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True Life: I Keep Spreadsheets for Lending Books

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Ashley Holstrom

Staff Writer

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads. Twitter: @alholstrom.

I have never been big on lending books. I have deep scars of memories of the books I’ve lent out and been returned with horrible damages: cracked spines, bent pages, coffee stains, cigarette smoke embedded in the pages. I know this is a thing people have strong opinions on. This isn’t one of those pearl-clutching posts.

It’s about how I learned to let go and lend people the books that mean something to me. I made my dearest friend read Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, telling her it was a look at my soul. She promised to be nice and never took it with her on her train rides. Baby steps.

If only I could Instagram smells. | #crookedreads

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My coworkers and I drop books on each others’ desks every few weeks and I love it. But the crazy lady still lingers deep inside, and my method for keeping track of my dearly beloveds is … an extensive spreadsheet. Any time a book goes out, it goes on the sheet: Book title, author name, lendee, date lent, date returned, and *gasp* state of return. If you leave water damage in my book, I remember.

But I do it for the books people give me, too. I hate when I have a mountain of lent books that I know I’ve had for a year. Literally. A whole year. Keeping track of the date helps me pick my next read, so I’m not a jerk. I also have them on their own GoodReads shelf so the number of lent-to-me books can grow daunting and intimidating.

Now, not ALL of my books are pristine. Most are used and already well-loved. It’s more a matter of making sure I get them back because I spent dollars on them and love them.

But lending out my favorite books has been so rewarding. I’ve had the chance to actually talk about my favorite books with people. I get to bring my book to them and shove it in their hands and say “READ THIS AND THEN COME FIND ME.” And they do. It’s a lot better than saying “Go to your library and put it on hold and wait for it to come in and then read it and come back to me.” More immediate, see?

The spreadsheet for lending books keeps my nerves quiet. You know, the nerves about my books being out in the wild. It works. At least until we can microchip books.