Train and I like books on North Korea. I only read during the hols and I can finish up to two to three books in a month.”

Mr James Cheong, 18, student.

“I’m reading Green Lantern, it’s a comic. From the library, I usually borrow comic books. I read about two book a week.”

Ms Ho Yee Ling, 22, sales executive.

“I’m reading The Key to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. I usually read self-improvement books. I read about three times a week and take three weeks per book.”

Mrs Chew Ling Choo, 35, office worker.

“I read very classic books. I just read To Kill a Mockingbird. It was very inspiring. I seldom buy books because the library has such a vast collection. The magazines I read are related to yoga and spirituality. The books I read are thriller and crime. If I have time I read before bedtime.”


Ms Deborah Wong, 19, student.

“I’m reading The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. I like classics like War & Peace, Pride & Prejudice and other C. S. Lewis books. I read every time I have a spare opportunity, sometimes even when I’m in the toilet. I finish about two books a month.”

Mr Michael Meyer, 43, journalist.

“I’m reading Freedom from the Press by Cherian George and Beyond the Blue Gate which is about a political prisoner in Singapore. I usually read books about Singapore and I finish about 20 books a month.”

Mr Abdul Aziz Hussain, 62, HR manager.

“I’m reading The 150 healthiest foods on earth, basically its to help my family and children. I usually read science fiction and for non-fiction I read more books on health and on food. I go to the library almost every week. I read at least two books a month.”

Mr Teddy Jones Lyn Jun Feng, 28, Financial Advisor.

“Fiction is a waste of time, it’s a fantasy. I only read non-fiction books, mostly on finance, investments and self-improvement books because it helps me with my job. I spend about an hour to two hours reading every day. I usually borrow books but I will buy them if I find it valuable or if I know I will want to refer to it in the future. Currently I’m reading The New Advisor for Life by Gresham.”


Ms Siti Robita, 33, Civil Servant.

“I read all the time. I love literature. I am now reading The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. What I read depends on my mood. Previously I was reading world war two historical fiction and before that chick lit. Normally I buy my books because I can’t always stick to the library deadlines. It also gives me the flexbility to put a book down midway and pick it up again after a while.”

Mr C. W. Leong, 49, works in business operations.

“I’m reading Creating a Data-Driven Organisation. I stick to IT and business books and sometimes health and fitness as well. I read weekly. I usually borrow the books.”

Mr Alan Lim, 35, Warehouse Supervisor.

“I read monthly, maybe a few hours each time. I stick to mostly horror and fairy tales. I am now reading True Singapore Ghost Stories by Russell Lee.”

Miss Sze Hwee, 22, Undergraduate.

“I read mostly manga and comics a few hours a week at the library. I’m currently reading The Invincible Ironman.”

Mr Mohd Shahrun Noor, 21, National Serviceman

“Usually I read the news only, but I’ve recently decided to pick up books as well. I’m now reading Being Logical to improve my thinking skills. But I rather watch movies than read fiction. I need help with my imagination.”

Madam Lam Li Min, 44, house wife.

“I’m currently reading The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie. I don’t read very often, maybe once a month, but when I do it’s usually her books.”

Ms June Ong, 20, student.

“I like to read non-fiction, especially those that are inspiring and relatable. The book I’m reading now is Everyone Loves Tender Women. It aids in developing self confidence in women and increasing their EQ.”


Mr Jimmy Low, 21, student.

“I’m quite particular about the books I read. I like to browse though them before buying to get the gist of the plot. If it’s interesting to me, I’ll read it.”

Ms Sharon Hew, 31, civil servant.

“I read online articles pretty much every day, but on average I only read one book a month. I’m reading Her World Brides because I’m getting married soon. I like to read books that are useful or are insightful about life, like philosophy or management books.”

Mr Paul, 45, teacher.

“I’m reading a Doraemon comic. I like to read comics for leisure, in both English and Chinese. I only read one or two books per month.”

Mr Ajay Kumar, 26, Civil Engineer.

“I read every day on the way to work and before bed as well. Currently I’m reading a book on Occupational Stress by a Clinical Psychologist. I just bought Silence by Shusako Endo. I’m not sure what it’s about but decided to get it because I found out while browsing that Martin Scorsese is adapting it into a film.”


Ms Amy Leung, 22, student

“I’m reading Paradise Lost by John Milton. I usually read Japanese literature and I read all time. Depending on the length of the book, I can finish four to six books in a month.”

Ms Syafiqah Hamzah, 23, civil servant

“I’m reading The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. What I read really depends on what I fancy at the moment. At one point, I was reading a lot of books by Asian authors. I like books about family, friendship though I also have a soft spot for historical fiction and thrillers. My all-time favourite historical fiction book is The Blade of The Courtesans by Keiichiro Ryu. I read nearly every day especially on the bus ride to work or back home. I also almost always read before I sleep. In a month I can finish about one to two book.”

Mr Toh Lee Hong, 38, engineer.

“I’m reading Kuruneko Yamato, it is a pictorial blog. I read everything, but usually focus more on non-fiction books. I can read about one book a month.”

This is part of a month-long series of articles in support of the National Reading Movement, which kicked off on Friday, June 3. It will culminate in the first ever National Reading Day on July 30. 

Click on the following links to find out more:

  1. So you’ve seen the movie, have you read the book?
  2. So you’ve seen the movie, have you read the book? An overview of books referenced.
  3. Why Reading Matters, by Felix Cheong
  4. 5 books that’ll drive you crazy – & leave you wanting more
  5. Bringing Up a Reader
  6. Hungry for Singapore literature? Press B4
  7. My Favourite Character from a Singapore writer: Ellie Belly
  8. My Favourite Character from a Singapore writer: Amos Lee
  9. My Favourite Character from a Singapore writer: Watson the Robot
  10. My Favourite Character from a Singapore writer: Tessie
  11. Reading Month: Addiction by Joshua Ip
  12. Reading Month: Addiction by Joshua Ip – An overview of books referenced
  13. MRT reads by Aaron Ho: The reading riders of Singapore.

Featured image by Natassya Diana.

Additional reporting by Cindy Co, Md Suhaile, Glenn Ong, Andrea Wang & Claris Ng.

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