How Long Is Too Long To Borrow Books?

The first time I took one of my good friends to my favourite second-hand bookshop, she went a bit ballistic. I don’t blame her. It’s an amazing shop filled top-to-bottom with great finds. And you can get so many of them for only a couple of euros!

But my friend may have been a little too overexcited. She managed to forget that she was – in fact – a total scaredy cat, and bought the complete collection of Edgar Allen Poe. I don’t blame her for that either. Edgar Allen Poe is amazing. So was the beautiful cover of his completed works.

Colour me surprised when about a week later, I see one of our mutual friends slinging the exact same book about. She quickly informed me that our friend had read the first few pages, and found the book to be a bit too much for her. She had been eager to lend it to the first person who wanted it.

Another few weeks later, the book came my way, with our mutual friend informing me that our friend still wasn’t ready to take the book back, and was perfectly okay with me borrowing it. I was delighted since I had been a big fan of Poe ever since reading A Tell-Tale Heart in one of my college classes. I devoured some of the stories quickly, but the book was a doorstopper, and soon I had to put it down to get on with other books on my TBR pile.

So the book got lost in the back of my bookshelf. Our mutual friend moved away and my friend, whom the book belonged to, never ever brought it up. I forgot about it myself.

A few months ago, while rearranging my bookshelf, I found the black and red cover stuffed on the bottom shelf. Flicking through the pages, I remembered how exactly I had come to obtain it – and how it didn’t belong to me. I felt a little prickle of guilt. It had been a long time since this book had come into my hands. Not only had I not finished reading it, but I had never given it back. Not to the friend who had lent it to me. Nor to the friend who had bought the book.

But it had been years! And nobody had spoken of the book. Is it proper etiquette to give the book back with an apology? Or perhaps more books (like book-ish interest for keeping the book far past its course)? Or is it better for it to just stay forgotten?

Celeste Ng, Jesmyn Ward, and Robin Sloan recommend their favorite books in our newest podcast, Recommended. Download it for free from Apple Podcasts or Google Play.
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