When Books Attack

Running a bookstore is dangerous. Books can become downright murderous–especially during shelving season. Revealed here are the top six book assassin techniques. Be aware!

The Center Shoot: You push a mass of shelved books to one side to insert something in alphabetical order, and a book sticks, causing those headed toward it to strike hard, and those on the other side to shoot forward with 0-60 velocity. It’s not unlike the physics behind popping a pimple. This is an equal opportunity accident, occurring with tall, short, paperback and hardcover tomes with no preference. It doesn’t matter for the victim; it hurts when books slam into your tum.

The Side Slide: A stack of pocket paperbacks (the little ones) are lying sideways on the shelf. The one you want is 2/3 down the stack. You know your physics, and tilt the stack up, so page edges lean against the shelf’s back. And then the gremlins come: the stack you are holding diagonally up, tilted AWAY from you, moves without rhyme or reason–but with considerable force–toward your breasts, where they strike without mercy.  The Side Slide can happen in any genre but only at specific heights: to the female bookslinger breasts, non-gender-specific to the bridge of the nose, and male bookslingers considerably lower.

The Fiction Faux Stack: Popular with trade- or pocket-sized fiction. You lift a stack of these miscreants, maneuvering them in your arms backwards to brace against your stomach–but one wobbles and the whole thing explodes like a firework. For some reason, most booksellers attempting this lift are barefoot; hardbacks unfailingly strike the arches and ankles. For extra points, smaller books may flip upward and come down after the first layer have fallen, prolonging the effect.

The Soloist: When working above one’s head, it is not uncommon to place a book in a tightly-packed shelf, only to have it leap from its assigned position in a goodbye-cruel-world way–usually onto the shelver’s upturned nose. For some reason, larger books from the history section do this more often. Perhaps they cannot bear to be reminded of the company they keep for all eternity.

Cookbook Crumble: Nicer cookbooks are often printed on heavy paper to absorb color photographs. A stack of cookbooks weighs double what other, similar sized books might punch. Hence the unsuspecting newbie’s surprise when, attempting to shelve a cookbook with one hand, she braces the others between her arm and the shelf. Think very heavy, unstable see-saw. If the bone does not break outright, pain will cause the shelver to flex, sending books to the floor, where–you guessed it–the barefoot toes receive the brunt of the sharp-hardcover-corner action.

The Top Shelf Textbook Stacking Fail: You raise a small stack of large volumes, usually textbooks, to the level of a shelf higher than your shoulders, but the edge of the final book catches on the shelf’s bottom as your arms struggle for that last centimeter. This book slides into your face as the rest fall behind the shelf–if you’re lucky. Otherwise the whole stack drop onto your head.

Books are insidious and have many ways to torment their keepers. These are just a few – but Jack says they are proof that a disorderly shop is safer. Or maybe he said justification….


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, bookstore management, humor, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized

4 responses to “When Books Attack

  1. Wendy, this is brilliant.

  2. Hyoung-Eun, Hoh

    Dear Ms. Welch
    Hello~ my name is Hyoung-Eun and I’m currently translating your book
    (from English to Korean). I’m honored to be given this opportunity.
    Let me just say, I am your biggest fan.
    I’ve read your book in one sitting (real fast, considering English is not my first language), and it was hilarious and touching at the same time. My editor and I are thrilled.
    Anyway, I figured this would be the fastest way to contact you, because I have to clarify some details (in your book) and is it okay to ask a few questions via e-mail? If it is, please let me know your e-mail address. Thank You!

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