There are always amazing books both new releases coming out across the year and well-loved veterans, so in our new monthly series articles "Top 10 Books to Read and Enjoy...", we’ll be sharing our picks across various genres.
In this list Riwayat team presents the selection of books on History, Islam, Malay culture, fiction, art, music, dance and mysticism.
So here are our picks for the top 10 books to check out in October 2022!
TITLES IN ENGLISH
1. The Soul of Malaya - Henry Fau Connier
The Soul of Malaya is one of those rare novels that is on one level an absorbing drama and on another level, a social commentary. Henri Fauconnier won France's highest literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for Malaisie, the original French title of this novel.
The Soul of Malaya is set in British Malaya of the 1920s, in a plantation located on the East Coast of the Malay Peninsula. This was during the very early and heady days of the great rubber plantations, immigrant workers and the European ‘Tuans’; a pioneering and exciting time which would eventually become the crucible for the Malaysian psyche as we know it now.
The main characters are :
Roulain – a World War 1 veteran turned rubber planter with an unconventional outlook toward life; unconventional, at least, from the Western point of view
Lescale – the story’s narrator who is intrigued with Roulain’s philosophies\
Smail – Roulain’s servant. Smail is quiet, gentle, and faithful to a fault. He is also gifted in the art of ‘pantuns’, and in this novel, is the epitome of all things Malay.
Ngah – Lescale’s servant. Also Smail’s younger brother.
The author of the book feels that the soul of the country cannot be known simply by describing what one sees during a whirlwind tour of the country. To truly know a country – its soul – one must get to know and surround oneself with the people that the country produces; in this case, the Malays.
“You can never know a country well except from the people it produces. In Malaya you must surround yourself with the Malays.
Yet another gem is:
“I have yet to learn that a true Malay will sooner die than live with the memory of even an imagined affront.”
The Soul of Malaya, although it is written from the Western perspective, beautifully captures the gentleness, sensitivities, and mindset of the Malays. The plot has got interesting twists, a love story and even a bout of demonic possession by a ‘badi’ being cured by a healer.
"One finds on almost every page of his novel spontaneity and intimacy, an urgent confession, a burning testimony. [...] Malaisie stands by itself as a great achievement, unique in its kind, convincing through its fresh ideology and the sheer force of the passions which it contains." - New York Herald Tribune
The Soul of Malaya belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who is even remotely interested in the Malays and in Malaysia. It deserves to be re-visited time and again.
2. Ginger Biscuits, Art and Stories - Nik M Fahmee
A collection of stories and selected art works by Malaysian artists - personal and poignant. Beautifully illustrated with original artworks, "Ginger Biscuits, Art and Stories" is a book "baked" by a talented storyteller, Nik M Fahmee.
It is a welcome addition to any library, lounge display or book collection. Ideal as a gift.
Comforting, nutritious and entertaining as freshly baked warm ginger biscuits are.
Click here to see the presentation of "Ginger Biscuits, Art and Stories" posted by Fadzril Fakaruddin on Instagram.
3. Wayang Kulit: The Folk Epic of the Malay Archipelago - Rahimidin Zahari
"Wayang Kulit: The Folk Epic of the Malay Archipelago" documents a traditional theatrical genre that was previously very popular among Malay society, but it is gradually disappearing with the passage of time. This form of folk art, which flourished for centuries through an oral tradition, was the platform on which entertainers or storytellers enchanted local communities of the Malay Archipelago.
This book documents the various aspects of the Malaysian shadow play, including the historical development, the role of the puppet master, stage design, techniques of puppet manipulation, musical instruments, stories and story concept, character and characterisation, rituals, script, and legendary figures in this field. This book will provide useful information to the younger generation as a source of reference. This book will not disappoint readers who wish to widen their knowledge of the Malaysian shadow play.
