December 6, 2022

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie: Six Alternative Uses for Shelf Bending Novels

By Paul Goat Allen

Chances are good we all have at least a few big books in our houses: epic novels that are 700 pages or longer. I’ve heard them called many things – shelf benders, door stoppers, and lap numbers, to name a few.

With inflation on everyone’s mind—and people trying to pinch pennies wherever possible—I’ve come up with a few alternative uses for these shelf benders.

1. Pest Control
Creepy crawlies don’t stand a chance against L. Ron Hubbard’s 1006-page epic Battlefield Earth, which can almost instantaneously turn any spider, ant, or small rodent into a miniature crime scene. True story: I used Terry Beer’s self-published debut novel The Diary: Perdition Awaits (a massive genre-blending novel weighing in at 978 pages) to kill an unusually fast wolf spider that had survived numerous attempts at its life from my hair-spray wielding wife.

2. Step Aerobics
The price of trendy exercise equipment can be outrageous! Fantasy fans looking to get in shape can save a substantial amount of money by simply gathering up hardcover copies of series like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire – A Game of Thrones (694 pages), A Clash of Kings (768 pages), A Storm of Swords (974 pages), A Feast for Crows (754 pages), and A Dance with Dragons (1040 pages) – and creating their own aerobic steps. A Westeros workout!

3. Home Security
Ever been hit over the head with a 700-page novel? Have a copy of a book like Sergio De La Pava’s A Naked Singularity (a self-published 696-page masterwork published in 2008) or Jonathan Goh’s Eludoran (a 868-page epic fantasy poem written in rhyming couplets and inspired by Tolkien’s Middle-earth) readily available on your nightstand to defend yourself from intruders. Robbers won’t stand a chance against Shane Michael Jones’ 924-page self-published epic Oh Ye Mighty. Brings new meaning to a novel with a thematic punch. Also, these work effectively as an impact weapon as well as a projectile!

4. Makeshift Booster Seat
When my first daughter thought that she was old enough to eat at the dinner table sans highchair, I utilized the 1138-page omnibus hardcover edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as a makeshift booster seat. (Strangely enough, she found this seat perfect for second breakfasts and elevensies…)

5. Insulation
Having bookshelves on your exterior walls really does reduce your energy bill! Here’s an excerpt from an article posted on The Telegraph back in 2008 entitled “Interiors” by Sarah Lonsdale: “Books are the original insulator. A shelf of books along an outside wall works well to prevent heat escaping… If all the books were removed from the homes in Britain, our energy bills would rocket.”

Who needs insulation—just buy more books!

6. Teach the Kids about Immurement!
Reenact Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story “The Casque of Amontillado” – where an unsuspecting man dies a gruesome death after being bricked into a catacomb niche – by taking a dozen or so hefty hardcovers and “bricking” your child into a closet or small room. The youngsters can learn about Poe, the meaning of immurement, and undoubtedly be scarred for life!

I’ll bet more than a few of you have already utilized shelf-benders in one or more of these ways. Admit it—you’ve squashed a bug with a book! Got any more innovative uses for big books? We’d love to hear about it!

Paul Goat Allen has been reviewing books for more than 25 years. In addition to BlueInk Review, his work has appeared with, The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and more. He also teaches in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate writing program.

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