When reading borrowed books, put down the chips and salsa

I love borrowing and lending books. But I have to admit: I don’t usually return books in the same condition I received them. Somehow, I manage to get water or food on the inside pages. Or I bend the cover. Or my cat, who loves to eat the corners of books, leaves her teeth marks on the book’s cover.

Fortunately, the people I often borrow books from don’t care when their books come back looking a little less new than they did when they lent them out. (At least this is what they tell me.) When I can, I buy my own books so I can add to my collection, write in the books and refer to them later in essays or stories. But borrowing is fun, in part because you can talk about the book with whoever you lend it to/borrow it from. The more you talk about books with someone, the more apt you are to know what types of books they’ll want to read and borrow.

I recently came across a blog post about “proper book borrowing etiquette” and it got me thinking about taking better care of the books I borrow. I was surprised to see how many hits I got when I searched for this term. The gist of these tips is that people shouldn’t eat while reading books they’ve borrowed, they shouldn’t write in them and they should return them in a timely manner.

The advice about not eating while reading borrowed books reminded me of a book binder who I interviewed in Dallas a few years ago. She said several customers had come to her shop asking her to clean the pages of books they borrowed. One man, she said, was eating chips and salsa while reading a borrowed book and accidentally got salsa all over the outer edges of the pages. He tried to wipe it off and ending up making even more of a mess. Whoops. He went to “the book lady,” as she was called, and asked her to make the book look new again. She did her best, she said.

I’m going to try to be better about taking care of books that people lend me. (Note to self: keep them away from my cat and don’t eat salsa while reading them.) When giving out books, though, I don’t mind if they come back to me in worse shape than when I lent them out. As long as they don’t have missing pages, I like seeing that they were a little loved.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

One thought on “When reading borrowed books, put down the chips and salsa

  1. Hi, I’m an italian blogger, fond of journalism and new media. So, borrowing and lending books can be the key to improve human relationships but I’m very jealous of my own books…what a problem!!

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