When I returned to Malaysia, I was determined to have a life beyond "work, come home, sleep, wake up, work". I wanted to extend my social sphere. I wanna get to know more people. You know, that word: "network". But for fun purposes, not work, of course.Read More
A few weeks ago, my Facebook book club, Kuala Lumpur Book Appreciation Club, had a little project of sorts. Members were encouraged to post photos for a few days on a theme of their choosing. Mine was "the ways books made me happy".Read More
I am a reader of many genres. The only genre I dislike is Young Adult, and that is more of an umbrella genre so I don't think it quite counts. (Why do I dislike the genre? Read this.)
It's interesting that when I people find out that I read romance, they will inevitably say: "Don't they all have the same plots? Aren't they unrealistic? Aren't the books shallow and silly?" I rarely get that with other genres.
The reason why this gets romance readers defensive is because it's almost implied that if you read such "shallow, unrealistic and formulaic" books, that means you're shallow, silly and unimaginative too. Of course nothing can be further from the truth as the readers of romance novels are one of the most diverse around.
The criticisms commonly levied against romance novels can be hurled at books of other genres too. Crime and thriller novels are unrealistic (the killer is caught every time? Sure.), fantasy novels can be silly (dragons exist? Hah!) and many genres are written to a formula of sorts. For example, a crime novel usually starts with a crime and ends with the bad guy being nabbed. This is "genre expectations", after all. Yet these books are not as mocked or vilified as romance novels.
It's not the whys I am concerned about (personally I think it is misogyny). What I am concerned about is all that is said about this genre will keep curious readers away so that they won't look "shallow and silly" when seen reading it.
I was like that too - turning my nose up at the genre despite many years of entertainment from it in my teen years. Then I grew up and it saved my bacon. Let's just say romance novels lifted my spirits at a sad time in my life. (Tl;dr)
What changed my mind? Brushing aside preconceived notions and being grateful that this genre instills hope, positivity and happiness in me. This genre does it very, very well! On top of that, I find it fun to hang out with it's readers as they are mostly positive and fun.
Approach romance novels with an open mind. Know that there's a lot of variety within the genre itself and not all will please you. But when you find it - it will be utterly awesome.
I have only five pairs of shoes. My clothes fit a slim wardrobe and a dresser. My bedroom interiors are sparse and zen-like, making it an oasis of calm in my two-bedroom apartment.
But if some folks have a peek at my personal library, well, they may accuse me of not being a committed minimalist.
Because I have about 100+ physical books. Perhaps 200. And 80% of these are unread.
The reason why I have such a high number of unread books is because a) I almost always give away or sell books that I have read b) Malaysia has awesome book sales, and for the life of me, I can't resist them. Most of the books in the picture above (except the James SA Corey novels) were bought for a song; they were all remainder books in pristine condition that I bought for about RM5 (about US$1.20) each. How do you resist such deals? I'm only human after all. And I often buy a goodly number of these books during sales, which is why my TBR is hardly below 30 at any time.
Recently, my shelf literally broke under the strain of my books and I had to move all of them out into the hall.
I took that opportunity to cull my books Konmari style. I ended up selling about more than a dozen, gave away that much, and gave 16 to the Subang Jaya book exchange. And it felt awesome, like a weight coming off me.
When the new book cabinet came in and I moved the slimmed down book collection in, a curious thing happened. I stepped back, admired my collection and thought: Well, aren't they lovely?
Despite the culling, I still have 100+ books. And, you know what? I didn't mind that at all. I felt that I now have the right number of books in my personal library and look forward to reading and savouring them slowly over time.
This goes to show that minimalism doesn't have to look a certain way. You don't need to have 33 clothes in your closet or only 100 things in your apartment.
Minimalism can look any way you want.
You should have the number of (insert a type of stuff) that you're comfortable with, as long as every item is needed and cherished.
And, for now, I love each one of my 100+ books on my shelf ... until I read them and pass them on to bless others. :)
There is a good reason why many Malaysians prefer to buy books and form their own personal library than visit a public library: Our public libraries just aren't very good.
