It started out innocently, I swear. I always intended to give the books back.
I love finding friends who love books as much as I do. We get into these intense discussions about our latest finds and our old favourites, and if you know any book lovers, or are one yourself, you know that these discussions always get pretty passionate. Then eventually, someone says those fateful words:
“I could totally lend it to you.”
Kay (in my head): This person seems to have good taste in books and he is offering to lend me his favourite book. Logically, that would mean that the book will be good, right? I’ll probably finish it super fast and then we can talk about it and have all these inside jokes about it and we will be friends FOREVER.
Every once in a while, In-My-Head Kay turns out to be right. The problem is that most of the time she is dead wrong.
What actually ends up happening
IMH Kay: Shit that one guy lent me this book like a month ago and I still haven’t read it. I tried to read it, but the first few pages were super dry and it’s not really my genre and I’ve been super busy.
IMH Kay: Shit I’m halfway through this book and it is the worst thing I have ever read in my life. Seriously, how could he suggest this to me? Does he really think this is good writing? I’m losing more respect for this guy with every page that I read.
Then you have a problem: do I return the book and admit that I haven’t read it/don’t like it? Or do I smile and lie through my teeth about how I absolutely adored it and it is totally my new fave too omg!
Obviously, the first option will offend said friend, possibly irreparably depending on how important that book is to him. However, option number two is almost worse because it will almost certainly result in said friend giving you another horrible book to read, and another and another until you resent him within a deep, base level of your soul.
Either way, friendship over. That is why over the years, I have developed a survival technique for such situations. It’s option three: stealing the book. People lend books out all the time, and they rarely keep track of who has what. After a few initial inquiries about how the reading is going, the friend will forgot he even lent you the book. Just shove it to the back of your bookshelf and you’ll never have to talk about it again.
This technique has worked for me for many years, but for whatever reason, lately the guilt has begun to get to me. I was searching my shelves for a particular book today and I came across not one or two, but about 15 books that I have stolen from people who lent them to me. The worst part is that some of them are from people I haven’t talked to in years. It’s too late to give them back now because it would be about 70000 times more awkward to be like, yeah, so I know that we haven’t hung out in a while, but here’s a book of yours that I’ve had for five years. Also, I never read it because it looks like it would be crappy.
And seriously, some of them are terrible. There’s this one from #18 about unicorn hunters that I couldn’t get through more than of chapter of, because there’s all of these comically gory unicorn attacks that are supposed to be super serious and epic. Then there’s the novel version of Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, and not only am I not equipped to handle a book that heavy, but I’m still not quite sure if it is actually the novel Push by Sapphire, or if it’s the book version of the movie version of the book.
There’s also The Girl Who Played with Fire, which Mat lent me after I read the first book. While I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it was faaarr to long and I refuse to put myself through that again. On the stack is also a non-fiction book about a polygamous cult, a version of Mansfield Park from Edmund’s point of view that I ended up borrowing from a family friend in spite of the fact that I hate Mansfield Park, some self help book about how girls can change the world, Lord of the Flies, and an out of date university journalism textbook that the editor of the magazine I work at lent to me.
My mind is in turmoil. I can’t throw them away, I can hardly give them away since they’re not mine to give, and I certainly can’t give them back. I guess that for the present they will continue to sit in a stack on my bookshelf, judging me.
I don’t mind if you call me the book thief, just don’t make me read that book too.