The lowdown? Three thousand books despite frequent book culls. Political analyses, books on management stategy and biographies of world leaders predominate. Very little fiction as he doesn't have time for it. Favourite bookshop in Malaysia is Kinokuniya, but he also goes to MPH and Borders. Favourite bookshop overseas Hatchards in London, while he finds Foyles too big.
Some soundbites about reading in Malaysia:
We Malaysians don’t read as much as we should (because) we think we can get by without reading. And most of our children think that just by studying and mugging, they can get through exams.
... even if there are books, people don’t read because we switched to the Malay medium and this is the problem, especially with Malay kids. Practically all the books are in English and since their ability to read in English is somewhat limited, they feel it would be an uphill task to comprehend them.
... As for books in Bahasa, although there are some very good ones, they are more on the literary side. ... The emphasis is on style and they’re more emotive; they arouse emotions. They don’t really contain ideas, facts or knowledge, as much as English books do.
... we need literature teachers, and the teachers who are products of the Malay medium cannot teach English lit. So, before we can introduce lit we need to train the teachers and we need to wait for the next generation of teachers who have gone through the system and are proficient in English.
... Reading is a habit that has to be ingrained. Unless you can create an environment and a system that encourage reading and reward people who read, I don’t think much can be achieved by a campaign. Campaigns by nature are short-lived.