The Spirit of Singapore Book Prize at NUS

singapore prize

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has launched a prize to celebrate works by writers whose books champion values important to the shaping of Singapore. The NUS Spirit of Singapore Book Prize, which attracted 43 entries in its first edition, will recognise fiction and non-fiction authors whose works “demonstrate the spirit of selflessness and service” and “represent Singapore in a positive light”.

This year, it honours five authors whose works highlight human rights abuses and social justice. The winner of the prize will receive a medal, a certificate, and S$25,000 cash. The two runners-up will each get S$10,000. The prize, which is supported by NUS and private donors, was established through an endowment gift from the late Confucian scholar Dr Alan Chan.

The NUS Singapore History Prize was introduced in 2014 with the aim of cultivating engagement with Singapore’s past, making its nuances more accessible and generating a greater understanding among Singaporeans. The prize, administered by the Department of History under NUS’ Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, was opened up to all writings dealing with Singapore’s history.

One of the six shortlisted works, the 491-page tome Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800 by archaeologist John Miksic, won the inaugural prize. Prof Miksic’s work earned the gong for proving that Singapore existed as a trading hub in the 13th century, even before Sir Stamford Raffles founded it in 1819. Prof Miksic’s research drew on literary records, as well as archaeological findings of glass shards, bronze bowls, coins and pottery.

NUS senior advisor and historian Kishore Mahbubani was a member of the jury panel that chose the winner. He said the prize could potentially be broadened to include fictional works like movies and comics, as Singaporeans may be better able to engage with its history through these forms.

The other winners included a comic book by Sonny Liew, who bagged the Eisner award, often referred to as the Oscars of the comic world, for his work Charlie Chan Hock Chye and a cookbook on Singapore’s rich culinary heritage by food historian Khir Johari. The cookbook, The Food Of The Singapore Malays: Gastronomic Travels Through The Archipelago, was published by Marshall Cavendish.

The glitzy awards ceremony was co-hosted by actress Hannah Waddingham and three-time Emmy award winner Sterling K. Brown and filmed at Mediacorp’s theatre. Celebrities including Cate Blanchett, Lana Condor, Robert Irwin and Donnie Yen attended the event. In line with the sustainability theme of the event, William wore a dark green suit from designer Alexander McQueen.