Rahimidin Zahari was a renowned writer, poet, aesthete and acclaimed puppeteer of the traditional art of Shadow Play (Wayang Kulit). He had for the first time compiled in this book a walk-through of this intricate performance, providing the reader with the opportunity to glimpse into the enchanting world of the shadow play, the folk epic of the Malay Archipelago.
4. Makyung: The Mystical Heritage of Malaysia - Rahimidin Zahari & Sutung Omar RS
Conferred the Masterpiece of the Oral & Intangible Heritage of Humanity award in 2005 by UNESCO, Malaysia’s Makyung is a veritable feast for the senses.
A traditional dance theatre offering a sensory mosaic of gestures, singing, music and dancing, Makyung is a living inheritance that is without doubt experiencing a revival as it enchants audiences worldwide.
From the narrative gift to the verbal wit of its actors, a Makyung performance constantly evolves. Although there is no script, the improvisations enthrall audiences to return for more.
Rahimidin Zahari, a renowned writer, poet and acclaimed puppeteer of the traditional art of Shadow Play (Wayang Kulit), for the first time compiled in this book a walk-through of this intricate performance enabling readers the opportunity to glimpse into a beautiful yet mystical ancient theatre that is carving a niche in today’s contemporary arts scene.
Sutung Omar RS, or as he has been popularly known, Wan Omar, was a respected poet, novelist and short-story writer. To date amongst his published works are three volumes of an anthology of poems for children and various literary reviews. He was a Malaysian laureate who was passionate about the preservation of Malaysian performing arts.
This book was written in an attempt to preserve some record of a Kelantanese dance and drama tradition that is fast dying out. It had a turbulent history on its way to the readers; it was even banned by the state Government in Kelantan in 1991 because of its pre-Islamic animist, Buddhist and Hindu elements.
Contents of the book:
- Makyung's International Recognition
- The Origin and Growth of Makyung
- The Performance
- The Music and Songs
- Behind the Scenes
- Costumes Makeup and Props
- Stage Management
- An Iconic Heritage Preserved
- The Grand Dame of Makyung Khatijah Awang
- The Legendary Coach Fatimah Abdullah
- The Fiddler Che Mat Jusoh
- The Rising Star Rosnan Abdul Rahman
- The Journey till Today
- Makyung through the Ages Picture Gallery
5. Kampung Boy Yesterday & Today by famous cartoonist LAT
The Kampung Boy tells the story of a young boy, Lat, and his childhood in a kampung (village). The story opens with his birth in a kampung in Perak, Malaysia, and the traditional rituals surrounding the event: the recitation of blessings, the singing of religious songs, and the observance of ceremonies. As Mat grows older, he explores the house, gradually shifting the story's focus to the comic activities of his family outside their abode.
Lat got the idea to draw The Kampung Boy during his travels to the United States when he realised not many people knew about Malaysia.
The book tells stories that are set in a typical Malaysian village which Lat was inspired by memories from his childhood.
“I drew the house from memory for The Kampung Boy. When you are nine, you remember every single detail and I have very fond memories from those times. There was no electricity and no water, but to a kid, it was a big treat to grow up in the kampung,” he was quoted as saying.
This book has got a wonderful continuation in real life.
Lat - or Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid has opened Rumah Lat Dan Galeri, located on the outskirts of Ipoh, some 30 minutes from where the village he grew up is.
The Gallery was finally opened in summer 2021, that being a delayed date by pandemic lockdowns.
It offers the public an opportunity to tour a reconstructed version of the house seen in Lat’s The Kampung Boy. Read more here
The book makes a light reading, bringing to life the warmth and simplicity of traditional kampung life. Things that are so much missed in the modern fast paced city's rat race.
6. The Malayan Songbook - Ganesh Bala
The Malayan Songbook is definitely for anyone who wants to go back in time to revisit the golden age of Malayan music and, certainly, a great gift for composers, musicians, students of music and history lovers.
