Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be…

“i’d love to read (fill in the book title)…could i borrow it when you’re finished?”


that depends.

will you be taking the book on your cruise to the bahamas?

will you be moving to Australia between now and the time you get around to reading it?

will you in turn loan it to “just this one good friend who was dying to read it”?

will you stuff if into your briefcase along with your dayplanner, liverwurst sandwich, and (leaky) water bottle?

the fact is, i do lend books quite regularly, but only to a select group of friends.  we pass books back and forth with ease, and i never have a moment’s worry about whether they’ll be returned to me in a timely manner, and in pristine condition.

i am such a booklover, though, that, on occasion, i  find myself  completely enraptured with a novel, and wanting to share it with everyone. 

sometimes, this desire backfires.  a few years ago, i purchased a copy of The Namesake, read it – no savored it – and immediately fell in love with it.  the theme of assimilation into a new culture was extremely pertinent (my son had just married a young woman from Thailand, and was in the process of arranging for her immigration to the united states).  this was a book i knew i would read again-and perhaps, even again.

but, foolish me, in my zest to share this wonderful novel with everyone, i allowed a co-worker to borrow it. 

little did i know that she was planning to take a leave of absence for knee surgery.  little did i know that she would never return to  our office, and my book would disappear with her.

lesson learned.

and i still miss that book.

certainly, i could replace it.  i could even purchase a copy in paperback if i wanted to spare some expense.  or search it out on bookmooch.

but it wouldn’t be the book – the hardcover i first read and fell in love with.

and you probably think the ravenous reader is just plain silly.

but i’ve sworn off lending books to just anyone, no matter how nice a person they seem.  silly or not, books are too important to me. after all , this is a girl who, as a child, would cover up books that had picture of puppies or kittens on the cover, since they “might get cold” during the night.  this is a girl who never piled books on top of one another since those on the bottom of the stack “could get bent.”   this is a girl who, following the advice of her favorite librarian, uses only the barest sliver of tissue as a bookmark, since anything thicker is “dangerous” to the spine. (well, i really don’t do thay anymore.)

at any rate, i’m no longer a lender.

however, there is this collection of short stories i’ve just finished that i feel you must read…


21 thoughts on “Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be…

  1. Lending books is dangerous business. I’ve gotten out of the habit myself. There’s a few reasons:

    1. Books are expensive these days.
    2. I rarely crack the spines of paperbacks (I’m weird that way) and hate when I get back books I’ve lent with the spines weakened.
    3. I’m a terrible borrower myself — keeping books much too long.

  2. I’ve lost a number of books by lending them out, so I won’t do it anymore. I’m always happy to recommend a good read, but that’s as far as I go. Books are the things I’d miss the most if I lost all of my personal material possessions.

  3. I cringe when people ask to borrow my books, and I usually just keep forgetting to bring the book with me until they get the message. 😉 That being said, I leant three books to my best friend two years ago, and while they safely made it back from Brazil, I still have yet to see them. But since she’s my best friend, I’m not really worried about losing them for good!

  4. It is so tough being a Lender. I want to share my happy finds with my friends, but I can’t take the risk that it won’t find its way home to me. Too many times I have never seen the book again.
    On the other hands, between myself and my 3 teen girls, we are quickly running out of book shelves. We all love to read so much and they just keep piling up. Yet, I would rather have a home full of books than anything else~

  5. Once I’ve read a book it goes either into the category of a) will never let it out of my sight or b) don’t mind passing it on and never seeing it again, because you’re quite right, that IS the fate you have to bear in mind for it. I’ll lend books around in the family, but I’ve lost too many others now to lend freely again. And of course this is the beauty of the blog – you can recommend a book to all your friends without there being a question of passing it on!

  6. I HATE lending books to others (and yes, I am very aware that using caps in comments is equal to shouting 😉 ), so I have always been very selective in who I lend books to. I lent a book to a friend last year and I am still to see it back. So I’m afraid she won’t get any books from me any more. Last week I gave a book to another friend to read, but I see her three times a week (she is one of my students as well), so I am (still) rather confident that I will get it back.

    If I borrow books, I am always very careful about what I do with them, so no far travels, lending on to other friends and other potentially damaging actions for borrowed books.

  7. I used to feel that way about my books…I just hated to lend one…I still think about the “Anna Karenina” I loaned and never saw returned…

    But I no longer feel that way. Maybe it’s the cancer experience and not wanting to “keep” things because they are only “things”. Life changed me in so many ways. Yes, I still love my library and there are some books I keep because they have special meaning, but on the whole now, I am happy to “release” my books into the world and I hope they will be read again and again and passed on continuously.

