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Take a Look, It’s In a Book…

In times of stress we often turn to books for comfort, or even guidance about what to do. In a practice known as bibliomancy, or “book magic,” a person faced with a dilemma will open a book (often a holy scripture) to a random page and take the first passage they see as advice. You can even find characters in books practicing bibliomancy themselves.

The title character of Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe is famously shipwrecked on a desert island, where he must figure out not only how to survive but why: what hope he can have for the future, and what meaning his life might have.  Long passages of the novel, especially in the early stages of his time on the island, are devoted to these spiritual questions.  As an attempt to get some answers, Crusoe takes a large dose of tobacco steeped in rum (don’t try this at home!) and picks up a Bible:

“I took up the Bible and began to read, but my Head was too much disturb’d with the Tobacco to bear reading, at least that Time; only having open’d the Book casually, the first Words that occur’d to me were these, Call on me in the Day of Trouble, and I will deliver, and thou shalt glorify me… the Words made a great Impression on me, and I mused upon them very often.”

About a hundred and fifty years after Robinson Crusoe was published, we find another character practicing bibliomancy… only this time the book he consults is Robinson Crusoe!  In Wilkie Collins’ 1868 mystery novel The Moonstone, Gabriel Betteredge claims in times of trouble he opens his copy of Robinson Crusoe to a random page (again with tobacco!):

“I have tried that book for years — generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco — and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of of this mortal life.  When my spirits are bad — Robinson Crusoe.  When I want advice — Robinson Crusoe… I have worn out six stout Robinson Crusoes with hard work in my service.”

What book do you think would be your preferred “life coach”?  Ever considered opening to a random page when in need of advice?

book prediction