Misguided Book Selection a Growing Problem among Malaysian Youth

6 Oct

The decision of what to read is a strange and mysterious process. Sometimes it’s a friend’s recommendation or a review. Other times, it’s more random. I have often plucked a book from a shelf in an idle moment just to flick through a page or two, only to find myself sucked in and still reading it hours later. On other occasions, I have failed to be engrossed and simply replaced the book and gone about my business. I found myself pondering this question when considering my failure as an author of workplace comedies set in the marketing department of a US corporation to appeal to the key demographic of fourteen-year-old Malaysian boys.

What, I wonder, led the unfortunate Haziq* to pick up The Management Secrets of T. John Dick. It sits on his virtual bookshelf at Goodreads beside Little Women, The Arabian Nights and Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye by Geronimo Stilton. So far, these are the only four books listed on his shelf, which is quite understandable since he has only been a member for one day. To date, my book is the only one Haziq has rated, and clearly he was not impressed, dishing out my first ever one star rating. Nobody likes to get a one star rating of course, but I suspect that my distress is as nothing compared to Haziq’s at trying to plow through The Management Secrets of T. John Dick. He has my sympathy. Had I been there to guide his reading selection, I would have gently advised against the undertaking. On seeing him take the book from the shelf, I would have placed my hand on the lad’s shoulder, looked him squarely in the eye and said, “This is not the kind of thing for you, Haziq. It is unlikely to appeal to you. If you read it, at some point in the future you will join a social network for readers and give it one star. Put it back on the shelf. Look, here’s a copy of The Arabian Nights. Now, that’s the stuff for you, my boy.”

Haziq is an illustration of a growing problem. Worldwide, a staggering 11 billion** hours are lost annually to injudicious reading material selection (IRMS), and nowhere is the problem greater than in Malaysia. In that country alone, the figure is over 2 billion. By comparison, in neighboring Thailand, that number is only 15 million.

Clearly Haziq feels very strongly about just how bad my book is. Within minutes of joining Goodreads he had shared his feelings with the world and, by his public-spirited action in forewarning other adolescents in oriental countries of the dangers of unwise book selection, he may have averted untold suffering. Indeed, it is tempting to think that he joined Goodreads for the express purpose of doing so. If that’s the case, I am consoled by the fact that at least my novel provoked a strong reaction. Surely that is preferable to indifference.

Whom I am I fooling? As an author, you are always disappointed when someone doesn’t like your book, even if he’s not the kind of chap you would expect to enjoy it. My failure to please Haziq stings. In claiming otherwise, I’m deluding myself as much as my wife, who thinks perhaps Haziq, being new to Goodreads, might not have got the hang of the rating system and thinks one star means this book is great and five stars mean it sucks.

Sorry Haziq. I really think you will like The Arabian Nights, though.

* – Haziq is not his real name. It was, however, number seven in the top boy’s names in Malaysia in 2012. You have the right to expect this kind of rigorous research from a literary giant.

** – There is an 82% probability that all statistics in this article are made up. The margin of error is 18%.

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