  8. Not silly, not silly. I don’t loan books anymore. They always get lost or damaged, and I search so hard to find them for my own library! I’m also very picky about keeping paperback spines un-creased or split, and my husband seems to be unable to refrain from cracking their backs to spread the pages wider. It makes me cringe. Poor books!

  9. I don’t really mind letting a select group of friends borrow my books, but if one comes back damaged then your off my list! My one friend dogeared numerous pages in Water for Elephants – come on, get a bookmark!

  10. Very few people are allowed to borrow from my library! 🙂
    And, once a book goes out I always think I won’t get it back – that way I go in with low expectations and am happily surprised when I do get my book back! Of course there are some books that are never loaned out – autographed copies, favorites, etc.

  11. I know just what you mean! I’ve become like that with video, too. I have one book — a Christmas gift — that I loaned to a good friend (who claims she has it and knows just where it is!) but when I remind her, it never comes back. Some books — well, once I read them, I know they are done and they either go to resale, volunteers or offered up to folks I know might enjoy them. But others — oh, never! They might not be great masterworks. Maybe it’s the thrill of trying to get all the Anne Perry mysteries or Elizabeth George “Lynley” books. Maybe it’s the experience I had reading it or it was a gift. This is why I have a space problem!

  12. I buy most of my books used so the quality isn’t very high to begin with. I wouldn’t mind lending them out. But the books that I buy brand new are for me. If I spend more than $2. on a book then it’s off limits.

    BTW, love the site. I wish I shared your gift for writing.

  13. I recently had a very good friendship break up over books….yes, books! She had asked me for some good fantasy books to read, since she read mostly science fiction. Silly me, I gave her all my favourites…..a huge bagload of about 30, since she reads very fast. About half eventually came back, and when I asked about the others, she said she had put the books on her shelves, and then asked a friend to catalogue them and put them in order, so she couldn’t find my books any more! then she confessed she allowed this same girl to pick ANY fantasy books she wanted since she didn’t remember buying them!!! which were all mine, of course! So, I now lend my books to a select few, and I also have learned to write down the titles, which saves me wondering a year later why the first book in a series that I know I have, is no longer to be found!
    On the other hand, I LOVE sharing books that I love, so I’ve begun buying copies for other people as presents.

  14. My goodness, we all have very strong opinions about this don’t we – mostly born from bad experiences in the book lending department!

    But we all do love to share our passion for good books, so, as Litlove pointed out, thank goodness for blogging, so we can at least rhapsodize and recommend (and occasionally have a giveaway!)

    Thank you all for sharing 🙂

  15. Well I have lost a few books here and there that I wish I still had. An ex boyfriend lost some favorite books of mine, but my husband replaced them for me. I’m more cautious now before lending out my books. I just get excited about my books and want everyone else to read them sometimes.

  16. Funnily enough I was lying in bed this morning thinking about a couple of books that I would really like to still own but no longer have because I lent them to the same person and have never seen them since. Unfortunately that’s a friendship that drifted after we stopped working together and so they won’t be coming home anytime soon, if at all. It’s made me very wary about lending books but I have to say that I have a problem the other way as well. People thrust books at me and say ‘You must read this’ regardless of whether or not I have expressed an interest and without enquiring whether or not I have time. I have a shelf full of books that other people have insisted on passing on and which I haven’t had either the time or the inclination to read and which I really don’t have the shelf space to spare for. I know it’s very kind of them but I do wish they would ask if I want to borrow first.

  17. I’m right there with you. I don’t lend unless I know my book will make it back safely. And if anyone is going to write in, smudge, bend, or otherwise deface my book, it’d better be me and not some moocher. 😉

  18. Yesterday I posted a disparaging remark about someone who borrowed a book long ago and always says they’ll return it — but hadn’t (in over a year!). Well, I don’t know that she reads this blog, but she did stop by the office this morning, book in hand!

  19. I rarely lend books out except to my mom and sister. They know me and how much I treasure books. Recently, I started getting ARCs from some publishers. A few of my book club members asked if they could borrow them. I kind of made a few jokes about not bending the pages, using a bookmark, etc. Well, one of the girls told me that she put the book in a ziploc baggie and keeps it in there when she’s not reading it. Her huband wanted to know why she was being so careful with a book. I was so embarrassed — I can just imagine what they’re saying about me when I’m not around! 🙂

  20. I don’t lend books. That’s what libraries are for. But, if it’s a close friend who inquires, a few clicks on Amazon will send another copy to me that then becomes a gift book.

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