Reading holds the key to success

Adeline Liong

I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book — they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life. – Emilia Fox, English actress

My dear friends, how many books do you read a month and what sort of books do you read?

I am inspired to write about the importance of reading books this week after attending a talk by well-known political analyst and former Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) lecturer Associate Professor Dr Jeniri Amir.

He revealed that besides reading lots of journals, he also reads seven books a month.

He suggested that journalists read “Mao’s Great Famine”, a book by professor and historian Frank Dikötter about the Great Famine of 1958-1962 in the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong.

Dr Jeniri said the book, which won the Baillie Gifford Prize, was well-researched. As every veteran journalist knows, research can help them tackle topics that they may know little about initially.

There is one habit that successful people have in common. They read a lot of books.

Take for instance, Warren Edward Buffett, an American business magnate, investor, speaker and philanthropist who serves as the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He reads 500 pages of books every day.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates, an American business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, humanitarian and the principal founder of Microsoft Corporation, reads about 50 books a year; this breaks down to one book per week.

Oprah Winfrey, an American media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer and philanthropist, on the other hand, selects one of her favourite books every month for her Book Club members to read and talk about.

So, if you want to be successful like them, read a lot of books, not magazines or comics.

Many celebrities are bookworms, too, and they include American actor, voice actor, comedian, filmmaker and writer Bill Murray.

His favourite author is Mark Twain, writer of several novels, including two major classics of American literature “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.

Michelle Obama, wife of former American President Barrack Obama, is another celebrity bookworm. She confessed one of the first books that she loved and read cover to cover in one day was “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison.

J.K. Rowling, a British novelist, philanthropist, film producer, television producer and screenwriter, best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series, is yet another celebrity bookworm.

Her favourite book is “The Woman Who Walked Into Doors” by Roddy Doyle.

There are many reasons why reading is a good habit to pick up. I’d just list three good reasons here.

Firstly, reading is good for your brain. It is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

Secondly, reading reduces stress. Reading about something you enjoy or losing yourself in a good novel is a marvellous way to relax. Reading, they say, is a mini vacation for your brain!

Thirdly, reading makes you a better writer. You will subconsciously absorb the good writing techniques and vocabularies when you read.

After learning that Dr Jeniri reads seven books a month, I am inspired to pick up the reading habit again. It has been a long time since I read a whole book from cover to cover.

As a sub-editor, I read lots of news stories daily. But news stories are not the same as books or novels. You cannot improve your vocabulary by reading news stories or comic books. You need to read novels.

Malaysians, on average, read about 15 books a year, according to an interim study done by the National Library in 2014. Compare this to people in some developed countries who read an average of 40 books a year. We definitely have to do a lot of catching up to do.

While holidaying at Damai Beach Hotel in Santubong recently, I was impressed and surprised to see a pile of books left by European hotel guests outside a cafe.

Browsing through the pile, I was greatly disappointed that the books were not in English but a foreign language. I am not sure whether they were in German or other languages. But it certainly proves the Europeans’ love for reading. They will read books wherever they are – lounging on the beach, sitting in a train or enjoying their food in a cafe.

Instead of bringing back their books, many generous European tourists have obviously decided to leave them behind for other hotel guests.

My friends, if you have not been reading books lately, how about starting today? Remember Warren Edward Buffett, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey? Let’s read books and even if we can’t be as successful as they are at least we’ll have a lot of fun and joy!

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