Bookish Confession: I Don’t Like Lending Books to Friends

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?

28 thoughts on “Bookish Confession: I Don’t Like Lending Books to Friends

  1. Hannah says:

    I totally agree with you on how books are your own personal property, for which you have paid for. I understand how some people might not see books as very important, but it drives me crazy when I lend books to people and they come back tattered and torn – just like how you described them. I remember lending a book to a friend 3 years ago, and it still hasn’t come back… But I do lend books to friends who I know will take care and return my book, instead of simply not lending at all XD

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, that’s true! If I think someone is really trustworthy and won’t ruin my book, I wouldn’t mind lending it out! It’s just hard sometimes to know before I lend out the book and it disappears forever!

      Like

    • Ari Augustine says:

      I don’t understand that, either, Hannah. Like, I was always taught that you treat someone else’s’ things better than you treat your own. Because they aren’t yours. But with books, that concept seems to go out the window.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Krysta says:

        I’ve been baffled a lot by friends ruining stuff I lent them because I would be absolutely horror-stricken if I had damaged someone else’s property. But a lot of people will just return the item in pieces or whatever and act like nothing happened. It’s kind of surreal.

        Like

  2. Adrian says:

    I’ve thought about this a lot recently, as I moved house and realised how many books I had. When I was younger, I threw books around to friends like confetti. Sometime in my thirties I started to hoard them and loved them as objects. Now, as I get older, I am somewhere between the two. I love my bookshelves and enjoy people looking at my books when they visit. There are books I’ve never give away for emotional and personal reasons. But they are just objects. I like for them to be shared. I don’t care if I get them back. We can’t take them with us when we go to the big library in the sky. Sometimes I see a friend who needs to read a book that I have on my shelf and I give it to them. They can keep it. I can always buy a new copy if it annoys me so much. Books should fly.

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    • Krysta says:

      I guess, for me, the reason I no longer like lending out books is that I’ve already donated almost all of my books. I don’t see the point of hanging on to them if I have no intention of reading them again, when someone else could benefit. Usually I give my books away to a library or a classroom, where I hope they can have multiple uses before their lifespan ends.

      So anything I have left is probably special to me in some way, whether it has sentimental value or it’s a book that’s not easily accessible even at the library. And it’s that that makes me wary of lending them out. I’m happy to direct people to the library, though! And those hardcovers are probably better suited to hard usage than my paperbacks.

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  3. Chanpreet says:

    I lent an out of print paperback to my cousin and it came back with mold and water damage. I won’t lend a book that I don’t mind not getting back now. In fact, I won’t lend, I’ll just give it to them.

    You’re right, people don’t value books the save way book lovers do.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      It is strange to me how people don’t care for books! Even if they don’t value the book the same way I do, I would have assumed more people would be careful with an item that belongs to someone else. But, alas, this has not been my experience.

      Like

  4. Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies says:

    I hear you! I’m mainly stopped lending books to friends, because it’s seems that no matter what, it’s at best a 50/50 chance that I’ll get the book back, and even lower odds about getting it back in acceptable condition. There’s really only one friend, a fellow book fanatic, who I’ll lend books to at this point, and she’s well aware of my need to keep books pristine — so without even having to say anything, she’s gotten me replacement copies when her kitties chew the edges or something else happens to my precious books.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      The last time I lent a book out, I checked in to make sure that the person wasn’t bending the cover in half or something. They then decided to buy their own copy of the book. I, um, might not be really great at lending out books. I’m just not sure whom I CAN trust! Off the top of my head, probably only one person. Your friend sounds fantastic, though!

      Like

  5. Ari Augustine says:

    Years ago, when I was moving to NYC and didn’t have the space to take more than a bag with me, a friend offered to hold onto my books until I got settled in. This included a special edition collection of Emily Dickinson poems and first edition HP novels gifted to me by someone near/dear to my heart (who had died around this time). Once settled in, I let her know she could send them to me whenever she had the time via protected mail (it had only been about 3 months).

    And it turned out she lost them. All of them. I never found out how or why or when this took place. They were in a suitcase in her house, but apparently, no one could find them. As much as I was enraged, disappointed, and hurt by this, I had made bad decision to let her hold onto them for me. In my eyes, it was partially my fault.

    So I don’t think it’s mean or rude to not let friends borrow your books. Because the reality is, they aren’t going to care about them as much as you do; they don’t have that emotional, sentimental link to those sacred books that you do. I was never one to borrow mine out. And after the horrible disappearing of my books, I never asked friends to watch over my stuff again. It’s nothing personal. They’re just…well…MY books.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Wow, this story sounds devastating! Books kind of end up being like friends in a way. It’s comforting to have them around to turn to. And so losing them can feel very personal! Which is definitely why I’m very reluctant to lend any of my books out anymore. I’ve been burned too many times.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dena @ Batch of Books says:

    I know what you mean! I still lend books out, and I accept that I won’t get some of them back. Normally, I will repurchase titles that come back destroyed or don’t come back at all. But that’s not an option for everyone, so I don’t blame you at all for protecting your books!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I almost never buy books for myself, so I think I’d feel a little bitter if I had to repurchase one a friend had damaged. I just think my friendships work out better when I don’t throw my books into the mix! XD

      Like

  7. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    Amazing post! I just don’t like the idea of lending my books that I have bought from my savings or received because I work hard to author or publisher find my blog good enough to send books. I don’t have good or bad experience of lending books but I don’t want to find out. it’s like horror story that no one likes to experience.

    Like

  8. danielle pitter says:

    I don’t lend books out to friends, either. I don’t think I have in years. I keep my books in a trunk, while I keep some in a shelf above my bed.

    Like

  9. addyinbookland says:

    I do agree with you. I don’t lend books at all but I used to! One friend returned my book dirty and with dirt (it was in high school and she would take it out during P.E. when I asked not to). Another folded the cover behind the book warping my paperback copy and cracked the spine. Lastly, a friend never returned a book I let her borrow years ago. Because of them, the people in ny life have lost their book borrowing privileges with the exception of *one* person who’s a fellow book person and does take care of my books. I don’t think I’ll ever let people borrow books again… they can try the library.

    Like

  10. Mary Drover says:

    I decided a lonnnnnng time ago to stop lending out books to most of my friends, but recent events have taught me to lend them out to no one at all, even those I once deemed close enough to trust. I had about three people that I would regularly lend out books because all of them returned them quickly and in good condition, but over the pandemic, when one of my friendships was deteriorating (all those true colors coming out), my books took the brunt of the fallout. The first issue was when said friend lent my book, which I’d lent to her, to her sister, who then took it across the country with her and lent it to one of her friends, and I never saw it again. The second issue was when said friend borrowed four books for upwards of three months–she was a fast reader, and would generally read about ten books a month–and when I asked for them back, she came to my house when she thought I would be away and was then flippant & rude when it turned out that I was home. The last issue was when she moved a few hours north and decided she wasn’t going to return what she had of mine. I told her to drop them off in mailbox and let that be our final interaction. There were a ton of other things that contributed to our friendship falling out, but the constant disregard for these books that I love so much, especially coming from a fellow reader, was definitely a big part of it, too.

    Like

  11. M.B. Henry says:

    I think it depends on the friend for me. If it’s someone where they live close by and I can hound them to give me the book back (haha), and I know they treat books nicely, then I would consider it. But most people never give them back so it’s getting harder and harder to loan them out.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I’m actually surprised by how many people said they prefer not to lend out books! The two? or so people who would lend books out have my respect, but I do not think I have the fortitude to join their ranks!

      Liked by 1 person

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