beware the booknapper

A few of my favourite Discworld books – have you read any of these?

Oh hello, I thought I heard someone come in. Don’t mind the mess; I’m just tidying up the carnage from my hunt this evening. Don’t worry, no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post – I was hunting for missing books. Not just any books, either: The first two books in my Terry Pratchett’s Discworld collection, namely The Colour Of Magic and The Light Fantastic.

I hunted in all the book-sized nooks and crannies I could think of in my house, stumbling upon items which had not been seen for several months, such as an old TV remote and a single cactus-patterned sock (I didn’t have the heart to tell it that its mate recently went to the great laundry basket in the sky). Alas, the books remain missing in action.

I sat down feeling rather flummoxed, and that’s when a memory stepped out from where it had been lurking, sniggering to itself while I searched in vain, because it knew the awful truth… my beloved Pratchetts had been booknapped.

At this point I imagine a Poirot-esque scene of bewildered gentlefolk, looking aghast, as cries of alarm ring out: “Booknapped, you say?!” and “Who the devil would do such a dastardly thing?” and “Think of the children!” (I don’t know why people say that in films but it seems fitting for my Agatha Christie style gathering, so let’s go with it).

I hate to break it to you but just about anybody could be a booknapper. Let’s consider for a moment their anatomy and characteristics:

  1. Appearance: They’re largely human and look just like you and I, making them very difficult to spot.
  2. Behaviour: They are sociable creatures, camouflaging themselves easily, whether in passing conversations about current reads in the workplace, or more in-depth analysis and debate of the latest bestseller in a book club.
  3. Modus Operandi: The common booknapper gains the confidence of the bookworm by expressing an interest in similar genres or authors, often during several conversations, until a much-loved or recently finished book is loaned to them… never to be seen again.

They sound rather devious and cunning, don’t they? A foe to make Moriarty hang up his villain cap and take up cross-stitch. Judge not, my friend, for all is not as it seems. Here’s the thing… the booknapper often doesn’t even know that’s what they are. Just as Harry Potter didn’t realise he was a parselmouth and could converse in Parseltongue (snake language, to the uninitiated), these people usually don’t set out to booknap anything.

You may be a booknapper and not even know it! Or perhaps you’ve been shifting uncomfortably. hoping nobody would notice the guilty look in your eye as you think of that book you borrowed ages ago and have yet to return. Maybe you haven’t got round to reading it yet or, realistically, you never will. All is not lost – you can still reunite said book with its owner if you’re still in contact.

And therein lies the key to the murky world of booknapping: Sometimes a person can no longer return a book because life just… happened. Come to think of it, that’s the situation with my booknapped Pratchetts – I lent them to a work colleague who has since left for pastures greener. If I really wanted to, I could get a message to them via their ex-colleague’s friend’s daughter’s boss but, on reflection, I think they’ll find genuine joy in the books when they get round to reading them so I’ll just wish them all well instead.

Besides, I can’t complain; during my wild goose chase I came across a copy of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, which someone kindly lent to me eighteen months ago. I really must get round to reading and returning it before I get a reputation as a booknapper…

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