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Tuesday 26 July 2016

The Penang Bookshelf July 2016 Newsletter

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           The Penang Bookshelf

             July 2016 Newsletter
From The Penang Bookshelf
Dear Friend, 

Lama Tak Jumpa


time no see.) Yes, it's been an age since a The Penang Bookshelf Newsletter has 

been published. The excuses are legion, but three will do a) international distractions
, b) selling has kept me busy and c) wrestling with the intricacies of a new website
has been exhausting, but I'm still here. Let's see if I can get back to sending out something more regularly. 

By Popular Request?

During my silence, I have actually been nagged fairly frequently to get going again. It was only one customer refusing to take my
ShoutyCryRoom - Oi Nuen Sprunt
insincere excuses for an answer that has led me to have another go. 
On the other hand you may be part of a minority receiving this for the first time. Do not despair! The flow, if there is one, can be stopped. Somewhere in this email you'll be given an opportunity to 'unsubscribe' or you can just shout at me. One ear is still functioning.

Communicate, Communicate!
If I do collapses in a heap again, you can always check on what's new or re-appeared by looking at the Latest Arrivals category, which has roughly the last two months' additions, or if you're a glutton for information overload, there's Facebook and less frequently Instagram and Twitter.
I'm not sure if any of them work, but my media savvy silversmithing daughter has dragooned me into Instagram, whch can be quite fun. I'm still struggling with all the #s, @s and maybe more incomprehensible symbols besides.

The Search Continues...

A quick look at The Penang Bookshelf's disorganised shelves should alert even the mildly observant to the fact that there are quite a few books that you're unlikely to easily find anywhere else. That's because the publishing world in Malaysia, and, to some extent, Singapore is populated by publishers who are rather coy about letting go of their produce.

On contacting one of this bashful bunch, I was told that he had no way of accepting payment for what I wanted other than accepting some crinkly notes in his fist. Ingenuity came to the rescue, when I was able to bribe a customer in the town to go and do the needful.

So if you know of a Malaysian or Singaporean publisher who isn't represented here or anywhere else, do let me know

With best wishes and thanks,

William Knox

Recent Arrivals

Memories of a Nonya - Queenie Chang    The well told story of a woman born into a wealthy Chinese √©migr√© family; her father was a distinguished community leader in Medan, Indonesia. An observant account, spanning most of the 20th century, of a family with relatives and commercial connections in Indonesia and Malaya   RM140

Folk Songs of Sarawak: Songs from the Kenyah Community - Chong Pek Lin     A selection of twenty one songs collected by the author from the Kenyah community of the Baram District, who normally sing unaccompanied, but in two-part harmony. The songs have been transcribed and musically arranged by the author in the hope of publicising the songs among school children and the wider community.       RM150


Masks of Sarawak in the Collection of the Muzium Negara Malaysia - Mohd Kassim Haji Ali    A guide to a collection which, at the time of publication, was considered to probably be the largest of its kind. Mainly Kenyah, Kayan and Iban masks are featured in this collection    RM200

Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters: An Outrageous Englishwoman and Her Lost Kingdom - Philip Eade        The racy biography of the last Ranee of Sarawak, who juggled attempting to be the demure consort of one of the left over oddities of British imperial wanderings with a need to be noticed. She achieved this through a rash of books about herself and some fairly outrageous behaviour. As a British visitor to Sarawak remarked, ' A more undignified woman it would be hard to find.'  RM40

The White Rajahs of Sarawak - Robert Payne    This book recounts the entire history of three white men who ruled Sarawak in the 19th and 20th centuries: James Brooke, Charles Brooke and Vyner Brooke. Their exploits include pirate attacks, battles, extending the territory under their rule and eventually being pushed out by the Japanese. The events detail British colonialism in miniature.             RM70

A Children's History of Malaysia - Tunku Halim   Aimed at children from ten upwards, this history is written in a readable, narrative and conversational style, as one would expect from one of Malaysia's best known story tellers. Considering his audience, he manages to deal with controversial issues, such as World War II and 'The Emergency' in a sensitive way              RM40


Granny's Nostalgic Recipes: Homemade Treats - Choong Su Yin    A collection of fifty traditional Malaysian recipes for cakes, sweets and biscuits. The book is bilingual in Chinese and English.               RM60

