Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Tolkienesque Man and His Amnesia Card


I met a lot of interesting characters during my two years working at a book store. I have countless anecdotes about favourite customers (my staff picks had a bit of a following in Ottawa), not-so-favourite customers (like the man who threw his change in my face and called me useless) but one customer in particular sticks out in my mind.

He was probably in his late sixties, early seventies. He wore tweed with elbow patches and was stirringly reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien, so naturally, I loved him. I could find myself in hour-long discussions with him in the History & Political Science section, neglecting my duties but thoroughly enjoying talking with him. I don't even know his name, but to this day I consider him to be a favourite person of mine.

One day when I was working as a cashier up front, he came to my check out with a massive pile of books and an even bigger smile on his face. We talked books for a bit and then when I had no choice but to start closing the transaction, he opened his wallet and out fell a business card that I couldn't help but notice.

"What's that?" I rudely asked the gentleman.

"Oh, this is my amnesia card!" he told me excitedly, handing over the small card. On it was a printed paragraph that read:

In the event that I suffer from memory loss or amnesia, 
please refer to the list below for the books I wish to re read immediately:
-The collected works of Tolkien
-Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes 
-War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

He had a few more listed, but sadly I forget the rest. I was too giddy to see Tolkien on the list. But still, I looked up at him, a bit puzzled. 

"Those are the books that I desperately wish I could read again, as though it were my first time," he told me. The card itself was a bit beaten up, rough around the edges.

"How long have you been carrying this?" I asked him, in awe of his brilliant idea.

"The card has gone through several incarnations, but I made the first one about five minutes after finished The Return of the King in 1960," he smiled. We chatted for a few more moments before he departed. I moved to a new province shortly after, and I still haven't forgotten about his amnesia card.

Isn't that a beautiful idea? Some books leave me with that feeling. I wish I could erase all knowledge of the characters/setting/plot and just relive the magic for the first time again. But what books would I include on my amnesia card? Here's my list:

-Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 
(well the whole series, obviously) by J. K. Rowling
-The Road by Cormac McCarthy
-Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
-A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
-The collected works of Tolkien
-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
-Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges
-Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
-Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
-Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery

So readers, what books would I find on your "amnesia cards?"


  1. This is such a cool idea bless that old man for thinking of it. I don't know what I'd put on my amnesia card. It seems like a rather big commitment but I do definitely agree with you that I'd have to reread harry potter!

    1. I think I'd want to read Harry Potter first. I was only 8 when I read the first book, but I can still remember the feeling that I had stumbled on something spectacular, like real magic.

      I definitely want to relive that!

  2. That's such a cool idea! Harry Potter is on my list (of course), as well as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, everything by Tamora Pierce, and The Hunger Games.

    1. Tamora Pierce is now on my list too! How could I forget?? Those books were lifesavers when I was young. I need to reread them!

  3. Also, The Book Thief! I somehow forgot about that one, which makes no sense because I cried a ridiculously long time after finishing it...

  4. Harry Potter. I wish I could have the ole 'Obliviate' treatment, Lockhart-style.