Etiquette for Book Borrowing and Lending

Sharing the gift of reading is a pleasure and a curse. On one hand it’s so, so fun to find someone who shares your love of Hogwarts, Narnia or Velaris. On the other hand, WHAT IF THEY SABOTAGE YOUR BOOK AND SUBSEQUENTLY YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM AND YOU CEASE TO BE FRIENDS FOR THE REST OF EVER?! Is it ever worth losing both? Thankfully there are steps you can both take to help you avoid the crippling sorrow of a soiled paperback. (And to help them avoid your wrath!)


Lending Procedure

Don’t lend out books you won’t get over losing. Keep your favourites, your antiques, your first editions, signed, and personalised copies to yourself. It’s not worth losing a friendship over.

Keep a note of the books you lend out. There’s not a lot you can do to chase a book when you don’t remember who you lent it to. We’re all human, we all forget things – write yourself a note and you’ll thank yourself later.

Let whomever is borrowing your book know exactly what’s okay and not okay when it comes to lending-on and returning. Don’t expect others to think exactly the  way you do: people are different, it’s what makes them so magical.


Table Manners

Don’t eat on or around somebody else’s book. What if the worst should happen? It doesn’t matter how much you like chocolate, you don’t want it smeared in the spine of your favourite vampire saga.

A book is not a coaster. Do not rest your tea (or coffee) on it – I don’t care how beautiful and bookish your new mug is, this one is non-negotiable. Rings are not only offensive to furniture.

International Etiquette

If you’re brave enough to take someone else’s book on holiday with you (and I would advise you should avoid it at all if possible) here are a few important things to remember:

Books and swimming pools do not mix, if you decide to live dangerously make sure you cover your book with a towel when you go for a dip or take it back inside.

Don’t leave it sweating in the sun, the gum holding the pages to the spine could soften and you could lose precious pages. Too long in the sun and you could bleach out the colour.

Sand’s bad too and water will warp the pages no matter how much you blow-dry.

ADD IT TO YOUR PACKING LIST. If you don’t have a packing list when you go on holiday (you crazy, spontaneous parsnip), even a mental one, make one and put the book on it – losing it is not an option you want to consider.

Actually, scrap all of that. Don’t take a friend’s book on holiday. It’s far too risky.

Dress Codes

A coveted book, whilst travelling, must always be protected. Book sleeves are a great way to keep your favourite books looking pristine.

If you’re borrowing a hardcover and it’s got a dust cover, leave it off whilst you read. Keep it naked to avoid ruining the aesthetic. Don’t throw it in a bag full of other bits and bobs without a sleeve either, nicks, scrapes and scuffs are no laughing matter.

Bookmarks are tasteful book jewellery: use them with pride. Breaking a thus-far unbroken spine is tantamount to assault; don’t do it. Whether you’re fine with dog-earring pages or consider it an unforgivable sin – don’t do it to someone else’s book, especially if you hope to borrow more in the future!

Social Graces (or just general do’s and don’ts)

Don’t lend out another person’s book without their permission. Ask them politely & respect their decision if they say no.

Keep it out of reach of children. Children are great but most are more interested in throwing and tearing than careful and gentle treatment of coveted classics.

Keep away from fire. Duh. Unless you’re the devil. Even in cases of life-or-death don’t do a The Day After Tomorrow and lose everyone’s respect, there’s always perfectly good furniture ripe for a good burning.

If you’re not reading it, give it back. Sometimes a book doesn’t do it for you, that’s fine. Just don’t hold on to someone’s stuff based on the off-chance that you might read it one day. And DO give it back, even if it’s the best book ever it’s still not yours.

And, finally, if the worst should happen and the book is no longer salvageable: admit your mistake, apologise and replace it. Preferably with a like-for-like copy – movie covers are usually a bad move…

What do you think? Do those seem like reasonable rules to you? Have I missed any? Let me know your worst and best book lending experiences in the comments!

  – Cat –


  1. BooksNest | 27th Nov 17

    This should be the bible for book borrowing!!

    • tackfiction | 29th Nov 17

      Haha, thanks! Important rules I think!

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