This is not true for all libraries, of course. In fact, I grew up in Johor Baru and my childhood memories was filled with weekend jaunts to the magical place of books with my dad and sister.
But Selangor. Oh, Selangor.
When I moved to KL from JB, I was shocked by how deplorable the libraries were. Selangor may be richest state, but what in the world happened to its libraries? They were hard to get to, and their books were old and it didn't seem as if the library added new books to its collection very often.
So, over the years I relied on book exchanges, second-hand bookstores and yes, bookstores. I spent a lot of money on books.
But it's 2012 and I hope things have changed.
I heard about the Raja Tun Uda library, saw pictures of its lavish buildings, read posts raving about its 6D theatre and gyms, but I was still concerned. There was noticeable silence about its books!
So I made my way to the library, which was located in the middle of a golf course.
Yes, in a middle of a golf course.
I have no idea if there are public buses going in there but it would seem that the only way to get to the library was by car.
Worse, I realised there weren't many parking spaces available. Ah, the marvels of bureaucracy: You build a four-storey library without at least, an underground parking space.
So I had to park by the side of the road, which I was told later, wasn't very legit. Wonderful.
Rules, rules, rules
I went inside and was immediately reminded of how to dress in the library. Yes, in Malaysia, you can get booted out of libraries if you dare to wear sleeveless tops into the building. So I came conservatively dressed.
But more rules awaited me. I wasn't allowed to bring my bag into the library. So, I placed my bag in the lockers next to the entrance of the floor (they're found on each floor). Guess what? Many were broken. And the damn machines only accepted old 20 sen coins. And I didn't have any.
Irritably, I marched to my car, stashed my backpack into the boot, took out a file and placed my car keys, wallet and Kindle into it.
Grumbling, I walked back in with my file and headed back into the library and explored each floor.
Was I impressed by the building? Sure. But it's just garnishing to me. I wanted the real meat: The books.
I was unimpressed by what I saw.
For such a big library, there were only two rows of English fiction. The non-fiction selection wasn't terribly extensive either.
There was a smattering of modern titles by authors like Danielle Steel and James Patterson. Most of the books were old and yellowed.
Now, I don't care if books are old and yellowed, honestly. What I care about is - are there new books in the library?
I can tell you that the Subang Jaya Book Exchange, which has a ramshackle tiny cabin with space the size of a large master bed room, has a far, far superior selection of titles.
Back in Adelaide, I lived near the Goodwood library which was my favourite book haunt. It was tiny in comparison to Raja Tun Uda but it managed to squeeze an amazing selection of books in just 10 shelves. It was also connected to the network of libraries in South Australia, so I could browse book titles in the library and "order" a book from another library. It would be delivered to the Goodwood library for me to pick up a few days or weeks later. Amazing stuff.
There were always new books being promoted at the front of the library. And by new, I'm not talking about "printed sometime in the 20th century" but those published in the current month.
As a reader, I'm looking for a library where I can discover books. I'm not as keen on shiny facilities, because maybe I'd rather read than study or watch movies. And even if I'm a student, how am I going to reach a library deep in the bowels of a golf course?
It's sad that in Malaysia we choose to impress people with our tall, large, latest-technology buildings but fail to deliver where it counts. A library doesn't just need to have a good selection of books but to promote new titles and authors, and be a central place for the community to gather and learn. But how do you become that when you're located away public transport?
I left the Raja Tun Uda library barely half an hour after arriving there, eager to get home before cars clogged the road.
1. Well-equipped with computers that you can use.
2. High-tech 6D theatre. Apparently. I didn't really check it out.
3. Located near a gorgeous golf course.
4. Awesome place to study. If you can get there.
1. Accessibility is poor. Hard to get to if you do not have a car.
2. For now, parking is pretty difficult. A temporary parking site is found 200m from the library. Apparently, according to a friend there are buggies to transport you there, but it's not reliable. She was forced to wait for a long time under the hot sun once.
3. The book selection is poor. See above.
4. Ridiculous rules that inconvenience the reader.
Final word: A great place to study, but the voracious reader will leave disappointed at the poor selection of books.
Do you agree or disagree with the review? Chime down below or comment on Facebook because I know Disqus can be such a pain.