Jenny Lee is a senior editor and bibliophile. She is the former editor-in-chief of the magazine “Shopping Design” and now the host of “The Unicorn Reading Project”, a creative program dedicated to redefining reading and introducing the pleasure of reading to people through events, activities, talks, and exhibitions.
A creative reading initiative: The Unicorn Project
Organised by the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Malaysia and produced by INXO Arts & Culture (L) Foundation, Tea Philo is a series of sharing sessions revolving around the discussion of philosophies and humanities. Luminaries from Taiwan are invited to share their experiences and engage with the Malaysian audience to encourage exchanges of ideas and experience. The latest Tea Philo E-Talk session titled “A Creative Reading Initiative: The Unicorn Project” featured guest speaker Jenny Lee (李惠貞), founder of the The Unicorn Reading Project. The talk was held in Mandarin and was moderated by Chiew Ruoh Peng (周若鵬), Malaysian poet, columnist, and CEO of one of Malaysia’s foremost publishing houses, Mentor Publishing. The E-talk was broadcast via Zoom Meeting and Facebook Live on October 29th, 2022.
Jenny Lee is a veteran in publishing, experienced in rights, marketing, and editorial. She was the Ex-Editor-in-Chief of the Shopping Design magazine from 2011-2017 and was awarded the honour of Best Editor in the magazine category of Personal Achievement Award. Publications Lee helped bring to life and nurture have won the Golden Tripod Awards, the China Times Open Book Award, and have been included in the bestselling or most recommended titles lists at multiple bookstores. Lee is also the author of four books: As Free As the Ocean (《成為自由人》), The Surprising Power of Reading (《給未來的讀者》), A Trip with My Dramatic Daughter (《和女兒一起旅行的日子》), and Life With My Clumsy Mom (《和媽媽互相喜歡的日子》).
Lee started the E-Talk by sharing one of her favourite definitions of reading: “The point of reading is not the objective ‘words on the page’, but the process of a reader proactively and subjectively understanding and interpreting the words. Different readers can harvest different rewards from the same words, and those who have plentiful experiences and feelings are almost always the more well-prepared readers who can experience or gain more from the material. It is possible to read a painting, a piece of music, a photograph, an architecture, or even a person, in the same way you would read a book. This also means that the act of reading is not merely a passive reception of information and stimuli, but an active utilisation of our own experiences and feelings: during the process, we have to proactively engage with the material to examine, compare and contrast, prove and verify, question and interrogate the innate meanings and extended implications or significance of things.”
“To search for joy and direction in life in the presence of books, to reconsider the meaning of learning and reading, and to explore the endless possibilities of oneself and the universe,” says the mission statement of the Unicorn Reading Project, a new initiative that aims to promote reading as well as the consumption of physical books by attracting, nurturing, and engaging with readers through a series of interesting, innovative events and campaigns.
Set in motion in 2017 and based in Taiwan, The Unicorn Reading Project was founded by Jenny Lee to host activities, events, book clubs, exhibitions, and talks related to reading, often in libraries, bookstores, or other spaces that share her vision of promoting the act of reading.
“When it comes to any problem in life, you are most certainly not the first person to encounter it in human history. There are plenty of past experiences for you to draw on, regardless of your status or situation. Reading about the experiences and journeys of those before us can help us find our own answers,” said Lee.
Lee added that she had been asked many times to curate a to-read list for someone but had to decline: “I cannot do it for you because the book and the act of reading it will only mean something to you when you select it yourself.”
Lee believes that reading begins as soon as one is trying to select their next read. “Most book clubs decide on a book before meeting up for discussion. The Unicorn Project’s events in bookstores are a little different: you are not required to prepare or read anything before coming to the bookstore. We invite all participants to first browse the shelves for 20 minutes, choose a book each, and read it on-site for another 20 minutes before coming back together for a sharing session.”
“What we choose to read reflects our inner world: our desires, our anxiety, our dreams, what we’re curious about… It would be a pity if we depend on others to tell us what to read, because the process of searching for and selecting a book is not only interesting in itself but also incredibly intimate,” said Lee.
Lee concluded with her motto: “Read for yourself, read without a purpose, read for pure joy.” She explained, “Reading helps us reach beyond our limitations, broaden our horizons, and open our minds; at the same time, it helps us realise that we have choices as free minds that can have our own opinions and voices.”
Episode 59 marked the 10th and last Tea Philo E-Talk session for the year. Past episodes are available for rewatch on Tea Philo’s Facebook Page or INXO Arts & Culture Foundation Youtube Channel.
Chiew Ruoh Peng (CEO of Mentor Publishing Sdn. Bhd)
29th October 2022 (SAT)