Stolen from me

Recently I have begun dreaming about books and authors. It’s understandable, since so much of my mind is on these things, and that’s how dreams start. Just strange that it took so long for the booky dreams to get going.

One night not long ago I dreamed about a friend who very succinctly told me that she was not going to give someone (not me) a book as a present ‘because they lend their books to others’. I understood that to mean that a gift from her should not then be passed on to complete strangers, possibly never to return.

It sort of made sense at the time.

I dislike lending books (not to mention money), so don’t often do it. If I do, it’s either a book I don’t mind losing or I’ve really been backed into a corner. These days one tends not to get books back, and I don’t know why. Asking for them back (politely) appears to have little effect.

As a child I borrowed and lent books all the time. I have no recollection of books disappearing. We were all ‘hard up’ or living frugally the way people did in the 1960s. You couldn’t buy every book you wanted to read, and the kind of book I’m thinking of were generally not available from the library. Nancy Drew, and ‘worse’.

Philip Pullman, Clockwork

So perhaps it’s our relative affluence that makes people steal books? I was so enthusiastic about some really good children’s books when Offspring were younger that I pressed our copies into the hands of friends for their children to have an equally good reading experience. Maybe they did. Only they decided to keep them.

I don’t think I should have had to say ‘do borrow this, but do remember it’s mine and I will expect it back’.

And I suppose that if I picked out a really good book as a present for someone, I’d mind if it then disappeared into a deep book hole in their friend’s house.

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11 responses to “Stolen from me

  1. I don’t know. My dad lent a book by Adlai Stevenson to a friend and never got it back. He was disappointed. I don’t know about England or Sweden, but in the U.S., it’s probably good to lend only things that you won’t mourn if you never see them again.

    Same goes with money.

  2. Or buy two of everything. One to keep and one to lose.

  3. Hilary McKay

    I think it’s worth losing a few books now and then to have friends who want to read them.

  4. It’s liberating to regard books as mental rather than physical objects. My guess is your house is overflowing with books. Let them go with good grace.

  5. As a child I borrowed a book called How To Be A Detective from friends whom my brother and I met on holiday. We never gave it back (despite seeing those friends a couple more times) and it always bugged me. The book sat on our bookshelf like an accusation, all the keener for its subject matter – had we effectively stolen this book? Were we ourselves the thieves we were reading up on how to catch? Such tormenting irony. I longed to have a chance to return it.

    The book’s original owner now writes on environmental topics for The Guardian. (Isn’t the web amazing?)

  6. Its a pet hate of mine. I have spent years amassing a book collection of fiction and non-fiction. I find them comforting firends that whisper passages to me and I love my book lined office. I also see it as my children’s inheritance, a library stuffed full of things to know and prose to inspire. Some of them are aslo bought not just for the written word but also for how beautifullyt they are illustrated and covered. So when people think they can help themselves to a collection that has cost me time and money to put together and not return peices of it, it bugs the hell out of me. No one would dream of talking a painting off my wall to ‘borrow’ it for a little while. So don’t do it to my books! A woman who really bugged me was the parent of one of offsprings friends who spied my book lined room when picking her kid up from a playdate, walked into it and declared, “You have so many books – I really must borrow some!” Why? Simply because I have lots and this seems like an opportunity for her in some dim way I cannot fathom? And yes, I am a grumpy old woman when it comes to my books!

  7. Anthony, was that you I saw looking through my window recently? Next time you must come in, and I’ll lend you some of our computer books. Don’t be shy!

    Che, yes it helps exchanging one word for another and see if you feel the same about the situation. I’m like that with dogs. It’s supposedly all right if Fido jumps on me because he’s friendly. However, I don’t expect Fido’s owner to believe that he or she can start licking my face out of sheer friendliness.

    Nick, yes I am afraid I have the odd book like that. Shall I offer my cousin to have them back? It’s a ‘long loan’. But she was an adult when I borrowed them.

    Hilary, lose friends and keep books, or lose books and keep the friends? I see what you mean.

  8. I have lost all our Lord of the Rings DVD’s this way …
    Many books have vanished too, even with our name in them. I recently bought back a Horrid Henry book from our church yard sale … it had my daughters name and telephone number on the flyleaf. Strange.
    Is it that people can’t be bothered? Does “ownership” mean less than it used to?
    Do people ever feel guilty knowing there are books/DVD’s on their shelves which are not theirs?

  9. I think that it was ever so. Theft is a big problem in a bookstore, which I suppose can be rationalized as a form of borrowing. And I remember my classics professor telling the story of a huge reference work hurtling out of a window down on him. He had the presence of mind to catch it. An enterprising student had apparently thought he would just toss it out and retrieve it when it was convenient.

    It was not, alas, his lucky day.

  10. Interesting question you pose at the end there Lynne. I think the answer depends on whether or not you borrowed the books/dvds from an educational establishment and how much you like or dislike said establishment…

  11. Pingback: Prepping | Bookwitch

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