On the Subject of Giving, Keeping, Selling, and Buying Books

One of my favorite aspects of being a reader is finding a book that I feel needs to be shared; whether with someone specific or just in general, giving the gift of a story is one of the best gestures that someone can extend. That being said, the question of how to bestow said book upon another person can have different answers. Some people give books as gifts, lend them to friends, decide to keep them on their shelves, or sell them to bookstores. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to look into how I approach these actions and some of the reasoning behind it.

Borrowing Someecard.jpg
This is technically still one rule…

When it comes to the idea of sharing a book with someone, I prefer to buy a copy as a gift rather than lending; whether it is for a special occasion, or simply to share the book with someone who I think will like it, this seems the most fulfilling and least disappointing option. I once had a coworker who spoke English as a second language who asked me to recommend a book that would both keep his attention and help him with his reading skills. He told me he enjoyed the fantasy genre, so I went and bought him a copy of the first Harry Potter book; this was fulfilling to me because it is both a beloved series and was also easy to find a copy of. This year alone I gave a copy of The Outsiders as a gift for Mother’s Day and Casino Royale for my dad’s birthday. I wanted to get Folio Society editions of books for each member of my family, but my dad was only one I was certain would enjoy the present for what it was.

While giving books as gifts is beneficial for both myself and the recipient, it is also a practical solution to a problem I experienced in the past. I used to lend books, but in the last seven years I have lost one copy of I Am Legend, one of Brave New World, and two of Fight Club (though one of these was later returned to me via the mail with a letter of apology). It was after these few that I decided to adhere to William Adama’s rule for lending books: don’t. Though, like any generalized rule, there is the exception of Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, a copy of which I keep for the express purpose of lending to others.

“It’s a gift. Never lend a book.”

I will usually keep the books I buy for myself, regardless of how much or how little I enjoyed reading them, until I run out of room on my bookshelf or they become a general nuisance. When this happens, I go through my stacks and keep the books I think I will reread or want to possibly keep for my children (*future children; I am still a bachelor…ladies?…never mind). I only have multiple copies of a few: Mort, American Gods, Good Omens, and The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. The first two have special Folio Society editions and the last two came about through circumstance (coming upon an old/different copy in a bookstore).

Too Many Books.jpg
Guess how many books are in this image. The correct answer is “too many.”

When I do finally decide to lighten my literary load, I will typically sell my books to a Half Price Books store; I would love to give them as gifts, but I don’t personally know enough readers to benefit from it at this point. I want them to be read and enjoyed rather than stranded on a shelf to collect dust. Once I have given my book shelves a bit of breathing room and it is finally time to knock a title off of each of my three TBR lists, I will typically use Thriftbooks ; they have a wide selection that pulls from used bookstores around the country and I can earn free shipping after spending $10, which usually totals three or four books. I used to buy through Barnes and Noble, and then went on to Amazon, but I often got sick of paying top sticker prices for new copies of books I might not even end up liking. I do go to a local bookstore in Kansas City, Missouri called Prospero’s Books every once in a while, but those trips are typically taken to get me out of the house for a few hours.

A cool sitting area in the basement of Prospero’s Books.

Everyone has a different experience with lending and sharing books; I am sure there are those of you reading this with less examples of having never seen a book that you lent to someone again, and probably many of you with more. The important thing is that books get to those who need and want them. Feel free to give, keep, sell and buy books; this continues the flow of knowledge and ensures we don’t become hoarders or curmudgeons.


The images featured in this post can be found through the hyperlinks below.
William Adama
Too Many Books

47 thoughts on “On the Subject of Giving, Keeping, Selling, and Buying Books

  1. littlebookynook

    I have certain people that I lend my books to…I have unfortunately learnt the hard way what happens when you lend books to people who perhaps don’t have the same love for books as you do…i.e. my friends dog ate my book because she left it outside. I recently just gave away 20 books, I didn’t charge for them because they were all books I didn’t like haha (it was still REALLY hard to give them away though because I just wanted to keep them for the sake of keeping them). It’s so lovely that you bought your co-worker the first Harry Potter book. I think it is important for people to read, so I will always promote reading by gifting, giving or selling books. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Most of the books I have allowed people to borrow that were never returned were due to them moving or a friendship breaking, so I can’t really fault them too much. That being said, I am definitely a bit more wary and have no qualms about buying someone a copy of their own. It is nice to see there are others who are like-minded about spreading the beauty of books! Thanks for reading and leaving such a great comment =]

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just came across your blog and it is in my opinion one of the most interesting ideas for one. I’m so jealous, I wanted to review any and every book I read on my blog but I was afraid that I should stick to newer ones. You win– this is really cool. Also, you’re living the book-lover’s life I wish I could be living.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This has always been so weird to me, because anytime someone was thoughtful enough to lend me a book they owned, I always took care to return it unless they expressly told me to keep it. And yet that’s never been my experience the other way around, I never get them back! It was a lesson learned the hard way for me too, I just don’t understand why it’s often like that. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean; Gardens of the Moon, which I reviewed earlier this year, was lent to me by a coworker to read and review and I was extra cautious while reading it. I don’t think most people are malicious about not returning books to the people who lend them; I think it is just a lack of understanding of the importance of a book to a reader or simple forgetfulness. I admit I am often a bit too lenient about asking for a book back, so I would typically let the person just keep it rather than bother them. Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true! It just always seems odd that if they borrow something a little bigger, it’ll come back to you, but something small like a book ends up seeming inconsequential and I’m also not pushy enough to remind them about it much. Loved reading your thoughts on this!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Elle Hache

