Bit of a Book Catastrophe

There has been a bit of a drama at Savidge Reads Towers in the last 24 hours as with some unscheduled rain we have had some what of a leak. To illustrate the point I am using this picture (I can’t actually take a picture of the malay of soggy books as would really set me off and I have been holding it together quite well so far)…

Fortunately it’s not quiet as bad as the picture above and some maybe saved, but naturally as I love books it’s quite gutting and around 20 -30 books have been waterlogged so I am feeling a bit woe is me really. The  again who leaves endless piles of books on the floor in their bedroom in front of the window? Someone who doesn’t expect it to come through the ceiling at 1.30am thats who. But there is no use crying over damp pages and so I shan’t. I shall just have to hunt the books down (fortunately none of them were brand, brand new) as bargains when I can. Or just see if I can cope without them for a while. Time will tell.

This is the second catastrophe that has hit my books in two years. When I moved to the flat that is now below our flat the removal man broke one of the endless packed up book boxes and about 60 books went skidding across a main road… I was sooooo unimpressed. Fortunately most I managed to save but a Toibin ended up in a puddle and a few Christie’s and Atwood’s ended up as road kill. What bookish trauma’s have you had, it may be therapeutic to share, and might make me feel a little bit better! Do divulge.

And how do you dry out and save a soggy book? My Gran put a copy of Half A Yellow Sun that I bought her on the radio after she left it out one night last summer and it got rained on in a shock northern storm overnight (the grattitude!) but the pages stuck together a bit. Advice and catastrophic stories needed/shared please!

44 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

44 responses to “Bit of a Book Catastrophe

  1. Oh no! Poor you – I can’t imagine how awful that feels. It’s very difficult to dry paperback books I’m afraid because of the paper. We regularly get floods in the library I’ve been at for the last 2 years – we stand the books on their tails and try to fan out the pages – this works better with hardbacks with thicker paper. DON’T put them on the radiator. If they are actually covered in water (not yet absorbed) then make sure you wipe this off.

    I don’t think I’ve had any comparable bookish traumas at home, but as I say, we do have them at work!

    • Thanks for your advice Verity and with the state of my TBR this is somewhat of a library so we can both feel each others pain! I have wiped all the water off and those taht are only partially damp are on the stairs drying out with a fan blowing at them to keep the pages apart!

  2. Oh no, poor you! I’m sorry. I hate when books are damaged.

    I had a leak a few years ago and I had the tick shelves from Ikea for my books; only one shelf was affected and a few books. I managed to save The Little Prince and The Complete Narnia (the pages were slightly stuck together and are now crisp and a little rumpled) but I had to throw a couple of Isabel Allende books out. I also gave a book a loan to a friend (oh wait, same ex friend from the book group fiasco) who gave it back to me on a wet day in a plastic bag; the middle section of the book came unstuck.

    My worst book catastrophe though is the HUGE box of most of my books from childhood that was left in the attic when my parents last moved house (I continually checked that they had them and I was repeatedly assured that they did); they also managed to leave my bedroom rug and yet, funnily enough, they were the only casualties.

    • I am not sure quite yet what is saveable and what itsnt yet Claire, am going to have a look when everything is much dryer. I am a bit anal about the look of a book so there maybe a charity haul coming.

      Oh my god, my mother nearly left all my childhood books in an outhouse when she moved. It was a phone call from me that reminded her… and crime on crime.. she is a book person!!!! Childhood books are so hard to replace.

  3. Kals

    Oh I’m so sorry! =(

    I hate it when books tear or are damaged. I remember crying when I ruined my first copy of The Discovery of India by dropping it into a puddle.

    Little kids near books means that a major catastrophe is lurking. My 3 year old niece demolished Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by using it as an art-book.

    • Thanks Kals. I am copingthough as can see them everywhere isnt ideal. Oh kids arent allowed into my room, not that I have any but visiting ones, its a no children zone, but thanks for the warning.

  4. Oh, I have had nothing this horrible happen. It’s OK, go ahead and cry! Then go shopping.

    Just a few weeks ago, I accidently left an ARC at the park, then when I went back to get it, it was missing. That upset me. Once I bought three or four books in an airport, before a cruise, and I left the damn things on the airplane. I think I actually cried about that one. But nothing this bad. *Sigh*

    • I have now had a good cry but have not been shopping and am not planning too. A ban is a ban is a ban. Once the ban is over will have a hunt, least have a list of all replacements needed. I am wondering if it was a message about my silly amounts of books?

  5. Oh, no!! This is so sad, but maybe shopping for replacements will cheer you up. And who knows… there may be other treasures you find in the process.

