My Books


THIS IS a list of books written, edited or co-authored by Ooi Kee Beng. They can be ordered from ISEAS (http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg/ISEAS/Index.jsp) or from major bookstores in Malaysia and Singapore such as Gerakbudaya (http://bookshop.gerakbudaya.com/), or Internet bookstores such as Amazon Books (http://www.amazon.com).




As Empires FellAs Empires Fell: The Life and Times of H.S. Lee, the First Finance Minister of Malaya. ISEAS Publishing 2020.

To understand how independence was gained for a politically complex country such as Malaysia, and how its structure took form requires familiarity with the key players involved. More importantly, only by locating these actors within the changing socio-political context in which they specifically lived does their influence both before and after the birth of the country become clear.

Having written potent biographies about Malaysian and Singapore leaders such as Ismail Abdul Rahman, the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia who died in 1973, Goh Keng Swee, the economic architect and one of the founding fathers of the Republic of Singapore, and Lim Kit Siang, the unwavering opposition leader of Malaysia, Ooi Kee Beng now tells the story of Lee Hau-Shik, based on the latter’s extensive private papers housed at ISEAS Library, Singapore.

Born in Hong Kong to a highly prominent family at a time when the Qing Dynasty was falling, Hau-Shik received degrees in Law and Economics in Cambridge and became a successful tin miner in British Malaya and an influential member of Kuala Lumpur’s colonial society. After the Second World War, his influence in elite circles in China, Britain and Malaya allowed him to play a key role in the gaining of independence for Malaysia. He was one of the founders of the Malayan Chinese Association, and served as the country’s first Minister of Finance.




Month by Month. A Collection of Editorials by Ooi Kee Beng. Penang Institute: 2019.

“These 118 masterful pieces of writing take us on a journey along a decade of speedy changes — of bumps, falls and elevations, sprouting from not only a host of tensions, trials and tribulations, but also from an unleashing of great creativity and celebration” — Anwar Fazal.

This is the complete collection of editorials from Penang Monthly, written between October 2009 and October 2019, by its founder-editor Ooi Kee Beng.








Catharsis. A Second Chance for Democracy in Malaysia. Penang Institute, ISEAS and Gerakbudaya. 2018.

Malaysia pulled itself back from the brink on 9 May 2018. That day the majority of its voting population decided to topple the Barisan Nasional government that had been in power for over 60 years and that had come to be seen as corrupt beyond redemption, and incompetent to boot. Lined up against the unpopular administration of Najib Razak was a coalition led by former strongman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who at the age of 92 had decided to return to Malaysian politics to stop the rot which many believed had begun during his earlier period in power, in 1981–2003. As the oldest prime minister in world history, he is now setting about creating structure that he believes will lead to a Malaysia that will achieve the Vision 2020 that he first propounded in 1991. This vision dovetails with the ideals of the highly influential Reformasi Movement which was ignited by the sacking of his deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, in 1998. This compilation of insightful analyses is Ooi Kee Beng’s seventh, and discusses key events from the last five years leading up to 9 May 2018 and beyond. These seven books together cover the strange period we may come to know as the Inter-Mahathir Era, and the present volume discusses some of the challenges facing the new government, and the Malaysian population in general, now that the Barisan Nasional has imploded.




The Criteria for Those Who Reach the Top. To Lead with Mind and Heart. Translation-edited by Ooi Kee Beng. ISEAS — Yusof Ishak Institute. 2018.

The world is full of self-improvement books. What sets Toshio Egawa’s book apart is that its focus is more about being at The Top than about getting there. Of course, the traits that get you there and the traits that keep you there overlap in many cases. One could go further to say that it is not always clear whether one is on the way to the top, is at the top or is on the way down from the top.






Yusof Ishak. A Man of Many Firsts. ISEAS — Yusof Ishak Institute. 2017.

