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Peggy Keener: Useful uses for used books

Once again the folks of Austin have given the Friends of the Library their books for our Fall sale. Thank you! I’m never sure why you are so generous, but I suspect several things: you want the library to succeed; you have difficulty parting with perfectly good books, so you let us part with them for you; your bookshelves are groaning under the weight of ignored books; or the floorboards under those aching bookshelves are dangerously bowing.

Some of you may have noticed that after you’ve donated your books, you come to the sale and buy back those very same books. Be assured this odd behavior is neither frivolous nor are you frittering away your money.

You see, there is a profoundly deep psychological explanation for this phenomenon. When your eyes land on the covers of your old books, the familiarity of those covers draws you in like the magnetic chumminess of running into an old friend you haven’t seen for ages. Moreover there is a special kind of book conviviality that oozes out of the pages and into your now captivated soul. Unaware of exactly what is happening to you, you lose control. You must buy that book!

Later in the privacy of your home, you find yourself cuddling up with your “new” book. At about page 9, you become aware that something about this book is very familiar. It isn’t new at all. Dang! You’ve done it again. Gone and bought back your own book!

In no way do I find this odd, disturbing or scary as it is a regular occurrence with me. I would suggest, however, that if you find you have bought a particular book back more than twice … or thrice … you might want to talk with a friend or therapist. Best to not talk to me about it, though.

Our used book sale offers help in the most unexpected places. For example, if your vocation is causing you discontent, get yourself over to our used “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. There you will find solace no matter your career. To name a few, we have “Chicken Soup” books for podiatrists, tax accountants, substitute teachers, phlebotomists, pool boys, Hormel employees, minstrel singers, turkey farmers, wedding planners, undertakers, lumberjacks, vacuum cleaner salesmen, Trump lawyers, parking lot attendants, colorectal surgeons, tattoo artists, crossing guards, fruit cake bakers and church organists. Your return to inner peace is only $1 away, the price of a large used paperback.

It never ceases to amaze me how much knowledge I obtain from  each book sale. Like who would have thought this sale would teach me about the construction business? It’s like this. It is my contention that if Danielle Steel and James Patterson would form a partnership, they could build houses out of their mountains of old hardcover books. Imagine this. The walls are built of romance and mystery books stacked up like stiff, thick, densely packed pancakes. Not only would those walls be impenetrable, but an aura of love and whodunit would penetrate the house. Think of the atmosphere! The mystique!

To make certain that your home stands on a solid foundation, it should be constructed out of old sets of encyclopedias. Those of us who have owned such sets know that nothing on Planet Earth is stronger or longer lived. Indeed, we have discovered that encyclopedias—those elephants in our rooms—never ever-ever-ever wear out. Why, some of those tomes have never even been opened! Think about it. Your house will be securely supported for the next millennium with mind numbingly expensive, brand new, out-of-date knowledge.

In the same vein, I caution you that it is risky to build your foundation using books of a political nature. Their lasting durability cannot be  guaranteed. I mean, who wants their home held up by memoirs of Sarah Palin, Ross Perot or Dan Quayle. Know what I mean?

The thick pages in baby board books make fine insulation. By the time such books are donated to the sale, they already show clear signs of multiple baby bite marks around the edges. All that is required of you is that you continue chewing on them a bit longer. You’ll soon find that the once stiff pages make wonderfully pulpy weatherproofing that is ready to insert between your wall studs.

On the fanciful side, why not wallpaper your kitchen with pages from cook books? It would be wise, however, to first pay a visit to Mayo to have a glucose tolerance test inasmuch as such pages could be detrimental to your health.

What I mean is if you are one of the rare people who needs to gain weight, I would suggest going overboard with dessert pages illustrating pies, cakes and chocolate. For the rest of us—the chubs—diet books dedicated only to sugar-free Jello recipes might work, although there is a danger of your quickly hating your kitchen. Above all, be careful in picking out a book in this category. What I’m talking about is authenticity. My favorite pick for the most bogus diet book ever written would have to be Oprah’s. Need I say more?

Pages from self-improvement books also work well as wallpaper. The champion in this genre would have to be Dr. Phil. It is simply astonishing how one man can have the answers to virtually every conceivable life challenge. And yet, I would remind you, this swami-guru-know-it-all-plus-more cannot explain why, when we go to the used book sale, we buy back our own books!

Moving on, imagine your windows all trimmed out in Harlequin romances. Since they are all exactly the same size, they would make terrific frames for your panes. Caution is prudent, though. At all costs do not use the bodice rippin’, hot and steamy volumes as there is a danger your house could melt.

Doors, of course would be made from oversized coffee table books. Simply add hinges. Perfect! You’ll find that the extra thick ones make wonderful Minnesota storm doors. Gorilla glue them end to end, edge to edge and you’re set. Cinchy!

And now for the bathroom. Seeing as how you’re a captive audience in this space, why not turn the walls into a place that encourages deep thinking? Festoon your little room with inspirational quotes, making certain that the wall facing the toilet contains the most profound. Yes, I can envision it. Pages from Erma Bombeck, Mark Twain, Billy Graham, Socrates, Garrison Keillor or Snoopy will fill those otherwise wasted moments with unexpected insight. Additionally, thesaurus pages are excellent for increasing your vocabulary.

I would suggest that how-to books on plumbing be handily placed under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, just in case. And it goes without saying that well-used decorating books would surely be helpmates in designing your rooms. If, alas, they recommend wall-to-wall orange shag carpeting, you might want to consider the publishing dates. Additionally, you might also want to check if the allure of see-through, fitted plastic sofa covers is still in vogue.

I strongly suggest that old VHS tapes, which, let’s face it, have gone the way of shag carpeting, be made into area throw rugs. You won’t believe how easily this can be achieved. Simply smash the plastic cases and carefully remove the film. Then with size 15 needles, knit the tape into fetching braided or herringbone patterns. Voila! In no time your home will have shiny brown, crunchy rugs throughout.

Not to be overlooked is your landscaping. If your yard is cruddy, not to worry. Rip out pages from our old gardening books and using tent stakes, peg those pages onto the top of your hard packed dirt. You’ll soon have a yard that turns your neighbors green with envy. No watering, weeding or mowing! All that is asked is that you completely replace it every time it rains.

So there you have it, surprising suggestions for your next home improvement projects. Isn’t it strange how life has unexpected lessons like this? Who would have ever dreamed that one day Austin Builders Supply would be in competition with the library used book sale?