This book has got an interesting story. In 2016, Nona Ushera asked Ganesh Bala to produce her debut album, Semalam Di Malaya, which pays tribute to the music of Malaya from the 1940s to the 1950s. During the recording, it dawned on them that these popular Malayan classics will only get more difficult to find in the future.
This prompted the musical couple to begin compiling a book so that these classics can be memorialised in print. The Malayan Songbook is the fruit of collaboration between Nona Ushera (Instagram ) and Ganesh Bala ( Instagram )
The couple share more insights about the production of this unique book in this engaging interview with Tatler https://www.tatlerasia.com/culture/entertainment/the-malayan-songbook-ganesh-bala-ushera-interview
Rearranged and transcribed by a local music producer, composer, pianist, and a music educator at OUCH Music Academy, Ganesh Bala, the book has taken the shape of a collection of 21 contemporary Malay music scores by composers such as Tan Sri P. Ramlee, Ahmad Jaafar, Ahmad Wan Yet and Yusof B.
The Malayan Songbook also contains essays and biographies of the singers, the composers and others who shaped the golden age of Malayan music.
It took 5 years of work for Ganesh Bala to complete this book, read more here
Compiling this book has turned into a fascinating adventure for its authors and, it is bound to become an equally fascinating adventure for its readers.
This book will likely become a collector's item in the future.
TITLES IN BAHASA MELAYU
7. Muhammad Riwayat Hidup Berdasarkan Sumber Terawal - Martin Lings
Biografi ini merupakan salah satu biografi Nabi Muhammad SAW yang terbaik pernah diterbitkan. Dengan gaya penulisan yang mudah difahami serta bahasa yang indah, Martin Lings menghadirkan kepada pembaca riwayat hidup Nabi Muhammad SAW dengan terperinci. Selain sisi peribadi baginda, biografi ini turut menyentuh aspek sosial, ekonomi dan politik pada zaman tersebut. Ditulis mengunakan sumber-sumber yang sahih dan sudah meraih banyak anugerah di peringkat antarabangsa, biografi ini adalah sebuah buku yang wajib dimiliki setiap orang.
8. Pemburu Kota - T. Alias Taib
Pemburu Kota merupakan kumpulan puisi T. Alias Taib yang kedua dan terbit pada tahun 1978. Antologi ini mengandungi 52 buah puisi yang ditulisnya antara tahun 1970 hingga ke 1976. Dalam tempoh yang sama ini juga, penulis berhijrah dari kota lahirnya, Kuala Terengganu ke kota Kuala Lumpur. Kota-kota inilah yang banyak mempengaruhi tema objek penulisannya dalam antologi ini.
9. Pasar Pengalaman - T. Alias Taib
Pasar Pengalaman merupakan kumpulan puisi T. Alias yang ke tujuh yang mempertahankan gaya pengucapan dan peribadi puisi-puisinya yang terdahulu. Antologi ini memuatkan sejumlah 87 buah puisi. Persoalan puisinya diselongkar hingga ke dasar, kata-katanya dipilih dan ditampi daripada yang terbaik, isi dan bentuk dipertemu dan dipersandingkan dalam suasana yang mesra dan seimbang. Penyair menghantar kita lapisan pengalamannya yang jujur dan pelbagai; pengalaman dirinya dan pengalaman watak di sekitar dan di seberang dirinya. Saya memperoleh pengalaman melalui kehidupan katanya dalam sebuah bengkel penulis muda.
10. Sajak- Sajak Lengkap Latiff Mohidin Set 7 dalam 1 - Latiff Mohidin
Kombo Lengkap Sajak-sajak Latiff Mohidin ini dijual dalam bentuk set, satu set mengandungi tujuh buah antologi sajak seperti berikut:
1. Sungai Mekong
2. Kembara Malam
3. Wayang Pak Dalang
4. Serpihan Dari Pedalaman
5. Pesisir Waktu
7. Sajak-Sajak Dinihari
WISHING YOU A HAPPY READING!
"Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people's ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach" Roberto Bolano