Leaning In, Leaning Out

I would have never read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book if it were not for YB Chong Eng. Honestly. Even though I am a big fan of books, I always have too much to read, too little time and too much planning.

Sheryl Sandberg Lean In Book

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Book

As it is, I am always reading at least 3 books at any given time. A lot of people say they don’t have time to read. I say, you DON’T make time to read. Not having time is just a stupid excuse. And I hear this from educated people.

Can you stop watching so much of TV? (Anyway these days Astro keeps playing re-runs so I’d rather turn off the TV than watch another episode of some travel programme that’s spliced from previous programmes. Yes Astro, this is a hint. And stop bloody segmenting your channels. Soon, there’d be nothing left to watch. And that RM2 hike in subscription is magnificent. Simply magnificent. Since I have terminated my subscription to The Star and Flavours, perhaps one day Astro’s going to go too.)

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Of Russian Spies & Kenching

I’ve just finished reading a few books and by books I mean, fiction. In any given week, I’ll be plowing through a bunch of books (online and offline) but these days I read a lot of business and marketing and social psychology books.

To me, fiction is a respite from the business stuff, though I must say these days, some business books can be hilariously good.

I’ve been reading 2 books – one was loaned to me by Lerks and the other I dug up from god knows where.

The first book – my introduction to Anthony Burgess – is called The Malayan Trilogy. I have never read Burgess. I had no idea what sort of writer he was.

The only thing I knew was he wrote that magnificently famous Clockwork Orange which was turned into a movie (which I have not watched) and he used to live in Malaya.

Some googling brought me to this a local blog which said that Burgess’ book was supposedly banned in Malaysia.

Ah!

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Chicken Poo Leaf & A Sassy Penang Nyonya

The thing about Penang is, I don’t know how I know the people I know but I can tell you it can be quite discomforting to know that people know me!

Convoluted? Not really.

Not when these people tell me that “Oh, I’ve been reading your blog for ages and now I know you’re the blogger!”

I don’t know if that’s good or not.

Because you know and I know that I write for myself mainly. I write because it keeps my writing chops lean and mean. It keeps me sane in the insane world of marketing and business and new projects and my women’s entrepreneur group and all that.

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Saturday Book Club


It’s one of those things that just happened.

But it takes friendship and some love for books to make it come to life.

So Lerks and I have started our Saturday Book Club. It wasn’t planned to be  – it was just some crazy bantering over breakfast of homemade bread at her kitchen nook one day.

We had had breakfast and some masala chai and we’d adjourned to her spacious, comfy porch. It was a bright Saturday morning. Ai Lee had come a tad late but she was forgiven – she brought some utterly delicious appam from the Pulau Tikus market.

You know those moments when out of banter comes some serious talk.

The talk came around to books.

We started sharing about our fave authors.

Of course Lerks and Ai Lee didn’t have the hots for the marketing and business books I read. I couldn’t blame them. If you’re not in business, reading business books can be rather dry and trying (not to mention totally unapplicable to real life….at least I have the chance to try out some ideas in our business).

They started telling me that life (and women’s skin) start changing once you hit 40. I was like, OK. (And now you wonder why I stuff my face with goji berries and black sesame seeds and raw almonds?)

Goji berries are legendary for keeping you healthy all over while black sesame seeds are nutritious and get this, help your hair remain lustrous and silky and most importantly, black as a raven. Raw almonds is another snack I have on hand at all times. They’re chockfull of Vitamin E for again, great skin and great hair.

I love talking to my girl friends. They keep me real and feed me all sorts of fascinating information. From aging gracefully, we sauntered to books we love. That’s when Ai Lee and I spoke with such passion about Maya Angelou’s books that Lerks had to google for a podcast interview on Maya Angelou.

That’s how our Saturday Book Club was born.

We agreed to meet for breakfast and of course share about the books we love and bring along some books for an exchange.

But you know life gets in the way especially when Lerks has 3 kids with a part-time job, and Ai Lee’s a full-time teacher and me being me. So dates got pushed about, postponed, and all (amidst holidays and work and life).

