June 24, 2013

The Curious Reader - What was your worst book-astrophic experience?

Everyone's always talking about their most favorite, heart-warming and joyful bookish memories, but what about those that left us downright sad or cringing? Time to share the pain ...

What was your worst book-astrophic experience?

Many might finish reading a book and feel let down by the last pages or the plot in general, but this is not what I want to talk about today. This one's about your dog eating the new Sophie Kinsella book you just bought, your kids using your precious The Hunger Games boxed set to make papier-maché, or your best friend accidentally setting fire to a bookshelf. If these mental pictures make you shudder, trust me, you're not alone with it. 

Not all of us will have had their share of book related catastrophes in their lives and that is a good thing. Still, I'm fairly certain many have, to a more of less tragic extent, experienced moments that made us break out in tears or go berserk.

Once there was a dry basement. Then it wasn't.

When you live in a house that has never seen water damage or rodent invasions of any kind, you naturally feel ok about storing books even in, say, the basement. And so my tragic story begins. The house in question was built in the 1960s and going decades without anything worse than getting a bit rattled in an earthquake back in, I think it was in 2000 or so, nothing happened which could have potentially caused any damage to the house, its occupants or their belongings.

Then, one fine day in 2007, the rain came. Heavy rain isn't all that unusual here and it had never been a problem either. If there had been mice living in the basement they would have started building an arc that day as something in the sewer system led to a backlog and within a short time the whole basement got flooded. I'm not talking about just water, I'm talking about what you flush away hoping to never see again to suddenly drift by on the lazy river that once was the basement floor. Luckily the water did not rise higher than maybe 4 inches and despite the floors ending up disgustingly dirty, things that had been stored in shelves were fine. 

You think it won't happen again? Trust me, it will.

A week later, the same scenario. This time the water rose over 10 inches and everything on bottom shelves got soaked. In hindsight I guess I should have taken the previous event as a warning. Alas I didn't and once the water from the sewer receded I had to dispose of box after box after box. Old paperbacks, old comic books, old magazines ... I was far from overjoyed, yet I told myself that I only kept them, because I have a hard time parting with stuff in general. And all was well in Birgit-land again. Almost.

One of the last boxes I opened to assess the damage made me cry out in frustration. You see, I didn't exactly remember the exact content and place of certain objects, so imagine my dismay when one of the damaged boxes contained my books and scripts from University. That was the moment I would have cried if I hadn't already been too exhausted from hauling around all those boxes. Long story short, there was no way to salvage any of the books. I had to throw out everything. Memories and money. All gone. In a flush.

RIP Books.

What's the worst book-related catastrophe that you ever encountered? Fire? Rain? Destructive poodle/grandkids/etc?


  1. My cat once piddled on a library audiobook. Naughty kitty! And it was a book through library interchange - my library had borrowed the book from a library in another state, and loaned it to me . They are too kind. really.

    I called up the library letting them know the book had been badly damaged and how should I go about replacing it. They were ever so helpful, asking it if was just the cover, the plastic case, or the CDs. They assured me that if the CDs were undamaged, they could fix the rest with no cost to me.

    I couldn't lie. Or rather, I only lie well when I have prepared one ahead of time. I had not anticipated this helpfullness. Darn them. So, over the phone I meekly admitted that my kitty had piddled on thier book and I could not in good conscience return it.

    There was muffled snickering.

    It didn't end there. I had to go by the main circulation desk to deliver a check to replace the book. Apparently the ever so nice librarian had left a 'fun little' note explaining things to all the librarians at the circulation desk.

    It didn't end there.

    The out of state library had to be informed as to the type of damage - for their records, I am sure, and not for their amusement.

    Kitty had a questionable sense of what was a bad book.

    1. Ok, that did make me smile (and laugh, all right). I bet libraries get their fair share of odd accidents that involves their books getting damaged. Keeps the life of librarians fun, don't you think?

  2. Oh Birgit, I'm so sad to read of what you lost, especially the special things from University. I don't have mine either and I wish I did.

    1. It still hurts just thinking about it ...

  3. Mine would be accidentally sweeping a book into the washing machine. I carried the book into the laundry room, set it on the dryer, and while switching loads of laundry between the machines, I swept it into the washing machine. I discovered my mistake when the next load was done. Do you know the mess a Kleenex makes in the wash? SO much worse when it's a 100 page book. Oh, and did I mention the book was a gift?

    1. I think I remember that story! And do I know how much fun a Kleenex in the wash is? You bet I do. Never tried it with a book though and don't plan to either.