It’s been an eventful year for Singaporean literature. As we enter the final months of 2023—and with this year’s Singapore Writers Festival right around the corner to wrap up the literary calendar—there’s no better time to look back on the incredible titles published by local authors this year. Through a uniquely Singaporean lens, these books offer diverse perspectives that come together to form a vibrant tapestry of our society. They are a reflection of the stories we want to tell, the voices we wish to uplift and the causes that we hold closest to our hearts.
Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Now You See Us, for instance, follows three domestic helpers from the Philippines as they band together to solve a murder—delving into the layers of power that define our society. Meanwhile, the deceptively simple premise of a group of Indian women learning to swim gives way to a rich exploration of cultural adaptation and female community in Vrushali Junnarkar’s The Campbell Gardens Ladies’ Swimming Class.
As for non-fiction reads, The Singapore I Recognise and Not Without Us both stand as landmark titles. In the former, Kirsten Han paints a nuanced picture of the hidden aspects of Singapore she has come to know in her work as an activist and journalist. In the latter, a collection of essays on disability and inclusion in Singapore provides invaluable knowledge and perspectives on a conversation that has, until now, been focused mostly on the West. Below, find our full list of the best local books released this year.
1 / 8
'The Singapore I Recognise: Essays on Home, Community and Hope' by Kirsten Han
In this landmark title, activist and journalist Kirsten Han paints a poignant picture of our homeland and its people. Through researched interviews, nuanced examinations of civil society and personal reflections, she showcases the hidden aspects of Singapore that don’t follow the conventional story—resulting in a compulsory read for any active citizen.
2 / 8
'Now You See Us' by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Insightful and entertaining, Now You See Us follows three women from the Philippines working as domestic helpers in the homes of Singapore’s elite. As they band together to solve a murder, Balli Kaur Jaswal peels back the layers of power that define our society, opening up an invaluable conversation about the way we treat our migrant worker community.
3 / 8
'Claiming Susan Chin' by Tham Cheng-E
When a plane plummets into the Korean DMZ, 16-year-old Susan Chin—a Singaporean girl with Down’s syndrome—is the sole survivor. Insurers question her testimony and investigator Jean Wan is tasked to prove that the crash wasn’t an accident. As the father of a child with Down’s syndrome, Tham Cheng-E crafts Susan’s voice with nuance and depth, and offers an honest glimpse into the challenges that caregivers face.
4 / 8
'The Great Reclamation' by Rachel Heng
Born into a fishing village in 20th-century Singapore, Ah Boon spends his time playing with neighbour Siok Mei. One day, the discovery of a unique power he possesses brings forth an obligation to contribute to his community and impress the girl he has come to love—until the pair get caught in the devastating impact of World War II. As the nation moves towards rebirth, The Great Reclamation reveals a sweeping tale reckoning with the things we sacrifice for progress.
5 / 8
'The Campbell Gardens Ladies’ Swimming Class' by Vrushali Junnarkar
This winner of the 2023 Epigram Books Fiction Prize offers a glimpse into the lives of a group of Indian women determined to learn to swim. The novel’s premise may seem simple on the surface, but it gives way to a rich and heart-warming tale of cultural adaptation, personal freedom and women coming together.
6 / 8
'Not Without Us: Perspectives on Disability and Inclusion in Singapore' edited by Kuansong Victor Zhuang, Meng Ee Wong and Dan Goodley
Not Without Us is a call to re-evaluate the way we think of disability. An insightful collection of essays both critical and creative, this groundbreaking book shifts between lived experiences, overlooked histories and hopeful futures—examining what it means to live with disabilities in a nation moving towards inclusion.
7 / 8
'No Wonder, Women' by Carissa Foo
As two women connect over a balloon cactus, a mother steals glances at her daughter in the car’s rear-view mirror and a bride thinks about her best friend on the eve of her wedding. An ode to women and the myriad ways in which they love, this collection of short stories delves into the intricate bonds that women share with each other.
8 / 8
'Catskull' by Myle Yan Tay
Neo-noir thriller meets coming-of-age mystery in Catskull, which follows teenage outcast Ram as he dons a mask to defend his only friend from her abusive father. When his act of intimidation takes a grave turn, the line between right and wrong blurs—and we are left to question who suffers the consequences in the road to justice.
The October anniversary ‘Voices’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store from 10 October 2023.