Never lend a book?

When you’re a bibliophile, lending books can be problematic. They may come back damaged or dirty or not come back at all. The borrower may declare that they hate the book that you only loaned because you thought they’d love it. Many people choose not to ever lend books, instead only giving them away or keeping them.

For me, there is nothing worse than leaving books neglected and unread. I have a lot of books and, though I try my best to only keep the ones I think I will want to read again and/or that I want to pass on to my children, most of them will spend decades sat on a shelf. So I do lend books, even though some of them have never come back to me (I currently have two-thirds of the His Dark Materials trilogy…if anyone has my copy of The Subtle Knife I would greatly appreciate it back!), because I want them to be read again and again. I love that my copy of Lord of the Rings has become separated from its cover and is bent in several directions because it’s been read so many times, by various people. (I should say, though – if you lend me a book I will endeavour not to leave it in that state, or one approaching it. Really.)

I’m not precious about the state of my books – if it makes it easier to read it I will break the spine and I often carry them around in my handbag (but don’t worry – I remind myself to be careful with other people’s). So a little bit of damage to a book of mine that I’ve loaned out isn’t going to bother me. But something that seems to bother other booklovers that I really don’t mind is when others don’t like the books I have loaned them, or vice versa.

I don’t expect to like all the same books as my friends. There are so many books out there that it would be odd if we did. And I’m a critical reader; I rarely rave unreservedly about a book. I enjoy discussing books with people but if that conversation just went “I loved it!” “Me too!” wouldn’t that be dull?

What about you? Do you have any strong feelings about lending books?

3 thoughts on “Never lend a book?

  1. matthew self September 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    I enjoy lending books. It’s nice to be able to talk to people about books you’ve both read. It quite often leads to me re-reading the book as well. The borrower will mention something about the book that i’ve forgotten and rekindle my interest in it.

    I suppose the down side is the occasion you have in mind to re-read a novel, go to the shelf where you thought you’d left it, only to realise that you lent it to someone 6 months ago. Curses!

  2. gusset September 20, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I lend and borrow books quite a lot. Don’t have a problem with it. I do like to keep books nice when I can but try not to get too anal about it. I kick myself every time I crack a spine but its difficult not to, especially when they live in my work bag for reading on the bus. I was annoyed recently when someone returned a book that had been lent in good condition and it came back wearing the signs of having been kept in the bottom of a well used rucksack with a leaking biro for several months. Slight damage I expect but that was taking the piss.

  3. Shelley September 20, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I do lend out books but reluctantly. The problem for me is, if I don’t get the book back (which often I don’t) then I don’t like just going out and buying another copy because I feel like I’ve bonded with that SPECIFIC copy. It kind of feels like lending out my kids!

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