Monday, August 27, 2012

Bras Basah Complex: The Books and Arts Lover's Haven in Singapore

Singapore is one heck of an expensive city to live in.  Everything costs so much money!  And that includes almost every necessity and luxury item available, which yes, also counts books.  I guess it's the price you have to pay for being such a cosmopolitan city.

So yes, I do miss our very own National Booktore and Fully Booked a lot since brand new paperback fiction novels here cost S$15 (Php490*) on average, compared to just about Php300 in the above mentioned stores in the Philippines (imagine how much I pine for Booksale and other similar stores like them.  Drama, much?  J)

Good thing there's the Bras Basah Complex here in Singapore to cheer me up.

Bras Basah Complex: the Centre of Books and Arts

The Bras Basah Complex is a low-rise building that houses a number of arts stores and yes, second-hand book centers, too.  Located right beside the Singapore National Library (which, by the way, I am also a huge fan of), this is the place I go to whenever I feel the need to "splurge" on a number of titles.

Bras Basah Complex along Bain Street

Sure, it's not as convenient as our Booksale stores (wherein almost every major mall houses a branch), but what this lacks in convenience, it definitely makes up for in their offerings and service.

Why?  Well, unlike their mass counterparts in the Philippines, the proprietors themselves are the ones manning their stores.  Need to look for a particular title or author?  They'll definitely be able to show you where it is or if they have it in stock.  It's really quite different talking to a self-confessed book lover than a seller who simply works in these stores just to earn a living.

Aside from that, it is normal for most of these centers to carry a number of books from well-known authors.  In fact, almost half of their inventory are composed of popular titles. 

Some of these stores even buy tomes from their patrons.  It's actually not unusual to see a Kinokuniya (a popular bookstore here in Singapore) price tag still affixed on some of their titles.

Some of my Favorite Stores

Two of my favorite stores here are the Knowledge Book Centre (unit 03-37B) and the Pro Saint Book Store (02-77).  The former usually offers their books at lower prices than the latter.  They even have 3 for S$10 (Php330) deals. 

On the other hand, Pro Saint Book Store has newer titles and their books are a little bit, uhmm, cleaner.  Most of their items are actually covered in plastic wrap and are dusted off regularly.

Pro Saint Book Store

Book Hunting 101

I find myself so bewildered at times whenever visiting the Bras Basah Complex, simply because there are just so many stores to visit and books to choose from.  So to help you along, here are just a few handy tricks whenever you find yourself book hunting here:

1. Expect to get outright down and dirty so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and bring hand sanitizers or wet wipes.

Books in boxes

I will not mince words here.  Most stores have their titles placed helter skelter and some even do not dust off their wares so expect that you'll be going through some literally dirty and dusty titles.  That being said, always wear clothes that you don't mind getting dirt on and comfy shoes to keep you going while on the search for that elusive novel.  A hand sanitizer or wet tissue can help clean those hands afterwards.

Don't worry too much about the dust on your purchases.  You can always wipe them clean later at home.

2. Know what titles, or at least the authors, of the books you want to buy.

Where to start?

It can be overwhelming at times, entering these shops, for there are a LOT of titles to choose from.  Although they usually sort these things out and place them together by author, it's still quite a search.  Knowing beforehand the title, or at least the author, of the novels you're most interested in will make the search go so much easier.

But if you do have all the time in the world, then please feel free to disregard this advice and, by all means, browse all you want.

3. Don't be afraid to ask.  Whether it's finding a particular title or asking for clarification regarding prices, please don't be afraid to ask the friendly proprietor.  He'll be more than happy to assist a fellow book lover.


Bras Basah Complex
Blk. 223 Bain Street
#04-11 Bras Basah Complex
Singapore 180231

Planning to visit?  Drop by my "Getting Around Singapore" post (click here) for more details on how to get around the Lion City.


  1. I love your not-so-usual Singapore shopping tips like this :)

  2. Astig itong lugar na ito. Parang trade center ng mga libro. People can visit to either buy or sell their books.

    Ang maganda pa nuon ay alam ng nagtitinda kung ano ang meron sila.

  3. I love books! Can't say that enough. Thought this is in Manila.. Then I saw Singapore pala :(

  4. Singapore is really expensive. I didn't save a cent when I was living there.

    I used to buy books at Kinokuniya because they give generous discount when you apply for membership card. :)

  5. This would be a nightmare for me coz I'm used to our bookstore here in philippines wre everything is organized...but often i found it interesting espcially after browsing hundreds of books then you found the one...its like treasure:)

  6. You got tissue? Those bookstores made me drool... hahaha. :)


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