  6. lizzysiddal

    Ouch! Console yourself, however, the ruined books will replace themselves and you will have no idea how it happens. 🙂

    I know. The day before I moved to Scotland all my books were packed up in boxes and stored in the cellar. That night there was a deluge, a flash flood and the cellar proved not to be waterproof. I lost a lot more than my books that night ….

    … but it’s all be replaced now. 20 years later it’s nothing more than an anecdote. (Though at that time I wasn’t a collector of Folio Society editions …. I’d be a lot less sanguine if it happened now!)

    • I like the idea of book fairies who magically replace all the damaged books over night. I think however you mean I will just by them back here and there, and am sure you are right. Your flood sounds an utter nightmare. All my collectables were fortunatley missed from roaming water.

  7. That’s awful!

    Several years ago, soon after moving into an apartment, I came home in a downpour only to hear the sound of raining *inside*. I ran to my bedroom and saw rain pouring from the AC vent onto a row of books I had laid out on the floor. Fortunately most were books that I had been planning to sell via Amazon used. Wielding a hairdryer, I managed to salvage some of the others, including a signed copy of Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk that my senior honors advisor had given to me for graduation with a note from him inside. The pages are wavy, stiff and stained but it’s still here.

    Apartment management said they would not give me compensation and basically blamed me for not having rental insurance. I wrote a letter pointing out that it was their negligence that had caused a roof leak that came through a whole other floor before reaching mine. They gave me $125. The only books I immediately replaced were the brand-new Harry Potter series that had been destroyed.

    Sorry for the long story, but suffice to say, I feel your pain.

    • Ooooh I dont have a hairdryer, but am using a fan. An electric one of course, not a paper one!!! I won’t get compensation, I left them in a very silly place but at least it has taught me that valuable lesson.

  8. I’m so sorry to hear about your soggy books.

    Cockermouth is my home town, so I am currently very sad to see all the destruction that flooding has caused to places I know so well. It looks like it is a bad weekend for water damage.

  9. Eva

    Aww. I dropped my copy of Pride & Prejudice in a hotel jacuzzi once. I just put it near a radiator (not on it) and it dried out-it’s all warped looking, but the pages didn’t stick together. And I dropped Anne of Green Gables in the bathtub when I was little. (Noticing a pattern here? lol) Other than that, no real catastrophes…I’d have killed those movers though.

    • Now Eva if I had a prize for dramatic catastrophe stories you would win for sheer glamour. A jacuzzi indeed, how Jackie Collins of you, and an Austen too – isn’t that some form of sacrilidge?

      Thank you for making me laugh for the first time today.

  10. We had an indoor water calamity this week as well. The water heater in the unit above ours decided to burst a leak at 4:45 AM. Here in the US we don’t have those little efficient just in time jobbies like you do in the UK, we have great hulking 100 gallon thingies. Yikes.

    Thankfully it was pouring down over the staircase so the damage was minimal. But believe me I was worried about he stacks of books that are not far from the bottom of the stairs.

    • Oh am glad it missed all the books at the bottom there could have been tears. This was a weather issue not aboiler issue, but you made me laugh calling them ‘little effiecient just in time jobbies’ hahaha.

  11. Ouch! That sucks. Just the thought of something destroying my books makes me want to cry. Honestly.

    I’ve never really had a book-related casualty, but, my parents did leave two big boxes of some of their favourite books, when they moved houses. When I wanted to purchase those books some twenty years later, they weren’t best pleased.

  12. Nicola

    I’m a regular reader of your blog but have never commented before. It’s not quite the same, but a book dealer once told me to put books in a bag of cat litter to get rid of damp – I wonder if that might help your books.

    • Hi Nicola, thank you for commenting and especially when I am in such a time of great need and turmoil. I have to say I dont have cat litter, though in a few weeks I might just need it… thats all I am saying for now!

  13. mee

    I have in the past experienced extreme flood destroying some books I had. I found it impossible to rescue books that once get wet. The pages wave and change form, the book gets fat and weird in shape. Let me know if there’s a secret technique to undo the damage! I did end up buying the new ruined books and had to chuck the old away. They were soaked to death and some even lost covers. The water was dirty too. Sad time.

    • It’s horrid isnt it? Though I have to say that your situation sounds much much worse than mine. So far there have been about 5 that can be saved and thats been by spreading the fan in front of the pages. The rest have gone in recycling as they sort of became blocks of paper.