    I lent a book to my brother before I had read it, he then gifted it back to me for a special occasion! I didn’t know whether I should laugh or be offended! Needless to say I now have a ‘book journal’ that I write every book I own in so I don’t mislay them…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha that’s definitely a gesture that could be taken either way. I actually took back a couple of books I lent to my sister a few months ago when I was visiting and noticed them sitting on her bookshelf. I asked if she finished them and she said I could take them back. I am actually rereading and reviewing them for the blog after returning them to my shelves hahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m blushing with shame because I’m the other side of that coin – I’m a terrible book-returner, so my rule is to never borrow a book. Sometimes that’s quite hard though as enthusiasts press their new favourite on me – I try to tell them I’ll buy a copy but no, they insist. And then… I maybe don’t enjoy the first fifty pages… so I put it aside meaning to go back to it later… and twenty years later when I’m next moving house, why, there it is! Still with the book mark in! I wish people wouldn’t lend me books… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I do a bit of both and try to lend my books, although I tend to be protective of them. Unfortunately in my experience I’ve found that books I lend out are not returned or are returned but in a poorer state. That said, there are a few trusted people that I will gladly lend books too. I also love gifting books, especially if I come across a good deal. I may not have someone in mind but I buy an extra copy just to keep for those “in case” moments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is it better to have received back a book in poorer condition than to never have received it back at all haha? I find the amount of others who also enjoy giving books a reassuring trend, especially since posting this; I think it says something about spreading knowledge and stories and the people who enjoy doing so. Thanks for commenting!


  7. I think giving books as gifts is a great way to get round the issue of lending books. Personally I have pretty strict rules about lending books, cos I’ve lost too many books that way, but just cos someone’s made it onto my borrowing blacklist doesn’t mean I’m not going to buy them books (I’m just never gonna lend them anything again) I have very limited space where I’m at right now, so sadly I have to regularly clear the decks of anything I won’t read again (future children can forget about it for now 😉 ) And funnily enough I buy a lot of my books second hand too, and then when I’m done with them they end up going to charity shops, so I like to think of my books as having a nice little life cycle of their own 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve had to go digital on most of my new books, although I still love the feel of a dead tree book in my hand. My favorite book to give away is the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Every time I see a copy at a garage sale or rummage sale, I buy it and gift it a new home. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There’s only one person I know who I’ll lend books too because she cares for them well and returns them quickly. Everyone else I’ll buy a book for if they are really interested in reading it. I typically swap out books I didn’t enjoy right after reading. But I’m also going to go through all my books in January and do a big purge. Those larger piles go to the library to sell.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I mostly don’t have anywhere nearby to sell them. And like you mentioned, I don’t know enough readers to take them. My friends might take a few but last time I purged about 80. So most went to my library and a few on a swap site I use

        Liked by 1 person

  10. zoeymuses

    I’m so glad I chanced upon your blog! 🙂
    I rarely lend my books anymore and now I’ve noticed myself buying more used books since they’re cheaper and I feel better giving them a new home x)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is such a thoughtful post about the lifecycle of books! I don’t lend books either, but have found they’re good gifts if the recipient actually reads and/or appreciates the thought that went into the gift. I also rarely part with my own collection, school textbooks being the one exception.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I used to be really attached to the books I read… then I started reading digitally and well I’ve never looked back! Having watched some logging shows it’s amazing to me how quickly you realize that the earth is waaaayyy more important than frankly beautiful walls full of crammed full bookcases as much as I love them! So I really love you use Half Price… what about the library though? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahhhhaha, aren’t we all subconsciously greedy though?! 😉 No I meant do you read books from the library… I would think that your buying and selling habits would be affected by whether you read iffy books from the library… since you didn’t mention I wondered if the library had any affect to you?

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: #25… Not Reading Before… Bookworm Sins… Lending Books, gasp! + more – Perspective of a Writer

  14. I’ve had mixed experiences lending books. Most come back fine, I think one has come back damaged (I suspect it was dropped in a pool, though I currently have no proof)

    The problem I have is that my need to share my love of a book, and make another person read it, is only slightly greater than the fear they will hurt my book in some way.

    Usually my friends know how to treat my books (as if they’re their own children). My sister, on the other hand, is due for a refresher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That makes sense, and I would argue that it is a good problem to have. I think I just prefer to give them as gifts because I would often rather they have the memory of me giving them something I cherish rather than having “I need to give Erik his book back” in the back of their mind. To each their own, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m generally reluctant to lend books as well, both for fear of never getting them back, and in what condition I will get them back. Considering many libraries are networked now, I would just as soon suggest someone borrow it from them, since it’s the same thing, except if you don’t return it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: On the Subject of Revisiting Books – Perpetually Past Due

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