We did meet – last Saturday – and despite Ai Lee going AWOL, Lerks and I and her sister, Ling, had a good two hours to talk about books we hated, books we loved.

I brought 3 books for Lerks – Jung Chang’s powerful Mao: The Unknown Story, Julia Childs’ My Life In France and Lisa See’s On Gold Mountain.

Above photo shows what she loaned me.

All authors that I’ve never read before but these are books that came highly recommended so I shall give them a spin. Though these days, time is always in short supply. So much to read, do, plan!

We did agree that Virginia Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic was one of the worst (and most traumatic) books we both read as teenagers.

Maybe one day our Saturday Book Club will be as famous as Oprah’s Book Club!

Honestly Murakami

Did I tell you I am usually horrible at luck games but often lucky when it comes to contests and such?

This means if I go to a casino, I’d never win money. The slot machines will eat up my money so much so that I’ve given up.  I don’t take that kind of risk with my money. That is why I don’t like family holidays which centre around Genting Highlands. A total waste of time and money.

And then there’s the chill.

I don’t tolerate cold very well (not that heat gets any better). At least with heat, I can shower or I can switch on my room aircond. With the cold, I can’t even feel my feet and hands and wrapping up like a Michelin man makes me look like a whale. Or a blimp.

So over the years (actually many years) I’ve won a number of prizes. My biggest win was a 5D4N trip for two to Bangkok and Pattaya in 2001. This was a funny win – it was like God was playing a trick on me. You see it was a Campbell Soup contest and I’d been bitching about how awful their ads were. I’d entered their slogan-writing contest for the fun of it and when I won third prize, I was like – “Really?”

Usually the contests I’d win were those which needed creative slogans. I love those. Those contests give me an edge because I love playing with words and making sentences rhyme. He he.

This year, I won myself two prizes – one was a set of miniature Monin syrups (it was a contest from Flavours magazine of which I am a loyal subscriber – been one for the past 7 years) and the other was a 900-page book by Haruki Murakami.

Of course the book has a special place in my heart.

I’d entered the contest because I had bought 2 Murakami novels from Borders here in Queensbay Mall early this year. I have never read Murakami before this although a lot of people have been gushing about this Japanese writer. He was something else. The something else bordered on mysticism and awe and an incredible sense of otherworldliness. And this was just about the writer!

When I read the books I’d bought, I went “eh?” They were dark and sombre, and had underpinnings of unfulfilled teenage angst and puberty blues. The kind of story where you reminisce about past loves and sexual encounters and wonder if you made the right soul mate choice.

Yes. It was strangely very much like Japanese films.

But the magic of Murakami is that he is able to hook you so freaking bad that you cannot put his book down. Even if the theme is dark and melancholic. It’s not like a page-turner like The Da Vinci Code because you want to solve the mystery. It’s a page-turner because it grips you and never lets you go. The characters become friends. You just want to know what happens.

And a lot happens within a Murakami book.

So it was with such glee that I collected my prize, Murakami’s latest bestseller, IQ84 from Borders when they called me up a few months ago. It was heavier than most books with a cover that was not exactly cheerful and happy. (When is Murakami cheerful and happy? I bet the man never smiles.)

And I immediately put it away.

I did that because I knew if I got started on page 1, I’d never do anything else. His stories are fantastical journeys, where things are not what they seem. Where women turn out to be assassins and where modern culture infuses Japanese norms.  He educates you about classical music, jazz, classic literature, wine, cats and wars. All wrapped up in love. That’s his classic theme.

Oh and there’s sex too. Lots of Freudian connotations. Nothing like a romance novel sex.

It’s like he put a hex on the book.

The moment you start reading, you cannot stop reading.

So things get undone, work gets left behind, laundry piles up, even hunger gets ignored if only to savour the next 20 pages of his book.

But two weeks ago, I decided to read my prize.

And I’m done with it. I spent a week blazing through the 900 plus pages. I had to.

How could I live with Murakami lying in wait in my store room just calling out to me?

Honestly, I am starting to love his work. If you ask me what genre it is, I don’t know. Murakami is hard to pigeonhole. His plots play with your mind, challenging you to accept fantastical imaginings and makes you re-look your world, if only to wonder if you are who you are.

