Manners Matter: Book Lending and Borrowing

Dear Mary Pat,

I’m an avid reader and have a decent number of books. I also know plenty of people who enjoy reading as well, and I don’t mind lending my books to people. However, I do have a few rules when I hand them out.

Books aren’t cheap, and I like to keep mine in good condition. A certain friend of mine who has borrowed books before isn’t the greatest at following those requests, and as a result, I have had a few books returned to me in not the greatest condition. This friend continues to ask about borrowing books, but I hesitate to lend them to this individual now. How do I put it nicely to this person that I no longer feel comfortable entrusting them with my books and would rather not share them anymore?


The Librarian

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Dear The Librarian,

I will admit to sometimes having perfectionist tendencies, so I also like to keep my things in good condition. When it comes to books, though, I think they’re meant to be enjoyed and shared among friends – even the friends who are less careful. Unless you have a rare edition, a favorite tome or a collector’s item on your shelf, I recommend that you continue to lend your books. Dog-eared pages and the occasional tea or coffee stain just mean that a book has been well loved. 

If you still hesitate, maybe select a few books that you wouldn’t mind not coming back to you, and save those to lend to your friend. However, if your friend asks you for a specific book that you’d rather not lend, ask yourself which is more important: your friend’s feelings or a book?

Good luck,

Mary Pat

Miss Pat was educated at the Finnish Finishing School for Fine Ladies. Eloquent in edifying etiquette, she is fluent in seven languages, including the language of love. Mary Pat has generously extended her counsel to you and will answer any and all inquiries. Email Mary Pat at [email protected].