Need to do some last-minute Christmas shopping? You can’t go wrong with a good book.
Here are Malaysian books published in 2020 that would make terrific Christmas gifts. With a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and a wide variety of genres, there’s probably something here for everyone. No matter if you’ve been naughty or nice!
The Girl And The Ghost
Author: Hanna Alkaf
For: Young readers, ghost story lovers
Fancy a spine-chilling Christmas? Readers young and old alike will probably enjoy The Girl And The Ghost, a middle grade novel about an unlikely friendship between a girl and a "ghostly" spirit. Young Suraya receives a pelesit, a spirit in the form of a cricket, from her witch grandmother. Suraya names the spirit Pink, and the two bond. Pink’s dark nature, however, soon causes problems for Suraya, and they end up going on a journey to uncover the pelesit’s dark origins. Here's a moving tale of friendship and courage. This novel was a 2020 Kirkus Prize Finalist for Young Reader’s Literature.
Liquid Crystal Nightingale
Author: Eeleen Lee
For: Science fiction fans
Welcome to the mining colony of Chatoyance, orbiting the star Gachala. Pleo Tanza wants to escape it. She’s been dealt several bad hands: her twin sister is dead, her father is broken by tragedy. And things become worse as she is framed for the murder of a rival student. Pleo is forced to go on the run, setting off a chain of events that will change things forever. Liquid Crystal Nightingale is a combination of science fiction, murder mystery and political drama. It is has fascinating concepts, memorable characters and a twisty plot. If anything, you may feel tempted to pick up "fla-tessen", a martial arts style invented for this book.
How The Man In Green Saved Pahang, And Possibly The World
Author: Joshua Kam
For: Fantasy lovers, local mythology fans
This fantasy tale combines modern-day political and social commentary with the larger-than-life figures of Malay, Chinese and Asian folklore. It is the story of the unassuming Gabe: he encounters a mysterious man in green who performs a resurrection. From there, his life is turned upside down as the man recruits Gabe to take him on a journey across Malaysia, with literally mythic consequences. Also featured is the story of Lydia, a woman whose grand aunt had been involved in the Communist Emergency. This truly unique novel was the winner of the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.
The Legacy And Heritage Of Loke Chow Kit
Authors: Junn Ng and Ch’ng Symn
For: Heritage and history lovers
Who exactly was Loke Chow Kit? Most people today know him for the Chow Kit district, but there was so much more to the man. This book pays tribute to the Penang-born Chinese tin miner and municipal councillor who made his mark in KL. It covers not only Loke’s life, but also talks about his trades, places of residence, and the heritage left behind by the great man. Also included are over 300 photographs. An eye-opening book which not only pays tribute to Loke, but also to the ever-developing city of Kuala Lumpur.
Author: Tajuddin Rasdi
For: Architecture lovers
While architecture remains a popular fascination today, there is a lack of public discourse on the subject, since much of it circulates within the academia and the professional sector. This book contains thoughts on architecture by Dr Tajuddin Rasdi, a professor of architecture at USCI University, who is also known for his newspaper columns. Tajuddin’s musings on the state of architecture in Malaysia remain essential reading for both experts and the public. Here, the author presents blueprints for better architecture in a fast-changing time, studying practical, environmental and cultural facets. By discussing everything from shopping malls to the revival of ornamentation, this collection allows us to think more broadly about the kind of architecture that best suits a new Malaysia.
The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya, Vol I
Author: Reimena Ashel Yee
For: Graphic novel lovers
Set in 17th century Istanbul, this beautifully illustrated graphic novel is the tale of Zeynel, an ordinary man trapped in an extraordinary circumstance: he has been transformed into a vampire. He later meets Ayse, an Anatolian girl from a small village, who has big dreams. Twenty-five years later, Ayşe is a successful businesswoman, and Zeynel her contented husband. But on a trip one evening, he plays Good Samaritan to a mysterious traveller, who turns out to be his undoing. This Eisner Award-nominated book has been described as "a beautifully drawn meditation on love, home, faith and loss."
Recalling Forgotten Tastes
Author: Syarifah Nadhirah
For: Nature lovers, local food history
Talk about an off-the-map surprise! Syarifah Nadhirah, a visual artist, who runs her own design/print company, has clearly published one of the most beautiful and unique Malaysian books this year. This illustrated book concerns itself with edible plants, food and memories. It serves to reintroduce the flavours (herbs to foraged plants) of the past and the present, through the lens of Orang Asli communities (primarily the Temuan and Semai tribes) in Peninsular Malaysia. It's the storytelling that will pull readers in as they journey through the lush and threatened forests. Here is a chance to learn how some plants contain drinkable water and pungent leaves give out beautiful aroma when cooked. Recalling Forgotten Tastes sold out its first printing, but it's best to get in line early for the next print run.
Author: Emelia Ong
For: Art enthusiasts
Art history teacher and writer Emelia Ong clearly set out to make this book about Malaysian artists an accessible one. It was released late 2019, so we're adding it to this year's list. Ong's book contains interviews with 14 Malaysian artists, and she just rolls the tape, letting them talk, and share what they do in the studio and beyond. The list is a diverse one with names such as Mad Anuar Ismail, Sharon Chin, Abdul Mansoor Ibrahim, the late Roslisham Ismail (aka Ise), Eiffel Chong, Azzaha Ibrahim, Shia Yih Yiing, Ilse Noor and art collective Pangrok Sulap on board. Topics covered include their first exposure to art, learning process, relationship with space and place, working process, tools and materials and current practices. With the lack of art-related Malaysian biographies, this is a good book to have when you need to find out more about the people behind the art.