As a general rule, I don’t lend books to people. Not that I don’t trust them. It’s just…
Or maybe I expect something worse.
The first fear makes perfect sense to me. I mean, libraries place limits on how long you can borrow a book, and they have *multiple copies.* All right, so libraries also have many readers who might want to read the book, while I maybe just don’t like the idea that I can’t reach for any one of my books whenever I want. But I’m going to move right past that to the worry about book damage, because that’s where things get a little… unfair.
I don’t tread on eggshells with my books. When I was in elementary school, I read my favorite book until it split in half and lost its front cover and first few pages. I’m a lot nicer now; I do my best to keep my books in relatively good shape. But I also shove them into bags, sleep on top of them, and read them in dangerous proximity to messy foods. To me, a book is a companion, something that’s supposed to show some signs of wear. A pristine book is a little-read book, one I don’t love enough to drag through the untidiness of my life on the off chance that I’ll get to snag a few chapters.
Or it’s a special shelf copy, enjoying the envy of its battered but much-loved twin. Either way.
You would think I would be happy to lend a book to someone else who’s dying to read it–someone who will love the book as much as I do, carry it everywhere out of sheer addiction to the story. But no.
I’d rather buy a friend her own copy than lend her mine. But that’s not always feasible, and if mine is the only copy available… I’ll probably make the loan, because it’s hard not to sympathize with someone who desperately wants to read a book. Even with someone I trust, though, I can’t expect to be completely at ease about the book until it’s back in my hands.
My anxiety is possibly a little ironic, considering my track record. But maybe it’s like a house. It’s ok for you to scuff the floors, smudge the windows, and break an appliance or two. Those are all signs that you live there. But if someone else comes over and does that, you might never invite them back.
I think to a certain extent, all readers live in their books while they’re reading. We’re people with many homes, and we love them all. So when someone borrows one of my books, I expect them to be on guest behavior. And as much as I like sharing the hospitality of a good book…
…it’s nice to have the house to myself again.