THE READING LIFE ... Xandria OOI
CELEBRITIES AND READING
There’s more to their pretty faces, arresting vocals and admirable achievements. Here’s proof that even celebrities turn to good old books to keep learning about the world around them. ERIC FORBES takes a respite from reading and talks to six famous Malaysians in the entertainment industry about their favourite books and how they find the time to read despite their tight schedules. THIS INSTALMENT: XANDRIA OOI
XANDRIA OOI is an emcee, newspaper columnist, author, television host and producer. The confident 26-year-old Malaysian beauty from Petaling Jaya is also the founder of her own production company, XO Productions, which she established in 2008.
Ooi is off to a flying start in 2010. “The year 2009 was amazing in terms of career achievements: my first TV production with my company, XO Productions, the launch of my book, Love, Work and Everything in Between, as well as a design collaboration with one of Malaysia’s premier fashion designers, Sonny San.”
What are her plans for 2010? “This year, it’s all about surpassing the work satisfaction of the year before as well as starting a new phase of life as a married woman! So, yes, 2010 is going to be pretty good. I’ll be producing another TV show and—hopefully—working out a couple of major endorsement deals. My fiancé and I bought a house together and are at the moment working on moving in before our wedding, which is sometime in October or November. So, as you can imagine, there are lots to be done—house design, renovation, decoration as well as coordinating and planning the wedding!”
Ooi hopes to complete production by August so that she will have two months at her disposal to plan for her wedding. “As always, I will still be emceeing events and continue to write my fortnightly column in The Star.”
Interview by ERIC FORBES
Photographs courtesy of XANDRIA OOI
Where do you find the time to read with your busy schedule?
I sneak in time to read anywhere and anytime—whilst waiting for someone (I don’t mind people being not on time as long as I have a book with me!), during photo shoots (I read when I’m getting my hair done or waiting for the shoot to be set up) or you’ll catch me eating with one hand and holding a book with the other. I know this is very anti-social, but when a book’s good, I just can’t put it down. That’s exactly why I try my best not to start reading a book just before I go to bed, because then I won’t be able to put it down and wind up sleeping only at six in the morning when I get to the last page. I’m terrible that way.
Do you think reading matters?
Yes, incredibly so. Reading improves our language skills, gives us an insight into the world we live in, influences us to think out of the box, and makes us less judgmental and more open-minded. Reading teaches us about the power of the imagination. It is an exercise for the mind where the possibilities are endless.
What kinds of books did you read when you were growing up?
All kinds! You name it, I’ve read it. I loved Enid Blyton, the Archie comics, the Sweet Valley series, R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series, Christopher Pike ... I would devour books for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Who are some of your favourite contemporary writers?
I love Laurell K. Hamilton who wrote the Anita Blake vampire hunter novels. Her books are full of vampires, werewolves and all things fantastic, supernatural and magical, which I can’t get enough of. I love Jill Mansell for her quick British humour and creative yet realistic characters. And I really like the late Swedish novelist and journalist Stieg Larsson whose trilogy of crime novels is storytelling at its compelling best.
What are some of your favourite contemporary books?
Gosh, there are so many of them! Off the top of my head would be Karen Miller’s fantasy trilogy Godspeaker and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire.
What about Stieg Larsson’s first book in the trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Have you read this? The third book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, has just been released.
Yes, I just finished the third book! I love the trilogy, and wish there were more to come!
Do you have an all-time favourite book? Why do you enjoy it?
I have so many all-time favourite books! The problem with me is that I’ve read so many great novels (because my parents used to own a bookshop!) that I tend to remember the story rather than the author or the title. But my favourite genre of books for the past few years has been Fantasy. Any book that revolves around magic that’s laced with good humour and compelling characters, I’ll be hooked.
What are the elements in fiction that take your breath away? In other words, what do you think are the essentials of good fiction? What distinguishes the great novels from the merely good?
The storytelling and the emotional connection that the readers have with the character or characters are vital. When an author has the ability to make you feel the scene, be it happy, sad or angry, you are absorbed and transported into the story. When a story is well written, I feel like I’m an invisible figure in the story, silently watching all that’s unravelling before my very eyes.
What are you reading at the moment?
Lori Lansens’s Rush Road Home. It’s been a slow read so far as I haven’t found the story to be particularly compelling! Let me retract that; I’ve just finished the book and it was really good! Teaches me not to judge a book by the first chapter! (Lansens has a new novel, The Wife’s Tale.)
What are your thoughts on the future of books, particularly on e-books and e-book readers? Do you think they will replace physical books one of these days?
I honestly hope not. My fiancé reads books and comics on his iPod and his touch-screen mobile phone, and I keep telling him nothing can replace a solid, real book. On the other hand, I can appreciate how convenient it is for him, as he always carries his mobile phone with him and can easily whip it out to read whenever he has to wait for someone or pass the time.
Personally, I prefer physical books, but at the same time, I am not as against e-books as I once was. E-books can be more cost-saving, as some can even be downloaded from the Internet for free; and if it can encourage people to read more, then I’m all for it. However, I don’t think e-books will replace physical books in the future, but they are likely to become the preferred method of reading in the years to come.
Reproduced from the April-June 2010 issue of Quill magazine