Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

The Well-Readheads: On Book Borrowing

Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

In The Well-Readheads, copper-locked contributors Rebecca Joines Schinsky and Liberty Hardy discuss their love of literature and all things book-related.

RJS: So, last time we promised we’d talk about book borrowing in this installment. But what are we thinking here? Just borrowing, or loaning too? Because I don’t really borrow—I have this tendency to write in books–like, I can’t keep myself from doing it—and libraries tend to frown on that.

LH: Oh, both, for sure, because what I really want to complain about is PEOPLE BORROWING MY BOOKS. I am like Gollum with my books – I get anxious when people are around my preciousses.


LH: I don’t have a lot of luck lending my books out. I have a couple of close friends whom I trust, but aside from them, often, if my books are returned to me at all, they are banged up, or smell like smoke or perfume. Blech. The expression should be “No good read goes unpunished.”

RJS: I hear you. In some ways, I’m not particular about my books at all. I crack spines, write in margins, dog-ear pages, and throw them around. When I’m done reading a book, you know it’s been read…but when I loan my books out, I don’t want them coming back looking like they’ve been loaned out. Hypocritical? Maybe. I think it’s more like how you can make fun of your own mama, but no one else is allowed to.

LH: I am an unapologetic underliner. I feel underlining is personal, so often that’s why I won’t lend people my books – it’s not solely because I’m a bitch. It’s like handing over my diary: I write notes in the margins, like names of songs I want to listen to or other books I want to read…One book I miss madly is my dog-eared, marked-up copy of Cannery Row. My ex-boyfriend has still not returned it after all this time, despite repeated requests. I think he believes it’s the only thing keeping me from burning his house down. Which isn’t true. The thought of a poorly-stocked prison library is the only thing keeping me from burning his house down.

RJS: I would send you books in prison. Or smuggle them in, tucked into a garter.

LH: You’d bring them baked in a cake.

RJS: This is the true test of friendship, isn’t it? Not “will you love me when I’m not at my best” but “will you bring me books in jail?” Anyway, I feel the same way about sharing books I’ve made notes in. It’s like I’m cracking my brain open and giving someone a peek. “Here! Look! I really am as twisted as you thought!”

LH: Yeah, I don’t always want people to know what is hidden under that hard-candy coating.

RJS: Ditto. And I sure as hell don’t want to have to explain to them why there’s a smiley face next to a weird scene or something.

LH: EXACTLY. I’m blushing right now thinking about someone getting their hands on my Bukowski.

RJS: And my Anais Nin. Oy. Plus, when you’re mid-read, you never know what’s going to end up being important. I mark all sorts of things while I’m reading that I think I *might* use in a review, only to realize at the end that I don’t need 90% of it.

LH: Hmmm…we both seem to be anti-lending: How are you about borrowing other people’s books?

RJS: I don’t like to do it because I really can’t resist the marginalia. One of my resolutions a few years ago was to try to use my library more. That lasted exactly 9 days, or the amount of time it took me to forget I was reading a library book and start writing in one. In ink. Do you borrow?

LH: Oh, yes! I like to get my hands on as many books in as many ways as possible – if someone has something I want to read, I have no problem borrowing it. I am extra-careful with these books: no marks, no folding pages. (Did I mention I fold pages? Cardinal sin, I know.) If I love a book I’ve borrowed, I will then get my own copy. My new problem is Millay and Steinbeck, the cats I just adopted, are book-chewers – it’s something karmic, I’m sure – so I have to read other people’s books outside of my house if I want to keep them safe.

RJS: Wait, don’t you own something like 900 books you haven’t read? What are you doing borrowing?

LH: I have a problem, okay?!? DON’T JUDGE ME. I always say the book I want to read the most is the one I don’t have – I am always thinking about my next fix. A friend of mine recently talked me into letting him borrow a book of mine that I hadn’t read yet, so of course, it’s the book I now want to read desperately…I think to-be-read stacks would be a great subject for next time. If I’m not crushed to death by mine before then.

RJS: Here’s hoping you’ll make it…and that that ex-boyfriend doesn’t get any arsonist ideas of his own.

LH: Well, he won’t get them from this post – he can’t read. Goodnight, everybody!

Join us next time on Well-Readheads, when we’ll be discussing our to-be-read stacks, and Rebecca asks the question, “Is that what happened to all that frosting?” But first: Book borrowing – yay or nay? Let’s hear it.