Let’s have a book-burning!

And I need your help.

One of my favorite books (by my favorite author) is Archer’s Goon
by Diana Wynne Jones. My father gave me his copy when I was about sixteen and I proceeded to read my way through the rest of DWJ’s work, and since then I’ve loaned out and had to re-purchase more copies of that book than I can recall right now. So you can imagine my thrill when I found a hardback version in the Angeltown Library Discard Box. Free. Snapped it up, took it home.

A month ago, I started reading it to Kiddo#2 while she lay in bed, dying of either a headache or a toothache or whatever the illness of the day was, and I could tell she loved it too because although the chapters are about 25 pages apiece, when we finished one she’d be saying, “Can we read another?”

Until the day I paged ahead and realized page 180 was followed by page 21. The pages continue up until 45, which then reverts to 216. I had, horror of horrors, a defective book, probably the reason it was in the discard bin. The book was also old enough that I doubt the publisher would take it back and replace it.

Within half an hour I’d ordered a replacement copy from an Amazon reseller (and it’s here, and we’ve finished the book now, and once again I enjoyed it) but I still have this damaged copy. And I don’t want to just throw it away, for a couple of reasons. First being that I really love the book, even damaged, and second being that I’m home with kids all summer and maybe we can turn this unfortunate book-binding accident into a craft.

Problem: I can’t think of a craft you can do with a damaged hardback book. I suppose we could hollow out the inside and turn it into a secret box for our valuables (if we had anything of value here). The kids’ librarian once had the children tear up discarded books and use some kind of glue to laminate the page parts to picture frames, to weird effect. We could solemnly burn it as a way to give it final repose.

Any better ideas?


  1. mgudlewski

    I can’t remember where I saw this online, but somebody posted some cool pictures of old hardcover books that were converted into journals. If I come across it, I’ll send you the link.

    It was great to see you Saturday. Hope the rest of your weekend was happy.

    1. philangelus

      We had a good drive back, although it was crowded on the roads. I hope you did too.

      Do they wash out the ink somehow? That would be pretty cool. I could always use another blank book.

  2. cricketB

    Origami. Bookmarks. Word-search (find verbs, colours, proper nouns, words you can read, longest word). Count the number of R’s on each line, page, and graph or otherwise analyze the distribution. Same for words of different length. Word frequency (verify most common words in English).

    Whatever you do, don’t let it get into the hands of someone who will be as disappointed as you were, but not able to get a complete copy. For some, it would become a bad experience rather than a simple delay.

    1. philangelus

      That’s a large part of why I feel I need to destroy the book. If it hangs around here it might get given away, and it’s not one of her more popular works so it may not be in print still at that point.

      I wonder if I could use it somehow to get Kiddo3 to start reading.

  3. Kate

    This page has some neat ideas: http://www.writtenword.com/turn-old-musty-books-to-art-and-other-cool-things/

    I like the floating book shelf, and the book purse.

    1. philangelus

      They had some great ideas! I like the floating book shelf too, but I think we may go with the wreath. Thanks!

  4. mgudlewski

    Kate’s link was great!

    The idea I saw online (which I may never find again) didn’t wash out the pages; I think they removed them and inserted new blank pages.

  5. Iolanthe

    Archer’s Goon was a great read. All DWJ’s stuff is so different from all her other stuff, if you know what I mean.

    I have no words, whether of wisdom or not, to impart regarding your difficulty with the defective page arrangement. And I so relate to your wish to preserve the physical book.

    I just wanted to share that this same thing occurred when I was about 11 years old. Two of my friends and I saved all our pennies and nickles to order three copies of the same book from the publisher. When they came they all had that same kind of defect, which my mother told us was due to the “signatures” getting disarranged. (I assume this meant the book’s layout on huge sheets of paper which would be in the right order once it was collated and bound.) We were heartbroken, but the publisher quickly made good on the books.

    Having done just small booklets on my computer desktop, I’ve just got to say I’m amazed that so many books came out right back in those days! I don’t see how typesetters kept their sanity. I think many of them didn’t.

