On borrowing books

Booksharing is a broke bookworm’s greatest weapon against a lack of reading material.

The current state of my room, basically.
The current state of my room, basically.

Everyone has a book (or seventeen thousand) that they either want or just have to own. I myself have three bookshelves in my bedroom that have been carefully — and painfully — pruned many times over my tenure in that space, and there are some books I can’t part with. That’s left me with a two rather large stacks of recently read books that don’t fit on the shelves, and a fairly intimidating pile or to-be-read titles. That hasn’t stopped me from basically taking up any book that is offered, handed, or sent to me.

Working and saving to move out of my parents’ house has put a slight damper on my book-buying habit. I was always the kid who would cry with grateful joy over a generously-gifted Barnes & Noble gift card, the girl who could ring up $100 in fifteen minutes without even batting an eye. I’ve had lists of books to read forever — first, on scraps of paper, then in a book specifically dedicated to keeping track of such things, and now on Goodreads — and I always ended up walking out of the store kicking myself because I’d forgotten to look for a certain title or I hadn’t remembered an author’s name.

I can’t afford to do that anymore. I accidentally spent something like $60 on books a few weeks ago when I went to my favorite Barnes & Noble to “edit” (ha), and it physically hurt to watch that money escape my bank account. (Not that I put any of the books back — how dare you ask me to chose between my children!)

A few months ago, I went to the local library for a book (I don’t remember which now, unfortunately). I ended up leaving with three — the intended, a TBR I randomly found on a shelf, and a new release I spotted while searching the stacks for Pegasus titles, as I enjoy doing whenever I stop in. It was a March evening, too cold to sit out and read like I like to do, but I drove to the beach and sat in my car, window cracked to catch the breeze and iPhone on shuffle, and started Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music.

That was when it hit me that the library was a place that still existed, and was a place I should be taking advantage of. I spent summers as a kid filling up reading lists and winning erasers and stickers and bookmarks for my efforts. And I finally realized that while some new books might be taken out and some older books may not be at my local library, they actually have a pretty stellar collection of new releases and it’s always fun to wander the stacks and see what else pops up. Plus, I’ll gladly care for a hardcover for three weeks for free. That $25+ price tag is a budget killer. If I can get them to just pump up their comic/graphic novel section, my library will be perfect.

Borrowing and lending books from friends is also something I’ve had to adjust to recently. In the past, I’ve been ridiculously protective of my books — I bought them, I love them, and I want them to live in my heart and my home forever. But now, I have three books on my shelf that I still need to return to their proper owners (sorry, y’all) and only just recently returned a friend’s copy of Bright Lights, Big City (great read, by the way). As I’ve come to learn more about publishing and hear more about what’s out there, though, I’ve realized that I should be taking chances where they come — and I should be handing out titles to those I think will love them. If I want to learn to sell books, I should be able to least sell them to friends. If I can’t find a fitting story for some of the people I know best, how can I make sure the books at work reach the people who will love, want, and need them?

At work, I’ve gotten exactly four advanced reading copies (ARCs) so far, but my colleagues had received others, either from past mailings or at lunches with cool people. It’s been such a new experience to swap books with them, to have a galley, paperback, or hardcover freely passed along, with no deadline on it. Some of these books are even from personal collections, and a few years ago, I would have shrunk from taking such precious heirlooms into my care. But now, no matter how many books I’m reading, I know I’d be an idiot to turn down the chance to read a book that book people are loving, especially if they won’t show up on a library shelf anytime soon. So I’m learning to loosen up, branch out, and try to give out as many books as I take in from others. Because the only way to find your next great read is really to ask what the people around you are falling head over heels for.


4 thoughts on “On borrowing books

  1. I have a dream. That I could build a WordPress (or otherwise) site that will allow me and others to post the books that they own, so that we can swap/buy/borrow books. Specifically for Malaysian homes – locally only. I love military non-fiction books. My dad owns at least a 100 such books. Assuming that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of homes in Malaysia that contain all these second-hand non-fiction books, WHAT IF my website would allow a Malaysian homeowner to quickly and easily enter the titles of their books and to search for books to buy/swap with their fellow countryman. No international shipping involved. That way, I can gain access to a large collective library of military non-fiction books. Can this model work? Any suggestions or tips that you can offer to help me make this vision come true?


    1. I think that sounds like a wonderful idea! It seems like you won’t know until you try, so I’d just suggest starting the site and making sure you tag posts with the right tags (general ones like “book” or “book swap,” and then more specific, like titles and authors. You can also reach out to other local bookstores, literary groups, or libraries, and maybe they’ll be willing to help advertise the site, or share some book and recommendations!

      Good luck — this is really a great idea and I hope you can get it started!


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