Paul French delved into the National Library’s and the National Archives’ materials and brought to the world two riveting true-crime tales Midnight in Peking (
currently being developed for a television series) in 2011 and City of Devils in 2018.  
We pulled up a chair with Paul to talk to him about his finds in Singapore’s archives.

The late S R Nathan published seven books in his lifetime, but his most accessible is probably 50 Stories from My Life. These two selections offer contrasting glimpses of the man who was President of Singapore from 1999–2011.

“The world is but a canvas of our imagination” the American poet and writer Henry David Thoreau famously said, and nowhere is this perhaps more evident than in the art and architecture of a city. The dividing line between art and architecture is often blurred – when is a building of visionary design deemed a work of art? – but the creative process of executing a painting or a sculpture, or erecting a building – from architectural plans to its physical construction – are not dissimilar. It is impossible to speak of our art and architectural icons without mentioning Tan Swie Hian. The virtuoso artist returns to the National Library after a long hiatus to present a new solo exhibition of his quintessential works along with his cherished notebooks of scribblings and sketches – as Chung Sang Hong tells us. Don’t miss “Anatomy of a Free Mind: Tan Swie Hian’s…

They say some stories should never be told, and indeed there are some skeletons that are best left in the closets where they belong. History is filled with many examples of perpetrators who attempt to erase – thankfully without much success – horrific crimes against humanity from living memory: the Nanjing massacre in China comes to mind, and closer to home, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge genocide.

Through the Lens of Lee Kip Lin: Photographs of Singapore 1965-1995 – a pictorial book published by the National Library Board in partnership with Editions Didier Millet – clinched top honours recently in the non-fiction category at the Singapore Book Awards. A total of eight awards, which recognises the best in Singapore’s publishing scene, were given out on 11 May 2016. Written by architectural historian, Dr Lai Chee Kien, the 208-page hardcover book contains nearly 500 photographs that depict varied architectural forms that were prevalent in Singapore between 1965 and 1995 – many of which have since disappeared from our landscape. These are not pretty pictures that will win awards for creative photography, but they represent an important documentation of Singapore’s built heritage during a period when its physical landscape was undergoing dramatic changes. The mostly black and white photos are part of a 14,500-strong collection of slides and negatives…

The book spine is probably one of the most important yet ignored parts of a book, often playing second fiddle to the cover. It might be hard to believe but early books did not have titles on their spines, and books were arranged with their spines facing inwards.

That’s Entertainment is a delightful vintage MGM film that strings together scenes from the best Hollywood musicals from the 1920s through the 50s. This issue of BiblioAsia may not be in the same league as that film, but it does celebrate the best of entertainment – books, magazines, film, theatre, radio, television, and the like. The amusement parks of yesteryear, New World, Great World and Happy World, may be physically gone, but these old-fashioned theme parks will always have a special place in the memories of older Singaporeans. Librarian Lim Tin Seng revisits these lost wonderlands in “Old-world Amusement Parks”. One of the crowd-pullers at these amusement parks was bangsawan, the traditional Malay theatre that recently made a comeback at the Esplanade with the lavish staging of Raden Mas – based on the story of a 16th-century Javanese princess in Temasek. Senior Librarian Juffri bin Supa’at traces the evolution of…

We welcome 2016 with a new exhibition titled “From the Stacks: Highlights of the National Library”. Taking place from 30 January to 28 August at level 10 of the National Library Building, the exhibition curates over 100 unique items that many people have likely never seen before. These rare materials – books, manuscripts, letters, photographs, maps and newspapers that have been painstakingly collected and preserved for nearly a century and a half – weave a colourful tapestry of Singapore’s short but intriguing history. Largely drawn from the National Library’s 11,000-strong Rare Materials Collection, the exhibits cover a diverse range of material, from politics, history, sociology, language and religion to current affairs, nature, travel and food. Several of the items on display at the exhibition predate the founding of Singapore, with the earliest, an English-Malay dictionary written by an unlikely Englishman, dating back to 1701. It is appropriate that this issue…

The National Library Board wins hearts (and minds) around the world with its SG50 Gift of Books initiative. Amelia Tan has the details.