So here's more about the Popular Bookstore Reader's Choice Awards a couple of days back. (I posted results here.)
Nominees Brian Gomez, Amir Muhammad, Adeline Loh during the speeches. The guest of honour was YM Professor Diraja Ungku Abdul Aziz bin Ungku Abdul Hamid, former Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Malaya. He spoke among other things about the necessity of using Malay for all subjects on the school curriculum and the need to vastly expand the translation of scientific texts into Malay.
The welcome address was delivered by Mr. Vangatharaman Ramayah, Director of Popular Holdings Limited who talked about the history of the bookstore and its broad reach in the Asia Pacific region (it has a total of 129 retail stores and is currently expanding into Myanmar).
Then it was time for each of the nominated titles to be highlighted on the screen above with a brief biodata of each author. My favourite moment though came when the MC had to read out the name of Brian Gomez' blog in this august company!
Then the results were read out in nail-biting reverse order. The first prize winners for the fiction and non-fiction categories won RM1,500 each and a trophy, while second prize winners received RM1,000 and third prize winners RM500.
Above, Tan Twan Eng's mum, Sally (in pink), receiving his award from Ungku Aziz on her son's behalf since he is in South Africa.
A group photo of all the winners in or their representatives. (Though I think some at the edges got squashed out. Apologies.)
A more informal shot afterwards - June Wong (Star executive editor) holds a copy of Adibah Amin's Glimpses, Robert Raymer (red shirt - behind her); Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad holds a copy of Dr Mahathir's Selected Letters to World Leaders which he co-wrote with the former PM; Vangatharaman Ramayah (in the black suit), Director of Popular Holdings Limited; Sally Tan (the lady in pink); Popular Book Co (M) Sdn Bhd executive director Lim Lee Ngoh (holding Preeta's book) ; and last but not least, Kee Thuan Chye holding his copy of March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up.
I was very happy for Robert, winning the fiction category, as I know that this will be important encouragement for him. He looked scrape-me up-off-the-floor-it-can't-be-happening-surprised at the result.
Congrats to Popular books and to the sponsoring newspapers for creating a buzz about Malaysian books and involving readers. This is a very worthwhile event. I must say, though, that I would really welcome an award given by a panel of judges in addition to this popularity contest. (Mind you, there is no literary award without at least some controversy and there is always bound to be disagreement about the results.)
The important thing about any literary award is the conversation it creates, and the recognition and encouragment it gives writers. The "Poppies" succeeded very well on both counts.
(More at The Star.)