2019


(Left to right) Gareth Richards, Zairil Khir Johari, Philip Bowring and Ooi Kee Beng. Photo credit GTLF

Penang Book Prize 2019 – Philip Bowring Emerges As Winner

On November 24, Philip Bowring’s book, Empire of the Winds: The Global Role of Asia's Great Archipelago, published by I.B. Tauris, took home the 2019 Penang Book Prize, which is awarded annually by city magazine Penang Monthly. Mr Bowring also receives RM5,000 in prize money.

Inaugurated in 2017, the Penang Book Prize – the only one of its kind in Malaysia – was previously known as the Penang Monthly Book Prize. The name change in 2019 reflected the category change from fiction to non-fiction.

“Non-fiction has certainly been the right decision judging from the number and quality of books that were submitted by publishers,” said Dato’ Dr Ooi Kee Beng, managing editor of Penang Monthly and Executive Director of Penang Institute, in his opening speech.

The judging panel of the Penang Book Prize 2019 consisted of Dato’ Dr Ooi himself; Mr Gareth Richards, writer, editor, and bookseller, and co-founder of Hikayat; Ms Christine Khor, former director of the Centre for the Arts at the National University of Singapore; and Dr Wong Yee Thuan, historian and senior fellow at Penang Institute.

YB Zairil Khir Johari, Penang State Executive Councillor and Senior Fellow at Penang Institute, officiated the event and presented the award.

Thirty-two books were submitted for the book prize this year. Eight books made the shortlist, and three were chosen from this list as the finalists, based on research quality and effort; narrative skill; originality and uniqueness; potential scholarly effect; potential public effect; and quality of deduction.

Empire of the Winds: The Global Role of Asia's Great Archipelago by Mr Bowring provides a comprehensive history of Nusantaria, otherwise known as Maritime South-east Asia, the world’s largest and most important archipelago and its adjacent coasts.

“This book serves a purpose of making people aware of the history of the region, and to transcend religious and ethnic differences” said Mr Bowring in his acceptance speech.

The ceremony ended with a round table discussion among the present judges to explain the selection process in detail and share the aspirations of the book prize.

“The judging of books in itself is rather dubious,” Dato’ Dr Ooi admits, “but with that in mind, I would like to say that why we do have a book prize is not to celebrate the best book, but to celebrate good books.”


Penang Book Prize 2019 – Finalists Announced

November 11, 2019 – The Penang Book Prize 2019, in its non-fiction cycle this year, is delighted to announce the three finalists for the award. These were selected based on the following criteria: Research quality and effort, Narrative skill, Originality and uniqueness, Potential scholarly impact, Potential Public Impact, and Quality of production. These are (in no particular order):

  • Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof for Mak Yong: World Heritage Theatre, published by Areca Books.
  • Philip Bowring for Empire of the Winds: The Global Role of Asia's Great Archipelago, published by I.B. Tauris.
  • Carl Vadivella Belle for Thaipusam in Malaysia: A Hindu Festival in the Tamil Diaspora, published by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

We would like to congratulate the finalists, and thank all the publishers and the authors who participated. The Winner will be announced at the award ceremony, being held in conjunction with the George Town Literary Festival, on Sunday, November 24 at 5pm at Black Kettle (No. 105, Beach Street, George Town), with Zairil Khir Johari, Penang State Executive Councillor and Senior Fellow at Penang Institute, as the Guest of Honour.