The Page-Tearing Monster of Infinite Destruction (Or, Why I Don’t Like People Borrowing My Books)

I’ve never particularly liked to let people borrow my books.

The pristine, unbent cover and clean pages of a new book have always been the height of a novel’s physical life for me, and so I generally try to preserve that. As evidenced by my post two weeks ago, this goes so far as to determine the types of bookmarks I use, and never have I dog-eared a page in recent memory. That, naturally, carried over to a suspicion of all people who wanted me to part with one of my beloved volumes, and a worry, once the book was off my shelf, that they would do some sort of irreparable damage to it.

However, there comes a time where it is necessary that I lend a book to someone, mostly one of my brothers. This is often done with much groaning on my part. My brothers, especially the older of the two, have never been great lovers of literature, and so they do not handle books with the care that I aim for. Still, they have never done anything that can be said to render the book unreadable, or to put it past all hope of ever reaching my shelf again. Sure, there have been worn corners and small tears, but I manage to get over those fairly quickly.

No, the real risk is run when people outside of my family and close friends borrow a book.

There are two particular instances I’d like to get off my digital chest. The first doesn’t really have to do with ruining the book, but it’s an important lesson nonetheless.

This was back in my Twilight phase when I had a copy of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, Stephenie Meyer’s Eclipse-based novella. It’s a nice story, or at least it was back in my Twilight phase. Anyway, there was this woman in church who liked Twilight as well, and one day while talking with her about it I asked if she’d ever read the novella, and she said no, she hadn’t, but she’d like to.

So of course I gave it to her, making sure to first remove the dust jacket since most people take those off when reading anyway (though I personally don’t).

A few weeks went by. She still didn’t read it. Then a couple of months. I checked up on her. She had forgotten she even had it.

When we switched churches, I started getting a little worried. To this day I still don’t know the whereabouts of Bree Tanner. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get it back. The sad part was when the dust jacket was lying downstairs, just waiting to be reunited with its kin. Alas, that never happened, and eventually it was thrown away.

The second instance was a bit more dramatic. A few years ago, a neighbor across the street needed a copy of Hatchet for his summer reading. I happened to have a copy of that same novel, from when I was his age. After some debate, it was decided that I would lend it to him.

This turned out to be a mistake.

The upside was at least he returned the book to me. Unfortunately, he had apparently gone at it with all the destructive powers an eleven-year-old can manage. The cover was battered into oblivion, the pages wrinkled, the general book knocked down quite a few points on the mintness scale.

I’m not very good at controlling my emotional reactions to things, so I received the book with mouth open in shock. I wasn’t sure how something like this could happen. I certainly had never mistreated my books this way, and I would never, never allow someone else’s book to come to such harm while under my care. It’s kind of an unspoken rule of book lending that you take exceptional care of a book when borrowing it, and this rule had been broken.

I seem to recall actually being struck speechless.

“It got stuck somewhere,” was his vague and rather troubling explanation.

The moral of the story: be careful to whom you lend your books.

Happy reading.

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6 thoughts on “The Page-Tearing Monster of Infinite Destruction (Or, Why I Don’t Like People Borrowing My Books)

  1. Ohhh good god! Those stories are terrible. Once again this is a topic I completely agree on., I’m very careful about who I lend my books to, there are very few people I trust because again, like you I like to preserve my books for as long as possible. Dog ears? Creased spines? Tears? Helllllll no!

    I’ve heard a lot of people love getting a new book and enjoy the feeling of cracking the spine for the first time. That makes me shiver in terror.

    • Oh my goodness, I hate cracked spines. Though I had a long-term substitute teacher once who had a great story about that. She lived with her boyfriend, and they were both very into Harry Potter, so he let her read his copies of the books. Once she took Sorcerer’s Stone down from the shelf and, completely by accident, cracked the spine as she opened it. She was so afraid that the boyfriend would be upset, but when he saw what she had done, he got the rest of the books out and one by one cracked the spines of each right down the middle. A sweet but vaguely terrifying story for a book nerd.

  2. Ah, I didn’t know this was a horror story blog. Book-napping, spine-cracking terror. 🙂

    I have been known to almost come unglued when someone lays my book open-side-down to keep their place. Seriously… do they not understand the concept of a bookmark? And we won’t even mention the whole dog-ear thing… or ask the question, “Why do you have to eat pizza while reading MY book???”

    However, just to prove I’m a complete contradiction, these reactions only seem to apply to fiction. I love to see an old, marked-up Bible. Also, I have no problem with reference books with scribbles, highlights, creased pages, coffee cup stains, etc. I guess the worn look adds to the importance of what they contain.

    • That’s an interesting way of thinking about important books. Scott Westerfeld (author of Uglies) once wrote on his blog that he loves seeing books at signings that have post-its and other markers in them because it’s a sign they’re being read and that the readers are engaged with the writing. But I personally have never gone down that path.

      • I know it seems kind-of destructive. But, for me, it usually turns out that if I have a reference book on my shelf in pristine condition, chances are I wasted my money on something I didn’t need. 🙂

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