Tuesday, June 29, 2010


There’s more to their good looks 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 famous Malaysians about their favourite books and how they find the time to read despite their tight schedules.

KUALA LUMPUR-BORN ALEX YOONG is most well known for racing in Formula One in 2001 and 2002. He has had a fascinating career as a race car driver and has raced on every continent except the Antartica. The personable racer is based in Malaysia working for Lotus Racing as Head of Driver Development (Asia). “Driver coaching and development is still at a rather immature stage compared to other sports and is constantly evolving,” he says. Besides this, he also does commentary work for ESPN Star Sports, which he says is “a lot trickier than driving.” ESPN Star Sports is based in Singapore which suits him fine because “Southeast Asia is a fun place to be right now” and it’s a personal passion of his to help grow motorsports in this region.

Interview by ERIC FORBES
Photograph courtesy of ALEX YOONG

How do you find the time to read with your busy schedule—career, family, etc.?
Yes, it is indeed challenging to find the time to read what with the demands of everyday life. However, I tend to get a bit of reading done before I go to sleep every night, and that helps a lot.

When you were little, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
I have always wanted to be a race car driver.

What kinds of books did you read when you were growing up?
When I was growing up as a teenager, books were very much a form of escapism for me, and sometimes I could not stop reading for days on end. I love reading because of the sense of wonder it evokes and the inventiveness of the authors. Reading science fiction and fantasy books keeps me open-minded in life and reminds me that nothing is as it first appears. It’s both a mind-blowing and mind-expanding experience. Some of my favourite books were Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, which comprises A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu and The Other Wind.

Who are some of your favourite contemporary writers? Why do you enjoy reading their books?
I enjoy reading good science fiction and fantasy books, and some of my favourite writers are George R.R. Martin, Greg Bear, Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), and even some good old-fashioned horror writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book) and Clive Barker.

Do you reread books you enjoy the first time round?
I always reread books I have enjoyed the first time round. I have a horrible memory and have on several occasions, believe it or not, read books almost till the end before realising that I have read them before!

Would you like to suggest a couple of good reads that haven’t got as much attention as they should?
There are a couple of books I would like to recommend: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series (The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower) which in my view are some of his best work.

Tell me what you are reading at the moment.
The late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire—the second instalment in the Millennium trilogy that started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is the concluding part of the trilogy.)

What are your thoughts on the future of books, particularly on e-books and e-book readers?
I will always buy and collect books, but I also plan on getting an e-book reader one day because I love to carry four or five books with me when I travel and that just takes up too much baggage space. An e-book reader would surely solve the problem.

Reproduced from The Malaysian Insider of June 5, 2010


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