Lent, lost or borrowed? - Sarah Nicholson

 I have a confession – I have books on my bookshelf that don’t belong to me!

I am sure I am not alone because I know I have lent books to friends that I have never got back.

Many have been passed on and I don’t give two hoots if I get them back or not but there are just a few I almost wish I’d never lent out in the first place.

I can name them, and in some cases, even remember who I lent them to!

I’m not the greatest hoarder of books, I don’t keep every novel I’ve read, I don’t have the space and enjoy sharing the love.

But then a book on the shelf catches my eye and I remember it isn’t really mine! Does that happen to other people? Does everyone have an inventory in their head?

There’s the tiniest bit of guilt, especially for the books I’ve borrowed and never had the chance or let’s face it the inclination to read. These are the books that are for the most part “worthy” in some way, helpful, given to me by friends who insist I really NEED to read this.

Sometimes I start them, borrowed books often have bookmarks in them a few pages or chapters in.

Perhaps we should have a book amnesty day to return ALL books that don’t belong to us in secret. Just imagine those long-lost books dropping on your doormat, the books you thought were sooooo good everyone should read them, home at last, gathered in.

There’s bound to be a few surprises – “Oh I never wanted that one back!” “I wondered where that had gone!” “Was this really mine?”

However, there is one book I can now never return as the true owner recently died. It is a book of the private writings of Mother Theresa and the lender was no less of a saint in my eyes. I want to keep and treasure it now. I actually want to read it, or at least dip into it searching for words of wisdom. It has sat on the windowsill in the dining room for two years unopened.

Is it mine or is it still borrowed?

The family of the lady in question will have many books to sort out and keeping this one safe gives them one less tome to deal with. That way of thinking slightly appeases my guilt.

Now I wonder how many books on her bookcase were borrowed?



Griselda Heppel said…
Well I’m just impressed that you can remember who lent you these books. That at least holds hope that you can one day return them - except of course the one about Mother Teresa, whose owner would surely want you to keep it.

As for books you end up borrowing because their owners insist on lending them to you… argh we are all victims of that! It can be a kind of bullying, in which one’s reluctance to offend by resisting the loan - and believe me, much pressure can be exerted here - means you end up with a book you have no desire to read and yet an involuntary commitment to reading it. Not only that, it also opens you up to future reproach because, where’s that book I leant you, why haven’t you returned it? I’m convinced some people do it because they want to talk about the book to someone else who’s read it and this is their way of creating that person.

Oh dear I do sound negative. Lending a book you’ve loved is of course a great thing to do. I think the key is to let it go. Never lend a book you would mind losing, and never cross examine the borrower afterwards about whether they’ve read it. They’ll tell you if they have.

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