    I have a hardcover edition of Howl’s Moving Castle, bought through a dealer online, that was withdrawn from a public library collection in San Diego CA. Except for one bit of nameless substance spilled on one page, I don’t think anyone ever checked it out. 🙁

    1. philangelus

      That’s sad. Can I hope it just got misfiled and the library’s other eight copies were being read over and over again…?

      It was neat to be able to show Kiddo#2 how the book was sewn together, the bundles of pages etc. She might not have quite “gotten” it if the page numbers had been continuous, but this was a very clear lesson because of the way the numbers jumped.

      May I ask which book you and your friends all read together? That sounds like a neat idea. My friends and I did the same, but serially. I read books I’d never have picked up because my best friend recommended them.

      1. Iolanthe

        The book we all got was a retelling for children of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress from the Moody Press, which used to (maybe still does) publish all sorts of religious stuff. It was called Little Pilgrim’s Progress — I still have my copy somewhere, but I can’t put my hand on it and can’t recall the name of the reteller, which was prominently featured on the cover. The cover was a color painting of a grim-looking young boy in a suit of armor, and there were nice line drawings before each chapter.

        When I read the original PP as an adult I realized how very much bowdlerization had had to be applied to the material for the kid-friendly version, yet both parts of the original had been carefully and thoughtfully recast with youthful characters.

        I don’t remember which of us originally had the idea to take on such a reading project. The three of us went to three different churches, and only one of us had a dad who was a minister. All three dads were on the English faculty of the same small college, however. I was going into sixth grade and my two friends into fifth, and we knew we were getting straight-up allegory and not just a weird adventure story with oddly-
        named characters such as “Faithful” and “Hopeful.” It was part of the fun of the whole thing.

        (I can certainly understand J.R.R. Tolkien’s “cordial dislike” of allegory, however, particularly when applied to LotR. On the other hand, his “Smith of Wootton Major” is all allegory all the time….)

    2. Ken Rolph

      The arrangement of pages in order to print correctly when bound is called imposition. It’s a craft and can be learnt. Afterwards it is quite straightforward. The thing that drove typesetters nuts was the arrival of publishing for everyone, however lacking in talent or skill. So people began to use multiple random fonts on the one page.
      But the thing that really drove us nuts was people having odd numbered pages on the left hand side. There’s a detective story, possible a Sherlock Holmes, which turns on someone reporting that they had seen a leaf torn out of a book. It was supposed to be numbered something like pages 362-363. The detective knew this couldn’t possibly be true. The odd numbered page on a single leaf always comes first. But today people do anything. How will we be able to solve crimes now?

      1. Iolanthe

        Heh, I know what you mean about the fontapalooza that tempts an amateur typesetter. If one font is good — or maybe two if you want a nice decorative title font — then five or seven or nineteen has to be awesome, right? I have known pros who were appropriately anguished by all the badly designed stuff that is out there now, not just in print or online but also on signs and the sides of vans — complete with their/they’re/there and it’s/its misuses and plenty of “dissapointments” and “definatelys.” (I’m also fond of “dissapated” and “reknown” for “renowned.”)

        I have noticed a recent apparent change in imposition (thanks for the term), or at least in pagination, practice: the main text of printed novels tends to be page one nowadays, rather than page seven or eleven after however many were needed for the blank page just inside the endpapers, the title page, the epigraph, and so on.

        As to who will solve crimes now that odd-numbered pages are all over the place, it’s a puzzler. 🙂

        1. Ken Rolph

          The common practice used to be to start the page number 1 at the beginning of the main text and use Roman numerals for the forematter. I note that ebooks are now tending to put the forematter at the end. Page numbers in ebooks being irrelevant.
          If you want to practice imposition, it’s easy. Get a sheet of paper. Fold it once down towards you and once to the right. That’s an 8 page section, still joined at the top. Write the numbers 1 to 8 on the pages. Unfold it and see what pages are next to each other and how they are oriented.

  6. tottergirl
    1. Iolanthe


  7. kethria


    My friend takes books like these and makes them into beautiful works of art 🙂