Top 10 Books to Read in November 2022 – A Treasure to Be Discovered. Part 3

5. “Growing Up In Trengganu” by Awang Goneng 















Trengganu? Yes, this is not a misspelled word. There is history behind the changes in spelling.

Trengganu is now called  Kuala Terengganu. It is one of  the  smallest  districts  in  terms  of  area  in Malaysia.
 Previously it was called Tringgnau. Historians claim that Chinese dominated the place during the reign of Sui and Tang dynasties. They called this place as Tan-Tan. Evidence has proved that tributes were sent to  China  from  this place. After  the collapse  of the Sui dynasty, it fell into the hands of Arabian invaders. Trengganu was the first Malay place to receive Islam. The Terengganu inscription stone with Arabic inscriptions found in Kula Berang dates from 702 to 789 AH are evidence for this. Its location on the shore of the sea and the Terengganu  river adds beauty to it. There are  many  islands nearby and Redang Island is one among them. 
Most people who lived in 1980’s called ‘Trengganu’ as ‘Teganung’, ‘Teganu’, ‘Ganu’ and “Gganu’. 


About the Author







Image source
Awang Goneng is the pen name of a well known Malaysian writer and journalist, Wan Ahmad Hulaimi. Instagram 
Awang Goneng was born in Trengganu, Malaysia. He did his degree in Law. He has moved overseas and settled in London. In his book "Growing up in Trengganu", he recollects  old memories. Back to 2004, he started collecting the stories
in his blog.

 He says, ‘This book took shape over many years (I grew up very slowly), was written in many places and spent a good few years as rough drafts on the  internet  where  it  was  discovered  by  a  handful of  people  who  very  kindly  sent  me  emails  or  left comments that confirmed, corrected or added to what I’d written there.’  

"Growing Up in Trengganu" consists of more than 145 real stories. All are short and well narrated.

As in the story called "The Conference of Birds" This story narrates the existence of birds in Trengganu. In early days, especially,  before the independence of Malaysia and Singapore,  Trengganu was surrounded by birds of  different varieties. The music of  birds decorated the granary houses. Children used to play with the birds. The famous book entitled, The Birds of the Malay Peninsula  describes many varieties of birds found in Trengganu.

The author  says, ‘In Malay peninsula, I found  another talking bird called, intriguingly,  Brain-fever bird, from Ipoh’  (p.  298). Moreover, he says, there were a number of birds that flew above their heads in Trengganu, though they didn’t pay the birds much heed, but they were here, because of coastal kids, who had a lot of fish to dry and fry. The whole  area was  loud, melodious with the dancing of birds which invited many other birds to this  area. Sometimes they were irritating particularly  when  they yelled at night. Now these cannot  be seen or heard and became a memory. The author says, ’There are gaps in my memory…..I can remember..’ (p. 298).

The book is like a magic mirror that will show you the past of Trengannu with some of its wonders that have become memories now.


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6. "The Epic of Bidasari and Other Tales" Translated by Aristide Marre, M Devic, C.C. Starkweather














"The Epic of Bidasari " is the poetic translation of the romantic folk fairy tale poem, originally published in a 1901 volume of translated traditional tales from the Malayan archipelago. It’s stunning how similar this is to European tales of the Sleeping Beauty or Snow White.
There is an interesting post on Quora by the publisher of the book, Raman Krishnan, the founder of  Silverfish Books. Click to read 

In this volume, it compiles with three other Malay classical tales which are Sedjarat Melayou, The Princess Djouher-Manikam, and Makota Radja-Radja.

Easily the most charming poem of Malayan literature, the Epic of Bidasari has all the enthralling enchantment and magic of a fairy tale. The reader is led into the dreamy atmosphere of a haunted palace, a glide in the picturesque imaginings of the oriental poet of the charm of all that is languorously seductive in nature into the shadowy realms of the supernatural. At one moment, the sturdy bowman or agile lancer is before the reader, and at another, you are told  of the mystic sentinels from another world, of djinns and demons and spirit-princes. All seems shadowy, vague, mysterious, entrancing.

WELCOME TO THE SPACE OF MYSTERY, to be enchanted and entertained.


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7."The Malay Archipelago" by Alfred R. Wallace   











"The Malay Archipelago" is a book by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace that chronicles his scientific exploration, during the eight-year period 1854 to 1862, of the southern portion of the Malay Archipelago including Malaysia, Singapore, the islands of Indonesia, then known as the Dutch East Indies, and the island of New Guinea.

 It was published in two volumes in 1869, delayed by Wallace's ill health and the work needed to describe the many specimens he brought home. 

The book went through 10 editions in the 19th century; it has been reprinted many times since, and has been translated into at least 8 languages.

The book described each island that he visited in turn, giving a detailed account of its physical and human geography, its volcanoes, and the variety of animals and plants that he found and collected. 

Of all the extraordinary Victorian travelogues, "The Malay Archipelago" has a fair claim to be the greatest - both as a beautiful, alarming, vivid and gripping account of 8 years' travel across the entire Malay world - from Singapore to the western edges of New Guinea - and as the record of a great mind.

 As Wallace, often under conditions of terrible hardship and sickness, battles through jungles, lives with headhunters, and collects beetles, butterflies and birds-of-paradise, he makes discoveries about the workings of biology that have shaped our view of the world ever since.

About the Author









Alfred Russell Wallace had a difficult life filled with struggle and adventures.
His passion for science and research was remarkable.

There is a captivating story about his travels that later resulted in his famous book " The Malay Archipelago" in Nature magazine, click here to read.

THE BOOK that really deserves its place in a family library, school, college, any private collection.

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8. "Princess Play: Kain Songket 2 Mysteries Series" by Barbara Ismail 













This crime novel is the follow up to the author's "Shadow Play", the Winner of Best Debut Novel (Singapore Book Publishers Association Inaugural Book Awards 2012) Click here to view

Kelantanese kain songket trader and amateur sleuth Mak Cik Maryam is plunged once again into the shadowy world of murder, hatred and madness when a fellow market woman is killed after a successful main puteri (princess play) curing ceremony. Sorcery is suspected, though Maryam believes there are sufficient human suspects to investigate before considering the supernatural. Solving the crime requires the unraveling of a knot of family secrets, madness and family spirits. 

Once again Mak Cik Maryam brings Kelantan common sense, jewelry and an instinct for truth to shed light on a situation which appears at first to be insoluble. 

Follow Malaysia’s favourite female detective in "Princess Play", the second Kelantanese murder case in the Kain Songket Mysteries series.

About the Author












Image source

Barbara Ismail (Instagram ) spent several years in Kelantan in the 1970s and '80s, living in Kampong Dusun and Pengkalan Cepa, studying Wayang Siam and the Kelantanese dialect.

She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Yale University, and is originally from Brooklyn, New York. 
Click here to read about what inspired her to write and how developed her connection with Kelantan.





All her titles are captivating. The plots have so many twists and turns that you won't be able to put a book down. 



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