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10 Rules for the Good Book Borrower

Jess Carbert

Staff Writer

Jess is a freelance journalist with training in the mystic arts of print, television, radio, and a dash of PR. When she’s not mowing people down in her wheelchair, she’s writing like her life depends on it, or getting willfully lost in a book. Twitter: @heyits_wheels

We all love books. That’s why we’re here. We love reading them, sniffing the pages to the point of delirium (I’m convinced that utopia smells like the exact blend of books and fresh coffee), and gushing over them (or picking them apart) with friends. They’re often our gift of choice (both to give and receive), and unlike dental care offices, we can recommend them to people without disclaimers. We even lend them out in the hopes that they will capture more hearts than just ours, and make a real impact.


10 rules for being a good book borrower.

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Err, well, I stopped doing that last one years ago, because even though I’m surrounded by more books than I can possibly get to by the end of 2018 (this is my lot in life and I am more than okay with it), my books are my books. Listen, friends: I know you want to borrow them. Please know I don’t want you to, and no amount of cajoling or glitteringly sad puppy eyes thrown my way will change my mind because while I totally trust you with my WiFi password, the same cannot be said for my books. I have trust issues, and I will never get over them.

…But in case I do get over them (why is my life the epitome of “never say never?” Nobody wants that), I’ve written up 10 rules for book borrowers. If they’re not followed, the consequence will be sudden, instant, and even immediate death.

If I give you a book, please adhere to these conditions, so as not to aggravate a suddenly twitching eye (on the bright side, most of these will guarantee you a free book).

1) For the love of f*ck, don’t leave food crumbs wedged between the pages of my book, okay? I don’t want it back if you smushed your nacho cheese-covered fingers all over it; the only time that would be acceptable if I was the one eating nachos and smearing it on the pages. But you know what? You win if you do that, because I will give you the full-priced hardcover and buy myself another one. Congrats on that ingenious scheme to get a freebie (I hope those crumbs grow mould).

2) “Oh, sorry, I dropped it in the bath.” Oh, sorry, I just spat a mouthful of water halfway across the room in indignation. You can go ahead and keep that book too, ‘cause I don’t want it, now that it’s been fermented in your tepid, grimy meat-suit cleanser.

3) If you annotate a book without asking me if that was okay, or letting me know ahead of time: f*cking why? W H Y ? What did I ever do to you? Why would you destroy the sanctity of a book that I loved with your sloppy scrawl? LBR: We probably weren’t going to be friends forever, and this incident proves why.

4) “Oh, I loved it so much, I gave it to my friend.” What the f*ck? N-O. NOOOOOO. Call your friend (who I may or may not know mutually, but most likely not) and get my book back right away, because I entrusted it to you, not you, your friend, and whomever your friend sees fit to pass it onto next. My novel is not the town bike (especially not if I paid full price for it). Go to the library for that sort of Kumbaya attitude— but they will frown sternly and expect late fees, instead of uncomfortably shrugging and pretending it’s totally fine.

5) Return the damn book instead of hoping I’ll forget about it. After a year, if I ask you for it back and you give me a blank stare, we both know you’re either trying to keep it, or you lost it. If you haven’t read it in 365 days, you likely don’t need to read it urgently, so give it back and check it out from the library, or use an Audible credit when the mood strikes. You can procrastinate with your own books, not someone else’s.

6) Don’t bend the pages (a little bending is fine, but if they’re sticking out of the top of the book and folded over on the inside, I’m gonna wanna know exactly how that happened and why).

7) Don’t crack the spine so that it looks like the book was beaten up by a menacing ghost, man. Just don’t.

8) “You have lots of books, why can’t I take this one? I’ll bring it back!” Just because I’m the only bookworm in your life, doesn’t mean you’re automatically entitled to the novels I bought and paid for. Jokingly whining about it and then actually getting upset isn’t going to make me change my mind when I refuse (if I did refuse, it’s because I know you won’t take care of it, or I’ll never see it again).

9) Putting that book in your purse/bag or just grabbing it anyway and sneaking it out (a**hole, this is why we’re no longer friends) means I will never give you anything ever again. You wanted that book so badly? Now you won’t even be able to convince me to give you a glass of water.

10) If you actually lost the book (or want to keep it), let me know. If it’s not in your budget to replace it, just be honest, tell me what happened. That’s it, that’s all. You can come clean, I can get myself a new copy, no big deal.

Are these too harsh? Too lenient? What are some of your book borrowing rules? Let me know!