Singapore’s first President, Yusof Ishak, was a man of many firsts. He and his generation lived at a time when politically, economically and socially, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore were one. This ended when Singapore attained full independence on 9 August 1965. Overnight, Yusof Ishak had to make his choice, and he chose to be with Singapore, becoming its first constitutional Head of State.





Drifting into Politics. The Unfinished Memoirs of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman. ISEAS. 2006. (Co-edited with Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail)

This is the unfinished autobiography of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, the medical doctor who held key government positions in the first two decades of Malaysian nation building, and who was an important early player within UMNO, the country’s dominant political party. Drifting into Politics was found among the private papers that were handed over to the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in 2005 by Tun Dr Ismail’s eldest son, Mohd Tawfik. The family has asked for it to be published in 2015, this year being the 100th anniversary of Tun Dr Ismail’s birth. This is an apt time indeed to make his reflections on his own life available to the world. This is also the third book to come out of the Tun Dr Ismail papers which are kept at ISEAS Library. The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time, the biography written by Ooi Kee Beng and published in 2006 is ISEAS’s all-time bestseller, and it brought Tun Dr Ismail back with great impact into Malaysian political analysis and discourse. It has been translated into Malay and Chinese. The second book – Malaya’s First Year in the United Nations – has also been welcomed by scholars of Malaysia’s foreign affairs and diplomacy. This present volume continues Malaysia’s rediscovery of Tun Dr Ismail.




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The 3rd ASEAN Reader. (Co-edited)  ISEAS — Yusof Ishak Institute. 2015

Over the past two decades, ISEAS has compiled abridged articles that analyse key aspects of Southeast Asia’s development and the ASEAN process. The ASEAN Reader was published in 1992 just as the Cold War ended, while The Second ASEAN Reader came in 2003 in the wake of the 1997 Asian crisis and the September 11 attacks in 2001. The past decade has not been spared its share of intense changes, with the rise of China and India bringing new challenges to the region’s power equation, and the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis. Despite this, the momentum towards an integrated ASEAN community has been maintained. The articles in The Third ASEAN Reader study the trends and events of recent years, and discuss the immediate future of Southeast Asia.


Young&Malay-book-cover(10July2015)muda dan melayuYoung and Malay: Growing Up in Multicultural Malaysia (co-edited with Wan Hamidi Hamid). SIRD 2015.

Malay version: Muda dan Melayu

Individual experiences, though strongly influenced by collective identities, are in essence unique ones. But in Malaysia, where ethnic identity is overpoweringly applied to constrict popular thought and rationalise government policies, the uniqueness of individuals is ignored and devalued – even by the individuals themselves. Paradoxically, the community that has suffered the political ascription of group identity most acutely and most inescapably is the ascribed majority group, the Malays. In this collection of essays edited by Ooi Kee Beng and Wan Hamidi Hamid, nine young writers – Haris Zuan, Wan Hamidi Hamid, Zairil Khir Johari, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, Altaf Deviyati, Izmil Amri, Syukri Shairi, Raja Ahmad Iskandar and Edry Faizal Eddy Yusof – share their individual memories about growing up in Malaysia, and in some cases debate the racial politics in which they – and all Malaysians – seem inextricably caught.




Merdeka for the mind

Merdeka for the Mind
SIRD 2015


This selection of articles written over the last three years by Ooi Kee Beng, and which were published in The Edge Malaysia, The Edge Review and in Penang Monthly, is a succinct expression, not only of trends that the region and the world are experiencing, but more specifically of stubborn issues immediately affecting Malaysia. In essence, Malaysia has reached a crossroads. The bankruptcy of racialist politics maintained for too long by race-based parties through racially-justified policies has become too obvious to deny. 

