Books to Get You into the ‘Kuala Lumpur State of Mind’

What can help you have a better expat life? Learn from the experience of others! Here are a few expat books we recommend:

Kuala Lumpur – Books to Learn About the Country and Get Into the Mood


I have listed a few of the books that I have read over the last few years (and a few that I have yet to complete), concerning either Malaysia or Kuala Lumpur. Prominently on the first and second place is a great Malaysian author, my regional favourite.

The Gift of Rain

The Gift of Rain (2007), by Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng (long listed for the Man-Booker Prize), is a beautifully written, rich story that will have you thinking about Malaysia and Asia’s past. It is set on the island of Penang, and should you venture out of KL on a trip to this island, many of the locations mentioned in the book will be recognizable to you.

Garden of Evening Mists

Garden of Evening Mists Garden of Evening Mists (2012), by the same author (this time winning the Walter Scott as well as the Man Asian prize and shortlisted for the Booker prize), is again a beautiful historical novel. It is pitched against a harsh reality, situated in KL and is rich in character as well as complexity.

A Short History of Malaysia

A Short History of Malaysia (2003), Linking East and West (Short History of Asia) by Virginia Matheson Hooker
It will be very interesting to learn some of the history of Malaysia and the region during your stay here. It will definitely make you understand the politics and the people better. Malaysia has been occupied by several European countries and before that there have been many parties vying over the area. It has shaped the region and will explain, for starters, the rich ethnicity the country has.

Floating on a Malayan Breeze

Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore (2012)
Ever wondered about Malaysia and Singapore? Why they split up, the difference in cultures and policies despite a vast common background. Learn more about it from the viewpoint of hundred of local Malaysian and Singaporean people, as collected and told by author Sudhir Vadaketh on his shoe-string cycle travels throughout the region.

Malaysia – Culture Smart!

Malaysia – Culture Smart! The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture; Victor T. King (2008).
If you are not Asian yourself or if you have not lived in Asia for a good amount of time, chances are that you’ll be rather confused about local customs and culture. Socially as well as in business, it is very important to know at least the basics of expected behaviour in polite society. Whilst I have outlined basics in the Guide to Kuala Lumpur, this author has dedicated a whole book to it!


Also, Goodreads has some good lists – you could have a peak at a list of books set in Malaysia in a discussion string in a Group called “Around the World in 80 Books”:

About Suzanne Wishart

Suzanne Wishart has over two year of hands on expat experience in Kuala Lumpur to share: what she didn’t experience first-hand she has researched, consulted locals about or contacted officials and government organisations for.


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