It goes without question that books should be shared with the world, but when it comes to our own personal libraries, some of us can be a bit sensitive. We know the sorrow of lending a book, never to see it again. Maybe we refuse to lend any more books in the future. Or perhaps after being burned before, we’ll only let certain books out of our sight. Regardless, many of us have a horror story or two of a book we’ve given to a friend or coworker to borrow, only to realize we’ve made a terrible mistake. So let’s pour one out for the books we’ve lost. Below are some of our stores:
My very best friend throughout high school and college was almost as avid a reader as I was. We had similar tastes and often bought each other the same books by accident for holidays. And again, this was my BFF. So I thought nothing of letting her borrow my signed first edition copy of Outlander, which I’d gotten autographed when Diana Gabaldon was at a local bookstore. I stood in line for two hours for that autograph and my thirty seconds of getting to chat with her. When it was returned, the previously pristine dust jacket was ripped almost in half and taped together with black electric tape (seriously, what the hell?), the spine was shattered, and the pages were falling out. THE PAGES, people! Including the one with the autograph. I won’t say that was the death knell of our friendship, but we didn’t remain close after college. And I never let her touch my books again. Not with a ten foot pole! –Kristen McQuinn
One day, I decided I wanted to reread Bee Ridgway’s The River of No Return. I searched my bookshelves, first casually, then with growing agitation, but did not find it. I worried I’d thrown it out, having recently Konmari’d my possessions; but no, I knew that I would have never tossed a book I’d loved so much. Over the next three days I drove my family nutso asking them if they’d seen the book, and turning my parents’ house upside down looking for it. STILL, NOTHING. Finally a faint trickle of memory seeped in: “Did I loan that book to your friend?” I asked my mom. “Oh, maybe,” she replied. “And she still hasn’t returned my McCallum DVDs.”
Turns out said friend had married a hoarder and put all her stuff in storage because he refused to move moldy newspapers out of his house. Or at least this was her excuse. I texted Madame X–name changed to protect the guilty–asking if she would check to see if she still had the book. Weeks passed. Finally my mom went out to lunch with Madame X, who reported that she’d finally gone to her storage unit and seen the book, as well as the DVDs! Yes, she had seen them, but did she bother to grab them and return them to us? Did she think I was texting her about it out of mild curiosity, or what? I WANT MY BOOK BACK. Something tells me that’s not going to happen. –Tasha Brandstatter
Several months later, when I returned home from law school for vacations, I noticed that this book no longer occupied its place on the shelf. I was aghast! My mum said that my friend had borrowed it during my absence and that she would return in a few weeks’ time. I was angry and anxious (anxiety is my superpower!) – the friend assured that it will be returned in top condition. Weeks later I was still asking her to return it – and there was no end to her excuses.
Later she told me she had misplaced it while moving houses, and when I told her that it was first edition, she told me, rudely, that I should get over it, because it “only a book!” ONLY A BOOK!?
Needless to say, this friend is a friend-no-more and I plot her murder every waking hour! (I bought another copy of Cat’s Eye, but I couldn’t find a first edition.) –Deya Bhattacharya
Eventually I bought new copies. In most cases this is fine, but I knew the entire time that even if I re-highlighted, re-jotted notes in the margins, and used post-its to make the books look like it had swallowed a piñata I had forever lost the thoughts of the girl reading them for the first time in her first creative writing class. Sad I know. A few years after having bought new copies I was talking on the phone with a friend who was dating a writer and somehow my books came up. “Oh, I have those,” she said, super cheery like having moved across the country with someone else’s books and having said nothing about it for years, YEARS, was something to be cheery about. She found the entire thing hilarious. I debated whether this was enough to terminate a friendship. (I’m kidding. Mostly.) She promised to mail them back. And she did–even MORE years later. –Jamie Canaves
What books have you loved, lent, and lost? Tell us your book lending horror story!