  14. thepygmygiant

    I don’t know if anybody else has put this advice, and it might be too late, but it’s definitely the most successful one I’ve had – freeze them. Sounds counter-intuitive, but put them in the freezer for a bit, then let them slowly thaw in the fridge, and they’ll be surprisingly ok. I got this advice from the Bodleian, who ought to know, and used it myself – I couldn’t believe it, as the instinct is to put them somewhere hot. But no, the freezer is the answer!

  15. Oh, sorry, that ‘pygmygiant’ comment was actually me, my housemate used my laptop and I didn’t realise she’d logged into her wordpress account.

  16. And now I can’t see that comment… basically it was the advice to freeze the books for a bit, and then let them thaw in the fridge. Not what you’d expect, as you’d think you should put them somewhere hot, but freezing them works! The Bodleian gave me this advice, and they should know…! Try it, hope it’s not too late.

    • Hahahahaha blimey what a kerfuffle hahaha. If your someone who hasnt posted before then my blog will ask you to be approved and then you come back as much as you like thats why you as a Pygmy Giant didnt do the trick to start. I have never heard of the freezing idea… there are some quite out there options coming in.

  17. Oh my goodness! My deepest sympathies. I know how painful this can be. I once accidentally spilled an entire bottle of water into a book bag that had The Count of Monte Cristo in it. I have also spilled a mug of coffee on a book. I was really bummed about that one because it was the first edition paperback of Oryx and Crake. (With a cover design vastly superior than the current printing.) You have inspired me to get a new bookshelf so that I can get my piles of books up off the floor!

    • I think your inspiration has reminded me that I need to pop all the current tbr piles that are on the floor in various rooms need putting to saftey too… I still havent done that yet!

  18. Ouch I’m imagining books cracking under car wheels now. Bad luck, with the rain (it’s insane isn’t it, have you seen how many bridges it’s brought down?) I have a drying solution – I read some book about a Shakespeare conspiracy and they had some antique pages get really wet. You need to blot them with paper towels, then they hung each page on a washing line in a room with a fan (so I guess you’d stand the books upright and fan out the pages as much as possible) and repeat over time.

  19. Oh no!

    The Book Conservation pages on the V&A intranet suggest drying out wet books in the airing cupboard after removing all excess water. This has worked for me before – use kitchen roll to get as much of the water out of the pages as you can, then stand the book up on its spine in the airing cupboard/warm dry contained space/wherever your boiler/water tank is, with the pages as spread out as you can get them. Leave it for about a week. Then, if the pages are fully dry, which they should be, leave it in the airing cupboard on its back with something very heavy on top – this should help the pages to flatten and you won’t get that wavy effect so badly.

    Quick action is the key, so get them in the airing cupboard as soon as possible before mould or irretrievable damage sets in. As Verity says don’t put them on top of the radiator – it will dry them out too quickly and unevenly.

    I’ve never had too bad an experience – I’ve dropped books in puddles occasionally or in swimming pools, but quick action as described above has always saved them from permanent damage.

    • I was quite quick with getting nto everything even if it was at around half one or two in the morning and luckily five are saveable to the point that they can go to a charity shop, the rest have had to go into a recycling bin… that is just how damp they were. Thanks for searching the V&A intranet though, I feel like I have the book equivalent of MI5 doing research for me.

  20. Elena

    Hi, I always read and never commented on your blog but I wondered if you could possibly list the books that were ruined? As a fellow book-hoarder with stacks around the house, I feel your pain! But I also wondered if I may have double copies of some of the ones that were ruined. Then I could pass them on, you could be happy to have not “shopped” and you could get your books back. It could alleviate some of the sadness!

    If I have some of the books you lost, I would be happy to send them your way. Maybe others also have a bad book buying streak like me and would also be willing to pass them on to you?

    Hope your day gets more cheery!!

    • Hi Elena thank you so much for commenting and maybe on Thursday or Saturday I shall upload the list of books that got drowned and see if anyone out there has some cast offs, what a brilliant idea and thank you for thinking it!

  21. As much as it might hurt – TRASH THEM!

    Mold can spread to your other books, and to your furniture, etc.

    I speak from experience. When I was laid-off from my job after the Katrina, I worked part-time in a book store.

    If someone brought in moldy books to try to sell, we would tell the person that the mold can spread to the rest of the books and that the books were not wanted.

    Freeze-drying does work, but are you sure you want mold and your food sharing the same space? The bag that you put your book in might have holes.

    • I have recyled them not trashed them. None of them were mouldy though just wet so it wasn’t too bad, but the pages in a few have morphed into one and so I thought ‘right no charity could sell these’ and so have popped them to be recycled instead.

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