Sunday, April 29, 2007

Malaysia's Top Ten

The people have spoken! These are Malaysia's Top Ten Books according to a survey carried out by ReadsMonthly in Starmag:

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

5. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

9. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

218 readers contributed lists, most of them, not surprisingly from the Klang valley, although there also appear to be enthusiastic readers in Kuching, Sarawak.

As Daphne Lee says in her article, fantasy is clearly a favourite genre. What also strikes me is that so many of the books are the kinds of classics typically read by young readers, four of them are children's books (Harry Potter, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia). (I use the term children's books advisedly, before legions of Potter fans accost me, because I know that older readers enjoy them too!)

The Catcher in the Rye and The Lord of the Rings trilogy typically find their most enthusiastic readership among teenagers, while To Kill a Mockingbird is a typical college choice. (I've taught it to matric students.)

Now this could represent the demographic of the survey (most readers were under 35, but I wonder how many were under 20?) ... or it could represent the fact that older readers hold on to their childhood friends ... for comfort or nostalgia or simply because a busy life has meant that they haven't had time to read since. Or, more worryingly, (and here my neck is stuck right out!) it could mean that a Malaysian readership is not really maturing? Mind you, there are some interesting similarities with the list produced by British readers, where To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books also hold sway.

Of course, plenty of other books were nominated - most receiving just a single vote.

My own list of favourites looks a bit stuffy and dead-white-male-ish though:

  1. Crime and Punishment- Fyodor Dostoevsky
  2. A Hero of our Time – Lermentov
  3. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
  4. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
  5. The Shipping News – Annie Proulx
  6. 1984 - George Orwell
  7. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  8. The Malayan Trilogy – Anthony Burgess
  9. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  10. True History of the Kelly Gang – Peter Carey

My criteria? These are books that constantly live in my head, and I keep needing to reread, whole and in part. (I'm not a reader who rereads very much, so these books have to be special.)

Only one woman on it (and a woman who writes like a man, at that!). But I got conniptions of the heart yesterday when I realised that I hadn't included Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea which I've read three times.

And should I have had An Equal Music instead of A Suitable Boy? I truly love both.

And shouldn't Atwood have been there?


Besides the result of this survey, ReadsMonthly has some very good reviews, including a couple by guest reviewers. Lim Chee Seng reviews Raise the Red Lantern by Su Tong (and there's a 25% off voucher from Kinokuniya) and Gerry Liston (Acting British Council Regional Director) writes about The Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace. There are also another couple of reviews I plan to link to later ...


Anonymous said...

i'm continuing this comment as from the comment box of the previous entry.

Sharon, you complained that the bookstore had a tough time looking for two copies of The Gift Of Rain, and Animah said MPH had the same difficulty with two copies of Kam's book (whatever its called).

now look at this list here. Lord Of The Rings??? Harry bloody Potter??? DA VINCI CODE???????

now this is the crap that ppl read. but this crap SELLS. so is it any wonder if the bookshops arent exactly very enthusiastic in displaying books with titles like The Gift Of Rain and I Am Muslim, or any books by Msian writers?

2 + 2 = 4.

The Visitor

bibliobibuli said...

and you are quite right!

ah soo said...

1. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
2. Waiting - Ha Jin
3. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love - Oscar Hijuelos
4. Little Birds - Anais Nin
5. Of Mice & Men - John Steinbeck
6. Under the Banyan Tree - R.K.Narayan
7. Crazy in Alabama - Mark Childress
8. Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri
9. The Poet - Michael Connelly
10. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

..None of my books got nominated...hmmm, I must be reading the wrong material...

bibliobibuli said...

you've some of my favourites there too ah soo (1,3,5.8,10) and all the others i'm interested in now!! thanks

The Friendly Monster said...

The Visitor - true. but don't you think local bookshops have a responsibility to help local writers too? their own way of giving back to the community, to use a cliche. in the end, everyone wins if the planning goes well.

big bookshops in the west do a lot to promote writing and help writers out, but malaysian ones are still counting the bucks too much, imho.

ah well. at least we've got people working in the right direction (we're on one sich person's blog right now!)

dreamer idiot said...

