The Star Malaysia - Star2

The blistering bibliophil­e

One Malaysian bookworm set himself a challenge to read more books daily. A LOT more books.


MALAYSIANS are known as big spenders when it comes to buying books – but spend fewer than three hours a week on reading.

According to a recent Statista survey, the global reading average is five hours per week, with Thailand and Indonesia reading for 9.5 hours and six hours per week respective­ly. In South Asia, Indians sit top of the pile, clocking an impressive 10 hours of reading – but one Malaysian has taken the habit to a whole other level.

At the start of the year, Victor Tan, 26, took up the Goodreads Malaysia Challenge to strengthen his reading habits and widen his knowledge across a range of topics and genres. As of September, he has read 350 books – completing an average of 1.5 books per day.

The private tutor from Petaling Jaya preferred playing video games during his secondary school years, only developing an interest in reading later, while studying Economics at the University of Chicago.

Reflecting on his impressive feat, Tan says that he maintains his habit by utilising as much of his time as possible. Whether he’s commuting or exercising on a treadmill, Tan reads whenever he gets the chance.

Among his favourite authors are Fyodor Dostoevsky, Miguel de Cervantes, Tan Twang Eng, Will Durant, and Leo Tolstoy – whose works include hefty tomes such War And Peace (1869), which runs to over 1,200 pages.

For Tan, reading is as much a joy as it is a discipline. As well as his role as a private tutor, he is regularly engaged as a university admissions consultant and occasional­ly delivers seminars on education. Doing all that, time might be limited, but that doesn’t stop Tan from devouring his beloved books.

In an interview with Starlifest­yle, the blistering bibliophil­e

shared some fascinatin­g insights into his love for reading and how he has benefited from poring over the pages of his favourite authors.

How do you manage to fit so much reading into your day and keep it consistent?

I generally don’t have much downtime, as I work for the duration of time that I’m booked by my students. With the free time I do get, I tend to take specific measures to economise on the time that I have, ensuring that I waste as little of the day as possible. I find time to read every day – about three hours on average – wherever I am, including the gym.

What compels you to read so much?

Life’s joy to me, at this point, is to unearth the treasures of the mind for myself and bring them to the world around me. That means

looking not simply through the words of living teachers, politician­s, or the articles we read online every day. It also means looking through the original words and thoughts of society’s greatest thinkers and understand­ing the issues they dealt with, while maintainin­g a constant connection to the fact that I am living in the present and blessed to learn from their insights.

Do you speed read?

I go at my own pace, which ranges from about 40-60 pages per hour for books with complex, philosophi­cal arguments – I don’t guarantee that I will absorb everything in the author’s writing – and up to 120 pages per hour for an engaging story where events flow in sequence, one after another.

Since the start of the year, have you noticed any benefits from reading so many books?

Definitely! I find myself thinking much more deeply about issues that concern my immediate happiness and how I view the world, and have also found myself capable of speaking on the spot and writing about many different examples, historical or otherwise, in order to illustrate the points that I wish to make when teaching.

Have your reading tastes evolved?

A recent developmen­t is that I have become interested in reading the “master works” of literature from every country. This has led me to begin reading the works of local authors such as Hanna Alkaf, Tan Twan Eng, Yangsze Choo, and Tash Aw (who I had the good fortune to meet in person recently).

I’ve learned how authors who partake in the same gift of nationalit­y as I do have navigated the streams of our culture to create works that simultaneo­usly incorporat­e and transcend it.

What is your favourite genre?

I enjoy reading biographie­s of notable individual­s or businesses, philosophy, sociology, investigat­ive journalism (such as Billion Dollar Whale and Bad Blood), and histories of specific historical events.

I particular­ly enjoyed Dostoevsky’s last novel, The Brothers Karamazov ,and War And Peace, by Tolstoy. Robert Greene’s The 50th Law was incredible, as it talked about facing fears in a truly compelling way.

What advice would you give to people who want to read more but either lack motivation or struggle to find the time?

My strategy for reading more was to set a challenge and convince myself to go all out, every single day, to establish the change in my life, and to visualise how reading was going to affect my life.

Knowing why you want to read more, and setting a goal for yourself will help you to build a habit of reading that sticks even on those days when your motivation wanes.

How do you choose the books you read? Are they recommende­d, or is there a specific method you use when selecting your next title?

Often, I begin reading books on a whim or fancy arising from the flow of my thoughts as they interact with the books that I read. After I’ve started reading about a new subject, I begin to choose my books through references that I find within the books that I read.

I also receive recommenda­tions from the lectures that I listen to, as well as from my students, with whom I often engage in dialogues about issues that we find interestin­g and that often involve reading books together.

What’s something about reading that most people don’t realise?

Reading is one of the best exercises you can give your mind, and if you sustain that exercise, you can strengthen it for an entire lifetime.

You’ll also be able to get yourself up to speed on issues that might require specific knowledge. This can be helpful in practical situations such as preparing for a job interview, or for the purpose of learning about an industry in a line of business that you are interested in pursuing.

 ??  ?? Tan believes reading is a great way to exercise your mind. — SANDY CLARKE
Tan believes reading is a great way to exercise your mind. — SANDY CLARKE

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