Defying the oddsLim Kit Siang: Defying the Odds. Marshall Cavendish, 2015

Lim Kit Siang has been fighting on the forefront of Malaysian politics since the late 1960s. Uncompromising in his mission to pull the country away from systemic race-based politics and all the ills that stem from the sustainment over five decades of these, he was jailed twice without trial. His persistence saw him and his followers well placed to participate in the surprising resurgence of political opposition over the last 15 years. Since 2008, his Democratic Action Party has grown greatly in strength, and together with its allies, has been able seriously to challenge the ruling coalition. This book captures the spirit of Lim s life, and describes the grim yet gratifying journey that his refusal to compromise on his political convictions forced him to take. It is the tale of a man who felt he had no choice, and consequently, whose impact on his country s history is great. In that way, his story cannot but also be a narrative about a country that has yet to fulfil the great promise that it holds.



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WGW Chinese versionThe Eurasian Core and Its Edges: Dialogues with Wang Gungwu on the History of the World, ISEAS. 2015.

Chinese version: 王賡武談世界史 : 歐亞大陸與三大文明 . Published by Hong Chinese Chinese University. 2018.

With China’s transformation into a republic after two millennia as an empire as the starting point, Ooi Kee Beng prompts renowned historian Wang Gungwu through a series of interviews to discuss China, Europe, Southeast Asia and India. What emerges is an exciting and original World History that is neither Eurocentric nor Sinocentric. If anything, it is an appreciation of the dominant role that Central Asia played in the history of most of mankind over the last several thousand years. The irrepressible power of the Eurasian core over the centuries explains much of the development of civilizations founded at the fringes – at its edges to the west, the east and the south. Most significantly, what is recognized as The Global Age today, is seen as the latest result of these conflicts between core and edge leading at the Atlantic fringe to human mastery of the sea in military and mercantile terms. In effect, human history, which had for centuries been configured by continental dynamics, has only quite recently established a new dimension to counteract these. In summary, Wang Gungwu argues convincingly that “The Global is Maritime”.


ISEAS Perspective – SELECTIONS 2012-2013. ISEAS: 2013.

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) launched its electronic publication ISEAS Perspective in mid-2012. During its first year in existence, 58 internally reviewed issues were produced. These were distributed in steady fashion by email to addresses registered with the Institute. However, ISEAS has deemed it a worthy public service to have selected articles from that first year published in a single printed volume at cost price. This is the book that you now hold in your hand. Articles herein were chosen according to strict criteria such as analytical strength; continued salience of the subject discussed; referential potential; literary quality in general; et cetera. ISEAS intends to print such annual selections in the coming years. We are certain that you, the reader, will find them informative and stimulating.



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Done Making Do: 1Party Rule Ends in Malaysia. GENTA MEDIA & ISEAS. 2013.

The past five years have held tremendous significance for the process of nation building in Malaysia. Civil society and voters – especially in urban areas – are making new and strong demands on the government, in fact on governance per se; the opposition parties that managed to pull off successful electoral upsets in 2008, have formed a viable coalition to challenge the long-term federal government; and the federal government itself has been trying to adopt a reformist image without alienating its numerous conservative supporters. Although the government’s slogan of 1Malaysia was meant to signify national unity, it lacked credibility because many of the systemic deficiencies of sustained one party – 1Party – rule still remained. This collection of articles studies various aspects of change now pushed into the foreground for discussion.




Serving a New Nation: Baey Lian Peck’s Singapore Story, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2011.

Dr Baey Lian Peck, a highly successful businessman, was picked by Singapore’s early political leaders such as Dr Toh Chin Chye, Lim Kim San, Chua Sian Chin and Dr Goh Keng Swee to solve pressing problems such as skyrocketing inflation in the early 1970s, the crisis in prisoner ward in the late 1970s, and the drug addiction epidemic in that same latter period. This book lets him tell his story in a first person narrative and takes us into a surprising world where the qualities that make a good entrepreneur also make a good public servant…as long as he remains unbound by the public bureaucracy. (Now in second edition)



The Right to Differ: A Biographical Sketch of Lim Kit Siang (with DVD documentary). Research for Social Advancement, REFSA. 2011.