They’re dangerous books because they will make you fall in love with the world again.

Because he writes about  classical music, jazz, classic literature, wine, cats and wars. And love. And melancholy.

That’s not too bad because at this moment, we’ve perhaps become a bit too jaded for our own good.

My Kerala Trip: Discovering Sankar

Another India post – a much delayed one!

On our final day in Sopanam, we had a plan. It was a plan borne out of the desire to see Kochi city, at least before we flew back to KL. Towns and such are located a distance from each other so we left Sopanam with our luggage all packed on top of our Innova. We would go to the airport directly after entering Kochi.

Sopanam to Kochi was about 1 hour's drive

Sopanam to Kochi was about 1 hour's drive

We didn’t have a plan for Kochi – Uma deftly instructed our driver to drop us off at M.G Road. In the end, we didn’t get to M.G. Road for traffic reasons.

It was a Saturday but traffic entering Kochi was as bad as on a week day. Even the trip from Sopanam to Kochi took us more than an hour.

We were angsty from all that sitting in the car and with the way our driver drove, we were dicing with death at every sharp turn! In the end, we vent our frustrations by conversing with each other in Bahasa Malaysia.

See? Our national language is very useful overseas because you can bitch in that language and no one will know.

Finally he dropped us off at a busy part of town where a few shopping complexes were. Everyone had a stare fest at us because we were different. Some thought we were Japanese and tried to tempt us with “konnichi wa?” There we were, Yvonne who was Dutch, Uma was Malaysian Indian and me, Nic, Faye and Gwen were Malaysian Chinese.

Mobile phones are very big in Kochi too!

Mobile phones are very big in Kochi too!

We were hungry too and the first shopping mall we entered had a Marrybrown outlet! I have only eaten once in Marrybrown when it was in Penang and despite it being a Malaysian franchise, I had no desire to eat Marrybrown in Kochi. Uma then went off to buy her Enthiraan CD while we hung around, waiting for her.

A quick prata lunch in Kochi

A quick prata lunch in Kochi

Once she was done, we decided we really had to have lunch. Off we went in search of food. We landed at a typical Indian restaurant selling dosa (thosai to you and me) and roti prata (roti canai). We wanted to shop and look around more so having prata was the fastest way to gulp down our food. Though it was the last day, we still didn’t take any chances and decided to have hot drinks like milk tea instead of the plain water served to us in typical stainless steel cups.

Again it was funny to be stared at. In the restaurant, everyone looked up at us as we entered. It was a 2-storey restaurant with upstairs seating. However, the rule was, if you wanted to eat banana leaf rice, you sat upstairs. If you wanted to eat other stuff, you sat downstairs. After taking the stairs up and learning of this quirky rule, we all came downstairs again. Indian restaurants seem to run low on electricity – they’re badly lit and very dim.

Spent some rupees in this Himalaya Herbal shop inside the airport

Spent some rupees in this Himalaya Herbal shop inside the airport

Finally with our meal done in super fast timing, we trooped out. Already it was past noon and we had 30 more minutes before we had to get back to the Innova. Our driver seemed intent on hurrying us and worried that we’d not make it to the airport on time. (We had plenty of time except that the AirAsia staff in Kochi took a heck of a long time in checking the 5 of us and our luggage in.)

In the end, we didn’t buy anything at all due to the time constraints though Gwen tried some ice cream and vadai.

We still each had lots of Indian rupees and thought perhaps we could have some McDonalds at the airport. After all, how much of prata and dhal curry can one eat right? I was excited at reaching Kochi Airport and the thought of biting into a luscious beef burger made me cheer up.

This unassuming building is the Kochi airport!

This unassuming building is the Kochi airport!

The Kochi Airport is fairly large but we had to show our passports in order to enter! Unless one was legitimately travelling (taking a plane that day), one could not simply waltz into the airport.

Waiting for the driver to unload all our luggage

Waiting for the driver to unload all our luggage

I didn’t know if the security was high as it was nearing the New Delhi Commonwealth Games (which would be held in a couple of days and no one wanted to jeopardize the security of the host nation). Once inside, I spotted a shop where I knew I could spend my rupees. (It was the Himalaya Herbals shop where they sold their products comparatively cheap.)

