Today's Topic



My Books, Mine

Natalia J. Garland

Print Version

People who borrow books are different from people who buy their own books. I learned this from hard experience in lending out my books. My books are my treasures. Each book contains a world of knowledge and insight, and each author is a friend who fulfills a need. People who ask to borrow my books do not seem to share this perspective. To them a book is no more than a broom or a fork, just a convenience for getting something done.

My experiences in book loans took place mostly during my college years. For example, I had a friend who was an older student. He was doing research and he noticed some relevant books on my shelf. Could he borrow one or two? He would bring them right back. In those days it was difficult for me to say no to a friend. So, he took home five of my books. It made me a little nervous to let go of my treasures, but I naively thought that my friend loved books as much as I did.

He never returned the books. The weeks went by and the end of the school year was approaching. I developed a new assertive skill and told him that I needed my books back. He did not even remember having borrowed them. He was very casual about it, and asked me if I remembered which books he had taken. I didn't. He suggested that in the future I make a list of any books I lend out. Duly noted. He told me to choose out any five books I wanted from his shelf, and we would let that close the matter. I took five books home.

It took more than one experience for me to really catch on to the psychological dynamics behind book-borrowing. One day, I was talking to another friend about a couple of books I was reading and how much these books were helping me with a class project. She was excited about the ideas I shared with her. Could she borrow the books? She would read them over the weekend and bring them right back. Well, she brought them back as promised. But each had ketchup and mustard stains all over the cover. I wondered if she had used my books as placemats for her take-out food.

After that I stopped lending out my books. Those yucky stains gave me the mettle to be impolite and say no. I began telling people that I really needed access to all my books at all times for reference. I gave myself the right to be selfish and to protect my financial investment in books. I did not spend money on books for other people to ruin. I did not have to be anyone's private librarian. My books are mine. Mine, mine, mine!

My books are highly personal, like my jewelry or perfume. I never ask to borrow anyone's books. If I hear about a good book, I buy it or I check it out of the library. If someone offers to lend me a book, I may or may not accept it. On those occasions when I accept, I then return the book within one week and in the same condition that it was given to me. I am not comfortable with taking responsibility for other people's belongings.

Borrowing books can be an expression of passive-aggressive behavior. My so-called friends who borrowed my books knew my personality and how I cherished everything that books have to offer. Looking back on those college days, I now see that I encountered others' indirect expressions of anger. Not returning borrowed books, or returning them damaged, is similar to other forms of tardiness and forgetfulness which are typical of passive-aggressive people.

My rule not to lend books worked well for several years. Most people understood. The few who pressed me for a book loan, despite my answer of no, were people who were not really friends anyway. My books stayed on my shelf unless I took them down for my own use.

Then I weakened. A friend was going through a difficult time. In addition to talking with her, I recommended a book that related to her situation. Could she borrow mine right now and read it tonight? She was in such distress that I lent her the book. Same old story. She never returned it. Weeks went by. I felt selfish and guilty to place the return of my book above her welfare. But I also felt disquiet within myself, knowing that my generosity had not been appreciated.

Once again, I pulled together the assertive skill to ask if she had finished my book. "Oh, yeah," she exclaimed in surprise at my inquiry. She had finished reading it and enjoyed it so much that she lent it to her sister. She would get the book the next time she visited her sister. A few days later she returned the book: crumpled and dirty. I have bought used books in much better condition. If I had owned that book the rest of my life, I could not have managed to destroy it so badly.

I did not own the book for the rest of my life because I threw it in the trash. I bought myself a new copy. I learned a final lesson on the financial and emotional considerations involved in making friends with passive-aggressive people. I do not reject all such people as friends, but I maintain an awareness of the possible obstacles and how to protect my own lifestyle.

[NOTE: Some descriptive details in this essay were modified to prevent any identification of real persons and situations. This essay is based on personal experiences which may be unique to the author, and is not intended to make a general statement on the character of all individuals who borrow books or lend books.] (Written 06/06/05)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

Find More Topics in the Table of Contents

Return to Homepage


Copyright 2005 Natalia J. Garland