One of the most beautiful things amongst book lovers is their joy of sharing; those who love reading find satisfaction in passing along the stories which changed our lives and touched us deeply, there is solace in meeting someone who is willing to read the tales that have moved us. We love libraries, we think they are one of the greatest ideas humans have come up with. It is not a surprise that we enjoy, and even encourage, lending books.
Yet, there are exceptions to this rule. Books we hold so dear that we refuse to even let them out of our sight. Here are a few examples of books our contributors refuse to lend, and their – more than reasonable – excuses.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
I have read this book a few times and I own two copies: one in English, that I bought at a flea market in London for £4, and another in my native language, Portuguese, which I bought second-hand for about €4. Now, I don’t mind lending the English version; it’s the Portuguese version that you won’t pry from my dead hands. The reason why I won’t lend this book is simple: it is to me what a bible is to some people, even if it’s not my favourite book: it has a wonderful hardcover, an edition I never saw anywhere else (not the usual movie cover, either, just Ralph Fiennes in the desert holding Herodotus), and it’s a book I find comforting to take with me on plane trips, or when I feel anxious for some reason. I would be pretty upset if I lost this specific book, so I prefer not to lend it to anyone.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Being the book most responsible for my love of reading, I own a few copies of Lowry’s The Giver. However, it’s the signed copy that, if you look at it wrong, I might hurt you. Not only because it’s signed, but because it was gifted to me at the very first book group I attended at my now-beloved local indie. The owner saw just how much the book meant to me and at the end of the session, she presented to me her signed copy. This bookstore and the group of women that form a warm, loving, intelligent community there have become a large and important part of my life. I look forward to talking books with my ladies once a month and I always look at The Giver as my key into the world of books and that particular copy as my key into a bunch of wonderful friendships I cherish.
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy
I had an unconventional childhood experience with faith: not only was I raised in the small, unique religion of Christian Science, but also, the Christian Science tradition went back two generations in my family. My parents and both my sets of grandparents were lifelong Christian Scientists who met through church. (This was especially unusual in the greater Los Angeles area, where a lot of parents went through a Christian Science phase, but far fewer started you in Christian Science Sunday School as soon as you were old enough to walk and speak!) A variety of sad, complicating experiences led to my leaving Christian Science – and organized religion as a whole – behind in my early twenties. But despite this, my copies of the Christian Science textbooks are among the most treasured volumes in my personal library, because my paternal grandmother gave them to me on my fourth Christmas and signed them, “Dear Alyssa, may you enjoy studying these books for a lifetime! Love, Grandma.” I may have pulled away from my grandmother’s religion now, but I know she gave me those books believing she was giving me the best tools she could provide for a healthy, happy life. That makes them a gift I can guard fiercely for a lifetime – even if I didn’t learn from them what Grandma expected me to.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
I obtained my old(er than me) copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall via BookMooch, back when I couldn’t afford to order it online. It travelled (by boat) all the way from Malaysia to Argentina, arriving three months later, by which time I considered it pretty much lost at sea. It was my first book by Anne, whom I’d wanted to read for years. I lent it twice, and both times I didn’t breathe easy again until it was back in my hands. Never again.
A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes
Like everyone who was twenty and sad, Barthes dictionary of intimacy f*cked me up good. I made copious notes in the margins, scribbled confessions on the blank pages, and underlined the most damaging sentences. Later a friend was in month eight of ten of living away from her girlfriend. So over tea I gave her my copy and left without a thought about the soft parts of my person I had dumped in the book. An hour later I was back insisting we go to a bookstore so I could gift her a new copy that didn’t have 10,000 words of unwarranted emotional baggage.
Mrs. McGinty’s Dead by Agatha Christie
Last year I took my very first trip to England after a lifetime of bookish Anglophilia. I spent one morning at Borough Market eating assorted tasty foodstuffs and sampling way too much hot mulled wine, then enjoyed a pint with lunch because YOLO. Feeling warm and wine-happy, I made my way to Heywood Hill, a bookstore I’d long fangirled over on Instagram. When I walked in, I saw a super old copy of Mrs. McGinty is Dead in their rare books room and said without thinking, “I’ll take it.” Did I ask for the price? Nope! What can I say? This die-hard Christie fan and collector of her works was feeling mighty fine from wine. The next morning, I winced a little when I saw how much I’d paid for it. Looking back now though, the story brings a smile to my face. The book is now one of my prized possessions. That sucker is mine, all mine, and mine it shall stay.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Hello fellow book lover who has not yet experienced the timeless classic Jane Eyre! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever lending you my one and only copy of my favorite book in the entire world…ever. Why, do you ask? Good question. Well, first of all, this book was a birthday gift from the best boyfriend in the world. Secondly, this copy is one of those special faux leather bound editions embossed with quotes from the book, and that’s not even the best part. The best thing about it is that it’s PURPLE! Can you believe it? I own my favorite book in my favorite color. That’s the bookish magic that dreams are made of. So, thank you for understanding that I can never, ever, ever, EVER let this book out of my sight. It is only allowed to sit on the bookshelf and look pretty. Hmm…isn’t that ironic?
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
I ADORE Jacqueline Woodson. She’s one of my favorites of all time. I have several of her books, and you can borrow any of them EXCEPT If You Come Softly, because she signed it! To me! With love! Also, no spoilers, but it IS a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, so it gets real sad in the end and I don’t want to make my friends sob uncontrollably.
When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge by Chanrithy Him
Look, I’ve had this book since (my first round in) college. This book is the reason I wrote my history thesis on the Cambodian Holocaust. This book brought my interest in Southeast Asia to full bloom. I will buy you your own damn copy. DO NOT TOUCH my beloved, annotated, coffee-stained edition. Sure the words would be the same in another edition, but this one has the sentimental value of a baby blanket worn threadbare from years of snuggles. And if you haven’t read it yourself, please do. Just don’t take it off my shelves.
What about you, dear reader? Which book will have to be pried from your cold, dead hands?