I saw a post from Bustle yesterday on “15 Rules for Borrowing Books, So You Don’t Lose Your Friends in the Process.” The article didn’t say anything about lending, so I thought I might propose a few rules for lenders, with the basic idea that you don’t want to lose friends over books. I really don’t think I can come up with 15, but here goes…
1. Basically, say good-bye to a book when you lend it. Just let it go, because there is a high likelihood you will never see it again. Is it really worth more than your friend?
2. If a book has special meaning to you (family heirloom, heavily annotated, a part of a set, or a reference you use regularly and need), don’t lend it. Just be honest and say, “this book has special meaning for me, or has been in the family, or is something I use regularly.” True friends will understand.
3. A book plate (ex libris) with your name may help. Sometimes people honestly forget from whom a book is borrowed.
4. Don’t lend a book if you need it or plan to read it soon. Again, just explain that. Offer to lend it after you’ve read it.
5. View lending as an easy way to clear out excess books from our shelves. Most of us have more books than shelves. A quoted attributed to Joe Queenen says, “Lending books to other people is merely a shrewd form of housecleaning.”
6. If repeat borrowers who don’t return books bothers you, set a limit. Just let your friend know that you only lend two books (or whatever number seems right to you) at a time to someone, and would be glad to lend the book they want when they’ve finished the others they’ve borrowed and returned them. Of course you have to decide if keeping that close a track of what you’ve lent matters.
7. Consider what the book meant to you. If it was beneficial, do you want to keep that to yourself, letting the book collect dust on your shelves. Lending a book can open up conversations with friends such as “did you see what I saw in this book?”
8. Don’t lend books you’ve borrowed, unless the owner says it is OK, and who owns the book is clear so that it can get back to them.
9. On the other hand, if you really are not concerned about getting the book back, let the person know they are free to pass it along after they have finished reading it. If a book is really good, shouldn’t it pass through many hands?
10. Think of lending books as a way of stocking your library in heaven. I take comfort in these words by C. S. Lewis:
My friend said, “I don’t see why there shouldn’t be books in Heaven. But you will find that your library in Heaven contains only some of the books you had on earth.” “Which?” I asked. “The ones you gave away or lent.” “I hope the lent ones won’t still have all the borrowers’ dirty thumb marks,” said I. “Oh yes they will,” said he. “But just as the wounds of the martyrs will have turned into beauties, so you will find that the thumb-marks have turned into beautiful illuminated capitals or exquisite marginal woodcuts.*
*C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 216.