Our beloved country has its share of coffee table books. For those who don't what a coffee table book is - let me use an official definition by wiki - A coffee table book is a style of hardcover book designed to rest on a coffee table or similar surface in an area where guests sit and are entertained, thus inspiring conversation or alleviating boredom. They tend to be oversized and of heavy construction, since there is no pressing need for portability. Subject matter is generally confined to non-fiction, and is usually visually-oriented. Pages consist mainly of photographs and illustrations, accompanied by captions and small blocks of text, as opposed to long prose. History, art, entertainment, and biography are popular genres. Okay?
Brunei coffee table books are mostly pictorial books about Brunei produced by private publishers or by the government. Each of these books are worth a blog entry each but for now I will lump them all together and probably will write separately later. In the late mid 1990s and early 2000s, there was a proliferation of these books. Among the more well known ones that you can see in the bookshops are the "Abode of Peace: Brunei Darussalam" with the photograph of a young Brunei lady in white tudong. This one was a project where 25 of South East Asia's photographers spending a week in Brunei Darussalam in 1992 during the country's Silver Jubilee of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne. This was coordinated by Brunei Shell and it depicts photographs from the interior of Brunei Darussalam to the modern world.
Another was the "Golden Legacy: Brunei Darussalam" published by Syabas in 1993. It had the photograph of the Jame Asr in the twilight as the cover. This book was written by Sharon Meyers, Wendy Moore and Joesph Yogerst with photographs by Ian Lloyd. This book is interesting as it covers Brunei from various angles. It also had me being interviewed about the wedding practices in Brunei. Wendy Moore (Muslim name: Siti Khadijah) is married to one of my mother's Malaysian cousins and she wrote one of the chapters in the book. I find this book more dynamic than the others, not because I am in it, but because the writers and the photographers are non-Bruneians and they focused on the aspects of Brunei Darussalam they find more interesting.
One of Brunei's well known photographer, Hj Mohd Haranadi bin Hj Buntar or better known as Nadi also took all the photographs for another book entitled "Brunei Darussalam: Pearl of Borneo". Produced in 2000 by Rakan Tiga Media, the book was written by Dato Sumadi Sukaimi with Mohd Amin BPKDP Hj Sirat. This book is probably the only one among the major Brunei coffeetable books which is produced and contained photographs taken from the Brunei angle. If you have the other two, you can contrast the photographs and the writings about Brunei with this one.
Another locally produced book is "Brunei Darussalam: Diversity and Challenges" written and designed by Alias Matnor. The book was printed by Brunei Press Sdn Bhd with photographs taken by 'assigned foreign and local professional photographers and award winning amateur photographers'. This was also produced in 2000. This book had a special feature in which there are a number of Bruneians being focused on. Of course 7 years down the road, some of these individuals are no longer where they were. But it was an interesting cross section of Brunei's senior officials. It also featured interesting aspects of Brunei's royalty and culture - for instance you can find a whole chapter on His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien or a whole chapter on the wedding practices of Brunei as well as focus on the wedding of HRH Princess Rashidah.
The ones produced by the government are not easily available to the public but are given out during the official occassions. Among these included one produced for His Majesty's 50th Birthday celebrations entitled " Sentiasa Bersama Rakyat/A Caring Monarch". Another two are the imaginatively entitled "Brunei Darussalam" and "Brunei Berdaulat". All the books focused on His Majesty and the various aspects of Brunei from the official angle. Another smaller one was for the Crown Prince entitled "Setulus Kasih Rakyat Menjunjung" which was produced on the occassion of HRH being made the Crown Prince.
There were a few others produced by government agencies. The one that I would like to highlight is one produced by UBD entitled "Brunei Darussalam Fruits in Colour" published in 1992. The book contained all the local fruits (some inedible ones as well) that are available in the country and is written by Dr Serudin Timbang. It contained fruits such as Sungkit (a rambutan without hairs), Arut, Bayong, Lakang, Surapit, Pitabu, Killer Kapayang or Pengalaban. How many people know Pengalaban is related to Avocado? This book will tell you about the local fruits in Brunei and more! I don't know if this book is available anymore but the copy I have is going to cost you about a million dollars if you want to get it from me.
The special book in my collection is entitled simply "Brunei Darus Salam: A Pictorial Review of the Land and People" - note the separated word in Darussalam. I found this book among the book collection belonging to my late father-in-law. This book produced in 1969 by Brunei Shell was published in commemoration of His Majesty's Coronation. It showed not only the photographs during His Majesty's Coronation but also the many development that were taking place in 1968. This book is really a tour of Brunei as it was then. A very nostalgic book for some of our elder Bruneians. My father in law wrote in the book that he bought it for $10 on Saturday, 16th August 1969. I wonder how much it is worth now?
There are a few others I know out there which I don't have even though I have tried to get my hands on every single Brunei book there is. But each and every single one that I highlighted above are really worthwhile. Get them if you can find them. They are good heritage especially for our younger generation to realise just how lucky they have been in living through the progress that Brunei Darussalam, the Abode of Peace has attained throughout the years.