Malaysian Shadow Play and Music Continuity of an Oral Tradition - Patricia Matusky       Although this work starts with a general introduction to the different types of wayang kulit performed in Malaysia, it breaks new ground by concentrating on the musical, rather than dramatic, aspects of performance. Most of the book is focussed on the orchestra and musical style as observed while the author was a student performer with one of the finest troupes of the time.      RM300

Flora of Malaysia Illustrated - David T Jones    54 species of flowers, both native to and introduced to Malaysia, are described and each plant illustrated with a watercolour by Penny German. the species were chosen both because of their particular beauty, but also because of their diversity in growth and habitat in different parts of the country.             RM350

The Tigers of Trengganu - A Locke  Originally published in the 1950s, this is a District Officer's account not only of his experiences in hunting tigers, but also one of the most readable works on the Malayan tiger as well. For Locke, rather than being a trophy hunter, was a conservationist, as keen to protect the rural population in his charge as the tigers and their threatened environment.                RM50 

Sweet Offerings - Chan Ling Yap                A well reviewed first novel that follows Mei Yin's experiences as she moves from a poor family to a wealthier one in Kuala Lumpur to become a wife and becomes embroiled in the family intrigues that follow. The gripping story begins before World War II and reaches a climax around the time of Merdeka.              RM60

Womanhunt - Mark Derby     


                                             Malaysia - Health & Medicine A Dictionary of Malayan Medicine - John D Gimlette & HW Thomson RM240 The Prevention of Malaria in The Federated Malay States - Malcolm Watson     RM500 Wu Chu Chuan Wu Chi Chuan and Therapeutic Exercises: An Introduction to the Chinese Martial Arts - Mah Chai Soon  RM70  Malaysia - History                                                          A Short History of Malaysia: Linking East and West - Virginia Matheson Hooker         In order to illustrate Malaysia's rapid transformation from an idyllic tropical paradise into a significant Southeast Asian nation by the end of the last century, Hooker concentrates on the lives of a selected group of individuals who have lived through and, in some cases, contributed to that change. In the course this process, she notes, the past is never too far away: this not only nurtures Malaysia's new nationhood, but can also be manipulated to undermine it     RM100   Historic Malaya: An Outline History -  M.C ff Sheppard     RM120                         Malaysia - Humour The Difference Between Malaysians and Singaporeans - Ravi Veloo & Cheng Puay Koon  RM80    Malaysia - Indian Community         Tamils and the Haunting of Justice - Andrew WilfordRM70  Malaysia - Journalism

  The Straits Times Annual for 1954 
       British Malaya's leading newspaper's annual review of life in the colony where, despite the ongoing 'Emergency' the country has managed to find time to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's coronation in the previous year . 


A Full Hearing: Orality and Literacy in the Malay World - Amin Sweeney    

A fascinating study of the effect on Malay peoples of having their traditional oral culture supplanted by a written one. Sweeney argues that literacy has not completely replaced oral traditions in the Malay culture and, more importantly, that it should not do so. He advocates that the orality of Malay culture still be given a "full hearing' to allow Malay culture to continue to evolve in its own distinct way.  RM80
Chinese Loan-Words in Malay and Indonesian - Russell Jones       



Liberating the Malay Mind - M Bakri Musa
  This book, originally published in 2013, distills the essence of the author's many writings on his homeland, i.e. in order for Malays to move from 'under the comfort of life under the coconut shell,' as he says, they are going to have to learn to let go of their defensiveness. He does not see Malays' problems as 'rooted in the presumed deficiencies of biology or culture. Nor are they caused by colonialism...immigrants, capitalism, globalization, or even (their) supposed lack of unity. We have been led to believe that they are problems, not opportunities.' Using his knowledge and experience of Malay culture and history he maps out recommendations for Malays can be respected everywhere, not just at home. 


In preparation for this newsletter, the
Bestsellers list has been updated to actually reflect what is (or is not) happening at The Penang Bookshelf at the moment. As one might suspect, there are the usual gaggle of Penang books jostling each other at the top. However the fastest mover has nothing to do with Penang, or even Malaysia, The Penang Bookshelf's main specialities, but more to do with Western pop music. Why??? Why I Still Carry A Guitar by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) is published in Malaysia. Never sold a copy in Malaysia, but copies frequently go out to other parts of the world. It's in the Xtras category on the website where other oddities also reside. Have a look!

