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Book on the Head

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Glasses on books are optional.

The main exercise in just every poise class: learning to walk with a book on your head without letting it fall. It helps with standing up straight, the basis to earn respect in high class society. Rich men are not expected to slouch, either; but curiously, it's mostly women who are shown training with books in fiction.

Maybe because of the association with beauty pageants, whose contestants always work their walking and general attitude before arriving on the podium. It's also common in Finishing schools.

The other context where the book-on-head training is seen, is when a Fish out of Water have to learn high society manners, whether she just legally won her entries in or she is working undercover, impersonating a rich protagonist.

The main character will either do it perfectly, confirming she is where she's meant to be, by managing to carry more than one book, or curtsying and descending stairs while still having it on the head. Or else, her rival will manage to do so while the heroine will fail miserably, confirming she don't fit in.


A common variant consists of using another object, like a vase, or adding difficulty, by putting a fragile thing ( the aforementioned vase) on the book, or increasing the number of the objects carried on the head.

Compare Throw the Book at Them for the other meaning of "book on head".


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     Anime & Manga  

  • Magical Idol Pastel Yumi. Mrs. Fukurokoji once bet with her aunt she could teach lady-like manners to Yumi. Lessons included the walk with books, and at first, Yumi was not able to curtsy without make them fall.
  • Kilala Princess. When Kilala is in Cinderella's world, they are training together to have perfect manners; Cinderella and Kilala are once both seen with several books on the head.
  • In Sailor Moon, Usagi attempted to do this, but ended up tripping since she couldn't look down to see what was at her feet.

     Fan Works  

  • A.A. Pessimal's tale of murder in Ankh-Morpork, Murder Most 'Orrible features the Assassins' Guild School. Here, Joan Sanderson-Reeves ratchets things up for her student Assassins when she tries to teach them how to move gracefully and elegantly and not to jolly well slouch! With the aid of Poisons master Mr Mericet, she demonstrates that it is possible to balance a saucer of nitric acid on your head - and not to spill a single drop. "Well, you have a jolly good incentive not to, do you not?" note . But Joan displays mercy and tells her class they'd better do it with books on their heads, for now.
  • Quizzical: A Little Fixer-Upper:
    "Show me you can walk around the room with poise."
    Quiz had no difficulty completing a lap of the library's front room, so Scootaloo added a book.
    “This would be more stable if the smallest book was on the top,” Quiz pointed out.
    “I know,” said Scootaloo, adding a third, even larger book. “Walk around again. And this time explain the difference between a noun, a proper noun, and a pronoun.”



  • My Fair Lady. In the song "I could have danced all night", Eliza briefly put a book on her head while going to bed; servants put it back on a table when they notice her zeal.
  • Princess Protection Program. Princess Rosalinda want to prove to her new friend Carter that being royalty isn't just showing off. Carter learns how to act with royal aplomb, including walking with a book. When she states she just can't believe princesses are compelled to do this, Rosalinda burst into laughter and admits she actually never had to do so; she was just pulling Carter's leg.
  • The Princess Diaries. Averted during Mia's training, but still, Queen Clarisse show her how to walk without slouching and dragging herself along, even without a book.
  • In Gay Purr-ee, part of Mewsette's training involves balancing a bowl of cream over her head.
  • The Brady Bunch Movie. Inverted when Marcia tries to land a job as a teen model, but before she can start, the photographer/agent tells Marcia she'll need some "work", which she assumes includes walking with books on her head.
  • A League of Their Own. The female baseball players, additionally to the sportive training, also have to follow etiquette lessons, which include this exercise.
  • In The Music Man, the ladies practice dancing with books on their heads, and succeed until one move has them intentionally leaning backwards, and the books all fall in unison.
  • In the adaptation of Sapphire Blue, Gwendoline is seen with a book on head while Charlotte gaves her Lessons in Sophistication.


     Live Action TV  

  • The Beverly Hillbillies: In "Pygmalion and Elly", Sonny Drysdale demonstrates book-balancing to Elly May. Jed and Jethro, spying from behind the "fancy courtin' parlor" curtains, think he's nuts.
  • The Brady Bunch. When Marcia takes a friend under her wing to make her over, one of the lessons in a Training Montage is book-walking. Marcia can do it but her trainee is terrible until the end of the montage.
  • Sha Na Na. In an episode where Jocko is trying to make himself less uncouth to impress a girl, he sits with a book on his head while passing the potatoes at a practice dinner. He keeps the book steady but fails at saying "here you go" without saying "youse."
  • Seen in the opening montage of the last season of Charlie's Angels (Tanya Roberts).

  • The Upper Crust mentioned this as one of the activities they were forced to do in the song "We're Finished With Finishing School".

     Western Animation  

     Real Life  


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