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Books That Bite

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"Oh, I get it. It's a book of biting satire."
Mike Nelson, RiffTrax of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, regarding The Monster Book of Monsters
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Sometimes, due to various circumstances (generally involving magic), books may end up with a tendency to get... animate. They're often evil or hostile, but they don't have to be: often they just show a mischievous sense of humor — moving about at random, running away from grasping hands, floating, knocking objects off tables, etc. And yes, sometimes Moby-Dick has molars or Finnegans Wake gets fangy... but that's a sorcerer's library for you. Watch your fingers.

Subtrope of Animate Inanimate Object. See also Deadly Book, when reading a book's contents can kill. For a magical book whose contents are old and dangerous, see Tome of Eldritch Lore. Contrast Literal Bookworm, for something that bites into books.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Strips 
  • One Calvin and Hobbes had Calvin's book suddenly come to life and eat his homework before attacking him and forcing him to break its spine to save himself. Or at least that was the reason he gave Miss Wormwood for why his homework wasn't done, complete with said broken-spine book as "evidence".

    Fan Works 
  • In A New World, the books in the Scarlet Devil Mansion library have been heavily enchanted for a wide array of defensive purposes. It has been a long time since anyone was sure of how many layers of protection have been placed over the books, so when a band of unwary invaders is lured into the library and the books triggered to attack, they wind up unleashing a maelstrom of every kind of magic available.
  • In A.A. Pessimal's take on the Discworld, Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes puts on a little demonstration for the grimoires that her husband Ponder Stibbons keeps in his study. After her youngest daughter takes an interest in the magical books note  Johanna shows them a book and a box of matches. She then tears out pages, one by one, sets them on fire and drops the ashes in the bin. The point having been made, she nods at the intently watching grimoires and walks out again. Later, a visiting witch, aware the books are testing her out, draws her short but very sharp Cossack knife, and subjects an otherwise blameless City Watch memo to the death of a thousand cuts. She points out to the grimoires that whatever magic they contain, they are still only made of paper and she keeps her blades very sharp.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • One of the fake Necronomicons bites Ash's hand in the graveyard scene in Army of Darkness.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Monster Book of Monsters, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a monster that is simultaneously a book about monsters, if you can get it to stay open long enough to read without it closing on your hand and biting it off. It turns completely docile if you stroke the spine, but the students weren't too keen on getting near it.
    • In the eyes of Flourish & Botts, this is worse than when they ordered 200 copies of The Invisible Book of Invisibility. ("Cost a fortune, and we never found them.")
    • Madame Pince has put various spells on her books to protect them from mistreatment. In Quidditch Through the Ages, Dumbledore recalls how he once started doodling in the margins without thinking and found the book beating him around the head the next second.
  • While this didn't originally apply to the Necronomicon, it's a common trait in adaptations. What better way to advertise a Tome of Eldritch Lore than having it possibly kill you before you even read it?
  • Discworld: The magic books inside the Unseen University's Library have to be chained to their shelves. Sourcery describes a few of the books. The Necrotelicomnocon is bound in iron plates, the Guide to Levitation has been floating in the rafters for about a hundred and fifty years, and the Booke of Forbidden Sex Majyk is kept in a deep-frozen room and should only be read if you are over the age of 80 and, if possible, dead.
    • To make matters worse, the books, apart from a fair number of them being able to rip the skin from your bones, they can read each other and learn methods to kill you with everything from magic to a door handle. There's a very good reason why the students only venture into the library in large numbers (or scouting expeditions).
    • The Octavo, the creator's own grimoire is so powerful that it can overload the most powerful anti-magic spell in existence and change reality.
  • In Rainbows End, the library at the University in San Diego has these, although they're purely virtual and only visible to people who are "wearing". Nevertheless, they're as real as any of the other e-books the library has. They were created as an in-universe Shout-Out to Discworld.
  • According to Dave Barry, every year a taxpayer is randomly chosen for an audit and thrown into the room containing the US tax code and the door hastily shut. There's some screaming and burping noises, and the next day the tax code is just a little thicker.
  • Children's book The Book That Eats People claims to be Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy V: The possessed books don't themselves bite, but the demons inside them take forms based on their pictures when they attack, often switching forms during battle. (They're known for the occasional party wipe, as some cast Level 5 Death,note  and you enter the library around level 25).
    • Final Fantasy IX: The book monster had poisonous fangs. Possibly a Mythology Gag to the aforementioned books from V, given the sheer number of references IX had to past games.
  • Donkey Kong 64 : There are monster books in the Creepy Castle Library.
  • Overlord Zetta in Makai Kingdom ends up becoming one of these. He doesn't bite, but he does possess Eye Beams that vary in strength from simply being really painful to causing explosions the size of a small nuke. In his cameo appearances in other Nippon Ichi games, he almost always attempts to blast someone with them after they mistake him for a normal book.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: There are two varieties. The first type merely flies at you and tries to slam into you. The second type opens up and tries to skewer you with an array of magically summoned weapons.
  • In the Spiritual Successor series Bloodstained Ritual of the Night, the Dantalion enemy are spellbooks with lost souls inside that try to devour anyone they come across.
  • King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne: In the Fan Remake, one of the puzzles involves Graham solving a riddle at a bookshelf. If he gets it wrong, he is eaten by the bookshelf's guardian.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (most versions) has a level set in the library. You will regularly get the shit beaten out of you by books flying in and out of the shelves.
  • Secret of Mana: Books that attack (largely via casting magic) are a recurring enemy. They also have the rare chance of displaying a naughty centerfold!
  • In Super Mario 64's Big Boo's Haunt course, the books in the library fling themselves out of the shelves to attack Mario.
  • Kirby: Triple Deluxe has a course reminiscent of the Big Boo's Haunt course in Super Mario 64, complete with books that attack the player and a very similar aggressive animated piano with sharp teeth from that game.
  • In Touhou Koumakyou ~ the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, the books in the Scarlet Devil Mansion's library don't bite. They just fire enormous waves of bullets and lasers... and they like to attack in swarms.
  • Hearthstone has Babbling Book as a Mage minion, among various other Animate Inanimate Objects around Karazhan. It's presumed to be normally docile, but has gone berserk with Medivh missing.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, animate books are common recurring Mooks that attack by shooting bolts of magic at your Servants; several Palette Swap versions also possess different skills/abilities.
  • You encounter a few of them in the third chapter of Your Turn to Die. Fail to drive them away in time and Shunsuke Hayasaka will be killed.
  • In Baten Kaitos Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, in the Haunted Library, magical tomes fling themselves from the shelves to attack the party.

    Webcomics 
  • Sinfest: Criminy received a demon book as a gift from Fuchsia. He learned to tame it (with bookmarks), and now it's like a fiercely-loyal guard dog that also makes for good reading.
  • The Evil Flying Book from Axe Cop did this.

    Western Animation 
  • The Venture Bros. episode "Trial of the Monarch" has Dr. Orpheus getting sworn in to testify - he suggests substituting the Bible for his book of choice, the Necronomicon, warning the bailiff "Watch your fingers - he's a nibbler!"
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "Papa's Family Album," the evil imp wizard Hotap in Papa Smurf's flashback story turned Brainy's book into one of these, which then chased after Brainy until Papa Smurf turned it back into a normal book again.

 
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The Monster Book of Monsters

Hogwarts assigns some weird textbooks.

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