Heritage kueh book takes top honours at Singapore Book Awards

Christopher Tan’s The Way Of Kueh won Book of the Year.
Christopher Tan’s The Way Of Kueh won Book of the Year. PHOTOS: ST FILE, CHRISTOPHER TAN

Kueh led the way at the Singapore Book Awards yesterday, as Christopher Tan's heritage food book The Way Of Kueh won Book of the Year at the annual industry awards by the Singapore Book Publishers Association (SBPA).

The sixth edition of the Singapore Book Awards, which recognise the best in local book publishing, was live-streamed on the SBPA's Facebook page.

Tan, 47, wrote the book to make his fellow Singaporeans more aware of the food of their heritage. It took him almost five years to research its recipes.

"I want to thank all the kueh-makers especially," he said. "They are the true national treasures of our country."

The book, which also won Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Title, spent four weeks on The Straits Times bestseller list last year.

In a statement, the Book of the Year judging panel hailed The Way Of Kueh as the first book to cover the history and culture of kueh in all its splendour and range: "Its impact, relevance and importance is in its contribution to the heritage and knowledge it brings to the community as well as to the culinary world."

The panel comprises former Books Kinokuniya Asia-Pacific senior store and merchandising director Kenny Chan, National Library Board (NLB) senior head of selection Kathryn Lane and former SBPA president Triena Ong.

In a rare move, they also gave an honorary mention to Loss Adjustment by Linda Collins, a literary memoir about how the author's teenage daughter took her own life. They praised the book for "bravely breaking the silence on suicide".

There is traditionally no shortlist for the Book of the Year category, which is judged by a separate panel after other prizes are decided. The winning titles of the other categories, plus independent submissions, are considered.

Ten titles, chosen from 46 finalists, scored wins at the ceremony.

Homeless - a memoir by Liyana Dhamirah about how, aged 22, she wound up pregnant and living in a tent on Sembawang Beach - won Best Non-Fiction Title.

Best Literary Work went to Fall Baby by Indonesian writer Laksmi Pamuntjak, a novel about a controversial artist who discovers her birth father died a political prisoner. It was published locally by Penguin Random House South-east Asia.

Three categories for Best E-book, Best Audiobook and Best Digital Marketing Campaign were introduced this year.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann, the event's guest of honour, said she was encouraged to see the new categories.

In the first half of this year alone, she said, Singaporeans borrowed more than three million e-books from libraries. "While some of these figures could be attributed to the circuit breaker, which gave many the opportunity to rediscover the joy of reading, there has undoubtedly been an underlying shift in consumer demand."

Storytel Singapore, the Swedish audiobook giant's entry into the local market, won Best Digital Marketing Campaign. Best E-Book went to Shing Lee Publishers' think! Additional Mathematics e-textbooks.

Best Audiobook was awarded to Penghuni Rumah Tua by Malay-language publisher Pustaka Nasional, which also received a special mention for its use of technology to create bilingual e-resources.

As with last year, Epigram Books was the big winner, with four awards including The Way Of Kueh's two wins, Homeless and Best Book Cover Design for Barrie Sherwood's short story collection, The Angel Tiger And Other Stories.

To qualify for the awards, books must be published in one of Singapore's four official languages between Jan 1 and Dec 31 the previous 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 NLB. Books sold in print must be sold in retail stores locally and/or overseas.

Winners, who were chosen by a panel of judges comprising writers, academics and other industry insiders, received a plaque and a certificate of recognition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2020, with the headline 'Heritage kueh book takes top honours at Singapore Book Awards'. Print Edition | Subscribe