SHE’S the perfect embodiment of the popular saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.

After finishing as a finalist in the Miss Universe Malaysia competition in 2013, Samantha Katie James was crowned Miss Universe Malaysia 2017, showing Malaysians that all it takes is a little determination and a load of preparation to achieve your dreams.

“When I fail to reach a goal, I keep trying until I achieve it,” she said then after winning the title in February this year. The Chinese-Brazilian beauty shares her favourite book picks, especially those that continue to spur her on, as she prepares to represent Malaysia on the international stage later in the year.

What’s currently on your reading list?

I’m still on Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I like how realistic and candid she was when writing this. I can imagine her emotions as I read — so much so it’s almost surreal. I’m going through the “growing up” phase in life where I find this book perfect for me at this time right now. It’s like a guidebook to me, especially since it comes from the perspective of such an amazing writer who inspires and empowers people through her stories. She’s best known for her worldwide bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.

What’s the last great book you read?

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari — this book is very special to me. It helped me get through tough times in my life. I feel like every book I read contains a personal message to me and each was read at the right time. This book is about a lawyer who was constantly worked up and unhappy in life despite having everything he wished for — a red Ferrari, his own big home — until one day he sold them all and left his life as a successful lawyer on a quest for peace and happiness — the missing piece. Soon after, he wrote this story. This book taught me that peace and happiness are choices and come from within you.

What’s the one book that most people would be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

The Holy Bible. Even better, I have two of them.

What’s the best book — gift that you’ve ever received?

I received Big Magic from a dear friend on my 22nd birthday last November. It was perfect timing. It felt like she read my mind!

If you were marooned on an island, what would be the five books you’d take with you?

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, because really, DON’T sweat the small stuff whilst being marooned on an island!

Another would be Seriously. I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres just because of her optimism, positivity and words of encouragement. She’s one of my idols.

No Matter The Wreckage: Poems by Sarah Kay for some words of wisdom and something young and creative. I loved her enthusiasm when she recited her famous poem on Ted Talks called “If I should have a daughter” (everyone should watch it).

Big Magic, of course, simply because it’s Big Magic and I love that book.

Freud: A Graphic Guide To The Father Of Psychoanalysis because it’s a very interesting book and helped me understand the mind/myself better.

If you were to organise a literary party and given a chance to invite three writers (dead or alive) who would they be?

Definitely Ellen DeGeneres. I’ve always wanted to meet her in person anyway. Her book amused me and her shows even more. I absolutely love her.

I’d also love to meet Robin Sharma, I follow him on Instagram. He always motivates me with his words of wisdom. In fact I even passed down his book to the security guard who works the night shift at my apartment. He told me he loved it. My last guest would be Elizabeth Gilbert,

of course. She seems like a fun and easygoing person. I think I already know her so well just by reading her books. She’s so REAL.

What’s your favourite childhood book?

Mathilda definitely. I even went to watch the Broadway show in New York recently. It was a dream come true!

What’s the one book you’d wish for every Malaysian to read?

Big Magic. I know — I keep on going on about how amazing it is but it’s perfect, especially for those looking to find

creativity and I’d say, the missing piece

in themselves. It will push you beyond

what you think you’re capable of

and it’s almost like the author

(Elizabeth Gilbert) is sitting next to you telling you her story. It’s non-fiction so

if you’re looking for that “missing piece”,

try reading this book!

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