My Karmic Relationship with Books



I am very bad at getting rid of books. And this has been put to the ultimate test in my current need to excavate, dispose/keep and pack 6 years of my life in Shanghai into boxes for shipment to London.


A sentimental fool, I attach memories to my books and am probably the only person on this earth who has not succumbed to the convenience and ease of e-books and the Kindle. An ardent lover of the smell of paper, lugging a 1,440 pages paperback version of “War and Peace” in handbag makes me happy and inavertently attracts “Why would you ever do that?” reactions from people.


But moving day, alas, draws on apace, as doth the evil hour when I will have to take the shears to my sprawling collection in earnest. I suppose I could save the Penguin Classics by the simple expedient of shoving them into the shipment boxes. However, multiple copies with different cover designs and celebrity autobiographies I’ll admit, with a sigh of shamed relief, that I am never going to get round to reading (again) – charity shop it goes, my chicks.


The prospect of purging talismanic texts, though – books I’m unlikely ever to open again, but which I superstitiously believe exhale helpful knowledge or distilled memory – is harder. These finger-prickling, magical objects include the entire Paolo Coelho and George R.R. Martin collection, half a series of Robert Jordan’s (RIP) “Wheel of Time”, ancient stock bought secondhand or absent-mindedly liberated from school bookcases. There are also the treasured signed copies from authors, writers, poets, screenwriters (most notably Matt Groening) that bear an invisible warning of “OUT OF BOUNDS” to all unworthy hands. Plus a few study-guides to Photojournalism, Social Psychology and Creative Writing that I know I am never going to sit down and study them again, unless I slip through a timewarp and get the Pro Plus palpitations retaking my finals. But I might, in some unspecific emergency, still need them. And I love them, even unopened. I remember that some have careful, bowdlerising glosses, fitting rude and sparkling verse for the innocent eye of youth – some even resorting to asterisks in particularly racy sections. They are old, crumbly and useless, their dye comes off on your fingers, and they’re leaving my collection over my dead body.

Other books I could never consign to the recycling include half a dozen scribbled and maltreated Crystals guide books, bent backwards, frantically doodled and defaced into illegibility; entirely useless for reading, but transporting me instantly to my obsession of crystal healing and Feng Shui with one glimpse of their covers. Like the Creative Writing books, they are no longer texts so much as tiny time machines – handling them zips me back with a jolt to obsessions over fending off psychic attacks and bad luck. (it’s important to note that whilst crystals have special powers, daily clearing of one’s auric and etheric fields is important too. Me? Whacky? NEVER.)


So as I begin packing up my books – rather, sit cross-legged and read between guilty, frenetic bursts of packing – I know another pile of talismanic volumes will appear at my elbow. Which are your talismanic books, never opened now but never to be disposed of? And what do they represent?


About Theresa Lim

Hello. My name is Theresa. I am a Singaporean living in London. I love baking, dining out, dancing, laughing and travelling. Currently, I am a Digital Strategist at a media agency to pay the rent. In the near future, I will win The Great British Bake-Off, set up my own Bakery and charity organisation. This is my dream and I will live it one day.

8 responses »

  1. Oh I don’t envy you right now. Over a year ago I had to pack up everything and moved from Boston to London. Not fun. and all my books came with me. I wish you luck

    • Hahah. I have decided that I’ll only be shipping my books, electric blanket and winter wear over to London next month. The rest will find its way to charity shops or in someone else’s garage – ha!

      • My uncle used to move every two years and he’s a book person. He designed and built shelves that he could display his books on and then when he moved inserted a board to hold them in place and his books were packed. No work at all, except for the movers who had to move them

      • That is amazing. My entire flat can do without anything except books. Tough one as when I’m back in London, i am looking to flatshare with someone so not sure where my library of books would live!!

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