So I have this habit… every time I go to someone’s house I inevitably find myself gravitating towards their bookshelves which I then must scan at length, and ask them about every single book that interests me. I absolutely cannot stop myself from doing this. I can see myself doing it and I know that I should stop, but I just can’t… I see bookshelves and I am no longer in control. Now, my friends who know me and love me (and all love books as well) have come to accept this habit, and some of them actually enjoy the obligatory conversation about every single book on their shelf, which must take place before any other matters can be possibly be considered for discussion, but when going to someone’s house for the first time, this can sometimes be perceived as a bit odd and even a bit obnoxious. I understand that there are a number of reasons why people would find this habit a bit annoying:
- they are self-concious of their reading choices
- they have other important matters to discuss with you
- they are worried you will ask to borrow things
- they would prefer to have your attention over a bunch of books
- dinner is ready and they are hungry and you just keep browsing their shelves like you’re in a bookstore
- they just find it a bit of an intrusion, somewhat akin to you going through their underwear drawer
So although we all understand that some people don’t like their bookshelves being stalked by rabid bookworms, will acknowledging that fact actually make us stop doing it? No. We have a problem. So what can we do to make people feel a bit more at ease while we rummage through their reading history?
- Try to make your being tractor-beamed into the bookshelves grasp look as natural as possible. Accidentally spy a book and ask a question about it. Once the conversation is going, you can naturally move towards the shelf without looking crazy. Try to keep any eye twitching while waiting for your opportunity to a minimum.
- Once you are at the shelves, we all know there is no chance of your attention being on anything else, but at least try to make it look like you are listening to them drone on about whatever it is people talk about when they aren’t talking about books.
- Even try to look in their direction occasionally. This will give the illusion that they at least have a portion of your attention.
- Compliment their books. This will make them feel less self-concious about the hardback of Twilight on their shelf. No one is asking you to compliment Twilight, but compliment something and ignore Twilight. DO NOT MAKE FUN OF THEIR READING CHOICES!
- When asking about books don’t be all judgy if they haven’t read every book on their shelf. Many of us buy books at a faster rate than we read them. This is because we have zero self control. If we had self control (or shelf control) we would be able to stop ourselves from stalking shelves in the first place.
- Try to get them involved in the bookshelf tour by fangirling/fanboying/fanpersoning over their books. WARNING! beware of conflicting ships. Depending on how close you are with (and thus likely to forgive) this person, a conflicting ship can lead to all out war. So treading lightly here could save millions of lives (and dollars. War is expensive).
- If your intention is to borrow, wait for an invitation, and try to judge whether that invitation is genuine or because they feel that they have to offer. And if you are unlikely to care for someone else’s books as if they were your own children, until you have read them and promptly returned them, DO NOT ACCEPT THEM. Ruining someone else’s book is also grounds for war.
- If dinner is ready, go and have dinner. Don’t forget to encourage them to eat as much as possible so that they find themselves trapped in a food coma. This way, you will be able to browse their shelves in peace while they are flopped on the couch unable to move due to their third trimester foodbaby that you helped them conceive.
So these are my tips to make your shelf stalking go just that little bit smoother and increase your chances of being invited back to someone’s house to stalk those shelves again. But I know what you’re thinking. What about those people whose houses you visit who don’t have bookshelves (or their bookshelves contain nothing more than a set of encyclopaedias from 1987, and The Australian Book of Fishes)? What do you do? Do you talk to them about other things? Do you go and look at the book of fishes? No you don’t. There is really only one thing you can do in this awful, awful situation. You leave. They will probably drug your tea and you will wake up in the basement waiting to be cannibalised. Because everyone knows that not reading leads to cannibalism. That’s just basic fact. So if you find yourself in a bookshelf-less house, leave. Run if you must. Get as much distance as you can between you and those monsters.
So do you find yourself inexplicably drawn to peoples’ shelves when you enter their home? Do they welcome it or does it give them the cranks? Have you ever been drugged by bookshelfless monsters? Obviously if you have, you must have escaped. In which case, we would love to hear your harrowing tale of survival. Any escape/survival tips you have could save a life. If you did not survive and you are a ghost reading this from the beyond, I’m sure we’d all love to hear of your experiences in the afterlife, as well as any pointers you have on haunting the monsters that murdered you. Leave a comment below.