Admit it, local books and local publication houses are growing in numbers, and there are more platforms for young writers of Malaysia to get their writing out these days. With the vast variety of urban novels and contemporary poetry books out there, you don’t seem to be sure of where to start, and looking at reviews and promos aren’t helping you pick the best starter books either. Here are top five (in my opinion, and may subject to my favour, but you can always trust my choices) Malaysian indie books you need to read if you’ve never pick up a local book before.
1. ILUSANITI by Adib Zaini (Fixi)
I think I’ve often accidentally promoted this book in particular when one starts to talk local books with me, because I can put this one out as the best bet. So far, no one who have read this gave disappointing reviews, and everyone can agree that this is one of the brilliant works of Fixi and Adib Zaini yet. A novel so rich with urban legends, diversity (which I’m so, so, so, so glad to see) and plot twists, ILUSANITI is about a group of online friends who have decided to meet up in real life, and since then, one by one commited suicide in the most mysterious way, and some started having hallucinations and morbid nightmares.
2. KELABU by Nadia Khan (Fixi)
If you’re up for some good YA material, Kelabu is the one for you. Nadia Khan’s writing is one of the best, and it’s hard to put down this book once you’ve started. Kelabu has amazing plot twists too right down the middle, and you’d thought it’s just an ordinary love story when it’s truly a story of self-discovery. KELABU follows the narrative of Amir, who fell in love with a girl named Jun, who had was disapproved by Shah, and many twisted conflicts follows.
Buy KELABU online here.
3. LANGIT VANILA by Wani Ardy (Sang Freud Press)
Probably the first book of the Malaysian’s urban poetry writing I’ve ever possessed. I was a fan of the author for her poetry and blog posts of her then-blog, and I was also an avid fan of Boneca (the author’s fun-fun band in which she writes music for), and I was curious to have it. It was harder to look for these urban books back then, because they were yet to be accepted by the bigger crowd, but I was lucky, a friend gave it to me on my birthday! If you love poetry, Langit Vanila will make you feel the most human of all human. Wani Ardy’s writings are delicate and humble, and she infused so much melancholy, humility and appreciation in her poetry.
4. DIARI NONA GILA by Takahara Suiko (Rabak-Lit)
I’m a huge fan of Takahara Suiko and her music (The Venopian Solitude), and she has such mastery of words that will punch you right in the feels. Suiko tackles a super huge variety of emotions and issues in her writings and songs, so if one minute, you might feel like you’re reading an entire poem dedicated to loving chocolates (yes, there exist such poem), the next page could be about fighting for feminism or the deep sorrow of a lost soul. Diari Nona Gila is a collection of her unpublished song lyrics back from 2012. It truly is a diari of a nona gila.
5. GANTUNG by Nadia Khan (Fixi)
Does Nadia Khan deserve a second mention? Yes, yes she does. After the success of Kelabu, and the publishing of her anthology Cerpen, she’s out with a YA thriller, which I daresay is on par with her debut novel. Gantung follows the journey of four best friends – Gibbo, Ray, KJ and Troll – who stumbled into trouble after one of their bro-code gets broken, and one of their pranks went wrong. You’ll figure out what gantung really stands for towards the end. This novel is heavy on the friendship feels. Bros for life, you know?