10 books like A Painter in Penang

By Clare Flynn,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like A Painter in Penang. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Sea Witch

By Helen Hollick,

Book cover of Sea Witch

Meet dashing Jesamiah Acorne, pirate extraordinaire. This cocky, handsome young man proves to have as many layers as an onion, and right at the center lies the traumatic experiences at the hand of his much older brother. Jesamiah has become a pirate to escape—but also because of his love of the sea. Never will he love anyone as much as he loves the sea and his ships—well, until Tiola enters his life under relatively dramatic circumstances. 

This is a book firmly grounded in research, be it of the historical context or of 18th-century ships. It is because of that foundation that Ms. Hollick’s pirate yarn grows into something utterly addictive. How fortunate that this is only the first book in the series!

Sea Witch

By Helen Hollick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sea Witch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Time : The Golden Age of Piracy - 1716.
The Place : The Pirate Round - from the South African Coast to the Caribbean.
Escaping the bullying of his elder half-brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.
He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes - until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain…


Rebel's Knot

By Cryssa Bazos,

Book cover of Rebel's Knot

Rebel Knot is set in 17th-century Ireland, torn apart by religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. This is a war-ravaged Ireland, a land where hope is in short supply and peace is more of a dream than a possibility. And yet, in the midst of all that violence fragile love can flourish—even between people who belong on opposite sides of the religious fence. Ms. Bazos does a fantastic job of transporting the reader back in time, and her two main characters, Niall and Ainé, are wonderfully complex and relatable. The harshness of the times is vividly depicted—as is the growing attraction between the innocent and traumatised Ainé and her new protector, Niall. 

Rebel's Knot

By Cryssa Bazos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rebel's Knot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ireland 1652: In the desperate, final days of the English invasion . . .

A fey young woman, Áine Callaghan, is the sole survivor of an attack by English marauders. When Irish soldier Niall O'Coneill discovers his own kin slaughtered in the same massacre, he vows to hunt down the men responsible. He takes Áine under his protection and together they reach the safety of an encampment held by the Irish forces in Tipperary.

Hardly a safe haven, the camp is rife with danger and intrigue. Áine is a stranger with the old stories stirring on her tongue and rumours…


By Love Divided

By Elizabeth St.John,

Book cover of By Love Divided

I have a passion for the 17th century and this novel based on actual diaries and letters from IRL people living through the realities of the English Civil War is a favourite. Ms. St. John writes about her own ancestors, and she imbues her characters with so much life, so many contrary opinions. These are difficult times, and especially for mother Lucy St. John whose son is a through-and-through royalist while daughter Luce is head-over-heels in love with Parliamentarian John Hutchinson. Luce is utterly fascinating: intelligent and with a passion to truly reform, she never loses her humanity or her ability for compassion. This novel is a real treat for anyone desiring well-researched historical fiction – with the added benefit of having a spoonful or two of love to complicate things! 

By Love Divided

By Elizabeth St.John,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked By Love Divided as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

”A fantastic read." Editor’s Choice, Historical Novel Society

London, 1630. Widowed and destitute, Lucy St.John is fighting for survival and makes a terrible choice to secure a future for her children. Worse still, her daughter Luce rejects the royal court and a wealthy arranged marriage, and falls in love with a charismatic soldier. As England tumbles toward bloody civil war, Luce’s beloved brother Allen chooses to fight for the king as a cavalier. Allen and Luce are swept up in the chaos of war as they defend their opposing causes and protect those they love.

Will war unite or divide…


Julia Prima

By Alison Morton,

Book cover of Julia Prima

Several years ago, I came across a series of books set in Roma Nova, a surviving remnant of the Roman Empire. I was fascinated by Ms. Morton’s description of this (unfortunately non-existent) country and her casual references to Roman rites and traditions that had somehow survived to modern times. Julia Prima is the foundation story, set in the 4th century when the Roman Empire is crumbling at the edges. Ms. Morton brings the uncertainties of the times to vivid life. The conflicts between Christians and pagans are exploding, previously safe roads are plagued by bandits and through all this Julia rides towards the distant Rome, determined to find the man she loves. ‘Nuff said, methinks! 

Julia Prima

By Alison Morton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Julia Prima as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"You should have trusted me. You should have given me a choice."
AD 370, Roman frontier province of Noricum. Staying faithful to the Roman gods in a Christian empire can be lethal. Half-divorced Julia Bacausa is condemned to an emotional desert and a forced marriage, Lucius Apulius barely clings onto his posting in a military backwater. Strongly drawn to each other, they are soon separated, but Julia is determined not to lose the only man she will love.

Neither wholly married nor wholly divorced, Julia is trapped in the power struggle between the Christian church and her pagan ruler father.…


The Defence and Fall of Singapore

By Brian Farrell,

Book cover of The Defence and Fall of Singapore

I have known Brian Farrell both as a colleague and friend for more than two decades but that isn’t the reason why his book on the fall of Malaya and Singapore appears on my book list. It does so because I believe it’s the best book on the subject that has been written thus far. I have read many and, in my opinion, none of them matches the quality and range of research, analysis, and insight that he brings to the subject. Moreover, he isn’t afraid to say it how it was. He doesn’t skulk about in the shadows but draws out where the problems were and who caused them. Anyone who knows Professor Farrell wouldn’t be surprised about that! He remains impressively scholarly and independent. 

