A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies … The man who never reads lives only one.

– George R. R. Martin, American novelist

How many books do you read a year? According to a recent study, Malaysians on average read 12 books a year compared to only nine books a year previously.

As a subeditor, I edit a lot of reports daily and read reports in the newspapers. But alas, I read very few books a year.

Frankly speaking, I am a lapsed reader. Until recently, I have not read a book for ages. Yes, I bought a few books on sale at a local book store but have not finished reading them simply because I don’t have time to do so.

However, I was inspired by former Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) lecturer and political analyst, Dr Jeniri Amir recently to read again.

Jeniri loves books and he loves reading. He even has his own personal library with a veritable cornucopia of 11,000 books which he has amassed for almost four decades.

Reading is a part of this former lecturer’s life and he reads an average of eight books a month, excluding the magazines and news portals he browses through daily.

“People say that you are what you eat. To me, you are what you read,” said Jeniri in a special interview with New Sarawak Tribune recently.

Thus, inspired by the great scholar to read books again and to help me write a book review, off I went to the bookstores.

I ended up visiting not one but two bookstores.

Actually, I have many books that I have not read at home. I had bought some of them while some were given by friends as presents. But I could not review any of them because they are all old books — printed long before 2019.

Not just any book but a book published either this year or last year. And no love stories, please.

These requirements were spelt out very clearly to me and other assigned book reviewers by the boss. Since the movement control order (MCO) which was implemented on March 18 this year, I had not been near a bookstore.

For me, a bookstore is a place I visit in my leisure time. It is not the place to hang around during the MCO or enhanced movement control order (EMCO), certainly not with the constant reminders from family members like “Stay Home. Duduk dirumah. Stay safe.” At one bookstore, many books were on offer, going as low as RM10 each but alas, all are old books, printed before 2019.

Those published last year and this year were expensive. They cost a bomb. Even though they looked interesting, I did not buy them. You see, I have a bad habit — I seldom read a book twice.

I seldom buy new books, too. Instead, I prefer to borrow books from one of the local libraries. Do you know that if you are a member of the DBKU Public Library, you can borrow a few books at one go. But you must return them within a certain period of time or risk being fined.

When I was in school, I thrived on Mills & Boon love stories; rich classmates lent them to me. These mild love stories with no X-rated stuff offered me an escape from the harsh reality of life as I was growing up. They also helped me improve my command of the English language.

Now, much older and wiser, I steer clear of love stories. Life, I have learnt, is not always a bed of roses and lovers don’t always end up together.

My favourites now are autobiographies or biographies. I also like adventure stories and books on motivation. A good adventure story brings us to a new world and places we may not have visited before. We get to know about the characters and things that matter to them.

Since life is full of ups and downs, there are days when we need to regain our faith in ourselves. That’s when motivational or inspirational books are a great help.

I read Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ as well as Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and Norman Vincent Peale’s ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ ages ago.

I was very surprised and pleased to discover recently that these books were listed as among the 10 Motivational Books of All Time on a website.

Anyway, I found a good book to review at my second bookstore. It took me about a week in between my job and household chores to finish reading Jeffrey Archer’s global No. 1 bestseller ‘Nothing Ventured.’

The book heralds the start of a brand new series and introduces Detective William Warwick. It is, however, not a detective story but a story about the makings of a detective in London, England.

After I finished reading the book and writing a review of it, I gave myself a big pat on the back. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and I had begun reading again after a long break!