I’m really protective over my books.
My favorite ones are kept on my bookshelves. The ones I’m done reading and don’t intend on re-reading any time soon, are neatly packed in vacuum bags and stored in a dry area.
When someone asks me whether they can borrow some of my books, I’d rather not do it.
(unless I really, really trust them!)
But let me tell you why I’m not okay with lending books.
Back in the day when the Harry Potter books were still being published at the agonizing pace of one book per year, I’d be buying them the minute they were translated to Macedonian.
In fact, I owned a copy of the latest Harry Potter book even before the city library had a chance to get one!
Each book was about $20-$35 – and let me tell you, in a country where the average pay per month is $300, that’s a lot of money.
Let’s just say that when you’re 13, owning the latest bestseller comes with its own set of responsibilities.
An acquaintance – I can’t even call her a friend, ugh! – wanted to read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. For all of you that don’t know, that’s the largest book in the series – it comes down to almost 800 pages!
Naïve little me thought everyone treated books the same way I do. And I was happy to lend her my latest copy! Why not, right?
Here’s what my book etiquette looks like:
1) I never touch a book with dirty hands, let alone eat and read at the same time.
2) I always use a bookmark – and rarely fold the pages. (aka, the dreaded dog ears!)
3) I am always, always very careful about the spine of the book – as in, I hold it with two hands and never, ever bend pages just so I can hold it with one hand.
4) If traveling, I always carry liquids and books in separate pockets.
5) If it happened to be a book I’ve borrowed from someone, I MAKE SURE TO GIVE IT BACK RIGHT AWAY. I’d say common courtesy is a month – that’s plenty of time to finish a book, isn’t it?
Well, I found out the hard way that not everyone treats the books the same way I do.
Do you know what happens to an 800-page book when you bend it? (as someone obviously did)
Do you know what happens when you snack and read at the same time?
Do you know what happens when you fold pages?
If you don’t, let me tell you that the spine gets broken. Pages start falling off. The book cover gets chipped. Pages that stayed have oily fingerprints on them – or are damaged at the top.
Yes, all of that happened once I trusted someone with the Harry Potter book!
As if all of that wasn’t enough, I got the book back after 7 or 8 months. Thinking about it now, I was probably lucky I even got it back in the first place.
I still own the same book but only by looking at it, you can tell it’s been through a lot.
Today, I’d be comfortable buying the whole collection all over again – just so I can keep it in pristine condition. Unfortunately, the edition of Harry Potter books that I have in Macedonian are now considered collectibles – they are no longer printed!
Ever since that happened, I’ve been extremely reluctant when it comes to lending books to others. I’ve eased up over the years but I still feel restless whenever someone asks for a book and I have to say no.
My grandma borrowed some books last year but she’s a book lover – I know my books are fine with her.
One of my best friends and her family – hey Aleksandra! – wanted to read my most popular translations and I was happy to oblige. I got all of the books back a few months later, looking exactly the same as they had before.
I got my sister hooked on a teen series I read when I was her age – but she knows better than to mess with any of my books.
As for the rest, I still feel uncomfortable when I refuse to lend a book. Actually, I’d rather buy someone a copy of the book instead of having them borrow mine.
Some get upset. Some understand.
It probably looks selfish but I’m not a selfish person. I just want to protect one of my most treasured possessions, my books.
What do you think about borrowing books? Do you lend other people some of your books?
Next time, let’s talk about pen names!