~ On the Art of Lending and Borrowing Books

October 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other people have lent me.

~ Anatole France

I came across this quotation the other day and, as funny as it is, it actually got me thinking about book lending/borrowing. I have to say I am quite selfish with my books. I will be the first one to recommend titles to my friends, but I would rather buy them a copy than part with an all-time favourite. This is probably because, as the writer Anatole France warns us, the ones I did lend were never returned. And equally, the books I did borrow that are still on my bookshelf years after I should have returned them are an object of shame. I feel like they are looking at me reprovingly, like stray dogs, hoping they will, one day, be reunited with their real owners.

It might be then that book lending and borrowing is an art that requires a certain savoir-faire – that is, a certain outlook.

Some people believe books are objects that should travel, that should go from one pair of eyes to the next so that their wisdom might be shared. I know someone who would exchange books with unknown travelers along the way during the few months she spent in South America. As much as I like the beauty of the gesture, I know I like keeping the books I have read – most of the time – because they mean something to me, and I am proud to display them on my shelves. Every once in a while, I look at them and I remember what they all taught me.

Is that selfish? Stupid? A bit extreme?

If you are a goodreads fan you will know that this week was ‘Banned Books Week’ and this occasion has certainly reminded me that what is truly important in a book is its message, and not the physical object that contains it. So perhaps I should try and work on my outlook  and be less materialistic about reading…

How do you feel about this? Am I the only one with an overdeveloped affection for bound sheets of paper here?


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