The Defence and Fall of Singapore

By Brian Farrell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Defence and Fall of Singapore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortly after midnight on 8 December 1941, two divisions of crack troops of the Imperial Japanese Army began a seaborne invasion of southern Thailand and northern Malaya. Their assault developed into a full-blown advance towards Singapore, the main defensive position of the British Empire in the Far East. The defending British, Indian, Australian and Malayan forces were outmanoeuvred on the ground, overwhelmed in the air and scattered on the sea. By the end of January 1942, British Empire forces were driven back onto the island of Singapore itself, cut off from further outside help. When the Japanese stormed the island…


The Night Tiger

By Yangsze Choo,

Book cover of The Night Tiger

I was fascinated with the depiction of the 1930s Malaysian dance halls steeped in music, fashion, and dance. As a writer who dabbles in the paranormal, the cultural spirits and supernatural elements were intriguing. The split narrative appealed to me since my Jitterbug Dress series is a dual narrative set in the 1940s and 1990s. The author also set the narrative apart by telling the story in different tenses and POVs (Ren and William’s story is in third person past, while Ji Lin’s story is first person, present). Choo did a great job of juxtaposing the beast or wild animal inside each person, where the line of who we are inside and what we present to society is drawn all while creating tension and suspense, keeping me guessing on how all these narratives intertwine. 

The Night Tiger

By Yangsze Choo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Night Tiger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | REESE BOOK CLUB PICK | BBC BIG JUBILEE BETWEEN THE COVERS READ

'It reminds me of Where the Crawdads Sing . . . it's an amazing book' Rhys Stephenson on BBC's Between the Covers

'You won't be able to put this one down!' Reese Witherspoon

They say a tiger that devours too many humans can take the form of a man and walk among us...

In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a…


The Weight of Our Sky

By Hanna Alkaf,

Book cover of The Weight of Our Sky

This book reads more like a thriller with heart than a historical novel, which makes it the perfect historical fiction for those just dipping a toe into the genre. 

Set in 1969 in Malaysia, during the historic race riots, the story follows a Beatles-obsessed teenage girl with OCD as she struggles to survive and get back to her family. I devoured this story over a couple of nail-biting days – and I bet you will too.

The Weight of Our Sky

By Hanna Alkaf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Weight of Our Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A music loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother's death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

A trip to the movies after school turns into a nightmare when the city erupts into violent…


Land Below the Wind

By Agnes Keith,

Book cover of Land Below the Wind

This book gives readers a clear picture of what it was like for an American woman, married to a British colonial, to live in North Borneo just before the Japanese Army invaded in 1942. It was truly an innocent place so far from the cares of the world. I read it in 1968, just before my first sojourn in Sabah, Malaysia. Much had changed by then, but it helped me understand the experiences of some of the older people I met. Today, Sabah remains a land “below the wind” (located south of the annual tropical cyclone belt.) But, as I mention in my book, it is no longer below the “political storms” as China battles the US and five other nations over the rights to the South China Sea.

Land Below the Wind

By Agnes Keith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Land Below the Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book was written during an era when Sabah was known as North Borneo, and when life was very much different from today s. Reprinted many times, this classic, of Agnes Keith s observations and reflections of the time, is a true-to-life record of society and culture then and of the captivating natural beauty of Sabah. Today, Sabah continues to be known as the land below the wind , a phrase used by seafarers in the past to describe all the lands south of the typhoon belt, but which Agnes effectively reserved for Sabah through her book. One of few…


Evening Is the Whole Day

By Preeta Samarasan,

Book cover of Evening Is the Whole Day

And you thought your family was crazy! Set in Malaysia, this fascinating story combines family drama with class issues, ethnic tensions, the effects of colonial rule, and even ghosts. I love how writer Preeta Samarasan evokes a mysterious, almost magical feel to the setting and characters, as the reader gets acquainted with the wealthy, yet deeply dysfunctional family at the center of the story. No matter how bitter, enraging, or disappointing these characters feel towards each other, they are still bonded together, and the story ends on a hopeful note. This family can redeem itself-even if it takes moving to another country to do it.

Evening Is the Whole Day

By Preeta Samarasan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Evening Is the Whole Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A spellbinding, exuberant first novel, set in Malaysia, that introduces us to a prosperous Indian immigrant family, as it slowly peels away its closely guarded secrets.

When the family's servant girl, Chellam, is dismissed from the big house for unnamed crimes, it is only the latest in a series of losses that have shaken six-year-old Aasha's life. Her grandmother has passed away under mysterious circumstances and her older sister has disappeared for a new life abroad, with no plans to return. Her parents, meanwhile, seem to be hiding something away - from themselves, and from one another.

As the novel…


Original Wisdom

By Robert Wolff,

Book cover of Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing

Green burial is not a new idea; it has been practiced for thousands of years and is still commonly practiced around the world. Green burial is also starting to be used as an avenue of enabling the restoration and preservation of habitat. The tradition of green (or natural) burials dates back to ancient times. For most of human history, in cultures where bodies were buried, the body was placed in a grave, perhaps wrapped in a shroud or in a simple box, directly into the ground. Robert’s chapters provide sustenance for the world full of people who exist in complete harmony with the natural world and with each other.

Original Wisdom

By Robert Wolff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Original Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

• Explores the lifestyle of indigenous peoples of the world who exist in complete harmony with the natural world and with each other.

• Reveals a model of a society built on trust, patience, and joy rather than anxiety, hurry, and acquisition.

• Shows how we can reconnect with the ancient intuitive awareness of the world's original people.

Deep in the mountainous jungle of Malaysia the aboriginal Sng'oi exist on the edge of extinction, though their way of living may ultimately be the kind of existence that will allow us all to survive. The Sng'oi--pre-industrial, pre-agricultural, semi-nomadic--live without cars or…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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