In this collection of travel stories, Canadian journalist and photographer Andrew Scott takes us on a lively romp through China, Japan, Laos, India (twice), South Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Indonesia and Turkey. The congenial Scott exhibits just enough seriousness when it’s needed and is always sensitive to the people he meets, refreshingly non-judgmental and patient, although he admits that this insouciance sometimes took a good deal of effort on his part to maintain.

Graphic novels are taken more seriously in Europe than in the English-speaking world, and so it is perhaps not surprising that The King of Bangkok, a socio-political-historical narrative based on ten years of ethnographic research by anthropologist Claudio Sopranzetti, first appeared in Italian. Although a “novel” in the sense it’s fictionalized, the elements (say the authors) are based on real people and real events: the result is a sort of distillation of recent Thai social history. 

There is no shortage of books to learn one’s ABCs and readers (and their parents) are spoiled for choice when it comes to thematic books from A-Z. But readers in Southeast Asia (or those with interest in the region) might wish to consider Marvellous Mammals: A Wild A to Z of Southeast Asia by Debby Ng and illustrated by Darel Seow as a top pick. Where else, for example, will “A” stand for the annamite striped rabbit?

Although there is a huge amount of fiction covering the Indian diaspora, it is more usually set in Western countries, including Australia, than in Malaya, as it was, and Singapore. In Kopi, Puffs & Dreams, a finalist for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize, Pallavi Gopinath Aney explores the experience of Indian immigrants to Singapore in the early 20th century. Aney’s subject matter will be new to many, her novel interesting as a record of Indian experience to the east of India.

Alluring Monsters: The Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization, Rosalind Galt (Columbia University Press, November 2021)
Alluring Monsters: The Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization, Rosalind Galt (Columbia University Press, November 2021)

The pontianak, a terrifying female vampire ghost, is a powerful figure in Malay cultures, as loved and feared in Southeast Asia as Dracula is in the West. In animist tradition, she is a woman who has died in childbirth, and her vengeful return upsets gender norms and social hierarchies. The pontianak first appeared on screen in late colonial Singapore in a series of popular films that combine indigenous animism and transnational production with the cultural and political force of the horror genre.

Strategies of Authoritarian Survival and Dissensus in Southeast Asia: Weak Men Versus Strongmen, Sokphea Young (Palgrave Macmillan, July 2021)
Strategies of Authoritarian Survival and Dissensus in Southeast Asia: Weak Men Versus Strongmen, Sokphea Young (Palgrave Macmillan, July 2021)

This book analyses how authoritarian rulers of Southeast Asian countries maintain their durability in office, and, in this context, explains why some movements of civil society organizations succeed while others fail to achieve their demands.