A familiar brand greets us!

A familiar brand greets us!

But first, where was McDonalds?

There was none. Not a fastfood outlet in sight! The airport had food kiosks which sold masala tea and snacks like vadai at reasonable prices (and were mighty tasty too unlike the crappy sandwiches we get at the Penang airport food kiosks).

An Indian touch at the Kochi Airport - at least it is not crowded like LCCT Sepang

An Indian touch at the Kochi Airport - at least it is not crowded like LCCT Sepang

As we reached the airport earlier than the others, we had plenty of time to spare. I spotted Sankar’s, an unassuming bookstore near the departure lounge. It was small but its size did belie the selections! The books were incredibly varied, from business to Ayurveda (this is Kerala we’re talking about) and even some eclectic books which I think I will never find in Borders. As the books are printed in India, the prices were comparatively cheaper. Novels were going for RM20 to RM28. Thick autobiographies selling for RM35. It was a gleeful time as I went from shelf to shelf picking out books. Then I realized I had already checked in the luggage and how many books could I carry into the plane?

What a conundrum isn’t it? To come face to face with the loveliest little bookstore in Kochi Airport and have to DECIDE which books NOT to buy because we had some constraints in carrying these books! (Sankar’s is found in most major airports in India so if you are going to India, stop by their bookstores. They’re very worth your while.)

I heard that there were more well-stocked bookstores in the city but Sankar’s would do for me. The Indian salesman was polite and smiled happily as we complimented his good selection. It seemed I wanted every book. Kerala, a friend told me, has the highest literacy rate in the whole of India.

I had to tear myself away from the bookstore as I had finally spent all my available rupees!

My Life in France

I just finished reading Julia Child’s highly delicious memoir called “My Life in France”. It is a delightful, enticing read and one you must not miss if you are interested in cooking and all things French.

I picked this book on my first trip to Book Excess in PJ not too long ago. It was either this or Agatha Christie’s memoirs.

Meryl Streep as Julia Child in the movie "Julie & Julia"

Image courtesy of Amazon

I decided to buy and read Julia Child first as I had watched the movie “Julie and Julia” last year, thanks to Vern. In the movie though, it was only Julie’s perspective on Julia so I believed that delving into Julia’s life would be a better way to know the American who had practically revolutionized French cuisine in America, teaching American women how to cook French food without being intimidated or scorned by the snooty, artisanal French.

You must watch the movie if only to marvel at what Julie threw herself into.

Based on a true story, Julie gave herself a challenge of cooking 1 recipe a day from Julia Child’s French cookery book, Mastering The Art of French Cooking and blogging about it – her success, her failure and her life/work as she struggles to do what she believes is the impossible.

Along the way, she learns about who she really is (aren’t all journeys like that? We think we are going on a journey but it is the growth that we are craving). While the movie was superb, I felt there wasn’t much closure in the end as Julia Child did not wish to meet Julie at all. I felt disgruntled by the grand old dame of French cookery. Surely she cannot be so snobbish?!

Anyway, that is possibly the second reason I bought this book. If only to satisfy my curiosity about what sort of woman Julia Child was!

You would think that a woman of such calibre must be quite a force in the kitchen in her early days.

Surprisingly no.

When Julia landed in Paris in 1948 with her utterly charming husband, Paul, she did not speak French and knew nothing about the cuisine. What struck her was her first meal off the ship, at a Michelin-starred restaurant called Restaurant La Couronne where she was introduced to her first French meal of the day, a Sole Meuniere, “a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top”. She called it the most exciting meal of her life.

As this book was written together with her grand-nephew, Alex Prud’homme, it sings with Child’s exuberance and love for all things La Belle France.

I was ultimately transported to France from her lively description about food, food preparation, living in Paris and then other places in Europe, learning at L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu, moving from apartment to apartment, collaborating with Simca for 10 years on a 750-page French cookery book, and becoming a TV personality on French cooking when she arrives back in the US in the 1960s… all these are perfectly captured. It helped that Paul, her husband, was an avid photographer and this memoir is filled with beautiful black and white images of Paris and Julia Child of the 1950s.

