Books to Read in Sabah


Borneo has some of the world’s most wildlife-rich equatorial rainforests, incredible landscapes, and rich indigenous culture. Sabah’s population is heterogeneous and culturally diverse, with more than 30 different ethnic races and over 80 local dialects spoken. The origins of the ethnic groups are charmingly told through folk tales that originates in legend and history and is a legacy from Sabah’s oldest people.

To know more about Sabah culture is not just to visit them. At times, exploring cultural books will be able to let you have an insight of the past that we have. Nowadays, in this modernized world, most of the uniqueness of traditions and cultures from the olden days are disappearing, leaving only memories. You will be amazed to explore what was written and can’t be erased.

With the Wild Men of Borneo

by Elizabeth Mershon

This historical book brings you back in time when British was a colonial power. The story was told from the perspective of a Christian missionary in Borneo. ‘With the Wild Men of Borneo’ shows the memoirs of a missionary wife in Borneo in the 1920s. As the title suggests, her patronising attitude towards the indigenous people amongst whom she lived were not much different than most of her compatriots of the time. After taking that into account, the book still gives interesting insights into life in Borneo before World War 


126 pages.
First published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, USA, 1922.

Reprinted 2012 by Opus Publication Sdn Bhd, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

Text by Bente Delmas; Paintings by Sarah Lim


Restless Spirits

Inspired by the people, an exceptionally colourful lot, the authors’ blurred ideas slowly became fixed in frames. “Restless Spirits” was born one early morning in a coffee shop in Kota Kinabalu. It started off as a blurred idea of portraying the aspect of life in Sabah that surprised, touched, and amused the author and artist.

Sabah is the place where everybody has a story to tell. That is why both author and artist have used some of the stories that they have heard, to be featured in this book and highlighted a few indigenous communities.

65 pages.

First published 2000 by Toihaan Publishing Company Sdn Bhd, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.


Tales and Traditions from Sabah
by Ignatia Olim Marsh

This book is a collection with of over thirty tales and traditions, mainly from the Kadazan and Murut communities. The information was collected by school children from their parents and elders. Ethnics, traditions and culture are intimately connected to one another. None of them could exist without one another. Each one of the differences clearly reflects the identity of each racial-group where handicrafts, dance, music, and dresses are defined with their own meaning and beliefs according to its ethnic.

The author’s work towards understanding one another’s traditions and cultures, for there is a lot that can be learned from one’s traditions and cultures.

96 pages

First published in 1989 by The Sabah Society, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.


The Tamparuli Tamu: A Sabah Market

by Tina Rimmer

Tina Rimmer was one of the original lecturers at Kent Teacher’s Training College in Tuaran in 1951 and later taught at Siew Ching Chinese School and Saint Dominic’s secondary school, both in Lahad Datu. This book is principally a collection of her sketches of people and activities at the weekly market near her home, Tamparuli.

62 pages.

First published in 1999 by The Sabah Society, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.