Periodically, I blog about ways to promote a love of reading, often by creating greater access to books. However, I do not think I have ever suggested lending out books to friends as a strategy and there’s a good reason why–I personally dread lending books to friends. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I even offered to lend a book to someone because, well, I don’t want to! In my defense, however, I have my reasons.
I buy and own very few books to begin with. The books I do own, I take very good care of. One of the proudest moments of my life is actually when I donated a pile of books to the library, and I overhead the librarian tell a coworker, “What a shame that these books have never been read.” I owned those books for years and read them multiple times. But they still looked brand new! I do not even crack the spines of paperbacks. The majority of my books are pristine. So lending these books out to people who do not care for them the same way naturally causes me some stress.
Lending out books has resulted in more problem scenarios than me for not. There was the time about ten years ago when I lent a book a friend. I haven’t seen that book since. There was the time I lent a book to a friend and she lent it to at least three more people without asking me first. The book (a paperback), which had gone out new, came back practically shredded in pieces and covered in dirt. There was the time I lent a friend a book and, when I asked for it back, she screamed at me and threw it into a muddy puddle. (I guess she wasn’t done with it??) And the time I asked for a book back (because it had been nearly a year) and my friend gave it back in a huff, immediately, informing me that she only had to read the final page. But then she wouldn’t. To stick it to me. Really, it is almost as if lending out books to normally very reasonable people brings out the worst in them.
Lending out books to friends has taught me two things. Firstly, that most people do not treat books as gently as I do. And, secondly, that mixing friends and property is probably going to end in a ruined friendship one day. Because others do not treat my books with the same care as I, I usually get upset when a tattered volume comes back. I would, in theory, expect someone to pay for my damaged property, but no one has ever offered to do so because, I suppose, to them a torn and dirty book is the same as a pristine one. I have never asked for the book to be paid for, because I know that my friends would find this ridiculous. I’ve seen enough to know that mixing friends and finances is how friendships die. My solution? Stop lending out books to friends.
I suppose not offering to lend out books could be seen as mean, but the way I see it, the books I own are my personal property. I paid for them, and books are not cheap. I do not have to lend them out to people when I suspect those people will destroy them or never return them at all. My friends all have access to the public library, so my decision not to hand out books to them is not keeping them from books. Arguably, it might benefit them more to get a library card and discover all the resources available to them through it.
Book lovers tend to treat books as sacred objects sometimes. However, they are also material objects. Objects that I, in this case, paid for. I don’t feel any personal impetus to sacrifice the books I paid for in order to get a friend to read a particular book. If they are interested, they can use the library. And if they ruin the book, they can take that financial dispute up with the library, too. This system may have resulted in my friends reading fewer of the books I have recommended to them. But I think it has also preserved our friendships.
What do you think? Do you like lending out books to friends?