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!

book with faded spine

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?


5 thoughts on “NEVER LEND BOOKS

  1. I forget that I lend books, so it is best if I only lend them to people who will give them right back! 🙂 I’m generally pretty good about returning books, but I borrow most often from the library. I don’t like fees, so they always get returned! 🙂


    • We used to have a wonderful library service. It has deteriorated over time along with the roads and the water pipes as our town struggles to hold itself together in the face of municipal neglect and mismanagement. Book Clubs are very popular here as a way of getting hold of new books and being introduced to different authors – they are great fun too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This gave me chills. Your writing is superb, for one, but also, I too collect old books! I need more shelving and I would never lend my books out because of their age. Once or twice I have lent my modern books to neighbors. I know I can just rap on their door and use an excuse in case I “need” it back.


    • Some really old books have a charm all of their own. I enjoy the feel of many of them and the way they illustrate how printing methods have changed. I have a very old gardening book in which the colour illustrations have been pasted onto the pages. My oldest books are in a glass-fronted cabinet to protect them from dust.

      Liked by 1 person

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