Friday, November 20, 2009


Reading is a passion.

I will read about anything and any subject matters, be it economics, politics, social, religious, whatever. Over the years I manage to build up quite a collection, overcrowding the shelves in a couple of book racks where I kept them.

Of the personal things that I own, books are very precious to me. I rarely let other people borrow them since I am a little bit fussy about it. I dont have any problem to lend other things but when it come to books, I will definitely think twice about letting other people getting their hands on it.

Theres this one time, back in Malaysia, a visitor to my house was shocked to see my book collection. She remarked "Nak muntah tengok buku banyak", to which I venomously countered; "Ah! ingat nak muntah sebab kena bunting". She ceased to speak to me since. (BTW, what is it about these people coming to our house and passed unwanted negative comments and remarks about our stuff? Please, have some dignity to respect other people's things la. I am really uncomfortable with that kind of character. I mean, I wont do that if I am at other people's dwelling. Its not my house, and not my stuff, and I am pretty sure I don't have the right to comment about other people's preference.).

I think I was deeply influenced by my late uncle's and grandfather's love for reading. From my uncle's collection I read Sejarah Melayu, Tulang-tulang Berserakan, Keluarga Gerilya, Hikayat Inderapura, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, Raja Haji, a lot of Malay literature books. I was introduced to Readers Digest and Mastika (the old version) with my grandfathers' collection. Both were teachers, so I guess, maybe thats sort of why they like to read. Both too, were idealist and were quite active socially in their community. Come to think of it, I think its a true fact that those in teaching profession reads a lot.

My favourite author then, was (and still is) Enid Blyton. Famous Five, Secret Seven, The Adventure Series and her other books were constantly borrowed from Ipoh's Perpustakaan Tun Abdul Razak and the school's library. Other books were Alfred Hicthcock's - Tiga Penyiasat (The Three Investigators Series), Hardy Boys, Nancy Drews, Willard Prices Adventure Series to name a few. Tin Tin is still cool to read until now. All these books were translated to Malay from English and were very popular back then.

Theres also this Encyclopedia Britannica that my parents bought. I think they could not resist that very persistent salesperson sales pitch and ended up buying the whole volume. I read through that lot too, although I must confessed I could not even remember a single word of whatever they printed in there now.

Money was a little bit tight at that time, and I do not have enough financial resources to buy books and always have to depend on the local library to supply me with the reading materials that I need. Sometimes I dont even have enough for tambang bas to go to the library in town. I would then hang out with my friends at this one kedai runcit mamak in Gunung Rapat and read the various Marvel comics and magazines there. The Malay ones usually on display were Bujal, Gila-gila, and I think there is also Bambino. The mamak kedai was always pissed off at us, because by reading them, the otherwise sellable items were ruined. Soon after, they sealed the magazines in a see through plastic cover, (a practice presently adopted by bookstores and street newspaper vendors) to discourage our not-buying-just-reading habit.

A teacher told me, if I want to improve my command of English, the best way to do it is to read printed English language materials. Heeding his advice, I latched on Readers Digest, The Star and New Straits Times and an Oxford Dictionary to help me with words that I dont understand. I am too lazy to pay attention to the grammars then and it shows in my blog postings. Still confuse about it to this day, I might add.

When I attended college and moved to Shah Alam, a second hand bookstore in Central Market, Kuala Lumpur became a favourite place to get books. In a sort of sewa buku type of arrangement, you pay a small amount of money and the book is yours to keep. Return it back to the bookstore and they will give your money back minus RM 2-3 for the rent. I dont know if the bookstore is still there though.

By this time, my interest graduated to those heavy topic stuff, non fiction, history and autobiography mostly, and learned that girls were crazy with Mills and Boons. Of course, taking advantage of the presented opportunity, I tried to pick up girls in bookstores, sadly to no avail. It seems like those Mills and Boons fans were totally into tall, dark and handsome guys, portrayed religiously by Mills and Boons authors as the perfect specimen of men. Tall and dark I am, but never handsome, so my chances of getting to know those Mills and Boons girls were swept down the drain even before I opened my mouth.

Those Malay novels published by Creative Enterprise (the Gila-gila company) were a hit with the Malay public back then. I love Warisan by A Talib Hassan, Sindora, and Tangisan Bulan Madu by Shamsiah Mohd Noor, and books by Ahadiat Akashah to name a few. In the twice a month published Gila-Gila, there were this short, funny and thought provoking articles, written by Akula M.D about everyday happenings and life, Matt Romeo on the adventures of a playboy and Minah Leter, err.... well, she leter about everything under the sun, plus the kitchen sink.

(READERS BEWARE! If you are a religious zealot or if you are afraid your pure soul and brain will be contaminated by my next following sentences, PLEASE STOP READING NOW! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)

I should mention here, apart from discussions with friends, reading did expose my innocent young mind to the taboo world of sexuality. Malay porn books like Mona Gersang, Permata Yang Hilang and Kehausan were high in demand and were discreetly available and sold. Although, I would argue that Permata Yang Hilang was not actually porn. It was actually a collection of referrences, suggestions and practical advice on sex. With drawings and illustrations. Since these kind of books were very hard to get, a friend of mine actually made a lot of money by making photocopies and selling it. (Talk about acute business sense. He is a successful businessman now, by the way). We do not have Internet back then, mind you, so we feed our inquisitive mind the secret of sexuality by reading about it.

Reading like I said, for me is a passion. On average I read about 2 -3 books a week. I just finished reading I Am Ozzy, by Ozzy Osbourne which is really, really funny, and are well into the next one, Madoff - The Man Who Stole 65 Billions which I think would be a very interesting book.

Beside being a cheap and accessible tool to gain knowledge and information, reading opened up the whole wide world to me. It brought the sense of adventure, with thrills and excitements to the mind of a lower middle class kid like me back then, who could hardly afford to go anywhere.


  1. Just a short question, in your opinion has internet replaces books?

    Btw one of my classmate was caught reading 'My passionate desire' during our English class in Form V. The book was inserted in the English text book he was holding. He was caught by the teacher because he was concentrating without a blink and he didn't respond when his name was called by the teacher. Hah..hah.. He was sent straight to Principal together with the book.

  2. 'Permata yang hilang' brings back fond memories.. before and after marriage.. hehe.. The book is a must for those married in the 90's, and it came 'highly recommended'... It could be the top bestseller book at that time..

  3. E43St: I dont think so, in my opinion. Internet is excellent for doing short research and to find references, but to go deeper than that, you need books. Besides book has some sort of aura attached to it. Hehehe

    Hahah, sah kena belasa dengan Principle budak tu. Passionate reading.

  4. Time Traveller: Oh I think it was a top bestseller at that time. hahahah

  5. pls.. qist nak copy mona gersang n permata yang hlang tu!

  6. NQR : Boleh, kalau ada nanti saya bagi copy.