Whilst getting ready for your trip, here are some books you can dip into:
Cameron, John. 1865. Our tropical possessions in Malayan India: Being a descriptive account of Singapore, Penang, Province Wellesley, and Malacca; their peoples, products, commerce, and government. London: Smith, Elder and Co.
Carsten, Janet. 1997. The heat of the hearth: The process of kinship in a Malay fishing community. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
DeBernardi, Jean. 2004. Rites of belonging: Memory, modernity, and identity in a Malaysian Chinese community. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
DeBernardi, Jean. 2006. The way that lives in the heart: Chinese popular religion and spirit mediums in Penang, Malaysia. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Goh Beng Lan. 2002. Modern dreams: A inquiry into power, cultural production, and the cityscape in contemporary urban Penang, Malaysia. Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University.
Jenkins, Gwynn. 2008. Contested space: Cultural heritage and identity constructions: Conservation strategies within a developing Asian city. Zurich: Lit Verlag GmbH & Co. KG Wien and Berlin: Lit Verlag Dr. w. Hopf.
Khoo Su Nin. 1993. Streets of George Town Penang. Penang: Areca Books.
Nagata, Judith. 1980. Malaysian mosaic: Perspectives from a polyethnic society. University of British Columbia Press.
Ong, Aihwa. 1987. Spirits of resistance: Factory women in Malaysia. New York: SUNY Press.
Yeoh Seng Guan, Loh Wei Leng, Salma Nasution Khoo, and Neil Khor, eds. 2008. Penang and its neighbours. Singapore: Singapore University Press.
From this list, Khoo Su Nin's Streets of George Town is probably the most useful for a short-term visitor. It's jam-packed full of information about the streets and placenames. A little bit outdated now, but still a fun read. Jenkins' urban anthropology of heritage debates in George Town provides valuable insight into the 2008 UNESCO listing and anticipates problems that are still unresolved.
For the filmically inclined, Anna and the King (1999) and the recent British Channel 4 TV series Indian Summers were shot partially in Penang.
If you prefer, you can come to Penang by train or bus after landing at KLIA. First you need to get out of the airport—the KLIA Express (train) will take you to KL Sentral, the central terminus where all the city, commuter, and intercity lines converge.