Thursday, August 28, 2008

Star-Popular Readers' Choice Awards

Appreciated by authors

The country’s latest book prize will, hopefully, have more local writers emerging in the future.

IT was a move appreciated by Malaysian writers and book lovers alike. The Popular bookstore chain and Star Publications (M) Bhd created The Star-Popular Readers Choice Awards 2008 in which 10 best-selling non-fiction and fiction titles by Malaysian authors were short-listed. StarMag readers were then encouraged to vote for their favourite from each list of 10.
Much-loved columnist and author Adibah Amin won two prizes, one for her debut novel, This End of the Rainbow, the other for the compilation of her famous newspaper column, As I Was Passing. – File photos

On Tuesday, at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, the authors finally found out how the readers voted. As reported in The Star on Wednesday, the winning titles were Lydia Teh’s Honk! If You’re Malaysian for the non-fiction category and Adibah Amin’s This End of the Rainbow for the fiction category. Adibah also bagged second place in the non-fiction category for her book, As I Was Passing. (See box, right, for complete list of winners.)

Teh and Adibah each received RM1,000 and a trophy; authors of the second and third most popular book titles in both categories received RM300 cash each as well as certificates of recognition.

More than any amount of cash, though, it was the recognition that had everybody at the award ceremony walking about with big smiles on their faces.

When we contact her later, Popular’s executive director, Lim Lee Ngoh, says, “We are very happy because, as (Transport Minister) Datuk Ong Tee Keat (who gave out the awards) said, it’s the first of its kind on Malaysian soil.

“We’re also happy that our local authors are very appreciative of the effort made by the organisers, but most of all of the support and attention from their readers.

“I think it was a very successful event and we will certainly continue to organise it. Our hope is that this is a seed of an idea, and if we cultivate it, nurture it, given time, it will even bigger and better.”

With more support, we will see more locally produced Malaysian work, says Lim: “(The awards) gives authors greater motivation to produce better work,” she adds.

For author Lydia Teh, winning the top award in the non-fiction category was a very gratifying experience.

“I nearly felt like crying when they announced me as winner,” Teh says when we catch up with her right after the ceremony.

She recalls how she couldn’t sleep the night she was informed of her nomination. In fact, she had never expected to win; she was content enough being nominated.

She thinks she won because, “A lot of my readers enjoyed being able to identify themselves in the book. The book has touched a chord.”

Much hard work has gone into Honk! If You’re Malaysian, which is Teh’s third book. It contained not just her previously published newspaper columns but also many new essays.
Lydia Teh receiving her award for Honk! If Your’re Malaysian from Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat on Tuesday.

But Teh didn’t just stop at writing – she had to actively market her book too.

“You have to be thick skinned in approaching the media to get interviewed so that people will remember your book,” she says.

Teh even launched a contest on her blog ( before she published Honk!, asking her readers to choose a title for the then unnamed book.

In fact, as a thank you, Teh will use her prize money to run another contest as a way of showing her appreciation to her readers.

“It (the awards) is a great start in getting people develop more interest in books,” says Teh, who is a full-time homemaker.

For Adibah, who lives in Johor and could not attend the awards ceremony, news that she had won two awards was even more of a surprise, as she only discovered the results the day after the awards ceremony when a friend informed her. In fact, for quite some time, she didn’t even know that she had been nominated!

“I was very surprised and, of course, pleased. Wouldn’t you be surprised?” Adibah said via telephone.

“I’m also very grateful to those who enjoyed my book. And that is the purpose of the book – for people, especially the new generation, to get some enjoyment and some understanding.”

Like Teh and Popular’s Lim, Adibah believes The Star-Popular Readers Choice Awards 2008 is a good step to encourage interest in books in Malaysia.

“It’s one way of judging books and one way of getting interest in books especially for light readers,” she says.

But the ever-humble Adibah feels that she isn’t qualified to give aspiring Malaysian authors advice: “Doesn’t mean that everyone who wins an award should be ‘punished’ with giving advice,” she says, chuckling.

“I will tell you what I tell myself: Just be true to yourself and to your subject and to your own style and things will work itself out.”

# The Star-Popular Readers Choice Awards was held in conjunction with the Popular BookFest@Malaysia 2008 which is on at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre until 10pm today. The Star is a media partner of the event.

How you voted

HERE are the titles that competed for the inaugural The Star-Popular Readers Choice Awards 2008, listed in descending order of number of votes received.


1. This End of the Rainbow by Adibah Amin (223 votes)

2. Confessions of an Old Boy: The Dato’ Hamid Adventures by Kam Raslan (218)

3. Sweetheart from Hell by Lim May-Zhee (216)

4. Long Road to Merdeka by Kamarul Zaman (209)

5. Silverfish New Writing 6 edited by Dipika Mukherjee (202)

6. Nine Lives by Teoh Choon Ean (192)

7. The Red Cheong Sam by Ralph Modder (185)

8. Mamasan by Khoo Kheng-Hor (184)

9. 44 Cemetery Road: The Best of Tunku Halim by Tunku Halim (174)

10. The Boy Who Talks to Ghosts by Benny and Alice Wong (80)


1. Honk! If You’re Malaysian by Lydia Teh (357 votes)

2. As I Was Passing by Adibah Amin (254)

3. Malaysian Politicians Say The Darndest Things by Amir Muhamad (253)

4. The Sky is Crazy by Yvonne Lee (217)

5. I Am Muslim by Dina Zaman (205)

6. From Small-Town Boy to World Class Surgeon by Mangai Balasegaram (165)

7. The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time by Ooi Kee Beng (137)

8. In Good Faith: Articles, Essays and Interviews by Zaid Ibrahim (121)

9. The Unmaking of Malaysia: Insider’s Reminiscences of UMNO, Razak and Mahathir by Ahmad Mustapha Hassan (112)

10. Tanah Tujuh by Antares (55)