The inaugural Dr Alan HJ Chan Spirit of Singapore Book Prize has been launched, announcing the richest pot for a book award in the country. Established through a $1 million donation from Confucian scholar and businessman Alan Chan, the prize aims to recognise publications that champion mindsets that are important to Singapore’s shaping. These include diversity, religious harmony, meritocracy and pragmatism.

The prize is open to both fiction and non-fiction works published in English or Singaporean Mandarin, with a strong Singapore element. To qualify, a work must be issued by a Singapore publisher in 2021 or 2022 and be available for sale or distribution. Books must also be able to demonstrate the prize’s four key values of excellence, impact, legacy and empathy. The winner will receive a cash prize of $30,000. The previous record-breaking Singapore Literature Prize, which was worth $100,000, was awarded by Epigram Books in 2018.

A book on the history of a Malaysian migrant worker settlement in Singapore won a top honour at this year’s National Book Award, known locally as the Ang Mo Kio Prize. Sembawang by Kamaladevi Pillai, whose mother helped her research the novel, is “a story about history, but it’s about what it means to average people,” says NUS professor and Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow Kishore Mahbubani. He points out that, as American social scientist Benedict Anderson said, nations are ‘imagined communities’ and shared imagination is the glue holding societies together.

Other notable winners at the awards ceremony included alllkunilaa (Azhagunila), whose English poetry collection Cordelia was named as one of the two co-winners of the Prize’s English Poetry category, and rma cureess (Rama Suresh), who won both the Readers’ Favourite Tamil and the Singapore Literary Prize for her debut novel Snow at 5PM: Translations of an Insignificant Japanese Poet. Mahbubani was also the chairman of this year’s nominating committee, which reviewed 31 books submitted by publishers for consideration.

This year’s SG Breakthrough Prize, which is supported by the Government of Singapore and NTUC Income, saw over 63 entries. The competition identifies promising Singapore-based researchers in the early stages of their careers to help them scale up their ideas and reach more people. The prize, which carries a seed funding of up to $500,000, will provide them with opportunities for networking, mentoring and potential collaborations.

In addition, five finalists will be given GBP 1 million (SGD 1.7 million) in investment capital to accelerate their plans and scale up their work. The winning entries were selected from the shortlisted nominees, who were deemed to be outstanding and have high potential for global success in their field of expertise. To find out more about the SG Breakthrough Prize, visit its website.

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