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  • Education
  • Sunday, 06 Jul 2003

DO college students in Malaysia read? One lecturer said it takes luck to find students who read newspapers and course materials, what more “real books”.  

Nevertheless, StarEducation came across a special few who would rather read than party the night away or chill out with friends all day long. 

Sharanya Manivannan, 18, says college students who do read are a rare breed. 

Calvin Wong, 18, says book prices are partly to blame: “Books are expensive. A novel costs more than RM30; many students can’t afford such prices.” 

Hence, this being National Reading Month, StarEducation, in collaboration with your friendly neighbourhood bookstores, wants to reward those who love to read with discounts on selected books. For those who are not yet ardent readers, what better way to start than with these discounted good reads? 

This week, we have selected a few titles we think might be interesting or useful for college and university students. The books are provided by Kinokuniya Bookstores and the coupon can be redeemed at Kinokuniya at Suria KLCC.  

In the coming weeks, we will feature reviews of books suitable for secondary, primary, and pre-school students along with discount coupons. So, stay on this page! 

 

Reviews by CLARISSA LEE 

MASTER YOUR MEMORY 

By Tony Buzan  

Price: RM39.50 

I OFTEN wonder why some people get a kick out of memorising the pi number to the smallest decimal, or why some are bent on memorising the longest lists of things in the shortest possible time.  

However, what interests me more are people who can remember the names of all the people in a room (even if there are more than a hundred of them) after the first introduction, and those who can recall verbatim every conversation that has taken place. And, of even greater curiosity to me, is how some students can study at the last minute and still excel in examinations. 

Of course, I’ve always known that memorisation and recall techniques have existed, both from personal experience and from attending “learning methodology” workshops in school that were meant to turn us indifferent girls into to super-duper learning machines. But one thing I failed to realise was that learning all these techniques to master my memory requires the same amount of motivation and discipline needed to master any school subject.  

The techniques of Self-Enhanced Master Memory Matrix advocated in this book require understanding, application and practice. With due diligence, you can apply the methods to your studies or work and enhance your ability to memorise facts and figures. This is because they appeal to all your five senses, via sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and sensation. 

Buzan adds more to the list; animals, birds, rainbows and the solar system. And he systematises and organises them into 10,000 subjects that you can remember.  

This book is challenging and I daresay it is rewarding, if you are serious about finding a way to organise your thoughts. 

To mental junkies out there, and to the curious, you will find the book interesting. The style is accessible and does not require much in terms of mental gymnastics. 

 

Other books by Tony Buzan: The Mind Map Book, Use Your Memory, Speed Reading. 

 

 

Review by SHARIL DEWA 

PORTRAIT OF A KILLER: JACK THE RIPPER 

– CASE CLOSED 

By Patricia Cornwell 

Price: RM34.95 

BETWEEN August and November 1888, five women who worked the streets were brutally murdered in Whitechapel, London. Not knowing who the murderer was, or why he only chose to kill “London’s unfortunates”, police labelled the serial killer “Jack the Ripper”. 

More than a century after the infamous murders, the true identity of Jack the Ripper remains unknown. 

In this book, best-selling crime writer Patricia Cornwell tries to unravel the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was, what made him go on a killing spree, and why he chose to get rid of society’s unfortunate women who worked the streets. 

Enlisting the help of forensic experts, Cornwell, who has researched the case thoroughly, examines all the physical evidence available: thousands of documents and reports, newspaper accounts of the killings, fingerprints, crime-scene photographs, original etchings and paintings, items of clothing, artists’ paraphernalia, and traces of DNA.  

With the evidence, Cornwell concludes that Jack the Ripper was Walter Sickert, a respected painter of his day, whose works are now found in some of the world’s museums. 

She portrays Sickert as a deranged individual, his lunacy caused by genital deformations. She delves into his life, probing the psychological pain and “sexual deformity that led to his impotent fury”. 

However, instead of presenting the case as a historical sociological/psychological study, Cornwell uses the real life events as a plausible means of telling a well-argued and thought-out crime story. Yet, readers can’t help but get the impression that Cornwell makes it her mission to prove that Sickert was the murderer. 

Is Cornwell right in pointing the finger at Sickert, or is she accusing the wrong man? Unfortunately, since all the witnesses and suspects have long turned to dust, readers only have the author’s contemporary argument, one which seems flimsy at best.

