Books

Outdoor dad to hipster pops: there’s a book for every sort of father out there

This Sunday, we celebrate our fathers and all the men in our lives who are dear and important.

Though the pandemic has made this Father’s Day a subdued affair, make no mistake it is still a special family occasion.

Books are great as a gift in our opinion, and we’ve picked out a list of recently released Malaysian reads for your consideration.

From the outdoor dad and the old school storyteller type right to the design-savvy dad and history buff, there’s a book for every sort of father out there.

FOR THE HISTORY BUFF

Diary Of A French Missionary is a perfect book for WWII history enthusiasts who want to venture beyond regular combat stories in Malaya under the Japanese rule. This book is based on a handwritten diary, which was meticulously kept by French priest Father Marcel Rouhan, the director of the College General in Penang, during WWII.

While most Allied citizens were evacuated before the Japanese forces invaded, the French missionaries remained behind as “neutral” subjects. Rouhan’s diary, therefore, is an exceptional eyewitness account of survival during the Japanese occupation in Malaya.

The diary has been translated, introduced, and annotated by Serge Jardin, a French author long domiciled in Malaysia.

FOR THE MUSIC-LOVING POPS

We couldn’t locate a recent book on local music that was noteworthy. Instead, we decided to go with a highly-inventive Malaysian rock album – released on vinyl – which is bound to delight record collector dads.

Not all dads are into oldies. For a change, why not get him MonoloQue’s latest album Lagu Perang (Bunyi Gamelan Melayu di Abad ke 21)?

A recent MonoloQue Instagram post described this album as “an amelioration of traditional culture, language, and legacy.” That might be accurate. This album is ambitious in forging a new narrative for the gamelan’s use in a contemporary setting. The Orkes Gamelan Pahang Di Raja (and the ancient instruments) is as important to this recording as the pop star guests (Najwa to Aizat Amdan), but it is main man Loque who must be applauded for putting everything together.

This double LP, which was 10 years in the making, comes in the form of a deluxe vinyl box set, making it a cool gift for adventurous ears.

FOR THE OUTDOOR DAD

Hitting the jungle trek and being near wildlife is definitely a no-no this lockdown season. But the late Stella Rajendran’s coffee-table book on Malaysian birds will definitely transport you to the wild outdoors.

Stella, a beloved Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) member, photographer and artist, had beautifully captured the beauty of her winged subjects, basking among natural foliage in Malaysian Birds, A Glimpse.

The book, published by MNS and edited by Allen Jeyarajasingam, features 197 selected bird species with 300 colour photographs, caught expertly by Stella’s artistic eye. But this is not just a photography book.

Scan the QR codes and find out more about the featured birds in the MyBIS (Malaysian Biodiversity Information System) bird database.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will be channlled to Stella Rajendran Environmental Education Fund, which will help MNS to organise environmental education programmes for school children.

FOR THE STORYTELLER DAD

Lame jokes and age-old stories seem to be many fathers’ favourite pastime. Why not show your dad how it’s properly done with Tan Sri Vadaketh Chacko George’s Some Stories I Have Told And Some That I Haven’t .

This 274-page book – which goes back to the dawn of Malaysia – contains 100 funny, witty and insightful stories the retired Court of Appeal judge and former lawyer has told all through his colourful (public) life.

Famous figures on board include former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, and the late Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah, who George befriended during their law student days in London in the 1950s.

In all, these warm-hearted stories from George about friendship, family, life and work reminds readers that a good story should always be shared.

FOR THE POP ART DAD

If your dad is hip and slightly subversive, he might enjoy Banned in KL, Astro Boy Rides The Wave To Sky Kingdom On A Grasshopper: Malaysia In Fifteen Postcards.

Here is something that is part history, part art project and full of curious fun. The visual impact is also most striking. From ice cream wrappers in the 1980s and 1990s underground gig poster to the Syair Ghayat Al-Muna in the 1900s and Raja Bomoh seen through art, readers can enjoy a different take on local history and national propaganda.

Through the pages, Universiti Malaya Professor Dr Simon Soon, architectural researcher Lim Sheau Yun, and digital researcher Ong Kar Jin take readers on a unique throwback journey.

Each historical image is printed on perforated pages that can be freed and used as postcards.

FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHER DAD

Grabbing his trusted camera and roaming the streets for a photography walk may not be possible in this extended lockdown. So, why not get your father the next best thing?

Penang At A Glance is a wonderful photobook commissioned by the George Town Festival to preserve the island state’s unique diversity.

The photobook showcases both the familiar and the never-before-seen images of Penang captured by Govindarajoo Selvathurai, Oh Chin Eng, Sherwynd Rylan Kessler and Thum Chia Chieh.

These photographers have beautifully recorded Penang’s fantastic landscapes, time-honoured traditions, vibrant festivals, homegrown arts and of course, the friendly people.

FOR THE (LOCAL) HANTU-LOVING DAD

The late Singaporean politician Othman Wok was a man of many talents. Did you know he was one of the pioneers of Bahasa Malaysia ghost stories and horror fiction in Singapore and Malaysia?

As a young reporter for Utusan Melayu and Mustika magazine between 1952 and 1956, Othman made a name for himself as a “cerita hantu” specialist.

His classic works are much coveted by book collectors now.

The recently released A Mosque In The Jungle is good news for Othman’s cult following. It assembles two dozen of the best stories from his three fiction collections in English: Malayan Horror (1991), The Disused Well (1995) and Unseen Occupants (2006). Curated by Singaporean award-winning poet/writer Ng Yi-Sheng, this book provides an entry point into Othman’s world of horror.

Here’s the perfect treat for family late night tales.

FOR THE INTERIOR DESIGNER DAD

If you’re not a big fan of your dad’s interior designing skills demonstrated in this lockdown season, maybe Malaysia-based architect/writer Robert Powell’s Terrace Transformations In The Tropics is the Father’s Day gift you’re looking for.

Complete with sectional drawings and stunning pictures by professional photographer Lin Ho, this book suggests innovative and cleverly inspired solutions to spruce up your Malaysian terrace house.

From introducing nature into mid-terrace houses to bringing sunlight into the interior and naturally ventilating your home, your dad would be spoilt for choice with the 26 terrace houses shown in the book.

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