Rules For Borrowing My Books

This is pretty beautiful. Except maybe the spine on the top one.

Every reader is somewhat protective of their books and has certain criteria for how they should be treated. Some are very strict while others are pretty lenient. I know I’ve seen lots of debates all over the place about what is acceptable, whether it’s okay to write in the margins or place them face down to save your spot instead of using a bookmark. It’s interesting how picky some people can be regarding what are essentially stacks of bound paper.

When it comes to my own books, I never worry. I’m confident in my own abilities to treat my own stuff right. But every so often I encounter the dreaded question: Hey, can I borrow one of your books? I’ll bring it back as soon as I’m finished. Immediately upon hearing this question, my heart starts to pound and I start getting black and white flashes of horror scenes and screams in my mind. This is the question I dread. So often I have borrowed out my books only to get them back in irreparable states. Many people are very lenient about what their books look like. I am not one of those people. If one is to borrow one of my books, they must accept the following rules.

1. Do not dog-ear the pages. Lots of people like the fold the corners of pages to save their spot. It saves them a bookmark, and it easy to flip right back to it and get back to reading without wasting any time. But this damages the page. Once you bend a page, that mark is always going to be there. Always. I can’t stand the pages of my books being folded in any way. Don’t do that.

2. Don’t fold back the cover. Lots of people like to read paperback books, but gosh darnit using two hands is just too bloody difficult. To alleviate the stress of actually having to hold a book with more than one hand, people often fold back the cover so only one page is visible at a time. This makes the book end up looking all funky, and I often pile many heavy, hardcover books on top of it once I get it back, hoping against hope that the cover won’t curve upward when it sits alone on my desk. (And for those of you who fold it back and use two hands anyway, what on earth? That just doesn’t make any sense.)

3. Don’t bend hardcover books to ruin the spine. You know that satisfying sound you hear when you open a tightly bound book that sounds similar to Velcro being pulled apart? That isn’t satisfying. Stop it. It’s okay to some extent, actually, but some people like to just pull it apart like they’re dissecting a sandwich, and that is not cool. Sometimes it can mess up the binding and then I have to deal with a book that feels all loose and weird and yuck.

4. Take off the sleeve when reading a hardcover. This isn’t actually one of my big peeves, so if people break this rule I often don’t care. This is just personal preference, mostly. I like to take off the sleeve because it preserves it and keeps it looking nice. Hold it for too long and it can get all messed up, ew. That said, it did backfire on me once when I took off the sleeve and set it aside and some moron sat on it. That was not fun.

Wha… what are you doing? Hey. No. Stop. THAT IS A NO. WHO TAUGHT YOU TO DO THIS.

5. DO NOT EVER WRITE IN MY BOOKS. If you return a book to me and there is writing in it, the only reason you will stay alive for more than a few minutes is so I can collect your credit card info in order to buy a new copy with your money. Then, depending on my mood, you may be able to leave with only a few missing limbs. Some people like writing in books, but if you absolutely must destroy the sanctity of a good book, do it in your own. Not in mine.

Along with these quirks, I also like to organize my books by author, from hardcover to paperback, from tallest to shortest, thickest to thinnest, etc. but these are all personal. I have a bookshelf twice as tall as me in my room, and I like to keep it looking nice. But that’s for another time.

For all you readers and writers out there, what are your rules for people borrowing your books? Do you have any at all?

26 thoughts on “Rules For Borrowing My Books

  1. I agree with all of those. ALL OF THEM. Especially the writing inside the book and folding back the cover… why do people do that? Why do they damage a perfectly-preserved book? =’[

    • Ah yes… I’ve seen people eat and drink around books, then they get crumbs stuck within the pages and the pages get all wrinkly because they got damp… not fun. I understand the appeal of sitting down with coffee and a good book, but coffee is supposed to go in your mouth, darnit.

  2. I don’t have as many books as you do, but I do treasure the ones I own. Here’s my most important rule: “Please don’t forget to return the books you borrowed.”

    Sometimes people borrow stuff and just somehow forget to return them. I hate asking for unreturned items.

    • I’ve only honestly had this problem once, but they were Christmas gifts… kinda makes me sad. I can get them again, but being gifts there’s just more value to them. Thankfully most people are good about getting them back to me! Otherwise that would be a massive peeve.

  3. I long ago gave up on the idea that my books were ever going to be returned, let alone returned in good condition. So my main rule is “when you’re done reading it, pass it on”. I’d rather buy another copy of a book I like then worry about a copy that has gone forth. That said, I do have a rule of not lending out books I haven’t read yet, specific copies of books with sentimental value, reference books, or rare books. This still leaves a decent chunk of my 2500+ book personal library for friends to check out, read, and (maybe, if I’m lucky) return, usually several years after I have forgotten I ever owned the book.

    • That seems like a reliable, albeit expensive, way of doing it. I think if I had enough people return books in a bad enough state to where it was necessary to come up with a rule like that, I’d be much more selective about who I let borrow my books, haha. Though it does sound like a nice way to get more people reading…

  4. You would like my sister-in-law. When the box arrived with the precious five personal copies of MY first book I was ecstatic. I was lightly examining them and smelling them..well you get the picture. Then I heard the dreaded, “May I borrow one?” I reluctantly handed one over.. family and all.. hard to say no. Well when I got it back it was in perfect condition! It looked like she hadn’t read it but she started to talk about the plot. She really took care of my book!

    • That’s very nice! I actually let my mother read a book of mine recently, and after she was done she asked if I had even read it yet because it looked new… thankfully it was returned in pretty much the same condition! I do really like a person who can take care of a book (and if it’s one I’ve written, bonus points!)

  5. Oh how I identify with all of this. Do not mess up my books.
    Grr!
    But I make an exception for books on writing. These are for using.
    Written in, underscored, over-filled with post-it notes and sticky page markers, bent out of shape while I hold in one hand and copy chunks out with the other. Even been known to drop them in the bath which makes them grow and never go back to normal. If anyone wants to borrow one of these, then great, but as they have been firmly marked in every conceivable way as being mine, it is highly unlikely.
    And I have a Kindle too (shock horror!) for carting about in my handbag.

    • Hmm. In that respect I do suppose I have a few exceptions… I’m still kind of iffy about writing in books, but there are some books that can be worn out and used to death, I think. And if I come across a book that’s already old and worn, then not too much of the above really applies. I must admit I do rather like the look of an old, aged book where the pages aren’t completely lined up, the cover is frayed, etc. I just don’t like other people doing it to mine!

      • Yes, reckon you’re right on all counts. There is something about the smell of very old books too. Very special.

  6. I actually don’t tend to lend books apart from to a very few very very close friends for exactly these reasons! Plus I love all my books and couldn’t take the risk of not getting them back

  7. I’ll see you those and raise you a few. My library looks like a library. There is a children’s section, a financial section, a self-help section, non-fiction, fiction, cookbooks, decorating, novels, poetry (did I skip something?) And I like for it to stay that way. It makes my happy.

    • That is completely awesome. I’d love to eventually get to that point. Once I move into a bigger place and my fiancee and I combine our book collections, we’ll be able to make an actual library room. That’s one of the things I look forward to the most. For now I’ll just have to sit in envy.

  8. I once lent a book to a friend and it came back (after a year and a half) covered in oil and dirt stains, the pages were water damaged, the cover was bent like hell (and it was a hardcover), she refused to buy me a new copy, and she never even got around to reading it. I lent another friend two books for her to read on vacation and she lost them both and simply refused to acknowledge that she ever had them. Now I just don’t lend my books out.

  9. Pingback: A Reader’s Pet Peeves | Zen Scribbles

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