At times serious (when she realizes she isn’t ever going to be a mother or when she realizes her father never really liked her marrying a non-Republican) and at times playful and irreverently funny, the memoir sings with her personality. (The movie captured rather well too – Julia Child is played by Meryl Streep who really does an incredible job of portraying her to her most eccentric!).

Perhaps what made Julia the queen of French cooking in America is her ability to be honest with herself and adapt to changes as they arrive and take things with a twinkle in her eye and a practical no-nonsense approach to life. Her collaborative effort with Simca, her French counterpart, ran to 750-pages which was of course rejected by her American publisher. Although it was a 10-year effort (in those days, there was no email so she and Simca wrote each other via post to write their book, testing the recipes again and again, figuring out if the ingredients can be found in the US and etc. – I cannot image the detail of the tome), Julia decided she would be practical and trim it down without missing a beat.

When she passed on in 2004, Julia had published 3 books in her lifetime – Volumes 1 and 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and From Julia Child’s Kitchen. She did not succumb to the idea of opening her own restaurant although she could’ve because her first love was cooking and sharing this with her audience on TV.

I believe her success was partly due to her husband. Paul supported and indulged his wife’s passion, and his wine hobby spurred her on to pair cuisine with wine. Paul was her confidante and photographer, critic and artistic collaborator. Without him, Julia would have crumbled. With every move, he’d help her set up her kitchen properly so she could quietly test and re-test the recipes she’d learnt.

Reading a memoir is like slipping into someone’s life and home, if only for the briefest moments to experience a world so utterly fascinating and downright pleasing that it leaves me a little breathless. It is a real fantasy (oh what an oxymoron!) that enthralls. I have never been to Paris or even tried my hand at French cooking. But through Julia, I get to see what Paris was like in the years after the war, how inquisitive they are, how madly possessive they are about their cuisine and what lengths they go to for their food.

I leave you with a beautiful quote from the memoir:

“In Paris in the 1950s, I had the supreme good fortune to study with a remarkably able group of chefs. From them I learned why good French food is an art, and why it makes such sublime eating: nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. Good results require that one take time and care. If one doesn’t use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture…But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience. Such was the case with the sole meuniere I ate at La Couronne on my first day in France, in November 1948. It was an epiphany.” (p. 332)

As Julia says at the end of her cooking shows, Bon appetit!

A Little Bookshop Story

I don’t have much space on my bookshelf anymore. In fact books are spilling off the shelves, perched precariously as they are. Yet as any diehard bookworm will tell you, there is nothing like coming home with a bagful of delicious finds from the bookshop with a big silly grin as if we’d discovered the most precious gems in the world.

To me, there really is nothing like a book.

As a child, I’d spent countless hours with my head stuck in a book. I was quite embarrassed to be called bookish and nerdy but that was essentially what I was.

Back then, it was all for the joy and pleasure of reading and letting stories carry me up and away to lands I could only imagine.

Until today, that book habit has stayed. Of course my repertoire includes lots of marketing and business books, besides the fiction and memoirs which I read.

Each country I travel to, I make it a point to poke my head into a bookshop.

In Cochin airport, before departing India, I found Sankar’s which despite its relatively small size, sold fantastic contemporary titles aside the usual Ayurvedic books on health and healing. You guessed it. Although I had checked in my luggage, I decided to hand carry the pile of books – the selections were that enticing, not to mention cheap!

The books were of good quality, printed on quality paper and not the see-through type of paper we usually associate with Indian reprints. Added to this, after conversion from rupee to ringgit, it was really inexpensive and worth buying.

When I was in Hong Kong in March this year, again one of my quests was to find at least one of the three bookshops I had jotted down. With real estate being what it is in HK, bookshops should be quite interesting. I mentioned to Nic that we really should look for Flow, a secondhand bookshop in Central, before we left. We wandered down some narrow streets in Central and almost gave up as the warren of tightly packed shops and confusing signboards completely overwhelmed us.

