Putrajaya’s Strange Taste in Books

Putrajaya, where I lived until recently, is the administrative capital of Malaysia, where most government ministries are located and where many of the nation’s civil servants live and work.

The city has a pleasant, peaceful and prosperous atmosphere, ideal for conceiving the policies needed to steer the country in the right direction.

Those important decision makers need abundant sources of information and inspiration and a good book shop is a great place to start. There is a local bookshop in the Alamanda shopping mall but it is of modest size and cannot compare to the best bookshops in Kuala Lumpur like Kinokuniya or Borders.

Not that Malaysians are great readers. It is estimated that the average Malaysian reads just two books a year, compared to 20 or so for many European countries. This is understandable; most Malaysians drive themselves to work and do not have the long train commute which is where most Europeans get their reading done. And when Malaysians reach home they have large, extended families to interact with – there’s not much time for reading. Besides, as my children would say, who reads books anymore? That’s so 20th century!

So what sort of books are Malaysians reading when they do get the chance? At the local bookshop in Putrajaya they have a display of Top 10 Best Sellers. Near the top is a surprising choice – Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. It appears he has something of a following here among those with an incomplete, or selective, knowledge of history.

Mein Kampf

You would have thought Putrajayans could find a more uplifting choice of reading material! Harry Potter perhaps.

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