 

 

Review by MICHAEL CHEANG 

THE SHELTERS OF STONE 

By Jean M. Auel 

Price: RM32.90 

EARTH’S Children is a pseudo-fantasy series set in Prehistoric Earth (the Ice Age, to be more precise). It focuses on the struggles of Ayla, a Cro-Magnon cavewoman, who is raised by Neanderthals. Shelters of Stone is the fifth in the series, the others being Clan of the Cave Bears, The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters and The Plains of Passage. 

In Shelters of Stone, Ayla and her companion, Jondalar, have arrived at his home, the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, an old stone-age settlement in the region, known today as Southwest France. 

This is also less conventional fantasy, as premise and plot make it a good departure from the normal good versus evil story. Be warned though, this book may not be everyone’s cup of tea; it is still advisable to read the first four books first to get a good picture of the entire plot.  

As a stand-alone book, Shelters of Stone is sufficiently engaging, but as book five of Earth’s Children, it does not add much to the plot, and is merely a pre-cursor to the next (and supposedly final) book in the series.

 

 

Review by SHARANYA MANIVANNAN 

CITY OF THE BEASTS  

By Isabel Allende 

Price: RM35.90 

WHEN his mother’s illness results in him being sent to live with his irrepressible and independent grandmother Kate, 15-year-old Alexander Cold is begrudgingly thrust headfirst into an expedition into the heart of South America to find a mysterious yeti-like creature known as “The Beast”. 

Not only does Alex have to deal with the usual adolescent pressures and anxiety over the prospect of losing his mother, but he now finds himself having to handle all manner of Amazonian perils – human, animal and supernatural. 

Caught also in the midst of conflicts among the expedition members – from the sanctimonious Prof Ludovic LeBlanc, who cares only of his reputation, to the gorgeous Dr Omayra Torres who has more than just vials of vaccine for the native peoples – Alex is glad to find a friend in Nadia Santos, the honey-coloured girl with the ability to converse in native languages. 

Together, the pair embarks on a mission to not only aid the expedition, resolve the peculiar deaths within it and save the mysterious People of the Mist from extinction, but also to discover themselves and their own destinies. 

Although a far cry from the sensuous, dramatic epics that Allende is best known for, City of the Beasts manages not just to entertain the reader with its enthralling descriptions of magic and adventure, but is also just as layered with political nuance as, for instance, The House of the Spirits or Paula.  

This book serves as an enlightening introduction to the realities of eco-cultural politics and preservation, highlighting issues such as the exploitation of indigenous peoples and environmental destruction by entrepreneurs. Although a work of fiction, it also touches on anthropological concerns and the impact that “civilisation” has on the native peoples. 

This Harry-Potter-meets-Indiana-Jones novel is recommended to readers who like their magic conjured with a twist of irony, a dose of history and a heavy pinch of reality. 

  • Sharanya, 18, has just completed her Canadian Pre-U programme at Taylor’s College. She has a soft spot for coloured women writers,especially Latin Americans.
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    Review by ZEDECK SIEW 

    STUPID WHITE MEN 

    By Michael Moore 

    Price: RM32.00 

    THE epilogue of Stupid White Men references Orwell – Big Brother’s permanent war keeping citizens in perpetual fear.  

    This edition was printed in 2002, just after the US bombing of Afghanistan ended, with Bush’s war on terrorism in full swing. 

    Michael Moore went on to deliver an ardent protest against war in Iraq in his thank you speech at the recent Oscars. Moore’s Bowling For Columbine won for best documentary feature. 

    You can say that Stupid White Men is a critique of the American government and corporate world. 

    In the book’s “A Prayer To Afflict The Comfortable”, Moore invites the reader to beseech their deity of choice; to, among other things, “force Hollywood’s executives to sit and watch their own movies over and over and over”. 

    But Moore doesn’t dwell on Hollywood mediocrity; he has a wider scope. The book is a very loud, very angry finger (that finger) pointed at American political hypocrisy and big business – some very stupid white men.  

    The book begins with George W. Bush stealing the 2000 presidential election with much help from friends and family (who purged voter lists and stopped the Florida recount); exposes various and wholesale lies, and violations by corporate/Republican America; and ends with pointing out that the Democrats are republicans on donkeys. 