Grist to the Heritage Mill
Books about Penang do tend, unsurprisingly, to crowd out the bestseller list. At least it's some reward for the myriad of publishers that clutter the island. One relatively new entrant into the field is George Town World Heritage Inc, the body responsible looking after the UNESCO heritage bits of the city, They have published some fairly heavy weight stuff along with the expected tourist tat. I gather they're planning more. For example, Marcus Langdon, the only author to have more than one book in the best seller list, Volume I and Volume II
of his mammoth Penang: The Fourth Presidency of India, is one of their authors.

But Don't Forget Borneo

I naively thought when I started this business that Penang would be The Penang Bookshelf's largest regional section. How wrong I was! Although Sabah and Sarawak have fewer established publishers than the tiny island of Penang, they have considerably more authors, many of whom self-publish. The variety and vastness of the region also attract a gaggle of academics and adventurers from outside Borneo who would curl up in boredom in Penang. An example of what I'm talking about is this recently published book. A quick glance at the contents page explains all. I have yet to come across a similar book about Penang with such a wide spectrum of contributors from dedicated homegrown experts to academics of international renown.

Of Course There Is Food...

Needless to say, if you're fussy about the way you put on weight, Penang knocks Borneo, and everywhere else into a squashed chee cheong fun. In an attempt to persuade glutons that it's possible to create pale imitations at home, cook books keep tumbling off the presses. The latest one that's been flung at me is Ong Jin Teong's Nonya Heritage Kitchen: Origins, Utensils and Recipes which is unusual in that, apart from the all important (to some) recipes, it also tickles the intellect (ever so slightly) as well, as you will notice from the title.

   Please note - In this section most of the headings have links to equivalent categories on The Penang Bookshelf's main website.


Pepper in Penang      RM120

Malaysia - Perak

Peranakan Communities in the Era of Decolonization and Globalization -  Leo Suryadinata (ed)  Migration happily results in racial hybrids. Some mixed race descendants blend into their host populations so as to become barely distinguishable from them, while others, such as the Peranakan Chinese, descendants of the Chinese diaspora and their Malay hosts, develop a distinct cultural identity. The contributors to this volume, rather than following the more fashionable course of mining the community's past, illustrate, with case studies, how the Peranakan are faring now  in the relatively recently independent countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore     RM80

Palace, Political Party and Power: A Story of the Socio-Political Development of Malay Kingship  - Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian  As the author says in her preface to this book, Malaysia's kingship ia worthy of study because during the post-war period when most other monarchies around the world were losing their powers, Malaysia's hereditary rulers enjoyed something of a revival in the post-independence period. This survey from the British colonial period up to the present day must be the most exhaustive and enlightening study of the monarchy during this period.       RM60

The Federation of Malaysia        RM180

Impressions of the Malay Peninsula in Ancient Times  - Paul Wheatley      Following on from the success of his 'Golden Khersonese', Wheatley here distills his findings on ancient malaya for the benefit of secondary school students RM300

Aspects of Malaysian Magic - William Shaw     Shaw, an honorary curator of Malaysia's National Museum, the Muzium Negara Malaysia,  was also at the time of writing a member of the British Society for Psychical Research. This comprehensive overview of the dark arts in Malaysia is the culmination of several years study and association with practitioners from various Malaysian communities over several years.          RM380

Malaya - The Facts Behind the Fighting    A propaganda magazine produced by the British Government at the height of the Malayan 'Emergency.'          RM370

New Perspectives on the Japanese Occupation of Malaya and Singapore 1941-1945 - Akashi Yoji & Yoshimura Mako  This collection of articles adopts a new appraoch to the history of the period, i.e. using primary sources in Japanese, interviewing Japanese military and civilians who were part of the occupying force and Malaysians and Singaporeans who lived through the period.     RM60

Adam and Evil - John Carlova   The complications of a love triangle, set in 'the exotic port of Singapore,' dominate this novel. Steve, 'a gambler on the make' falls for Betty, 'a victim of her own insatiable desire,' who unfortunately happens to be married to Lance. He's a bit of an odd ball too, finding 'sexual satisfaction in strange ways.'    RM80

