Once upon a time, I would lend my books to just about anybody, and the results were disastrous. I have been collecting books since childhood, and have lost 1/3 of my collection by lending. So, I do have pretty serious thoughts on it.

Most of my books never came back, and those that did survive, were in such a horrendous condition that they might have gone through third degree torture.

Yea, I loved it when people asked for my favorite books, after all, who does not want to share the joy of seeing others fall for your absolute favorites? But the thing is that most people lack the basic respect for other’s properties especially books. Through the years, I have created kind of rules for book lending to ensure that the books I loan out come back as they are, in one piece and with no damage.

If I have never heard a person talk about books, and their love for reading suddenly develops on seeing my collection, that person will be given the address of the nearest bookstore. Because such people take books, read at max. ten pages, and whenever they are reminded about it, they are “still reading”. Seriously, if they take two years to read ten pages, they might never read the whole book. Just like any other item, one simply does not “borrow” things for years.

A person who has hardly picked up a book in their life, is more likely to NOT respect the books. Especially if such people request for 500 plus pages book or a Dickens, just to seem “Smart”.

The people that I DO lend books, are the ones I know for a fact that they do read for pleasure and not talk about books just to “look smart”. How to differentiate between these two? Simple: A person who reads for pleasure will talk of their favorite books like they would talk about an old friend, while a person who reads just to look smart, would ensure that you know ALL the titles of the books he/she has read and without a doubt these would be some spiritual/self help/ non fiction/ classic. They would never be heard talking about what they understood, or their perspective, but they would be quoting direct lines out of the books (while making sure they clearly enunciate the book title and the author, just in case you missed it the first ten times).

Also, I NEVER loan out my autographed copies or Harry Potter books. (Except to people I could trust my soul with. And till date have only lent it to my younger brother and sister, as I grew up with them, I know for a fact that they know the value of books.)

So, here is the basic book reading etiquette (especially when you are borrowing from someone else).

1) Always Return The Book in Decent Time. It’s OK if you return it without the person having to remind you a million times that their book is still with them.

2) If you really REALLY loved the book, great! 🙂 Still return it. If you wish to re-read it, ask for it again whenever you wish. Just because you liked it, does not make it yours.

3) Eating and Drinking while reading is NOT OK. You cannot dip your hand in that hot samosa, and use that oily fingers to turn pages. 

4) Never dog ear any book. Bookmarks are there for a reason. Just because you are on a certain page, you cannot fold that page’s corner, because believe it or not, others are NOT on that page. So, you cannot mark that page with a fold that will last for eternity.

5) If you have not purchased the book, you will not highlight anything or any word. Just because you could not understand the word or found a line interesting does not mean the world would find that too. Kindly make a notebook and scribble it there. I had given a book to a person, and I got it back (after repeated requests) with stupid names scribbled on the cover with a ball point! That looks just like the silly “raju loves manju“s on heritage sites. You are ruining other’s properties that they have bought.

6) NEVER EVER FOLD THE BOOK. I have seen quite a few people who fold paperbacks so cruelly that they have lines all over their front covers and spines. Paperbacks are fragile, take care you do not stuff them with trash to find them folded. As for hardbacks, here is exactly how you should read it:

7) You will not lend it to your social circle without consulting the owner of the book. Not only is it rude, but it is not yours to lend. It was given to you because you were trusted, I have no clue what your friend’s friend is like or will I ever see it again.

8) If you are not planning to read it now, borrow it later. Do not be that person. Why ask for a book that is just going to sit there, while you go on with your life. Ask for it only if you are going to read it now, and return it as soon as you are done. And NO it does NOT take two years to read a hundred pages.