“During primary school, our school didn’t have a library,” book collector Raja Sharuddin said as he opened his storage unit to show me his collection. “But I remember a moving library — it was a bus with books inside — came to our school once or twice a week so that we could read and borrow books.
Then throughout secondary school, I was a librarian. This was when I discovered about the technical part of taking care of books — you know, from labelling to shelving and book storage. I just fell in love with the whole culture.”
Raja’s relationship with books started at the age of five when one of his aunts brought him to the National Library of Malaysia. The experience of seeing thousands of books on shelves and getting his first library membership had officiated his relationship with books.
From there onwards, the relationship continued to grow and evolve as he went through primary and secondary school, and then college.
Raja reads at least 100 pages per sitting. He could finish reading a book in two to three days, depending on how exciting the book is. “People who read tend to have different imagination,” he said.
“I find them to be more open, accepting, and it makes you a better listener…and sometimes analytical too.” He believes that the act of reading shifts a relationship with books from a physical relationship to a metaphysical relationship.
Books, especially works of fiction, are gateways to a creative space within a reader’s mind. Reading is a creative process of worldmaking and a voyage of self-discovery.
“Reading is also travelling to me,” Raja added, and then recalled the first time he stepped into Kinokuniya Bookstore in KLCC, where his monthly ritual of pulling out a random book from a bookshelf by heart began.
The first book he pulled out was a novel by Carlos Luiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind, which sets in Barcelona, 1945. He spoke passionately about how he travelled in Barcelona, 1945, through the novel, and learning about the social structure, political and cultural history of the time.
As a writer, reader, and book collector, Raja commemorates his relationship with books by getting a climate-controlled storage unit at Cube Self Storage.
Controlled temperature and humidity are crucial in preserving books, which is one of the reasons why he stores his books with us. But most importantly, he feels good treating something that is precious to him properly and respectfully.
“Books are sacred to me,” said Raja. “So, getting a climate-controlled self-storage unit is definitely the right kind of investment for my books.”
Before Raja left our storage facility to get going with his day, I shared a quote from a novel, Time Regained by Marcel Proust to him:
“Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.”
The quote resonated well with what he has experienced so far in his relationship with books. “I am teary reading this quote,” he said. “It makes a lot of sense since what I’ve read, and the satisfaction I get from reading, have always been deep and personal.”
As we said goodbye to one another, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by Raja’s story as a book collector and his relationship with books.
All the energy, time, and money spent to continue his journey of self-discovery through literature, and on the art of book preservation, is a testament that doing something we truly love could make us better individuals.
By Tilon Sagulu
1 sq.ft. Story is a series in which customers of Cube Self Storage share unique lifestyle choices, experiences, and stories. Read the story about Elaine Hong of ENYA here. If you’d like to get featured, get in touch with Tilon at firstname.lastname@example.org