I have confessed before to being a hopeless bibliophile and that every nook and cranny in our home is crammed with books – some of them very old and others very new.
There is something sensuous about opening a book – fiction or non-fiction – and delving into its contents: getting lost in the turbulent history of the Eastern Cape; exploring the different shades of snow in Alaska; following the lives of young girls who went to war; laughing at the antics of a character in Cape Town; or finding out more about the habits of the Fiscal Shrike are some of the ‘journeys’ I have undertaken over the past few weeks.
Some of the books on our shelves have ‘hidden’ themselves. We know we have them; we know they should be ‘here’; yet, alas, they are not. I was searching high and low for a book on Merlyn the other day. I knew it had a bright orange spine – where could it be? When I located it at last I had to laugh, for the spine had bleached to white over many years of exposure even to indirect sunlight!
Books are precious. It is true that some books are more precious than others for even a bibliophile like me can find some books to donate to a worthy charitable cause or to pass on to people I think will enjoy them. There is a big difference, however, between giving someone a book to read without expecting it to be returned and lending someone a book that does not come back.
I wonder if the Nobel Laureate novelist, Anatole France (1844-1924), really meant:
Never lend books – nobody ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those which people have lent me
Or if this quotation been widely re-used out of context.
Lending books can be a risky undertaking, that is not done lightly, for an element of trust is involved. There are some people to whom I will no longer lend a book, either because they have failed to return one that was precious to me or because I have had to nag them to do so. A friend once found some of her books for sale in a second-hand shop! I have discreetly ‘liberated’ some of mine from bookshelves in the homes of borrowers – years after having given them up as ‘lost’.
To never lend books is a harsh statement. I have been lent some marvellous books and continue to lend some of my favourites. So, I will expand on that by saying only lend books to people who will cherish them as much as you do – and who will return them!
How do you feel about lending books?