Books related to Mr Lee dominate bestseller list

Books related to Mr Lee dominate bestseller list

Books about Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister, have been flying off the shelves since his death two weeks ago on March 23.

All 10 titles on Singapore's list of best-selling non-fiction books for the week ending March 29 were by or about the statesman. The list is compiled by SundayLife! using data from Books Kinokuniya, MPH, Times and Popular bookstores.

Topping the list was LKY: A Pictorial Memoir, a 192-page compendium of private and public photographs of Mr Lee, edited by The Straits Times' picture editor Stephanie Yeow.

Published just two weeks ago, the Straits Times Press publication sold more than 5,000 copies between March 23 and 29, according to figures from the bookstores.

Mr Lee's One Man's View Of The World (2013) and Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going (2011) were in second and third place, both selling more than 2,400 copies during the same period. Both books are also published by Straits Times Press.

None of these books made the previous week's list, topped by self-help tome The Art Of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli.

Mr Lee's popularity extended to children's titles too. Comic book Growing Up With Lee Kuan Yew (2014) by illustrator Lawrence Koh rocketed to the top of the children's books list. It was not on the previous week's chart.

The book, published by Educational Publishing House, is being translated into Chinese for release at the end of the month.

Although there has always been a steady demand for books about Mr Lee, booksellers say they have seen an unprecedented surge in the past two weeks.

"This is a phenomenon I have not seen in my bookselling days. Never has all the top 10 books been related to Mr Lee," said Mr Kenny Chan, store and merchandising director of Books Kinokuniya. He has been in the industry for more than three decades.

When The Straits Times visited Kinokuniya's flagship store at Ngee Ann City yesterday, many were browsing in two areas dedicated to titles related to Mr Lee.

Ms Shirley Mok, 49, who works in the beauty care industry, was seen flipping through LKY: A Pictorial Memoir.

She said: "It is interesting that his personal life is in the limelight now, such as his role as a father. We have always known him more as a great leader."

The Straits Times understands that most major titles are still in stock in bookstores here, but at least two publishers are ramping up the printing presses to meet anticipated demand.

Patrick Yee's picture books for children, Harry Grows Up: The Early Years Of Lee Kuan Yew (February 2015) and A Boy Named Harry: The Childhood Of Lee Kuan Yew (2013), with an initial print run of 2,000 each, have sold out. Epigram Books is reprinting 3,000 more copies of each.

Publishing house Marshall Cavendish is also reprinting at least two titles, The Singapore Story: Memoirs Of Lee Kuan Yew (1998) and From Third World To First: The Singapore Story (2000).

All four books are current bestsellers in the SundayLife! list.

Ms Violet Phoon of Marshall Cavendish said the recent wave of information about Mr Lee sparked greater interest "among new audiences who perhaps did not know much about him before".

Young readers are one such audience. Ms Linette Lim, 42, admissions director at Yale-NUS College, believes in the power of images to tell the story of Mr Lee. She bought Growing Up With Lee Kuan Yew last year for her two daughters, aged eight and 13.

"I want to let them know what he did, beyond the TV shows. Comics help to draw the kids in. And we don't turn on the TV all the time."

nabilahs@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 6, 2015.
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