You have two of my top 10 favorites. Crime and Punishment, 1984. :)

You like Jude the Obscure... that's very dark, but perhaps Crime is equally if not darker too, but at least there was a glimmer of light and hope at the end. I really like Hardy's prose style though.

Oh yeah... I nearly forgot, will call u and the others tmw about the Tuesday lunch thing.

Anonymous said...

I know its to each its own, but the Malaysian top 10 is...I only like Pride & Prejudice, Catcher in the Rye, and Little Women, and even then, they're not my favs. I don't understand why people like Dan Brown so much.

Its a shame that not even Alexandre Dumas made the list =/ Or Anne Rice... *snickers*

Thats just me of course =p

Chet said...

Hey, I recognise all the titles on the Malaysian Top 10 list!

Actually, some of them are my favourites, too. But for some reason, when I was thinking about my top 10, I didn't think of them. Looks like I have at least a Top 20.

Greenbottle said...

harry bloody potter notwithstanding, the list isn't too bad! i was half afraid the likes of sophie fucking kinsella might make it...thank goodness she didn't and mitch albom almost make it...lucky he failed too...

bibliobibuli said...

dreamer idiot - i have to keep reading "jude the obscure" to see if the ending changes to a hppy ever after this time round!!

dan brown makes the list 1) because most people do actually enjoy the book 2) most people are not convinced readers and it's a very easy read 3) bookshops shove the book at you as if it is the pinnacle of human achievement. the challenge is to lead readers to other titles that they will have a positive experience with

greenbottle - yes, i echo your sentiments, i also like the books on the list esp. "lord of the rings" (though the film spoilt it for me), "catcher in the rye" and "to kill a mockingbird"

Amir said...

(in alphabetical order of writer)

Martin Amis, Money
Anthony Burgess, The Malayan Trilogy
Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education
George Gissing, New Grub Street
Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita/Laughter in the Dark/Pale Fire (tie)
Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
Donna Tartt, The Secret History
Mario Vargas Llosa, The War at the End of the World/Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (tie)

what a male list. even donna's book has a male narrator.

Anonymous said...

One Hundred Years Of Solitude and Light In August should be on everyone's list.

The Viz

bibliobibuli said...

thanks amir - v. nice list, with a few nudges to me to read some things i haven't and to finish "money" and "the secret history"- keep getting distracted by other things i'm supposed to be reading

viz - thanks too. 'light in august" should look out for.

Chet said...

Light in August - same author as Sound and Fury?

Anonymous said...

yes Chet. his most readable and accessible work, but no less great.

The Viz

Dean said...

Interesting how the Starmag list echoes recent polls in Britain and Australia. The presence of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, especially.

bibliobibuli said...

dean - do you have a link to the australian list? yes it is intriguing. maybe part of it is the film verison of "pride and prejudice"? also these are books often read at school (in the UK at least)

Anonymous said...

that was actually what i first noticed about the list. ALL of the books have been filmed.

The Viz


bibliobibuli said...

yes, viz, i don't think c.s.lewis would be on there if the film hadn't brought the narnia books to the public attention

Anonymous said...

Er.. hmm, let's see :

1. Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie

2. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

3. Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll

4. Master of the Game - Sidney Sheldon

5. Little Women - Louisa M. Alcott (taught me the difference between poverty and destitution.)

6. The Horse and His Boy - C. S. Lewis

That's it, basically. Can't afford that many others, so pretty much read those that are free to read/download.

SecretHistory said...

Dear Sharon, I would like to congratulate you on your foresight in displaying the first edition dust jacket of "Catcher in the Rye" instead of that boring cover in the newspaper article. Well done.

SecretHistory said...

Oh I just saw your comment Amir. Thanks for your book "Secret History" which you gave me years ago and it appears on your book list.

sabrina said...

I can't believe Catcher In The Rye only came in 10th!!! Such a fantastic book with one of the best protagonists ever!

And doesn't anyone love The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy? I swear i've read it no less than 30 times!!! Aren't we all waiting for a hero.....

bibliobibuli said...

it's a good book all right, but i think the reason it is on the list at all is because it is a common college text! i think many people don't read much beyond the set books they had to study. how did you come to read it??

i remember reading "the scarlet pimpernel" as a kid and enjoying it. it was always considered a children's classic for some reason

(i also used to get thrilled when i found the tiny flower growing in the grass!)