An Interview with Professor Paul Tambyah on his thoughts about Singapore’s Reading Culture

An Interview with Professor Paul Tambyah on his thoughts about Singapore’s Reading Culture

Professor Paul Tambyah - Leader in Infectious Diseases

Did you know that our world-renowned Professor Paul Tambyah was already an Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases back in 2001?

Now a Senior Consultant Infectious Diseases Physician based mostly at National University Hospital and an academic at National University of Singapore, Prof Tambyah wears many additional hats. He is also the President of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, President-elect of International Society of Infectious Diseases, and Chairman of the Singapore Democratic Party and devotes a lot of time on grassroot activities. Yet, the amazing professor still manages to find the time to write, edit and publish 3 books.


Dr Paul Tambyah Books
  1. "Bird Flu: A Rising Pandemic In Asia And Beyond?" - Read More 👈
  2. "Covid-19 Pandemic In Singapore" - Read More 👈
  3. "Infectious Diseases and Singapore: Past, Present and Future" - Read More 👈

An Interview with Professor Paul Tambyah on his thoughts about Singapore’s Reading Culture

1) Do you think there is a decline or growth in the number of readers in Singapore?

I am not so sure that there is a decline! A large study done by NIE-NTU researchers showed that 61% of teenagers in Singapore enjoyed reading – see


2) But there seems to be less people reading out in the open?

I think that what has happened is that there are new ways of reading in particular electronic books on smartphones which have changed the landscape for conventional book publishers. The e-book market in Singapore has shown a steady rate of growth – see


3) Do you feel that Singaporeans are not learning new information as quickly as professionals from other first world countries after they enter the workforce?

Actually, I think Singaporeans learn quite fast once they enter the workforce. Paradoxically this may be because a lot of the education we receive is theoretical and laboratory or textbook based so many of us are forced to learn rapidly on the job once we start working. That is especially so for healthcare professionals not just in Singapore but around the world.


4) Do readers understand the difference between factual quality content versus marketing content?

It is hard to tell as there are no accurate surveys as far as I know which have been published. Worldwide, there is often a problem with distinguishing marketing materials from factual quality content.

I have just finished reading a book called “Empire of Pain” which talks about how the Sackler family not only produced and marketed painkillers which they knew were addictive but developed novel marketing techniques by producing literature which looked like scientific materials but in actual fact were marketing for their products. Some of this is described in this article -


5) How do you think we can motivate more people to READ?

Reading has to be fun. Think about the successful books that have been big hits – the Harry Potter series for example. The stories were enjoyable and the marketing was very good. Closer to home, a surprise hit was sociologist Teo You Yenn’s book – That’s what inequality looks like which was a best seller locally for months mainly because what she wrote about made sense and she wrote in a very engaging way which was easy to understand yet made people think.


6) Name 3-5 of your favourite books that you will recommend to others to read?

 Dr Paul Tambyah Book Recommendation - 1

  1. "This is what inequality looks like" by Teo You Yenn - Read More 👈  
  2. "Empire of Pain" by Patrick Radden Keefe - Read More 👈 


Three works of fiction with close connections with history which I have enjoyed are:


Dr Paul Tambyah Book Recommendation - 2


7) Are you writing another book? Or do you have another book on the way?

No. I am not really a writer but more of a reader. The books I helped write were mainly related to successive pandemics and potential pandemics.

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