Singapore - Law

A Citizen's Guide to Government and Politics in Singapore - Raj Vasil    A step by step guide in readable language to the evolution of Singapore's civic institutions and political processes from British times up to the end of the 20th century      RM80

Nemesis: The First Iron Warship And Her World  - Adrian G. Marshall     The previously untold story of the most revolutionary warship of its time. Not only was the Nemesis the world's first iron warship, but also the first ship to have truly watertight compartments. She came into service in the last years of the British East India Company and saw action from Bombay to the Yangze River demonstrating a superiority over Britain's Asian rivals at the time.    RM90

House of Glass: Culture, Modernity, and the State in Southeast Asia - Yao Souchou (editor)      RM200

The Challenge of Sustainable Forests: Forest Resource Policy in Malaysia, 1970-1995 - Fadzillah M. Cooke       Drawing on insights from her field work in both Pahang and Sarawak, the author examines the clash between the techno-bureaucratic drive of commercial foresters for a sustained income and the biological and the economic livelihood agendas of  conservationists. She then compares her findings with the Philippine experience where issues of livelihood and social justice have had a greater influence on commercial forestry management than in Malaysia  RM120

Studying Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Trends And Issues - Ralf Emmers, Mely Caballero-Anthony & Amitav Acharya        This collection of essays widens the traditional security concerns to also look at more diverse issues such as drug trafficking, irregular migration, infectious diseases, environmental degradation etc. The essays consist of the findings a number of research projects by various research institutions in the region and demonstrate that such issues can be as challenging to national security and the territorial integrity of nation states as more traditional security concerns            RM150

Studies on Islam and Society in Southeast Asia - William R Roff  A wide ranging collection of articles from Roff's forty years study and writing about Islam, particularly as it relates to Southeast Asia. The book is divided into the following parts - I - Historiography and Methodology, II - Malaya and Singapore, III - Arab World Connections, IV - Kelantan & V - The Meccan Pilgrimage.         RM70

Electoral Dynamics in Indonesia: Money, Politics, Patronage and Clientelism - Edward Aspinall & Mada Sukmajati 
  This book contains the results of research by various teams spread throughout Indonesia in the run up to the 2014 election to determine how politicians are elected in the country. The collection of reports highlights  the complexity of politics at the local level where party affiliations become sidelined by the personal machinery of the candidates jostling to distribute patronage to the voters and the communities in which they live.   


Old Bangkok - Michael Smithies
   Bangkok, now a bustling Asian metropolis, had a more serene past following its founding in 1782 as the country's capital city. Smithies seeks to evoke this past by highlighting the parts of the old city, its buildings, culture and trades, that still persist amongst the hubbub.




About The Penang Bookshelf
The Penang Bookshelf specialises in providing book lovers with a broad range of new and second-hand books, both fiction and non-fiction, primarily about Malaysia, but also about other parts of Asia as well.  

Independent Online Booksellers Association, Professional Member.

Also at:, Ebay and at IOBA  
Category Pages - Asian Fiction,      Asian History,     Asian Religions,  Borneo Chinese Ceramics   Malaysian Architecture  Malaysian Agriculture   Malaysian Arts and Culture  Malaysia: Cartoons,  Malaysian Chinese Community  Malaysian Cooking and Food Malaysia: Colonial Biography,     Malaysia: Modern Biography,  Malaysia - Fiction  Malaysia: Journalism,    Malaysia: Language & Linguistics,    Malaysia: LiteratureMalaysia: Malay Community   Malaysia & Singapore: 19th Century History,   Malaysia: Post-Independence HistoryMalaysia: Miscellaneous,Malaysian Nature and Wildlife    Orang Asli (Indigenous People)    Malaysian Poetry Malaysian Politics  Malaysia: Religion   Malaysia & Singapore: World War II  Perak   Singapore: Anthropology & Sociology     Singapore Fiction


Telephone: +60-12-972-6485 
Address:  Aquarius Apartments, 4-8-8 Jalan Low Yat, Batu Ferringhi, 11100, Penang. (The Penang Bookshelf's entire inventory is available for browsing. Please call to fix an appointment.)  

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The Penang Bookshelf, 36 Cheeseman Road, Penang, 11600 Malaysia
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