Lim Kit Siang has been on the forefront of Malaysian politics ever since the Democratic Action Party was registered in 1966. Despite being incarcerated without trial on two occasions – in 1969 and 1987 – for a total of three years, he remains a major political figure standing in opposition to the path of race-based politics taken by the country’s long-term ruling coalition. This book is based on a long interview with him.




In Lieu of Ideology: An Intellectual Biography of Goh Keng Swee. ISEAS. 2010.

Dr Goh Keng Swee’s contributions to the infrastructure of Singapore in the fields of Finance, Defence and Education are well recorded. What is less understood was the man’s legendary practical sense. This work avoids reliance on secondary accounts and concentrates strongly on Dr Goh’s own words to comprehend his potent and proactive powers of reasoning, and in the process captures the history of Singapore as well.




Between UMNO and a Hard Place. ISEAS & REFSA. 2010.

Enough time has passed, and enough key events have taken place for the contours of the administration of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to be apparent. While it has flirted openly with reforms, and has used phrases otherwise used by the opposition, its sincerity – and its capacity – is still in doubt…Whether he can squeezed his way into a comfortable spot and stay in power is the question the coming years will answer.




Pilot Studies for a New Penang. ISEAS & Socio-economic and Environmental Research Institute, SERI. 2010.

At present, comprehensive and authoritative studies on Penang are a rarity. This book is thus an effort to correct that lack. Being a small state situatedly relatively far away from Putrajaya, Penang has to be economically innovative if it is to regain its place at the forefront of Malaysian development. Most of these chapters were first presented at the Penang Outlook Forum 2009, held on 1-2 June that year at the E & O Hotel in Penang. Edited by Ooi Kee Beng and Goh Ban Lee.



Sunzis krigskonst. Santérus Förlag, Stockholm. 2010.

This is a collection of the eight most famous Chinese manuals on the Art of War, translated into the Swedish language by Ooi Kee Beng in collaboration with Bengt Pettersson and Henrik Friman. They include Sun Zis krigskonst (Sun Zi’s Art of War), Taigongs sex strategier (Taigong’s Six Strategies), Simas metoder (Sima’s Methods), Wu Zis krigskonst (Wu Zi’s Art of War), Wei Liao Zis krigskonst (Wei Liao Zi’s Art of War), Gulstensgubbens tre strategier (The Three Strategies of the Yellow Stone Sage), Samtalen med Kejsar Taizong av Tang (Conversations with Emperor Taizong of Tang) and Sun Bins krigskonst (Sun Bin’s Art of War).


Arrested Reform: The Undoing of Abdullah Badawi. ISEAS & REFSA. 2009.

This is Ooi Kee Beng’s third collection of commentaries on Abdullah Badawi’s five years in power (following Era of Transition, 2006 and Lost in Transition, 2008). These do not only collectively illustrate the downfall of Abdullah Badawi, but demonstrate how voters punished the Malaysia’s government for supposing that the fortune of the country did not extend beyond the fate and fortune of the dominant party, UMNO, and its allies.



Malaya’s First Year at the United Nations, as Reflected in Dr Ismail’s Reports Home to Tunku Abdul Rahman. ISEAS. 2009.

Not only was Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman Malaysia’s first ambassador to the US and permanent representative to the UN, he was also foreign affairs minister in 1959-60. This important collection of the notes he wrote to the Tunku in 1958 and of his speeches made in 1957-58 at the UN are published here for the very first time. Elaborate annotations are also provided by the compilers, Tawfik Ismail and Ooi Kee Beng. The book is a “must read” for the diplomatic corps and Malaysian foreign policy analysts.





March 8 Eclipsing May 13. ISEAS. 2008

For a whole generation of Malaysians, no proper closure to the traumas of the racial riots of May 13, 1969 had been possible. But then came March 8, 2008…The surprising results of the general elections that special day have started eclipsing the fears linked for so long to that spectral night 40 years ago. The three researchers from ISEAS monitored Malaysia’s 12th General Elections during the 13 days of campaigning, and herein provide insights into the phenomenon Malaysians now simply refer to as “March 8”. Ooi Kee Beng scrutinizes in detail the electoral campaign in the state of Penang, Johan Saravanamuttu studies Kelantan and the elections in general, while Lee Hock Guan examines changes in the voting pattern in the Klang Valley.





