When you step into Riwayat book store you feel a sense of history, a literary welcome, immersion and belonging, as it were. It’s what bookshops do. That, anyway, was how I felt when I visited the place a few weeks ago. The shop is small, but Riwayat has old and new books, and especially books by Malaysian writers and about Malaysian history, politics and culture. It is small bookshops like this that need to be supported. They cannot compete, commercially, with larger bookshops in Kuala Lumpur, especially not shops like Kinokuniya, which has a larger selection of books from around the world.
Commercial competition is not the point, though. Riwayat is a curated bookshop, which makes it unique and a significant landmark on the city’s field of bookshops. Against better judgement I have bought at least seven books (and counting) from Riwayat over the past three months. I will not complain, though. Except when the time comes to pack my bags for flights back to South Africa. I have often spent (relatively) enormous sums of money on overweight baggage because of lugging around too many books between South Africa, the UK, continental Europe and the United States. For now I can leave my Riwayat purchases (and other books) in one place while I travel around.
It helps, also, that Riwayat is next to a good coffeeshop, Lokl Coffee Company.