Textbooks Wishlist

I was reading Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and was thinking I might have chosen to become a scientist/geologist/astromist/you-name-it if I were to read this book back then when I was 15. Just why can’t our “official” textbooks written that way? A little more thoughts on this and I realized there are actually more books that I really wish they were my textbooks! And here I go (in alphabetical order):


A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – Karen Armstrong

A book I would give to my son and force him to read it up before he could choose where his faith lies. A book I wish I could have read earlier when I was performing the daily-must-do-or-get-out-of-my-house family rituals at home.


A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

Maybe it’s because I am a history buff, but somehow knowing the process of how certain scientific “facts” became facts make science much more interesting to me. I would have given science a serious consideration as my career if I have read this book back then when I was still wondering why I need to know the law of motion…


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything – Steven Lewitt

This book should be compressed into a single chapter and slot into all economics textbooks as the introductory chapter. Please tell me how something could affect my life before showing me the supply and demand chart, thank you.


Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond

I truly believe that the world will suffers less conflicts if everyone in the world reads and understands this book. We are who we are not entirely because we are born superior or inferior to others, but of whole lots of other factors.


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven R. Covey

This book answers all questions you want to know on how to become successful in whatever that you want to do. I was excited, but I never have the consistency to practise. Stop telling me you don’t have enough time!


The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

A book that could never become a textbook in school, not in my lifetime I think. A book I would let my son read if he tells me he believes in god, nonetheless.


Let me know if you have others for me to add to the list!

Malaysians and Books

Do Malaysians read? I remembered vaguely I read somewhere sometime ago that an average Malaysian read less than a book a year. I’m not sure if that study considered magazines and fictions in the list of “books” that Malaysians read (should blogs be counted?), but if the truth is the contrary, something is very very wrong.

What prompts me to wonder is what happened during a recent lecture that I attended. The lecturer, in his usual egoistic self, was differentiating the mentality of Asian and Australian students, based on a study conducted by University of Southern Queensland, Australia. The report highlighted the saddening, but true fact that Asian students study only the given materials for the very purpose of passing exams, while lacking the hunger and desire for knowledge. The lecturer then asked a female working lady sitting in front of me a question that silenced the class – “Tell me honestly, how many books have you read in the past five years?” (apart from academic reference books). The class was silenced, either everyone was eagerly anticipating her answer, or worried that he will be the next in line. Nevertheless the lady gave an answer that surprised the lecturer, “I’m not quite sure, but humm… five?”

That would be an encouraging answer if the results from the study that I get to know of is true. At least she has read one whole book a year! But to the disappointment of the lecturer, when he prompted further, the five “books” that the lady read are actually Reader’s Digest – the monthly magazine. The lecturer grinned, much to his satisfaction, said “Magazines are not books, my dear. I’m glad you are Malaysian, I nearly thought you were an illegal immigrant!” The class burst into laughter over his cold but not so funny joke, and the topic was over.

In fact, one can easily notice the reading trend of Malaysians by observing the distribution of the customers population in a bookstore. I frequented Popular, MPH, Times and recently Borders, and I noticed the most populated area would always be the magazine sections. One would observe males and females standing around holding a copy of the latest automobile/computer/women/men/entertainment magazine, reading it from page one till the last, and would leave the bookstore without purchasing it. Walk around the bookstore and one would notice the teenagers sitting around reading would be holding a copy of the latest manga.

I wonder why Malaysians don’t read books, I repeat, BOOKS. The mentality study conducted by the USQ of Australia explained it very well – it is down to the old and rich Asian Culture that we inherited. We believe in obedience, we believe in following our own ancient teachings and philosophies, without questioning. That is what Australians found out about us, and I think they are spot on. Our culture is that we believe in whatever the teacher says, or whatever a book says, without probing further to investigate whether the teacher or the book is indeed correct. This “probing” or the desire of knowing more is actually the main push behind reading – the mechanism of knowledge gaining. I cited this example because it is still fresh in my mind. By no means I’m doing a thorough studies on this topic here, or else I would have to go deep into the education systems in Malaysia, the parents’ mentality, and perhaps the general Malaysians’ attitude – ignorant.

To me, I read because I have a lot of unanswered questions. It’s that simple. And I’m glad I’m still hungry.