    The chapters weave through racism (“Bring back those ‘Whites only’ signs from the 1950s. When nobody’s looking, place them on the doors of businesses that don’t hire blacks.”), environmental disaster (“So what if you need sunscreen that says 125 SPF?”), and “The End Of Men”: Guys! Nature is trying to kill us off! 

    Addressing gender inequality, Moore points out that “the real struggle is getting enlightenment through the concrete block known as a man’s head”. 

    Stupid White Men is honest, although sometimes naïve, especially vapid where Moore proposes solutions for the Middle East, Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, and North Korea; unless he is trying to demonstrate the sheer ludicrousness of the situation. And, indeed, the book is very American. 

    In “Idiot Nation”, Moore attests that American students learn how to regurgitate answers the establishment wants them to give, and any attempt to be an individual is now grounds to be suspected as a member of the trench coat mafia.  

    The book lists four ways to dispel this repression under “How to be a Student Subversive Instead of a Student Subservient”, and concludes with the reminder that “There is No Permanent Record”. 

     

  • Fifth former Zedeck Siew,17, is a voracious reader. Favourite books – Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, The Sword in The Stone by T.H. White and Invisible Cities by Italio Calvino. 

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    Review by CALVIN WONG 

    DUNE, THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD 

    By Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson 

    Price: RM37.90 

    DUNE is to science fiction what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. Often called “the best sci-fi novel ever”, Frank Herbert’s chronicles of the struggle to control the desert planet Arrakis shares many characteristics with Tolkien’s masterpiece, the most profound being the sheer depth of the worlds they had created.  

    From the smallest detail of Arrakis’ ecology to the political power play which underlines the plot, Dune is immense in scope and vision. 

    The Butlerian Jihad is the newest instalment in the Dune saga which has been continued by Frank’s son Brian and seasoned sci-fi author Kevin Anderson.  

    The book is set 11,000 years before the original novel and provides the historical background to the events leading up to Dune. Those unfamiliar with the 1960s classic will still be able to enjoy this newest offering; reading it requires no prior knowledge of the Dune universe. 

    The premise is that, long ago, a group of humans called the Titans had subjugated most of the known galaxy. Unfortunately, they were overthrown by the thinking machines, sentient robots of their own creation. The book opens with the League of Nobles coming under attack by a fleet of thinking-machine starships, sparking off the first robot offensive on a League planet in over a hundred years.  

    Omnius’ campaign against the human worlds has begun, and it’s up to a young officer in the League Militia, named Xavier Harkonnen, to organise a defensive strategy before all of humanity is wiped out by intelligent robots.  

    The book also lays the backdrop for the Dune novel but more importantly, it also explains the beginnings of the deep hatred between the Atreides and Harkonnen families. 

    The Butlerian Jihad is not as deep and detailed as Dune; it lacks narrative power. The plot is devoid of the complexity which made Dune the hallmark of science fiction. However, as an introduction to the Dune universe it is excellent, and in itself is an interesting and well-told story.  

     

  • Calvin, 18, is currently doing his A-Levels at TAR College. He enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy. Favourite authors – Terry Pratchett and J.K. Rowling.
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    101 POEMS AGAINST WAR 

    Afterword by Andrew Motion 

    Price: RM39.95 

    Gathering together the most startling poems against war, this anthology brings to life warnings and protests from all corners of the Earth. It features the voices of ancient Greek as well as later poets, such as Larkin, Smith, Dickinson, Li Po and Sassoon, which ring true this very day and age. Questioning the purpose of war, it also reflects the pain of men who held their dying friends and the agony of women left behind.  

    THE PENGUIN POCKET BOOK  

    OF TRAVEL TIPS 

    By Suzi Rainone 

    Price: RM17.95 

    NOW that you’re in college, you finally get to travel on your own with friends, but do you know how to go about it? This book might be the thing for you with its savvy advice on how to make the most of your time and money while on the road.  

    Whether you are travelling on a shoestring budget, or in a package tour, this is the essential guide for the decision and itinerary planning stage, tracking down the best fares, organising passports and visas, surviving the flight, staying safe and healthy on the road, finding accommodation to suit your taste and budget as well as dealing with local customs and folks.

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