If you asked me what was my favourite bookstore in Malaysia, my answer would be Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) hands freaking down in a heartbeat. I was with them since the old days when they were a little tucked away corner on the second floor of Isetan. Their shelves were always crammed with the most interesting sort of books whether it was in the Current Issues section or the History, or Music and the Fiction had all these quirky but terribly interesting books. Those were the days Times and MPH were 'sort of' competing with each other. Times used to have a better book selection than MPH but now that's changed, but more on that later. Anyway, when they moved to their present place at the top of Suria KLCC, I was overjoyed. I almost drooled when I heard about the floor space when they first announced it (can't remember now). And now, I have appeared to made it my life's ambition to try and buy as many books from them as I can (not always quite willingly, if I can say so in my rather pathetic defence).
I love this place because from the very start it had given a prominence to the comic/graphic novels section. Even back in the old days (love to use this term even though I don't deserve to), they used to bring in some very interesting material. I think it was through them that I managed to continue my passion for comic/graphic novels. When they opened their present place, they devoted the largest area I can ever remember at a book store - exclusively for comics/graphic novels (I know it's annoying, but I can't help myself) and paid incredibly close attention to the kind of stuff they stocked. Not only were they bringing in the usual Marvel, DC, Wildstorm, sort of stuff in, but they were bringing in a lot of independents as well like Humanoids Publishing, D&Q, Darkhorse and most importantly manga. 'Kino', as I affectionately call it, were the pioneers in this. I would love to meet their comics/graphic novels purchasing manager. This is guy/gal is one unsung hero, if there is one. MPH was atrocious. Somebody's grandmother was doing the purchasing and only the usual Marvel and DC stuff came through. Times was pretty much the same. Kino came and blew them out of the water and showed them how it was done. Now you see Border's starting to wise up its act - check out Borders, The Curve - huge manga collection and like 6 - 7 shelves for all the other American acts. They come a close second for me these days. If they could get better shelves for their American stuff that would help. Last I checked the Times Square branch still hadn't got its act together.
Then there's their fiction section. Always a pleasure, always a pleasure. You just can't go wrong with the first damn shelves (if you start from the top) because you run straight into Achebe and Adichie already. And it just doesn't let up from there I tell ya. A great mix of the latest, the greatest and the perennial classics (not the brand aight). Most of their sections like philosophy, economics, science, poetry, Asian fiction, media, politics, history, travel, religion, music (tons of music scores), are not just respectable, they are downright commendable considering this is Malaysia where the average Malaysian is reported to read an average of 2 books a year, one of which is either John Grisham or Stephen King.
Okay, but the law section sucks. Big time. It for me is quite a blot in this near pretty damn nice place (put some seats or sofas around dammit! Me no sleepy tatami!). MPH kicks their ass in this department. Well, can't be all perfect. They should just remove it or improve it though. But you have to respect just how even Kino is. They house a pretty sizable amount of reading material in 3 different languages. The malay fiction and some local publishers in malay and English are represented quite well. I find it hilarious that the atheist shelf in the Philosophy section is perpendicular to the religion shelves just in front of it. If this is Japanese layout, I freaking love it. Don't be fooled to thinking that the books in the Philosophy section sit in dust either. I am happy to report that the books there are regularly refreshed.
I know if you white man come on zoom zoom fromsink Amerikanz orink England, I knowum you be thinkin' after see the Kino: Is this what this monkey is raving about in that blog of his? I know and I won't blame him. I've been to bookstores in England and America. Everytime I go into one of their huge stores I just want to get down on my knees at the entrance and savour the smell and sight of all those books before losing myself in those shelves. But Malaysia has just come out of the primordial ooze as far as bookstores are concerned. In the old days (late 80's onwards) books were scarce, son. You had to hunt them down. Track them like a bloodhound. In nothing but a loin cloth and a spear. And when you found your prey there for the taking, you never passed it up thinking there will be a next time. There is no next time. You buy it then and there or forsake it forever. Because it will never be there again. There were no friendly ordering counters with people there to help you out and place orders for you and call you when it arrived. There was just despair (said in the French way).
Kino! Kino! Kino!