I confess to being guilty of Twitter wilfing in search of witty literary articles and am now completely fascinated by the mish mash of quality reading and utter dross that resides there.
I’ve seen (not read) 10 Inspirational Tracks to Write to, 5 Unorthodox Things to do with Your Characters, Top 10 Bad Author Pseudonyms, need I go on?
They say if you can’t beat them, join them, so here’s my stab at making you giggle with 21 Useful Things to Do With a Book; aside from read it.
Paperback purists, please proceed directly to the end of the article, whistle for a few minutes and forget you ever started reading this article…
Thing One: Wallpaper the Loo
Entertain house guests by slapping up regular, random pages from a variety of eclectic books that have seen better days. Just for larks consider combining pages of D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover with absolutely anything by Monty Don, or Edwina Curry’s autobio with How to Cook Eggs and Omelettes in 300 Different Ways. If you get bored with your wall, the redecoration costs will be minimal and you’ll not have to employ a plumb-bob either, random is the key to balancing enlightenment with enlightenment…
Thing Two: Wrap Up Presents
If you’re a parent, you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with incredulous conversations like the following, which generally take place just as they’re about to leave for school. ‘It’s Zelda’s birthday today, I’ve got her a little present, have you got any paper to wrap it and I need it now, no right now, we’ve got assembly/an important test/some other reason’. In a jiffy, said gift will look particularly funky wrapped in coloured pages and string, which you’ll find in the weird drawer.
Thing Three: Grow Mushrooms
This is a bit of a Blue Peter project but a lot of fun. You’ll need to sprinkle grain spawn throughout the pages of wet book, something by Jacques Cousteau perhaps. Keep it warm and moist, easily achieved by leaving it in a plastic bag. In a few weeks, white furry mycelium will crawl out and cover the book. Then place the book in the fridge for a few days to kick the mycelium into production and shortly afterwards, you should have a crop of baby mushrooms which will be ready to pick and eat a few days later. Home-grown nom, especially delicious when served inside a bacon sandwich.
Thing Four: Use as a Tablet Prop for Skype Calls
Skype is great and tablets are rubbish at positioning themselves at the optimum height to have a business meeting. Your laptop or PC is geared up nicely to display your paperless agenda, whilst your tablet or phone does the audio/visual thing. Your colleagues either get a great view of your whiskery, double chin, or a first class ticket down your t-shirt; either way, inappropriate. Solution? A flat topped biscuit tin with skilfully placed books that a) secure it in position and b) don’t leave you looking like a numpty.
Thing Five: Decoupage Something Dull
Think strange presents from your auntie, like sculpted wooden ducks or plastic buddhas and think about how much nicer they’ll look once they’ve got a page of something or other wrapped tightly around them. There will be a need for wallpaper paste or some sticky bogey like paper glue and if you want it to look exotic, slap on some clear gloss and leave to dry before finding a more exciting location for it, then sit back and wait for that auntie to identify it; if you’ve done a sterling job, you’ll be waiting a long time. Clever clogs.
Thing Six: Plant Something in it You Can Eat
Think mint, think basil. This is far easier than the mushroom project but you do need a title that’s thick and deep, I’m thinking dictionary, bible, DIY guide for the practically incompetent. Slice out a big flowerpot sized circle in the middle of the closed book, don’t go right down to the back pages or cover or won’t be much of a holder (mind you, it might make a nice pen tidy). Warning: don’t attempt this if you’re going to start crying over all the sliced pages. Actually, if you really want to be righteous, throw the wordy innards in the compost bin and leave it for the worms to appreciate. Then, fashion a small plastic bag inside the hole, like an inverted condom, tuck the top of the bag inside the front cover, plant whatever takes your fancy, water it and keep your fingers crossed.
