It’s the most charming name, really. Borrowing from the geological term for the south-eastern extension of mainland Southeast Asia’s continental shelf, Sunda Shelves is in fact a bijou independent bookshop perched atop one of Petaling Jaya’s most iconic watering holes, the On Line Pub.
Located in the residential neighbourhood of Damansara Kim — the shortest of strolls from the TTDI MRT station — and along a stretch of shops that is famous for its culinary offerings (sang har meen specialist Sweet Inn is here, as is lawyer-turned-restaurateur Chris Chew’s cult chain of establishments that range from Uovo Asador to Les Sense, Farm To Plate and Mera, and popular kopitiam Ho Li Chow), Sunda Shelves opened its doors on June 24 and is slowly but steadily letting the community know it is open for business.
Founded by conservationist Surin Suksuwan and biodiversity consultant Dylan Jefri Ong, Sunda Shelves bills itself as a friendly, family-run neighbourhood bookshop that specialises in nature books and publications on the region’s natural history. Bibliophiles and browsers alike will find a commendable selection of both new and pre-loved titles as well as a small selection of artisanal merchandise and local snacks and drinks, making it the perfect place to spend a few blissful hours.
Books are categorised under Plants, Animals, Biodiversity and Evolution, Environmental Issues, Travel and Malaysiana. Rare books are kept in an armoire by the counter and a wide selection of bric-a-brac is also sold here, making it the perfect place to pick up thoughtful presents — from mugs, bags and greeting cards adorned with nature-themed artwork by Penang-based Choo Beng Teong to local card games such as Rimba and Reef Stakes as well as turtle motif batik merchandise produced by the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia. There is also a dedicated children’s zone with treasures that include the late artist Yusof Gajah’s At the Foot of the Hill, Lim Boo Liat’s Orang Asli Animal Tales and popular mainstream reads such as Thea Stilton and the Rainforest Reserve.
A community notice board has also been set up, highlighting upcoming nature activities and events, while Sunda Shelves’ premises itself is the go-to venue for talks and book signings, the most recent being Julida Uju’s delightful collection of animal tales, Mah Meri Animal Folklore. And seeing that Sunda Shelves is a distinctly Malaysian enterprise, it should come as no surprise that food and drink somehow form part of the overall equation as well.
Enter Sumalee Suksuwan, Surin’s sister and acclaimed currypuff exponent, who runs the little on-premise café. There are three types of karipap pusing to sample: Ori (original), Siamese rendang and sardine. Those looking for a light lunch (there is nasi lemak and bihun bungkus as well as guilinggao and soya longan jellies) or even a pleasant spot for a quick afternoon meeting over cups of coffee or the more popular pandan tea would not be left wanting.
Sunda Shelves is on the first floor of 32, Jalan SS20/10, Damansara Kim, PJ. 03 7732 6773. Closed on Mondays, 11am-7pm.
This article first appeared on July 17, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.