Happy World Book Day
My husband uses big books to press tofu before grilling . . . and what would we do without books to raise our laptops to just the right level for a flattering look on Zoom?
Big gardening books really come into their own as presses to use while drying out the most recent book one of my children has spilt a drink over... My mother-in-law, who was a librarian, genuinely found a rasher of bacon being used as a bookmark. And I used to work in an archive where you really could have committed GBH with some of our volumes; the heaviest weighed over 5 stone. (And if you think that’s big, you should look at the Codex Amiatinis...)
While I love my books most of all for reading - often again and again -- I have found them to be faithful helpers in all kinds of situations. As a newlywed, "The Joy of Cooking" kept my broken window from closing with a bang in the middle of a summer night. Flower pressing - of course! Also ergonomics: I am typing this note with my feet resting on a copy of "The Dictionary of American English, Vol. II" and the screen of my laptop raised to eye level with a stack Blum's "Making Sense of Language" and assorted, dated Travel and Leisure magazines. A paperback copy of Joyce's "Ulysses" turned out to be the perfect thickness and height for resting my head on at the beach when I was in college. And who among us has NOT weaponized the occasional book by flinging it at the head of an offending spouse or sibling?
I'm not proud of this, but desperate times call for grabbing the nearest book to smash a spider. If it's daytime and I can catch and release the 8-legged creature outside, I will. But not at night as it's creeping down the wall toward my bed. Then the nearest book on my nightstand must do the deadly deed.
In high school, I used a copy of "Bleak House" by Dickens to prop open my window while I snuck out of the house.
My cat has (luckily!) always respected all my books; except, for some reason, my copy of Platon's "Republic". One day that I left it unsupervised, he destroyed it with the severity of an inquisitor, and turned many pages into confetti: since he's the king of the house, he probably disapproves of all kinds of republic. Anyway, the book was unreadable (especially after my cat's attack), and so I turned it into a cat scratcher for him, with a little skill and some glue, rope and wood. My cat can now channel his anti-Platonic anger, and he's never touched any of my other books!
Books are also lovely to press the odd flower with :) oddest bookmark I ever found (I’m a library assistant) was a sheet of headache tablets... in a book on parenting. Thought it was pretty apt and chuckled about it for the rest of week ;) x
Don't forget the book in "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell that was cut in half to use under one shorter feet of bed. The guy in that room got the book out and read that half, which we readers read with him. But it was also used as one explanation of the particular Cloud Atlas structure in which 7 stories are told after another, one leading to the next: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. Later someone found the other half of that book, so we got to see the second part of it.
Six weeks ago I brought home a VERY shy 9 year old rescue kitty who immediately squeezed himself behind the sofa. I used ARCs to keep the sofa a bit further from the wall so he could at least turn around. He is out and about most of the time now, but the ARCs are still in place, as the space behind the sofa is still his safe spot and they are the perfect size.
Books are useful to keep one's beverage level on a sofa or bed while reading a different book.
First things first: thank you very much, Shaun, for your wonderful books and newsletter! My story is not about my use of a book but a friend's use of *my* book. I was out of town and lent my home to a friend and his cat. During their stay the friend broke the wooden base of an end-table lamp. He owned up to the damage before I got home--and it was no big deal because the lamps were thrift store finds gifted to me--and said he left the lamp propped up. I returned to find he'd propped it up with two books, including one autographed with a personal note from the author. To be fair, it was a paperback, who would check a paperback for an autograph? What turned out to be a larger concern were the fleas left behind by the cat.
I met my husband in law school. I used to stack his copy of Black’s Law Dictionary on top of mine to reach canned goods in the back of my unreachable cupboard. Oh, and stacked books topped with a sheet of glass found in somebody’s trash made a great first coffee table...
The Bible served us well one day when we got a flat tire. We pulled off the road and the car Jack was just pushing into the mud instead of lifting the car up, so the Bible was the only other option to stick under the Jack. It helped us change a tire!
I remember when paper back novels used to be essential for the presentation of any slide show. No matter how tall/short the projector’s table was, a couple of books were always needed to make picture fit on the screen. An update is that yesterday I was FaceTiming with some friends and a slim tome (Red Bait by Al King and Kate Braid) was just right for getting the angle right so that at least the video was not all ceiling...
In my classroom, there is a table. On the table, there are two bookshelves. On the bookshelves, there are many books. They are quite ordinary books, for reading only. Once, there were only dozens of them. Now, there are hundreds. The table is ill-suited to carry their weight, and so I thought to support its sagging middle with a stool. The stool at hand was several inches too short, but fortunately I had several inches of used grammar workbooks at hand. They filled the gap admirably, and they are now labeled: "STRUCTURAL BOOKS; DO NOT REMOVE!"
I once dropped Bill Clinton’s autobiography from a great height upon a very large centipede. It did not know what hit it. Unfortunately, I was afraid to move the book for three days, and was never able to finish reading it. It’s only murder if they are outside the house.