Thing Seven: Make Christmas Decorations
Jump ahead to Thing Ten for initial inspiration here, then add paint, glitter and some sparkly string and Bob’s your uncle. Alternatively, put your head in a time tunnel and spin back to the 70’s and make a string of paper chains. If you’re feeling particularly lazy you could go for a stapler to secure your loops, whatever you do, don’t start licking the ends and ingesting ink, it’s not an attractive look and your tongue would leave you looking like you’d been sucking nettles.
Thing Eight: Turn It Into a Clock
For this task you either have to love the book or hate it, because you are going to have to carve its guts out, therefore, your emotional disposition and attachment to said book needs to be thoroughly assessed before reaching for the scissors in the weird drawer.
You could look at it as an act of love and preservation, or an act of violent word butchery, either way, for the cost of a simple clock mechanism which you can pick up in craft shops and from countless second hand dealers on Ebay (second hand dealers…get it?) you could have a quirky and very individual looking new timepiece.
Thing Nine: Cocktail Stick it
These have limited uses I know, but they are quick kitsch and may well pass an idle hour or two to make, then shove in a plastic bag and forget about. The simple flag is a piece of cake to make and great to stick in a piece of cake. You’ll need some sort of glue stick thing and a rectangle of page, run glue stick over page, plop cocktail stick in the centre and fold over itself. If you want to get more exotic with your shapes to impress someone, cut afterwards, not before. Great served with cheese and pineapple, flares and/or batwing blouses.
Thing Ten: Make Juggling Balls
This is a good one to do if you’re feeling particularly stressed. The bigger your stress levels, the bigger you need to make your balls to relieve it. A fine example would be for a recent divorcee to cut their ex’s favourite book into 1/2 inch strips (yes I am that old) which are cut in the direction of the sentence and then either glue stick them onto themselves, or dip in wallpaper glue which is considerably messier but you’ll get a slicker finish on your balls. What you do with them once they’ve dried is entirely up to you, but they do lend themselves nicely to being left able to be read.
Thing Eleven: Start a Free Front Door Library
Philanthrolibrarians our there will love this one. It is a bit radical and you do have to have more than a modicum of faith in human nature, but, why not offer a few books to the passing public via a covered dry area at the front of your house. There are thousands of chicken keepers and jam makers that adopt a similar policy and rely on folks putting a few quid in their well screwed down money box. But if you’re putting your books out to be read and enjoyed, there are no financial transactions involved! You could write out a lovely little instruction sheet, laminate it and leave it inside the shelter encouraging borrowers to return and deposit one of their books, but don’t hold your breath.
Thing Twelve: Use it to Impress and Pull
Ideally, you’ll need a nice independent cafe that serves organic Fairtrade food, a morning to yourself, some thick black rimmed glasses, an exotic book that you have actually read and someone in your sights. Mix all of the above with your beverage of choice, re-read your book and look intelligent, alluring and enigmatic. If by the end of your reading session, they haven’t approached you for a conversation, they weren’t worth it love. Proceed to Thing Nineteen.
Thing Thirteen: Make a Roll of Unusual Emergency Toilet Paper
Resilience is the key to survival and with deforestation still sadly on the rise, there may well come a time when wiping your bottom on a sheet from Tony Blair’s memoirs is the only way to go. I heartily recommend you don’t use anything too substantial in terms of paper quality for fear of blockage, however, a sensible balance needs to be struck between wipability and durability; something printed on the cheap in the Far East is probably your best bet all round.
Thing Fourteen: Use the Spines for Bookmarks
If the book in question is of good moral standing but the cover and pages are as lacy as cheap confetti, you might consider slicing the only decent bit of the book out and giving it a higher purpose. The spine is an interesting outer limb and if it’s in good nick, will make a very attractive stiff bookmark. If you’ve got any of that varnish stuff left over, give it a wip wap for added durability and shine and if you’re really feeling fancy, throw a sprinkling of glitter on while it’s wet, just for larks.
