SINGAPORE - Coffee table books had their day at this year's Singapore Book Awards, as an art book took home the top honours on Thursday night (April 20) at the industry awards, which recognise the best in local book publishing.
Building Memories: People. Architecture. Independence, about four iconic buildings from Singapore's history, won not just in the newly-minted Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Title category, but also the overall Book Of The Year award.
The 136-page interactive book, which features buildings such as the now-defunct red-brick National Library and National Theatre, was described by the judging panel in a statement as "a time capsule in a book format" and "outstandingly beautiful in its production and ingenious in its assembly and presentation".
The project's leader, Yeo Yeok Chuan, 51, said: "I'm completely surprised because it is our first time and we are a small independent publisher. This is confirmation that publishing a book goes beyond just text."
The book is published by his design company Achates 360, a newcomer to the award, although the book's writer Lai Chee Kien won last year's Best Non-Fiction Title for Through The Lens Of Lee Kip Lin - Photographs Of Singapore 1965-1995.
Lai, 50, added: "These are buildings that were important to our generation when we were growing up. This was the best way for us to commemorate them."
The Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Title is a new category of the annual awards, which are organised by the Singapore Book Publishers Association and were held last night at Pan Pacific Singapore.
The association's president Peter Schoppert, who is also the director of National University of Singapore Press, said: "Illustrated non-fiction is a very important category of books, whether you think of coffee table books or highly illustrated reference books. It's a category in which Singaporean publishers have excelled for a long time, since the 1980s, and we thought we should recognise it now as we expand our book awards.
"It's not just about a writer, editor and publisher - you're involving more creative talents and this embodies the best of those talents put together."
Publisher Epigram Books had two wins for Best Fiction Title - won by O Thiam Chin's novel about failing relationships, Now That It's Over - and Best Young Adult Title, for Low Ying Ping's Mount Emily Revisited, from a series about time-travelling schoolgirls.
Former journalist Susan Sim won the Best Non-Fiction Title for E. W. Barker: The People's Minister, her biography of Singapore's first post-independence Law Minister.
Ms Susan Long, general manager of the book's publisher Straits Times Press, called it a "labour of love" by Ms Sim that was five years in the making. "The care and thought she took with the research and writing shows."
This is the third edition of the awards, which were first held in 2012 and returned last year after a hiatus.
To qualify, books must be published in one of Singapore's four official languages between Nov 2, 2015 and Dec 1 last year. They must have a Singapore International Standard Book Number, a unique number that identifies each edition of a book, with hard copies legally deposited with the National Library Board. Books sold in print must be sold in retail stores locally and/or overseas.
A total of 38 titles were shortlisted this year. Winners, who were chosen by a panel of judges comprising writers, educators, bookstore directors and other industry insiders, received a plaque and a certificate of recognition.
Best Children's Picture Book: A Stray (Michael Wang, Marshall Cavendish International Asia)
Best Middle Grade/Young Adult Title: Mount Emily Revisited (Low Ying Ping, Epigram Books)
Best Fiction Title: Now That It's Over (O Thiam Chin, Epigram Books)
Best Non-Fiction Title: E. W. Barker, The People's Minister (Susan Sim, Straits Times Press)
Best Education Title: Fun Chinese Picture Dictionary (Second Edition) (Shi Bin, Marshall Cavendish Education)
Best Book Cover Design: Speaker's Hall (Danny Yeo Chin Wei, Global Publishing)
Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Title: Building Memories: People.Architecture.Independence (Lai Chee Kien, Koh Hong Teng and Yeo Yeok Chuan, Achates 360)
Book of the Year: Building Memories (People.Architecture.Independence) (Lai Chee Kien, Koh Hong Teng and Yeo Yeok Chuan, Achates 360)