THE saying we are what we eat also applies to the kind of book we read daily. We are what we read and reflect.

The CEOs of the top Fortune 500 companies read on average about 60 books a year. That’s is more than a book each week of their lives.

A person’s growth in life in the mind and intellectual acumen, in his ability to assess a situation, or make a decision wisely takes many cross pollination of ideas from reading other people’s thoughts and experiences in life.

A reader of books is better off in life due to a rich variety of books which his mind has assimilated and acquired in his constant enjoyment in the pleasures of reading. The habit of reading often enriches us in ways beyond measure.

Reading makes a full man, speaking makes a ready man, writing makes an exact man. The ability to communicate effectively and persuasively is the mark of greatness.

In 1971, I read Magnus Pyke’s classic nutrition book Food and society published in 1968 and from his nutritional insights, my life has been tremendously transformed for the better.

Now at age 68, all my organs are intact and I am free from any ailments that has affected seniors of my generation such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease or high blood pressure thanks to the positive effects of this book and the valuable influences of nutrition truth, which lingered in my mind all these years.

Never underestimate the power of a good book in changing your life for the better.

Of course, Magnus Pyke is a starting point and I went on to acquire other equally interesting books on health.

A person who does not read is no better than a person who cannot read. It is a waste of human resources when, as a nation, the population does not read widely and consistently.

How do you inculcate this life surviving skill such as a love for books into a person?

The best starting point is from the womb, after conception. A fetus already has a desire to communicate with the outside world soon after conception.

To gain this insight, from a prenatal psychological prospective, read this book by Dr Thomas Verny The Secret life of the unborn child a 1981 January publication.

Mind mapping guru Tony Buzan, who has a following of 250 million readers around the globe, states very clearly in his book about the human mind, that human brain cells mature and multiply and grow depending on stimuli from the outside world such as words, sound, voice, music or sounds related to mathematical computation, human conversation.

A baby who has been exposed has a 30 million word advantages compared with another who is less exposed to human interaction and attention of the same age.

A mind which has been stimulated and stretched by these stimuli, whether they be mathematical formulas or music, or words or language can never return to its original dimension.

Reading by a parent to the unborn child in the womb therefore, wires the baby’s mind to the passion and pleasure of words.

Once the nerve cells and brain cells have been so wired by these exposures, the passion for books or reading is already formed in the mind of the baby.

In the womb a baby open, eager, free from any limitation or prejudice is a mind nurtured before birth for learning. That is sowing the seed of greatness to learn anything through reading.

If the government were to use all the mass media available to educate and encourage young parents to start this new habit of communicating with their unborn souls in the womb, this nation will have a bright future. Malaysians as a whole read on the average two books a year. That’s why we are where we are.

A great quote by Alvin Toffler put the wisdom this way, “The illiterates of the 21st century are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

The greatest resource of a human being lies in the space between his two ears. The human mind.

If we invest in this organ, diligently and passionately, the future of this nation will unfold its own greatness in due time.

Sir William Drummond says, “He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; and he that dares not reason is a slave.”

The ability to reason is the mark of a greatness of mind useful to society.

A great shining nation needs many such minds, nurtured from young to enjoy the exercise of the mind by the power of reason.

In this internet age, the access to connect with great minds is made all the more conveniently by Google search to seek any great mind of our choice. The reading of quality, worthy books is the first step of a journey to attain greatness to come.