Evening market scene in Central, Hong Kong

Evening market scene in Central, Hong Kong

It was one of those evenings where dusk really fell fast – we felt chilly and had to duck into Lan Fong Yuen cafe for a rest and a cup of its famous milk tea (only to discover that they proudly proclaimed the milk was imported from Malaysia!). Once we felt rested and re-energized by the tea, we stood outside the tiny cafe and casually glanced around us. What did we find but Flow the bookshop, just a few steps away from Lan Fong Yuen!

Lan Fong Yuen, the famous nai-cha place in Central, HK

Lan Fong Yuen, the famous nai-cha place in Central, HK

Flow was on the first floor, above a contemporary Thai restaurant on Lyndhurst Terrace. We looked around for a way to go up, only to find the stairs were located behind the restaurant!

We finally found Flow organic bookshop!

We finally found Flow organic bookshop!

Up two short flights of stairs and we entered into a book haven. It wasn’t much bigger than my hall at home but oh the eclectic titles made me swoon. Books of all shapes and sizes, of all subjects, even audio CDs were available. From design to spirituality, from fiction to Chinese history, you name it – Flow had it and at reasonable prices too. (I found out about Flow from this article – it was one of HK’s best indie book nooks.)

Flow bookshop, above Cafe Siam

Flow bookshop, above Cafe Siam

If it were not for the fact that we had to rush off to attend an Irish dance performance (that month being the Hong Kong Arts Festival and we specifically bought tickets for this performance), Nic and I would have been stuck in Flow till closing time. When we got back to SP’s apartment that night, we gushed so much about this secondhand bookshop that she visited it a few times after we left HK. I said I would visit Flow again the next time I visit HK.

About a week ago, SP emailed, saying that Flow would be closing up as rent prices in HK was rising dramatically. I was saddened! Flow was one of the best finds during our trip to HK, much better than any of the cafes or museums we’d been to. On its Facebook page, it said it had been 13+ years at its present location and they were having a sale prior to moving. I hope Flow is moving but not closing up!

Of course, in Penang I have my regular secondhand bookshop in 2020 in Midlands One-Stop. I go by every now and then to check out its stash of Terry Pratchett books.

Everyone in KL and PJ – at least all my bookworm friends – had told me that I should go to Book Excess in Amcorp Mall. I have been to Payless Books but friends literally persuaded me that I should go to Amcorp Mall to see for myself.

And so I did. The place was huge and its books were new and affordable and I wanted to take every book home. It was like finding a pot of gold! Every book simply cried out to be taken home.

I had to make some choices – I knew I wanted them but I knew my shelf space was running out. I so wanted to read Agatha Christie’s autobiography and Paul Coelho’s memoir. But you know what, I did buy Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France as well as a book on beading. The rest were pure business books. We bought so many books we qualified automatically for their member discount card.

It’s a blessing and curse sometimes to give in to my book-buying spirit!

More Books From My Fave List

Here are more books from my fave list. In case you missed out my first book list, you can check it out here.

11. Waiting for Your Cat to Bark by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg
This is for website junkies only. When I read this book, I totally understood what they said because that’s what we practise here in Redbox Studio. It’s all about communication, psychology and logical design. It does not matter how many hits you get if your hits don’t convert.

12. The Greatness Guide by Robin Sharma
Yes, I met Robin Sharma recently and yes, I bought this book for Nic (had it signed by Robin himself too). But I started reading it and found it enthralling, with short reminders about living a great life. With 101 stories, I found that I could pick it up, riffle through a few pages of stories and continue another day.

13. 1434 by Gavin Menzies
I did not manage to read his first book, 1421 but that didn’t stop me from buying this second book. Gavin writes non-fiction so this is a book about how the Chinese ignited the Renaissance in Italy. So now we know it wasn’t really the brilliant Italians that started it all – they copied off the Chinese! The Chinese, led by Admiral Cheng Ho, brought with them the tools and technology to share with the Italians. All of a sudden, dear old Leonardo da Vinci seems redundant! If you’ve never liked history, after reading this, you’ll want to be a historian. (Update: I read that “Doing Da Vinci” the documentary that gets a few engineers together to build some of the machinery which Da Vinci wrote about but never built will be shown on ASTRO. Hah. For all we know, Da Vinci copied those OFF the Chinese. Look at the similarities the Italians have with the Chinese. Noodles/spaghetti?)

14. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
I don’t have to retell the story of why I love this eye-opening book. It throws all you know about money and finances out of the window. See my little story of this book.

Other equally notable books by Robert are: The Cashflow Quadrant, Retire Young Retire Rich. All teach you how to take control of your financial future. It’s one of the best and most influential reads of this century!

15. Brand You 50 by Tom Peters
Tom Peters’ book is about branding but written in short, quick quips and tips. Formerly from McKinsey, Peters’ books can be a shock to your visual senses. He loves using typography and colours to underline his points and boy does he have plenty of them. I can only take so much of Peters’ books before my eyes get tired. His ideas are radical and cool though. I suggest dipping into them maybe 3 pages a day!

16. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T Harv Eker
I read this book before I saw the man live on stage. I much prefer the book to the real man, sorry to say. I’ve even bought his books for friends because what he says is true – if you don’t change your blueprint for money success, it does not matter how much money you have, you won’t be able to keep it or do much with it. Starting with the right money attitude and blueprint is essential if you want to live well and rich. Most of us live with the money blueprint of our parents. We inherit the blueprints and if we are not careful, they could ruin our chance at success. This book is a life-changer. A must-have on your bookshelf.

More excellent books:
Seeds of Greatness by Denis Waitley
The Little Red Book of Sales Answers by Jeffrey Gitomer
Success Built to Last by Porras, Emery & Thomson

Coming up: My best-loved fiction list!

How To Prepare For Ivy League

We’ve worked together with Chen Chow before, and have organised 2 highly successful talks (under the auspices of Mensa Malaysa, Penang branch) when he came to Penang in the past 2 years to talk about getting a scholarship to study in the USA.

He is formerly from Cornell University (2005), and a former JPA scholarship recipient so he definitely knows what he is talking about. Oh and he is also the head interviewer for Cornell scholarship applications in Malaysia.

What I most like about Chen Chow is his helpful and humble nature. You don’t see much of this any more.

Yet despite his busy life (and yes, he does hold a full-time job in KL), he is still willing to travel to Penang with his own money so he could speak to parents and youths about what it takes to get a scholarship to study abroad.

He can hold a room captivated with his 3-hour long talk and still, parents and youths cannot get enough of him. Chen Chow is so engaging and so full of ideas and tips that people still want to linger on after the talk to pick his brains!

But what makes it all worthwhile is that Chen Chow sms-ed me a few months ago and told me that 2 of the youths who attended his Penang talk managed to secure JPA scholarships for study abroad! It was a fantastic feeling!

I felt really happy for these 2 students – one will be studying engineering and the other, law. And it all happened because Chen Chow shared what he knew about aceing scholarship interviews, what to write in a scholarship essay, how to stand out in a roomful of potential scholarship candidates, what candidates ought to write in their application forms and lots more.

I mean, I’m way past applying for scholarships (hey, I’m 35 and I left school a LONG time ago) but even I got excited. I bet the parents and youths were more delirious after hearing the inspiring stories of Malaysian students who have made it to Yale, Harvard and other Ivy League unis. This is really Malaysia Boleh spirit!

He does not come to Penang often although he is a Bukit Mertajam local. So if you want to study overseas, get into the top US universities without burdening your parents, the best way is to find out where Chen Chow is speaking next and listen well.

His upcoming activity is a 3-day workshop for students only at Taylors University College, from 1 to 3 August. The maximum number he is taking is 250 students so don’t miss out if you want to learn how you can get a US scholarship.

With a stellar list of facilitators (current scholars and previous alumni of Ivy League universities), it’s worth every bit of your RM25 for the 3 days! (YES, can you believe it? Only RM25! That’s not a typo.) You’d get to mingle with these scholarship recipients, get firsthand knowledge and learn what it’s like to study abroad.

But hurry as Chen Chow told me seats are really filling up fast!

(The college application resources are worth a look too!)