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Saturday December 8, 2012

A love for profound reads

Francis Yeoh’s books
are well-worn, dogeared
and scribbled
upon. Francis Yeoh’s books are well-worn, dogeared and scribbled upon.

Francis Yeoh's broad perspectives are the takeaways from his insatiable intellectual appetite

WITH Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, there's no running out of talk.

Ask him anything, and the man flows rivers of information, ideas, perspectives and theories by brilliant authors whose works have shaped his mind.

Along with the family empire YTL Corp Bhd, this business mogul also owns every conversation he is in.

With such a weighty portfolio on his back, those who aren't well-acquainted with Yeoh might not have guessed the aggressive reader that he is, nor how he makes time for the hobby.

His penchant for reading is telling of his wiring and ideologies.

The man is an intellectual, with the uncanny ability to make random scientific points appealing.

“Did you know that people used plants to tell time' before it was invented the way we know it?”

“Have you ever wondered why waves are humbled on the beach?”

He actually knows the answers.

Yeoh's study at home, where this conversation takes place, is lined with tall wooden shelves that house his precious books.

Neat stacks of books sit on his desk and the coffee table, the majority of them not contemporary.

Most are great literary works of the 1700s to 1900s; Charles Spurgeon, CS Lewis, Charles Wesley, John Stott, you name it, Yeoh is well acquainted with their work.

“These are great minds who have spent their lives talking to scientists, trying to find answers to the great mysteries of science, and finding God in the answers,” he says.

Some of these books were bid at auctions, and from the look of some of them very, very archaic Yeoh has spent a fortune on the collection.

But the amount and currency aren't discussed.

They have been a worthwhile purchase for him, food for his voracious appetite for knowledge and a deeper understanding of his spiritual journey.

“Which book can you read a thousand times over and still find fascinating?” he says in reference to the Christian Bible.

There are strong biblical perspectives to his talk.

“If we were to avoid the little details of this world, we'd be missing out,” he remarks. “Nice cars a bit of good clothes, a bit of good food these are just crumbs of happiness. How can they sustain us?”

And he is highly selective, only reading books of authors whose lives he deems worthy of his attention.

The discerning reader enjoys the work of Chicago award-winning Lee Strobel, a cynical attorney-turned-journalist who wrote two powerful books debunking the concept of evolution and explaining the Big Bang Theory after interviewing Christian scientists around the world.

Yeoh read fiction in his youth but finds that those authors are unable to sustain his intellectual curiosity.

“It can't complete me,” he says. “When there is so much wonder in this world, so much to take in, I'm sorry, I don't have the time for anything less.”

He carves out precious time from his hectic workload and responsibilites to indulge in his passion and non-work duties. This was made clear some time back, where following an interview with a StarBiz editor, Yeoh proceeded to make his way to the gym.

It was late in the evening, and it clearly showed his commitment to make time for priorities.

The observation is congruous to an offhand remark one of his nephews made in the past of his uncle being very disciplined, poring over his paperwork every evening after work.

But there is rest from all of that. During vacations, Yeoh shuts off completely.

The Spanish perspective, he calls it.

Every summer, his family travels to their holiday home in Marbella, Spain.

“There I do what the Spanish do best. Do nothing all day, and then take a siesta after!” he guffaws.

For several weeks there, Yeoh indulges in total rest, cherishing quiet reading time in the garden.

He describes a beautiful, long sofa flanked by a tall cork tree in the lawn, where he retreats to devour his reads.

He never rushes through the books, pausing every now and then to process his thoughts.

Avid readers will understand the thrill of a good read and how it triggers myriads of thoughts and emotions.

Yeoh produces a handful of books, the contents pensive and philosophical in nature. Well-worn, dog-eared and scribbled upon, these are his dailies that somehow fit in his busy schedule.

“A book with a broken spine says a lot. Look at mine!”

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