Readers are great at sharing. Well, we're great at sharing at first. Once you've lent out a few too many books without having them returned, you tend to be a bit more cautious. Then we start to plot about how to get books back.
It's true. Every now and then you have a gem of a friend who actually does read your borrowed books quickly and returns them promptly. But it seems that more often than not, our friends seem to forget about that important aspect of returning our beloved novels. And after a certain amount of time goes by, it becomes increasingly awkward to receive that book back.
Because we don't forget about our books. Oh, no. I still remember the book my friend somehow "lost" while moving seven years ago. She might have forgotten, but I still remember every time I see her. A tainting scar on an otherwise wonderful friendship. Yes, I've bought another copy of the book since then, but even that is a reminder that I don't have my original book.
The problem is, what might just seem like a lump of dead tree to others, or an easily replaceable object (you have a million books, surely you won't notice or care if one goes missing), is actually pages filled with an incredible story and the memories of you reading that story. The book remembers the family vacation spent on the beach and might even have a few pieces of sand hidden between the pages. The book remembers the tears you shed when your favorite character died, and might even have a water stain or two. A book that's loved by a reader is so much more than what you see between the covers.
This is why lending books out is so hard for book lovers. We have to protect that which can't protect itself. So here are the phases us book lovers go through when we lend out our books. I hope that most of your friends get you your books back before you have to go through step 4. *shudders* But if not, we've also included tips on how to get books back!
The Stages Book Lovers Go Through When Lending Out Their Books
Stage 1: To Lend, or Not to Lend
- "Wow, what a fantastic book!"
- "I bet (insert person) would really enjoy it!"
- "And, if they read it, we'll be able to talk about it!"
- "Actually, I really need someone to talk to about this book. This needs to happen."
- "Maybe I'll let them borrow my copy the next time I see them."
- "But it did take them a long time to return the last book I lent to them . . ."
- "And the spine was bent all funny when I got it back."
- "And what if I need to reference a part of the book while he or she is going through it?"
- "Hmm . . ."
- "But he or she probably won't go out and get it on their own."
- "So I guess I either risk it, or suffer alone with my thoughts."
- "Fine. I'll let them borrow it. I'm sure they'll get it back to me quicker this time."
Stage 2: Passing Off the Book
- "Okay, so here is that super fantastic book I was telling you all about!"
- "It's literally the best book I've read since the last book I read!"
- "I know you're really going to love this book!"
- "I can't wait for you to start reading it."
- "Should I go right now so you can start? No? Oh, okay."
- "So yeah, just be careful with it. Don't, like, leave it out or spill coffee on it or dog ear the pages."
- "In fact, here's a convenient bookmark I left in there that you can use."
- "No, I didn't go out of my way to buy that bookmark just to give to you." *Can't maintain eye contact*
- "And yes, it still looks brand new and I've already read it twice!" *hint, hint*
- "Okay, I'm going to go now. Text me when you start reading it so we can talk about it!"
- "Bye, honey! And you too, my friend!"
Stage 3: The Period where Someone Else Has Your Book
- Day After: "Hi! Just wanted to see if you've started that book yet?"
- Couple Days Later: "How's it going? Have lots of time to read lately?"
- Week Later: "Oh, that's great that you just finished a different book than the one I lent you and haven't even started my book. That's totally fine and I'm not hurt at all."
- Still a Week Later: "And that book you just finished is part of a 12-part series? Fantastic!"
- A Month Later: "So, are you still reading that series? Oh, wow you're only on book three. So you're thinking it's going to take you like four months to finish this then?"
- Two Months Later: "Hey, so I was thinking, maybe you could take a break from that series you're reading to read that book I lent you? Just a thought."
- Six Months Later: "I'm never getting my book back, am I?"
Stage 4: You're Holding My Book Hostage, But I Still Want to Be Friends (Your Internal Struggle)
- "Is it awkward to take a book back when they haven't read it yet?"
- "It's been almost a year. Maybe I'll say I'm taking it for another person who wants to read it. Then I'm not being weird, I'm just helping someone else out."
- While your friend stops by for a visit: "They said they'd bring the book over today, but I don't see a book . . . did they leave it in the car? I'll ask."
- Laying in bed at night: "Do you think she'd even notice if I broke in and took the book? I mean, it's my book, so it's not like I'd really be doing anything illegal."
- When you're over at his or her house: "Hey, do you think I could just grab that book really quick? Oh, you're not sure where it's at but you'll get it to me soon? Okay."
- While your visit lingers: "Hey, I'm just going to use your restroom real quick (and check all the rooms I pass for my book on the way)."
- The next time you see them: "How many times can I ask for my book back without destroying our friendship? They seem a little annoyed."
- When you run into them at the store: "Okay, I'm starting to annoy myself now. Just give me back my dang book!"
- Randomly driving: "What if I borrow something from them, and hold that hostage until they give me my book back?"
- While at a group party at their home: "I'm sneaking away and searching this house until I find my book and bring it home to safety."
Tips on How to Get Books Back from a Friend Every Time
So, now that we've all had to live through the anxiety of lending a book out again, here are a few tips and tricks to help get your books back every time.
- Make a google Calendar invite for a few weeks later to remind them to give the book back.
- Set the expectation from the beginning that you'll need your book back by a given time, even if they haven't read it yet.
- Remind your friend that it's really not that expensive to mail a book. Usually around two or three dollars.
- Send your friend monthly letters reminding them of your library fines.
- Text them a series of sad photos of the empty spot on your bookshelf where your book used to live.
- Be conscientious of your friend's life. Is your friend going through a particularly busy stretch of life? Then it's going to be much harder for them to fit an extra book in, no matter how much they want to. Try not to lend a book to a friend when they're moving, starting a new job, planning a wedding, getting ready for a new baby, etc. Wait until they have a lull in their life where a book would fit right in.
- Try not to force books on people. I know that everyone will love the books you recommend, but the problem is, if they don't know that, they're going to have a hard time picking up the book. Especially after the first few times they've had to tell you they haven't started the book yet. If a friend genuinely seems interested about the book, or asks to borrow a certain book themselves, then you're more likely to have a good lending experience. If your friend only seems so-so about the book, then maybe rethink how important your book is to you before you lend it out.
However, at the end of the day, if nothing seems to work or if your friend has lost the book forever, remember that your friendship is more important than your book. Forgive your friend for their transgression, but also, probably never lend them a book again.
Author's Note: If you haven't lent a book out yourself, but you've been tagged in this article by a friend whose book you still have in your possession, they're trying to give you a hint.
Do you have any books that never made their way home? Or tricks on how to get books back? let us know in the comments below!
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