Thing Fifteen: Turn it into a Little Bookshelf
This one requires a drill, some of those plastic coloured stick things you bang into the wall, some screws and a pair of right angled brackets; listen to me like I know what I’m talking about. You’re going to need to screw the bracket into the book, so pick something you are quite happy to put holes in, anything by Jackie Collins should suffice, then screw to the wall and place quite light things atop of, just in case.
Thing Sixteen: Make Funky Paper
Basically, you’re looking at pulping here, which if you’ve never done it before, is definitely worth a go at, especially if you’re feeling premenstrual or generally frustrated. Firstly, find a big tub, one of those trug things is ideal really, colour unimportant, holes very important, you don’t want any of those. Rip your chosen read to shreds, page by page, pull them out and exorcise your rage, screw them up a bit and toss them into the trug and add warm water enough to cover. You could do it whilst reciting poetry – Keats, Edgar Allan Poe – or generally ranting about the thing that has racked you off. When the book is skeletal, plunge your hands into the trug and mulch it, tis tremendously satisfying, then leave to go soggy. Then, using a cheesecloth or muslin square on a badminton racquet, scoop out a layer of squidge, place another layer of material on it, press tightly in between a couple of house bricks, then leave somewhere warm to dry for a few days. Once it’s completely dry, remove from the material, try to write on it, realise the entire project was a bloody waste of time and throw everything into the paper recycling.
Thing Seventeen: Give It to Someone Else to Read as a Present
It’s a novel thought, but if you’re done with a good book, why not pass it onto a friend to read. The affordability of brand new paperbacks is around £8-£10 but if the quality of the friendship isn’t up to that, head to your local charity shops and pick up an eclectic title for around a pound. Granted there’s not as wide a selection of recent reads, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding something with a dust jacket that looks quite immaculate and carries an inside cover price of £20. Just make sure you put a rubber over the new price, often written just inside the cover in pencil.
Thing Eighteen: Donate to a Charity Shop
That’s it! I can’t big this up any more than it already is. Charity shop donation rocks and everybody wins. You wanted something funny didn’t you, I can tell. Sorry. Jump to Thing Twenty.
Thing Nineteen: Be a Subversive Pay it Forwarder and Leave it in a Public Place
To get the maximum amount of enjoyment from this you need to assume the stance of an innocent looking lurking bystander. Simply place your book far enough away from you for disassociation, then wait for an adoptive passer-by to reach out and clutch it with love and longing. One of the best places to do this is a loo, well, it is for ladies anyway, because there’s such a lot of passing traffic, you might easily think it had been left inadvertently by a fellow commuter. While you’re busy drying your hands or touching up your lashes, observe covertly from the cover of inevitable mirrors and see faces light up as they either hold it up and yell to see if the previous owner is still around, or watch them tuck it into their bag with a wry smile of, Oh Yea. Either way, it moveth on.
Thing Twenty: Make Talking Piece Table Mats
If your glue stick has got anything left to offer, decoupage a dull old melamine rectangle with something a little more evocative, then cover them in a slather of clear gloss varnish to preserve them. They make the perfect table accompaniment, ideal for laying out when you’ve got particularly boring dinner guests coming over. You cannot fail to spark up a conversation about what lies before you when you have a set of these classy numbers. Consider plying your guests with words that are guaranteed to make their mouth water. Something seductive and culinary by Nigella might good, but don’t ramp it up to anything by Alex Comfort, M.B., Ph.D., or it might turn into a completely different sort of party altogether.
Thing Twenty-one: Put it Back on the Shelf to Gather Dust Gloriously and Enjoy Looking at it
Quite simply put.
In conclusion, this rather bizarre post will soon be launched into the ether and it is our fondest hope you will think it quirky enough to RT it, perhaps even comment on it on your Facebook page, but most of all, we hope it inspires you to look at books in a different way and helps you appreciate them a tiny bit more than you do already.
Oh and we also live in hope that you’ll stick it in the odd blog post too but hey, I realise that’s probably pushing it…we’ve only just met…etc.