Lost in Transition. Malaysia under Abdullah. ISEAS. 2008.

This is Ooi Kee Beng’s second collection of opinion pieces and analyses dealing with Malaysian politics and history, and East Asian regionalism. It appeared two months before the 2008 general elections in Malaysia, just when disappointment with Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was reaching its height.

“Ooi has drawn a clear picture rich with facts as one would expect from an analysis that has both the impassioned plea of the insider and the academic detachment of the outsider.” — Dr. Azmi Sharom, Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya

Continent, Coast, Ocean. Dynamics of Regionalism in Eastern Asia. ISEAS. 2007.

THIS collection of articles – edited by Ooi Kee Beng and Ding Choo Ming –  takes a long look at the dynamics of regionalism in Eastern Asia and shows how although the past limits the future, its hold on our possibilities for peaceful co-existence is not as strong as we think. Japan’s diplomatic history as well as the heritage of its conquest of Eastern Asia is examined alongside China’s cultural geography, paradigmatic dynamics, and intra-regional economics.

The book was named The Best Academic Work for 2008 by the ASEAN Book Publishers’ Association.




The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time. ISEAS. 2006.

This is the biography of Malaysia’s powerful Home Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, who passed away on 2 August 1973. It won the Award of Excellence for Best Writing published in book form, about any aspect of Asia (non-fiction) at the Asian Publishing Awards of 2008.

Malay version: Bukan Kerana Pangkat. Tun Dr Ismail dan Masanya. ISEAS & SIRD. [Translated by Bashir Basamalah. 2007]




Chinese Strategists: Beyond Sun Zi’s Art of War. Marshall Cavendish. 2006.

Two Chinese war manuals – Wu Zi’s Art of War and Conversations with Tang Taizong – which should be as thoroughly studied as the more popular Sun Zi’s Art of War, are translated here by Ooi Kee Beng into English. Wu Zi (475-221 BC) was a general of the Warring States period who never lost a battle in his lifetime; while Emperor Taizong of Tang is widely hailed as the man who consolidated the glorious Tang Dynasty (618-906).





Era of Transition: Malaysia after Mahathir. ISEAS. 2006.

These opinion pieces were published following Abdullah Badawi became Malaysia’s Prime Minister in October 2003. The difficult aspects of leadership are analysed, and the book looks at the country’s underlying problems, the dilemmas involved in succeeding Mahathir Mohamad, and draws conclusions about nation building in general. The leading party and its many weaknesses and strengths, the role of Malaysian Islam and the growing importance of regionalism and globalisation are also discussed.






HRD for Developing States and Companies. ISEAS 2005. Edited by Abdul Ghani P.G. H.J. Metusin & Ooi Kee Beng.

The articles on Human Resource Development (HRD) in this volume span and link the concerns of states and business. The first section contains advice on HRD for government leaders and policymakers. The second considers HRD in the corporate sector, with analysis and advice on strategic HRD, developing employee competence, and relevant corporate case studies.






Chinese Studies of the Malay World. A Comparative Approach. Edited by Ding Choo Ming and Ooi Kee Beng. Eastern Universities Press. 2003

This book is a product coming out of conferences held at the Institute of the Malay World and Civilization (ATMA) when it was run by Shamsul A.B. It provides fresh thinking about ethnic relations in island Southeast Asia and the different ways in which the Malay World has been constructed by the observant eye.



One thought on “My Books

  1. Dear Mr Ooi Kee Beng,

    I’m a Malaysian who is staying in Ipoh Perak. I wanted to buy a book called The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time in English version. But I cannot find it in any bookstore including MPH and Popular. Can sir recommend me a bookstore that sell this book?

    Posted by Mr. TAN PENG SIANG | May 18, 2013, 8:57 am

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